Ordering wine grapes

It may be the dead of winter, and I may live in the humid, fungus-infected south, but I ordered wine grape vines anyway.  One each of:

Landot Noir

Noiret

NY95.0301.01 (so new it doesn’t have a name!)

Regent

Bianca

Brianna

The first four are red and the last two white.  I selected them based entirely on their supposed resistance to fungus.  We shall see.

 

How to make wine — step 3, racking

In step 1, I set up the primary fermentation in a bucket, and in step 2, I transferred the wine to a carboy with an airlock.  The fermentation has now slowed down, but is not completely finished.  Normally I wouldn’t worry too much about this, because I plan to add sugar at the end and therefore don’t need a totally dry wine.  However, I set up this batch to be low in alcohol — just above the 10% needed for preservation.  If it doesn’t finish, the alcohol will be too low.  There is also a thick layer of sediment, or lees, at the bottom.

 

wine lees

Here is a photo of the lees.  You can see a white layer on the bottom, consisting mostly of dead and dying yeast cells.  There is a fluffier orange layer above that, which is apricot sediment.

 

I’m going to rack off of most of the sediment.  Because I’m leaving most of the sediment behind, the transferred wine will have less volume.  I don’t want to leave air space at the top because that would expose my wine to oxygen, turning it to vinegar.  I’m making up the difference with glass marbles and a bit of sweet white wine.  I’m hoping the combination of the extra sugar in the added wine and the bit of oxygen that is introduced during the racking will restart the fermentation and allow it to produce enough alcohol.

 

The racking itself is basically the same as the last step.  I am using a racking cane in the carboy full of wine with 3/8 inch (inner diameter) tubing running into the fresh carboy.  Everything that will touch the wine has been sanitized as usual.

Here is the top of the racking cane with a clothespin to keep it from falling to the bottom and stirring up the sediment.

 

I started the siphon and let it run into the new carboy. It’s a little tricky at the end.    I let the siphon suck up the fluffy orange lees and a bit of the yeast, so that the yeast can continue to grow.

 

Here is the level of the wine after the transfer.  This is way too much headspace.

Which brings us to marbles, or more precisely, glass gems available in the floral department of your favorite craft store.  They are supposed to prop up your flowers, but we have a different use for them.

The squashed shape of the glass  gems keeps them from rolling quite as far if they fall on the floor as you’re loading them into the carboy.  I rinsed them in wine sanitizer, then in water, then baked them on a cookie sheet to dry them.      Once they were cool, they went into the wine.  That left a little bit of room, which I filled with about half a bottle of Reisling, which is a fruity sweet wine that hopefully will jumpstart my fermentation.

 

And now, a day after racking, I’m seeing bubbles, and the SG is below 1 (before it was about 1.008).  Success!  Now all I have to do is wait for the lees to settle.

 

If racking hadn’t worked, I could have added a hardier strain of yeast, or just artificially upped the alcohol by adding vodka.  But just restarting the fermentation by racking is the easiest and the first thing to try.

 

I will probably end up with a step 3-and-a-half, which is to rack the wine at least one more time.  Maybe I can just modify the instructions to say that step 3-and-a-half is to rack every month or so until all the sediment is gone.

 

 

Acid in wine

Wine is acidic.  Acid, in a scientific sense, is a substance that releases hydrogen ions.  Acids taste sour, and a wine that is not acidic enough tastes flat and flabby.  Most home-made wine is improved by the addition of acid.

 

The major acid in wine is tartaric acid.  Many fruits are acidic, but grapes are unusual in their high levels of tartaric acid.  The taste of tartaric acid is sharp and it contributes most of the acidic “edge” to wine.  Cream of tartar, used as an acid for stabilizing egg whites and in baking, is a form of tartaric acid, and if you have some in your pantry, you can taste a little to get an idea of its particular variety of acidity.  Tartaric acid can precipitate out of solution when wine, especially white wine, is chilled.  It forms crystals that settle and are harmless.  These crystals were the original cream of tartar and also one of the acidic components of baking powder.

