Wine Making

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Winemaking At Home

Winemaking At Home

Making wine from home can sometimes be a costly process to start and it may take quite a bit of your time and effort to make a decent batch. Understanding the proper procedure and what to expect along the way can help you start the process off correctly and save you a lot of trial and error.

Equipment

Get everything you’re going to need before you begin to avoid having to halt your wine making process and search for an additional piece of equipment you may have forgotten. To begin the process you’ll need a fermenting vat to ferment your grapes in. You’ll need to have bottles, corks, and labels ready once your wine is complete in order to prepare it for storage.

Depending on the process you’ll be using you may need oak casks for aging, glass jugs, a hydrometer, a fermentation lock, crushing gates, and an acid titration kit. Wine kits can be purchased that will provide everything you’ll need including chemicals and additional supplies. Some companies will even provide instructions or lessons on the wine making process if you need it.

Ingredients

The main thing you’re going to need for making wine is the grapes or any other fruits you plan on using. It takes about 70 pounds of grapes to make 6 gallons of wine, and you’ll want to make sure you know what type of wine you can make out of the grape varietal you chose. Fruit concentrates can also be used which may be easier than crushing your own grapes, but you may have less control over the end product with this option. If you have the proper space and live in an appropriate region, you may choose to even grow your own grapes.

Sugar, yeast, and additional chemicals will also be required for the process. You’ll need Campden tablets, which are a sulphur-based brewing product, to add to your wine while it is being made. These tablets kill certain bacteria and prevent the growth of wild yeast.

Procedure

The grapes are crushed to form a must for red wines, or the juice is extracted from t he skins and seeds to use for whites. The must or grape juice is fermented in a vat for usually around a week or two then racked to remove sediment. The racking process may be repeated a multiple times depending on the amount of sediment left behind or the type of wine you’re making.

Once the wine is siphoned out of the vat and the additional sediment is left behind it can be bottled and will be ready for storage. Knowing how long you’ll be aging the wine you’ve produced will allow you to prepare an appropriate storage area in advance. Some types may be ready for consumption immediately while others may require months or years of aging.

For any new wine makers, errors can be expected regardless of how prepared you are. Once you’ve made a few batches you’ll likely begin to better understand the process and be more confident in your brewing abilities. For anyone with a love of wine this can be a fun and rewarding hobby and for some it can even turn into a lucrative business.

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Certain wines can certainly benefit from the addition of oak chips. Just a few of these wines include Chardonays, Cabernets, Pinot Noir, Chianti, Merlots, Sauvignon Blanc, Burgundy, Pinot Blanc and Fume Blanc.

Oaking provides a way to develop a wine that is quite complex. The depth of the complexity is greatly determined by the type of oak that is used as well as the wine itself. Oak can provide a wide variety of flavors to wine including coconut, vanilla and even spices such as cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon. In some cases, oak can even add a somewhat earthy tone. The type of flavor that is added to your wine is largely determined by the type of oak that is used. For example, American oak when used with white wines such as Merlot tends to add an aroma that is decidedly vanilla in nature. Generally, most of the oak that is used for flavoring in wine is either American or French. Hungarian and Yugoslavian oaks are also now being increasingly used as well; however.

In the past, wine was oaked by placing it into an oak barrel. The wine would then stay in the barrel until it reached the aroma and taste that was desired. There were few ways in which to control the process other than by choosing the type of oak as well as the size and age of the barrel. A vintner could also decide whether they wanted to use a toasted or charred barrel or not. This process typically took quite a long time. Older barrels tended to take even longer.

Today, the method of oaking wine has shifted from using just oak barrels to use oak pieces. This has made it much easier and more affordable for home vintners to oak their wines. Today, winemakers can choose to use oak chips as well as oak beans and oak powder for the purpose of oaking their wines without the concern and expense of having to use large barrels.

You will need to give some thought to which method you think will best suit your purpose; however. There are advantages as well as disadvantages to each. For example, oak chips are commonly preferred because they are easily available and can be obtained in a variety of different types. The problem with oak chips is that once you have put them into your carboy, you have to find a way to get them out. Oak powder works quite well during the fermentation process and you do not need a lot of oak powder to achieve the results that you want. The flip side to this is that if you are not careful, you can easily over oak your wine. In addition, it can be difficult to rack your wine using oak powder.

When oaking your wine you will need to decide when you wish to add the oak. Generally, the oak is added either during fermentation or after the wine has been racked and you are ready for bulk aging of your wine.

