I picked the grapes!!! Now it is time to start making the wine. If you have not read Post 1 (part one) I explained that I am a “wine making novice”. No experience at all… and more than ever I am a becoming nervous. I am worried that I am doing things wrong and will screw things up. Last post I was warned about exploding bottles which at first sounded cool. Now I am thinking about how much work it will be to clean up the exploded bottle aftermath… Dang it…the excitement is leaving… and nervousness has taking its place. Actually the 13 year old boy in me still wants to experience exploding bottles…
I stopped by a local beer and wine making supply store to get the rest of the equipment (Salt City Brew Supply). While the internet is convenient and easy, I would have been much better off starting with the store. Not only did they have a great selection with good prices, the individual working there spent time explaining the process and explaining to me what I should and should not do. There is nothing better than having someone who is experienced telling you in person how to do something.
Let’s get going… Here are the first steps in making wine:
Step 1: Just like when making cheese you must sterilize everything! I was told that if you do not you risk making vinegar. (I would be happy with vinegar as well)
Step 2: Wash the grapes and remove any stems, leaves, bugs etc. I was told that if there were any stems it would make the wine bitter. While cleaning I found several baby snails and several spiders… I wonder what flavor they would have given the wine.
Step 3: Smash, mash or crush the grapes and put it all into the fermentation bucket. I used a potato masher and love the way if feels when they “pop”. (no… I didn’t crush them with my feet… although I imagine it would feel awesome)
Step 4: Measure the acidity of the grape juice. I used wine ph paper that I had purchased. My juice was at 6.4 which for a red wine was perfect so I didn’t need to do anything. I read that ph is very important for the flavor, color, aroma, fermentation etc. and one site said it was the “backbone” of wine. I don’t know enough to say anything more… except that If you do not have the correct ph you need to adjust it by adding tartaric acid… or a special wine acid blend (which will contain tartaric acid… but was told makes a better balanced flavor).
Step 5: Measure the sugar density or potential alcohol. I used the hydrometer to measure how much sugar was in my juice. I read that I had to have at least 22º Brix. (not sure what that means but I had a Brix scale on my hydrometer). I measure 17º Brix which means that I had to add sugar to reach the desired amount. How much sugar?.. after searching the web…and a little math I was able to figure this out. I found this awesome chart that said how much sugar I had to have per gallon but it was based upon SG (specific gravit) measurements not Brix. I found this conversion tool that converts from Brix to SG (I might of had SG on the hydrometer but wasn’t sure and I had already pulled it out and dumped the juice back into the fermentation bucket). I used the two charts together and once I had all of the conversions done it was just a little math. I think I explained that poorly…and it sounds complicated so let me detail the process:
- Measured 17 Brix = 1069 SG (9.5% potential alcohol) which is about 780 grams of sugar per gallon
- I needed 1090 SG (12% potential alcohol) which is 1077 grams of sugar per gallon.
- 1077 – 780 = 297 grams per gallon (this is what I was missing)
- I had 3 gallons of juice so I would need to add 3 × 297 = 891 grams of sugar (sugar will be added with yeast)
Step 6: Crush 1 campden tablet per gallon (3 for my batch) and add this to the fermentation bucket and grape juice. Leave it alone for 24 hours…(quiet time) . I think the campden tablets are killing everything that could be bad.
Step 7: Add yeast and sugar adjustment (if needed) to begin fermentation process. Place 1 packet (a packet will work up to 5 gallons) of wine yeast into 1/4 cup of sterilized water (not hot) with 1 tablespoon of sugar and a pinch of yeast nutrient. Let sit for around 15 minutes and it should start to foam (like with bread). Sugar adjustment was made with 1 litter of boiling water and 891 grams of sugar left to cool. I added the yeast mixture, sugar syrup, and 3 teaspoons (one per gallon) of yeast nutrient to the grapes.
Step 8: Stir and push grape stuff down twice a day for the next week. This is the Primary fermentation stage.
Stay tuned for part three…