 

The second most prominent acid acid in wine is malic acid.  Its name comes from the Latin for apple.  Think of the crisp acidity of a Granny Smith apple — that’s malic acid.  Malic acid is used widely as a food additive, especially for sour candies like Sweetarts and Jolly Ranchers.  In wine, it contributes a fruity acidity and gives the impression of apples.  While the levels of tartaric acid remain constant in grapes throughout ripening, malic acid declines as the grapes ripen.  This means that vineyards can control the malic acid content of their grapes by choosing when to pick them.  It also means that grapes grown in cooler climates where they don’t fully ripen have more malic acid.  If you taste a Riesling from northern Germany, it will probably have more apple notes than one from California, even though the grape variety is the same.  Wine supply stores sell malic acid, and if you want to create a fruity wine, you can add it.

 

Traditionally, red wines are not fruity, and part of the “defruiting” of red wine is malolactic fermentation.  Malolactic fermentation, or MLF, converts the malic acid to lactic acid, which is a weaker acid and has a smoother taste.  Lactic acid is found naturally in milk, and especially in yogurt.  MLF is typically carried out by bacteria rather than yeast.  The MLF bacteria can be purchased in packets like wine yeast, although it is quite a bit more expensive.  The bacteria are also killed by sulfate, so you can’t add campden tablets until after the malolactic fermentation.  I tried a malolactic fermentation once, and it seemed to work.  At some point, I’ll write more about getting MLF to work.  Obviously, if you want to make a complex red to age, you don’t want to add malic acid.  Some yeast strains carry out a partial malolactic fermentation, and if you don’t want to mess with the bacteria, they might be worth trying.

 

The third acid in wine is citric acid.  The levels of citric acid in wine are quite a bit lower than the other two.  Citric acid gives a citrus taste to wine, and can be added by the home winemaker.

 

I have plans to experiment with adding different acids to batches of wine.  One of my first batches involved adding the juice of a lemon to white grape juice, which would have added quite a bit of citric acid.  It turned out surprisingly well, so I’m interested so see how adding just citric acid will affect the taste.  I have the various acids on order, and will post again when I’m able to set up the experiment.

Do sulfites in wine cause allergies?

structure of sodium metabisulfite

Wine contains some natural sulfites produced during fermentation, and most home and commercial wine makers add extra sulfites in the form of sodium or potassium metabisulfite as a preservative to prevent the growth of microorganisms other than the wine yeast.  Wine yeast has been bred to be resistant to fairly high levels of sulfite, although if you add too much, you can prevent yeast growth.

 

Some people clearly have a bad reaction to sulfites.  Most commonly they have a sulfite-induced asthma attack.  There is at least one reported case of a fatal asthma attack after drinking wine, although it is not certain that it was the sulfites that caused the attack.   A number of studies have been done to test whether or not people who have wine allergies are reacting to the sulfites.  In one of those studies, 24 people who had a history of wine-induced asthma attacks were given wine with different doses of sulfite.  Only four of the 24 reacted badly to high doses (300 ppm) of sulfite, and none of those reacted to lower levels of sulfite (20-150 ppm).  In the US, the maximum dose of sulfite allowable by law is 350 ppm, and typical levels in commercial wines are under 100 ppm.  Several other studies had similar results.  There are probably a few people who are allergic to sulfites, but most of the people who have allergic reactions to wine are reacting to something else.  This makes sense to me, because sulfites are produced naturally in the body, and sulfites don’t seem like the kind of molecule that would be highly allergenic.  Allergens tend to be enzymes, or at least proteins, and sulfites are neither.

 

So if people aren’t reacting to sulfites, what are they reacting to?  There is an interesting theory that makes a lot of sense.  Brace yourself, wine lovers.  During the winemaking process, bees are attracted to the smell and fall in.  Small doses of their venom can sometimes be found in the finished wine.  Bee venom, unlike sulfites, is highly allergenic.  One study tested five people who had had allergic reactions after drinking young wine.  All five had a bee venom allergy and all had allergy-causing antibodies that reacted only to wine that contained the venom.  The venom appears to break down over time, as only one of the older wines had venom.  This phenomenon has not been well studied, but there appears to be more success in finding people who have clear allergic reactions to bee venom in wine than to sulfites in wine.