Oak powder really does work best if you decide you want to oak during the fermentation process. Over time the oak powder will absorb wine and eventually it will just sink to the bottom of the container.  For a small batch of wine, you should not use any more than 20 grams of oak powder per gallon. You may wish to use less than that. If you decide to oak your wine during bulk aging, oak chips tend to work best. Plan to use somewhere between two and four ounces of chips for every six gallons of wine. Ideally, it is best to make sure that you sanitize your chips before you put them into your wine. You can use Campden Tablets for this purpose. Just soak the chips in some water, add a tablet and allow them to sit for a few minutes.

Finally, remember that as when trying anything new with your wine, it is best to start small with oaking. You can always add more, but it is virtually impossible to take it away once it is there.

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Aside from the obvious colour differences, red and white wines can vary in numerous ways. The differences in their composition can affect their taste, the foods they should be paired with, and their ability to age. Different types of grapes may be used for each type of wine, but in some instances the same grape varietal can produce both a red and white type with contrasting flavours and bouquets.

Fermentation Process

The first difference to be mentioned regarding red wine and white wine is the way they’re made. Red wine will generally be made form black grapes while whites can be made from black or green or a combination of both.

When making red wine, the manufacturer leaves the skins, seeds, and stems in the fermenting vat with the juices to allow the extra tannins to leech into the liquid. For white wine the juice would first be extracted from the skins, seeds, and stems then fermented on its own. Blush wine is produced by removing the skins part way through the fermentation process.

Taste and Tannins

The tannins in wine that give it a more bitter flavour come mostly from the skins. Because red wines are fermented in a vat with the skin, they a have higher tannin content and generally have a more dry and bitter flavour. Whites usually taste fresher and crisper as their tannin content is lower.

Aging

The tannins in wine help to preserve it, so for the most part, red wines can be aged longer and will taste better with age as the tannins mellow. Some of the tannins can be removed to make the wine ready for immediate consumption, which is why white wines are usually ready to drink much more quickly as they naturally have a lower tannin content.

Flavours

Generally speaking, red wines will have a more bitter, mouth puckering taste while whites will be much smoother and sweeter. Reds may taste heavier and full-bodied and lights may be fresher and fruitier, but in some cases those characteristics could be reversed. Tasting as many wines as possible will give you the best idea of what to expect with each type and can give you a better appreciation of the differences between white and red wine.

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Wine can be categorized in many different ways, such as level of dryness, the colour, the region the grapes were grown, or which meal you would have it with. Some reds may be sweet and some whites may be dry so one type of wine of a certain type may not taste the same as the rest, but they can usually fall into general categories.

Wine Colour

The easiest and most simple way to categorize wine is by the colour. There are red wines, white wines, and you also have sparkling and blush wines. Red wines obtain their colour and generally more bitter flavours by leaving the skins, seeds, and stems in the fermenting vat during the wine making process. Blush wine can be obtained by removing the skins early in the fermentation process.

Whites usually have a sweeter, lighter flavour while reds are more complex and robust. Sparkling wines, such as Champagne, are made fizzy through a carbonation process. Classifying wine by these categories can by quick and easy as you can tell at first glance which type you’re looking at, but it can be occasionally misleading when determining the potential flavour of a wine.

Grape Region

The grape varietal a wine is made with is another popular classification method. Grape varieties such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel, and Cabernet Sauvignon can give you many clues in what taste to expect from any particular wine. Darker grapes are generally used for red wines as they get their colour from the skin, but whites can be made from any colour grape because the juice within is always clear.

Sweet to Dry

While white wines are usually sweeter and reds more bitter or dry, the tastes can be reversed in some cases. Riesling and Muscat are generally lighter types of white while Chardonnay is a drier flavour. With red wine, Cabernets are drier and Merlots can be fairly sweet.

Wines with Meals

Wine can be grouped into four categories when it comes to serving with food. Aperitifs are wines you would serve as a cocktail or with an appetizer course and would usually be a sweeter variety. Dinner wines can be reds or whites and should be paired with the main course as to not overpower the meal.

Dessert wines are usually heavier, much sweeter wines that should be served as a finish to a meal or with a dessert as a nice accompaniment. Port and Sherry are both good examples of common dessert wines. Sparkling wine, such as Champagne, can also be served as an appetizer, with dinner or dessert, or on its own.

Regardless of how you classify a wine, the flavours and aromas can greatly vary and tasting a specific bottle will be the only way to get the true idea of its flavour. These categories are still useful in pointing you in the right direction when deciding on a type of wine to purchase or taste.

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