First off, we landed a large project at work that I’m an integral part of making it work, so unless I win the Powerball tonight, I’ll be a little more scarce here as I’ll be much busier and on the road a little more going forward. I’m hoping Holly and I can handle a little more of this and hopefully won’t have to lean to hard on nearby family. It will mean my career will be solidified even further than it already is, which is always a good thing.
Anyway, I wanted to hammer out something easy here before dinner as I have a lot of other things on my mind. So I’m going to talk about home-brewing wine.
I did some home brew beers awhile back that turned out pretty decent. As my beer drinking has subsided a fair amount, my enjoyment of drinking wine has increased We have some friends who home-brew fruit wine and I’ve always enjoyed that, so after finding my 5-gallon glass carboy and 5-gallon food grade primary fermenter when we moved, decided to make a couple batches of wine. Since the first batch turned out so well I thought I’d share my recipe. It’s a mix of a three-berry recipe I found on-line and one in the book below, sort of cobbled together.
First, you don’t need a whole lot to brew wine. You can start out in small batches, but I say jump right in with a 5-gallon batch (19 L). I highly recommend The Joy of Home Wine Making by Terry Garey. Equipment-wise you need some large pots, a nylon mesh sack, a 5-gallon carboy, and a 6 gallon (or bigger) primary fermenter (food grade plastic bucket and lid). Ancillary equipment are air-locks and a hydrometer. You also need patience as you won’t be really drinking your wine for a year and a half if you’re smart.
Here’s the ingredient list:
20 lbs of Costco Mixed Berries (raspberries, blackberries, blueberries) thawed overnight
11.25 lbs of sugar
7.5 tsp of (wine) acid blend
5/8 tsp tannin
5 tsp yeast nutrient
5 campden tablets
2.5 tsp pectic enzyme
packet of wine yeast
Heat/boil 14 quarts of water (~3.5 gallons), filtered if water is hard. Let cool a little. Put thawed berries into nylon sack, place in primary fermenter and smash with potato masher. Add the warm water over the berries as it sets the color. Add an additional 1.5 gallons of heated water with sugar dissolved within. This should fill up most of your primary. Add acid blend, tannin and yeast nutrient and let cool. If it’s too hot it will kill the yeast. Once cool add 5 capden tablets. After 12 more hours added pectic enzyme and check the potential alcohol (density of the mixture, mine was 12.5%). Cover mixture with air lock, and another 24 hours pitch your yeast (sprinkle on top of your mixture). Stir daily.
After about a week you’ll remove the fruit bag (don’t squeeze) and check the potential alcohol. If above 3-4 percent, wait another week, if below that, you can “rack” (use tubing to siphon wine from one vessel to another, in this case) to the glass carboy. My wine was down to 0% after 8 days, so I stirred it up, added another 1/2 lb of sugar (to give the yeast a little more food and strengthen just a little) and left in the primary fermenter another day. I then racked. I racked again (carboy-to-carboy) a month later. It cleared up pretty well and about 6 months after I started, I bottled without having to rack a third time. While we borrowed a bottler, you may be able to rent one from a local shop. We did a call for arms for bottles to all our wino-friends and had plenty.
I calculated pretty closely for five gallons with my bottles, mixing 750 mL with 1.5 L (19 L in all). There happened to be about two glasses that didn’t fit into bottles that we got to try out. It was full-bodied, not too sweet and really pretty good. It wasn’t overly smooth yet, but will mellow out with time, but it was sneaky strong. After a glass (each) Holly and I were already feeling it. We used to call our friend’s wine “The Velvet Hammer” since it softly snuck up on you and hammered you before you even realized it. While I haven’t yet made labels I think I’m calling this first batch “Poppin’ my Berry” (a play on popping a cherry, aka virgin batch) and will be really ready to drink a year from now.
I bought another 5 gallon carboy shortly after starting this batch, and borrowed another to start a batch right on the heals of Poppin my Berry. The next batch ready to bottle is a Strawberry-Rhubarb with a mix of honey and sugar as the yeast food. Can’t wait to get that bottled and start on another couple batches, will do another batch of Three-Berry and maybe something else, like cherry.
The total cost of berries and sugar was less than $80. The miscellaneous wine ingredients we got at a local brew shop and can use for other batches. So total ingredient cost spread out was maybe $90, which equates to about $5 a (750 mL) bottle. Not super cheap, but fun to do and I thought they turned out great. If you can get the fruit for free (I have a friend with plum trees I should be able top get a bunch for wine next year) the costs go down immensely, to next to nothing. Another fun hobby for a renaissance man… or if you prefer, beer brewing is similar in scope but a story for another day.