How to make wine — step 2, racking the wine to a carboy

When I first started to read about winemaking, I came across the phrase “racking wine” and thought “what the heck is racking?”  Turns out it just means transferring the liquid wine to a new container, leaving the sediment (lees) behind.  A carboy is a large container with a narrow neck, and they’re convenient for home wine making because the small opening can be plugged up with a stopper and airlock to keep oxygen from getting in.

 

Oxygen is the enemy of wine, at least once you get past the first step.  In case you missed it, you can read about the first step here.  After I added the yeast to the bucket, it took about a day for it to start fermenting visibly, and a few days more for it to come close to finishing fermentation.  The idea is to catch it when it is close to done, but not quite.  While it’s fermenting, it’s giving off carbon dioxide gas.  It continuously sounds like a just-opened bottle of soda.  The carbon dioxide forms a blanket over the liquid and keeps much oxygen from getting in.

 

Once the sugar is used up by the yeast or they die from alcohol poisoning (whichever comes first) there’s no more carbon dioxide being produced.  The old CO2 blows away, and the oxygen hits the wine.  Then, various microorganisms combine the oxygen with alcohol to make acetaldehyde and then acetic acid, or vinegar.  Most wine yeast are selected for the trait of NOT producing vinegar, so if you can keep everything really clean, this is a lot less likely to happen.  But bacteria like acetobacter (which makes lots of acetic acid) are pretty much everywhere, so it’s necessary to keep the oxygen out.  No oxygen, no reaction.

 

You can monitor the consumption of the sugar using the hydrometer to measure specific gravity.


As you can see, the hydrometer is floating a lot lower than it was before the fermentation.  This is because the solution is less dense because most of the sugar has been consumed.  We can even do a calculation and determine that  the missing sugar is giving us a little more than 8% alcohol at this point.   The important thing to note is that the reading is getting close to 1, and the fermentation will at least slow down if not stop at that point, so it’s time to transfer.

 

I use carboys from Walmart that are sold as bottles for water coolers.  They’re next to the water purifiers, and cost $7.  Because there are chunks of apricot in the wine, I’m going to pour it through a sieve.  I’ll also need tubing to transfer the wine.  There are various rigid tubes sold as racking canes, but for now I’m just going to us a bottling tube with the valve taken off.  It then becomes just a plastic tube that I can attach to the plastic tubing.  I need a stopper and an airlock.  All of that stuff needs to be sanitized.  Here it is in a tub full of winemaking sanitizer made up in hot water:

I let this stuff soak for a few minutes. The sanitizer is basically just an oxygen bleach without any perfumes.  You can use chlorine bleach or perfume-free laundry detergent in a pinch.  No matter what you use, make sure you rinse it away thoroughly.

 

I poured the sanitizer into the carboy and sloshed it around, and then rinsed it out.  I also sanitized a large bowl, and used it as a scoop to pour the wine/apricot mixture through the sieve.

 

The apricots are pretty much just mush.  They went in as chunks.  Hopefully that means the yeast released all the good stuff from the apricots.  In the end, there were about two cups of apricot mush.

The container I’m pouring into will only hold about half the wine, so I set up the siphon to start the actual transfer. If you’re not using fruit, you can skip the sieve.

 


And here it is — the actual racking.  The carboy needs to be lower than the container you’re transferring from.  The rigid tube is in the upper container and keeps the tubing from flopping out.  Starting the siphon can be tricky until you get used to it.  I stand on a chair, wrap my (clean) fingers around the end of the tubing, suck up the wine until it’s about three-quarters of the way up the tube, and then quickly put the end of the tube in the carboy.  If you try to do this from below, it doesn’t work very well.  The liquid needs to be pulled up and then quickly aimed down.

 

Once the siphon is going, it’s pretty easy to keep going.  Just make sure the tube in the upper container doesn’t slip out.  It’s important to fill the carboy up to the neck to limit air in it.  Then you add your airlock.

