Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wine Making Process

By Pierre Duponte

When it comes down to making wine, common knowledge plays a big part in the process. If you combine the basic elements of wine making with your innate instinct and taste, the result should, surely, be a positive one.

It takes about fifty pounds of good, rip grapes to produce about five gallons of terrific wine. Materials like plastic vats large enough to accommodate grapes can be purchased from your local wine supply shop. Once the grapes are harvested youll need to place the grape clusters into the vat and crush them. The age old method of crushing the grapes by foot has not been surpassed by technology. But, for smaller vats, grapes can be crushed by hand or with a potato masher. Both work equally as well as the foot. The vat should be no more than two-thirds full when all of the grapes are crushed. Unwanted yeast can produce premature fermentation. You will need to add the appropriate amount of Campden tablets which is pre-measured amounts of potassium metabisulfite to the grapes to stop this unwanted yeast growth. Cover the vat with a towel and allow it to sit for a day.

The day after you have crushed the grapes youll need to add a packet of wine yeast. Bread yeast and wine yeast are two different yeasts and should not be substituted for each other. Montrachet and prix de mousse are common types of yeast used to ferment wine. The crushed grapes at this stage are known as the must. Use your hands to stir in the yeast. Comb through the must and remove the cluster of stems. Squeeze off any of the berries that may still be attached to the stems. Only a few stems can be left in the must. Cover the vat of must with a towel and set to the side. In about one or two days the must will begin to fizz. By the third day the must will appear to be boiling.

Filtering To filter it, the wine can strained using a cheese cloth or mesh bag. Make sure to squeeze the must thoroughly to remove all juices. The resulting liquid is to be stored in a glass carboy or into an empty wine barrel (also available at your local wine supply store). From this point on, oxidization of the wine must be prevented at all costs by eliminating all contact with air. Many wine makers choose to use an airlock to keep oxygen out, but allow gases produced during fermentation to escape.

It only takes about two to three weeks in the container for all of the fizzing to subside. At this point, you will need to rack the wine. Racking is the process that removes the wine from the lees which is the spent yeast and grape bits that have fallen to the bottom of the barrel. You can use a hose to siphon the clear wine into a carboy and clean out the lees from the old container. Then pour the wine back into the original container. After about two to three months the wine is ready for a second racking. Three to four months after that, do a third and final racking.

The wine can then be aged in a pitch-black dark, cool place until its ready to be drank. Even though the wine can be tasted at this point, the longer you leave it to age, the fuller the flavor will be.

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