I like many others have long thought an awful lot of nonsense is talked about in the production and tasting of Grape wines. At the risk of annoying a vast number of people involved in the growing, distributing and production of wines throughout the world, I must say all the Grape wines I have ever tasted tended to lack any great body or flavour, apart from a sleight vinegary taste, and were all too dry for my palate. Even the more expensive wines had very little improved flavour, and simply appeared to contain a higher alcohol content. This is all not too surprising, since I understand many cheap wines are not made from pure grapes, but the second or third pressings; something no self respecting producer of Country Wines would ever dare to do. That is apart from perhaps when using elderberries, renowned for producing a very dark red on the first run. Another point to remember is that in many countries it is normally illegal to add sugar to the wine. No such restriction is involved in producing Home Made wines. I would never claim to be an expert in making these wines, but I can say I and all who have tried my wines, say they contain far more flavour, and are stronger, and can be much sweeter than most of the commercially produced Grape Wines. I must also admit that wines produced from commercial cans of grape juice seldom produce wines as good as those from solid fruit or vegetables.

			So here are a few tips for the beginner to try at making a good and cheap wine:-
				Ingredients for 1 Gallon of wine:
				3 LB of Fresh fruit  6 to 10Lb for Apples or Pears & 10 to 20 LB for Grapes)
				or 1 LB Dried fruit or approximately 2 LB of Tinned Fruit 3 LB of Sugar
				One Lemon or teaspoon of Citric Acid Crystals
				One teaspoonful of Yeast Nutrient (not essential)
				Pectolytic Enzyme liquid to clears properly. can be added months later if needed
				Wine Yeast (never use Bakers or Beer yeast which imparts a flavour in the wine)
				Camden Tablets if using the COLD water method (below)
				Tannin Concentrate or half cup of very Strong Tea not needed for dark wines

				NOTE: 1 Gallon=4.5Litres and 1 LB=0.4536 kilogram

Wash the fruit in cold water - rinse ALL utensils in HOT water, unless manufacturer advises otherwise (plastics), or alternatively rinse in a Sulphite solution, such as using a crushed campden tablet in about a pint of cold water. Remove large stones with Peaches and Apricots etc. Small stoned fruit such as cherries etc, should be 'bruised', but the stones must NOT broken, or the flavour may be affected. Apples, Pears, Peaches, and Rhubarb etc should be pulped with a large bottle if necessary. All Ingredients especially Raisins, Sultanas also any Dried fruit can best be pulverized in a mincer etc to help fermentation and to extract the flavour.

Place all the ingredients with the exception of the yeast and ALL the sugar in a clean bucket. Use only about a third of the sugar at first. Pour over 4 pints of COLD or boiling hot water (2 pints for Apples & Pears), add Two crushed Camden Tablets only with cold water, and stir until sugar is dissolved. Wait 24 hours then add wine yeast after previously mixing per maker's instructions, such as leaving awhile beforehand to start fermenting in a small covered jar, where the gas can escape safely. Be sure to keep all wines or fruit well COVERED from flies & Wasps etc. at all times (or it may turn to Vinegar!), using say a plastic bag with NO HOLES held tight with rubber bands etc. Using hot water though perhaps increases the flavour it increases the difficulty of getting the wine to clear completely

Stir the bucket morning and evening for 7 to 10 days, but do not more than 3 days for elderberries, then strain off the fruit (called Must) using clean sieves, colanders, muslin or special straining bags etc. Pour the juice into a proper Demijohn jar, and top up with warm water leaving a 1 inch of the airlock bung. Now remove almost a wine bottle full in case strong frothing starts later. Wait a few days for the fermenting to settle, keeping the demijohn covered with a proper airlock in a bung, and the wine bottle covered by polythene secured tight with a rubber band. Return the juice to the Demijohn afterwards when the frothing has settled. The ideal temperature for fermenting is 75/80 F and about 65 / 70 F after three weeks, and say around 55 F when finally bottled. Wine made from a tin or carton of juice should not require the use of a bucket and filter, and can be poured straight into the demijohn.

In addition to the expensive tins of grape juice available, excellent wines can be made from two 1 Litre cartons of Apple, Orange or Pineapple juice etc. These can also be added to almost any wine to improve the flavour. An excellent Sherry can be made from 2 lb. Raisins or Mixed Dried Fruit,1 LB of Wheat or Barley, and the normal ingredients above, but include a heaped teaspoon full of winemakers Gypsum, to impart the special Sherry type flavour. The Wheat or Barley will need to be soaked for 24 hours in just enough water to cover, to soften sufficiently to allow you to mince together with the Raisins or Dried Fruit.

There are Dry airlocks and others where a little sterile sulphited water is inserted so that you can watch the bubbles pass. The dry type is better at first when fermentation is very strong, and when after a few months when there is little activity to see. They will not of course break like a glass one. Use rubber bungs not cork, which cannot be cleaned again, likewise plastic wine bottle stoppers if you wish to re-use them again. I prefer the tapered corks that should fit almost any size of bottle. Wine usually takes 6 months to ferment properly, and should be racked at least every two months to remove sediment (called Lees) with a plastic tube and a proper DRAKE tube which sucks upward to avoid drawing sediment. Taste the wine when racked or test with a Hydrometer for how much sugar is left not fermented into alcohol. If it is completely 'dry' you can add up to say 4 oz more sugar during the first 2/4 months in the hope it will produce more alcohol. But if you aim for a final 'dry' wine take care not to add too much sugar, which may remain unfermented. However I suggest NEVER allow wine to ferment out completely 'dry' then add sugar when bottling; this could start more fermenting causing the bottles to Explode! But no harm will come if you wish to add more for sweetening when bottling, when there is already sugar remaining unfermented. Up to 16 oz of sugar per gallon is used, much less for Dry / medium dry wine, or use other sweeteners.

Run your final rack after six months into a bucket as racked before, then add any extra sugar needed. When dissolved pour into a 1 gallon plastic container to make it easier to bottle. It pays to keep a record of what and when you start and rack wines, and put the date the wine was started on the bottle label. Keep dark wines in dark bottles, to retain colour, but dark Demijohn jars are a problem because you cannot see if the wine is clearing, so just cover dark wines with a black bag or keep in a dark place.

Before bottling add POTASSIUM SORBATE to the wine to stabilize, and be sure to wash bottles thoroughly, and ALWAYS rinse off all detergents, and then use the special cleaning powders for cleaning properly and sterilizing. Wait a minute after filling the bottles, before inserting corks to allow aeration to finish. A few wines such as Apple can be drunk from 6 months of starting, but most taste better after a least 9 months up to say 2/3 years, this especially applies to Elderberry. Remember old wines contain no more alcohol than young ones, they just taste more mature. You cannot make wine stronger unless you add more alcohol, or it ferments (which would cause the bottle to burst or cork to blow).

HOMEPAGE    Comments and suggestions always welcome gordonsweet2000@yahoo.co.uk