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How to become an expert winemaker…

Do you remember the 1963 film, the Great Escape? Hilts, the Cooler King makes moonshine from potatoes to celebrate Independence Day, the fourth of July. It’s easy to make, just dig up some potatoes that were previously fertilised by soil from your escape tunnel. Make a ‘must’ by chopping them into tiny pieces and adding water; add yeast obtained by the camp scrounger. Then ferment for a month or two, run it through your still allowing the lighter alcohols to escape and using the heavy alcohols to sterilise your commando knife. Then allow the alcohol from the still to drip into a carboy previously well washed after being used to transport sulphuric acid and hope that the guards don’t notice the smell. Actually, the film was based on a real escape and there weren’t any Americans, no fourth of July and no moonshine…  So being English I will share my knowledge of making real booze…

Making wine is a skill and skills have to be learnt and understood. You know that if you shake a bottle of fizzy drink and then open it, that it will all shoot out of the bottle and go everywhere as the carbon dioxide escapes and covers you and your pet parrot in Coca Cola, or whatever…

We will start by making something fizzy from fruit juice. We can use a cheaper fruit juice, no need to tread grapes just yet. We can use apple juice and a wine yeast. Yeast will ferment fruit juice and break down the sugars into carbon dioxide (CO2, a gas) and alcohol. The yeast is a living organism, there are millions of dried cells in a packet of wine yeast. You can buy your yeast online (Amazon)or from a winemaker’s store.  You may not have enough sugar in your fruit juice and so add just a spoonful. So you have a spoonful of sugar, a litre of apple juice and a packet of wine yeast, all mixed together in a 2 litre plastic bottle.

The fermentation will begin and you’ll see the little bubbles rise in the liquid as it ferments and becomes fizzy. You can shake the bottle to mix it all up well, but you do know what will happen if you take the top off. Right? Yes, you’ll get covered in apple juice and yeast. You can leave the top off and let the gas (CO2) escape, but creepy crawlies like fruit flies might get in. We want it to ferment so we have ten or even twenty times as much yeast to make our wine with. We need the yeast to reproduce. We can allow the gas to escape and keep out the bugs with a plastic bag secured to the top with an rubber band.

That’s it, fruit juice in a lemonade bottle, with sugar and wine yeast; allow the gas to escape so it doesn’t explode with the pressure and you are making yeast; you have a yeast culture!

Now you need something to make your wine in like a 5 litre fermenter or a 25 litre fermenter. One of each would be ideal.

You also need:

Wine yeast

Lemonade bottle (for culture)

Plastic bag and rubber band (for air lock)

Fermenters

Yeast nutrient (from winemaking supplier)

Sodium metabisuphate ( for sterilising, from supplier)

Fermentation stopper or stabiliser

Syphon tube (maybe 2 of them, ask for advice at supplier)

Isinglass wine finings.

Wine filter and pads. It will be easier if you buy a hydrometer and jar too.

You will also need bottles, corks and bottle seals later when the wine is ready to bottle.

Next week, I’ll tell you how to make a simple wine from apple juice that is cheap to make and delicious. You will also need a litre of concentrated apple juice, a kilo of sugar and either some grape tannin or a few tea bags (the latter works even better).

There are more amazing blogs on the Home Page and you can use the comment box to ask questions. I don’t make wine any more, but did make some for a wedding once and have made over 20,000 bottles including vintage wine. It is legal in the UK, but don’t start building a still…

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  1. Pingback: Writer’s block « Mike10613's Blog

  2. Pingback: » How to become an expert winemaker | acids A Zillion Ideas and counting…

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