Monday, September 15, 2008

DIY--Wine by the people, of the people, and for the people

We now spend all day every day making wine, so naturally when we are home all we think about is... making wine.

We hereby encourage each of you to make some wine while you can. Don't live nearby suitable grapes? Ask your local brewery supply store if they have any to sell. Many stores by a ton or two of good grapes to divvy up amongst their customers.

It's also not too late to make a fruit wine. That's right, fruit wine. Don't be scared. It will only be sickly sweet if you make it that way. And you'll only make it that way if you want it that way.

Grapes are the perfect fruit for winemaking--their balance of acid and sugar just can't be beat. But it can be reproduced. Compared to grapes, most fruits have far more acid and far less sugar. You can compensate by adding water to dilute the acid, and sugar to boost the finished alcohol. Remember, sugar in fruit, whether winegrapes or figs, blackberries or pears, will become alcohol in the wine. It will remain as sugar in the wine only if you stop the fermentation.

It takes 12-15 pounds of grapes to make a gallon of wine. I recommend using about 4 pounds per gallon of any other fruit, bringing up the volume with water containing sufficient sugar to reach the alcohol level you desire. 22 Brix (22 grams of sugar per 100 grams of solution) will yield a wine of about 12% alcohol. Want a little more? Shoot for 24 Brix. A little less, 20 Brix. You can measure Brix directly with a hydrometer from that brewing supply store, or you can do math. I recommend ignoring the sugar content in the fruit--it won't make much difference in the final alcohol.

A gallon is 3.786 liters, which, conveniently, weighs 3,786 grams. 22 Brix is 22 grams sugar/100 grams solution, so a gallon of 22 Brix water contains 22/100 * 3786 g sugar = 833 grams of sugar. That works out to about 29 ounces. The key is that the total volume of the solution is one gallon. You are not dissolving 29 ounces of sugar in one gallon--the resulting volume would be greater than one gallon and your final Brix would be less than 22. So you weigh out the sugar and pour boiling water over it to dissolve the sugar, slowly adding water until you reach the gallon mark.

Throw in your fruit (as mashed up as possible), add some yeast if you want (you probably won't need to), and let 'er rip. In a day or two you'll notice the fermentation starting. After a week or so you'll notice that it's about done. When it really slows down, you'll want to transfer it to a container that fits it well (minimal airspace). That container should be sealed with an airlock to let CO2 out while excluding the ingress of air. A stopper and airlock will set you back less than $1 at your brewing store.

When all airlock-bubbling is done, you've got wine. Transfer the clear wine off the lees (sediment) to a airlock container (wise to continue with the airlock, just in case). At this point you can let the wine age or consume it.

Any questions? Ask away. And don't forget to tell us about your home winemaking projects!

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Harvest is upon us, folks. The time of year of 12-hour days and weekend-less weeks. Don't worry, we're still drinking wine. We just have less time to share our discoveries with you.

We'll post as we can. In the meantime, poke around the site here and please let us know what you think, and what you would like to see once the harvest madness is over.
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