It’s a little hard to see, but the airlock is stuck into a stopper with a hole in it.  The yellow stuff is silicone, because my stopper was a bit too small. I’ve ordered some in the right size, but this will do for now.  It’s hard to see from the picture, but the way the airlock works is that there is a tube that the carbon dioxide comes up, and a small plastic cup over the opening of the tube.  You fill the large outer cup with water, and when the carbon dioxide pushes into the small cup, it bubbles out the side into the water.  The water is treated with sulfite as a preservative.

 

Although it’s hard to see in the picture, there are lots of tiny bubbles in the wine, and the airlock is bubbling away.  In a week or so, it should be done fermenting and the yeast will start to settle.  Once most of the yeast (the “gross lees”) have settled, I’ll rack again.  This can take a week or two.

How to make wine — Step One, setting up the primary fermentation

wine ingredients

 

In the primary fermentation, yeast grow and consume most of the sugar in the juice.  The yeast carry out a number of different biochemical reactions, most notably the formation of carbon dioxide and alcohol from the sugar.  They will continue to do this until they run out of sugar or they are killed by the alcohol, whichever comes first.

 

Alcohol tolerance of wine yeast ranges from 14-18%, and most wine is 10-14% alcohol, so usually the primary fermentation is set up so that the yeast will run out of sugar first.  If you want a sweet wine, you can wait until the fermentation is done and add sugar (i.e. “backsweeten”).   In this case, a preservative (sorbate) is needed to prevent the fermentation from restarting. Sorbate does have a bit of a taste itself (usually described as “bubblegum”), and if you don’t want that in your sweet wine, you can start with a yeast that will die at 14% alcohol and leave some sugar behind. Or you can make a wine that is both sweet and very high in alcohol.

 

Although the yeast need oxygen to get going, once they’ve made wine, it is susceptible to damage by oxygen. Wine in oxygen becomes vinegar. Once the primary fermentation is in full gear, the carbon dioxide that is produced forms a protective blanket of gas over the wine. Once the primary fermentation slows down, you need to transfer the wine to a sealed container (a glass or plastic carboy) to finish fermenting. The fermentation in the second container is sometimes called the secondary fermentation, although it’s really a continuation of the first.

 

Because the primary fermentation requires oxygen at first, it is done in an unsealed container. For small batches, I use a 2.5 gallon food storage canister, and for larger batches, I use a 5 gallon food-grade bucket. You can get these from Lowes. Make sure it’s a food-grade bucket or your wine will taste like plastic. Mine has a sticker on the side identifying it as food safe.

 

For the juice, I’m using a mixture of Welch’s white grape and a large (96 oz) can of apricot fruit wine base. I usually use three cans of frozen Welch’s per gallon. For this batch, I’m using nine cans of Welch’s plus the apricot base in five gallons total.

 

The bucket should be thoroughly washed and sanitized, preferably with an oxygen bleach, as it rinses better, but regular bleach will work if you rinse well. Once the juices are in the bucket, I fill it with water, but not quite all the way. I went to about 4-1/4 gallons total. This is because the apricots don’t have nearly as much sugar as do grapes, and so I need room to add some so that the yeast will be able to make enough alcohol to preserve the wine — about 10%. I’m aiming for a low-alcohol wine — about 11%. I calculate that I need to add 1398 grams of sugar (plus enough water to fill to five gallons) to accomplish this. How do I know this? I’m glad you asked, because it allows for some science content.

 

This is a hydrometer floating in a tube of the juice.
hydrometer It measures the specific gravity of a solution. Specific gravity is just the density of the solution relative to water. The specific gravit (SG) of water is 1, and so a solution that has a SG of .95 has a density 95% of that of water. Because juice is water with stuff (mostly sugar) dissolved in it, it is more dense than water. If you put a can of (non-diet) coke in a tub of water, it will sink because the sugar makes it more dense than the water. So the SG gives us a pretty good idea of how much sugar is in the juice and therefore how much alcohol the yeast can produce. The more sugar, the more dense the solution, the higher the hydrometer floats. There are marks along the length of the hydrometer giving the density at that level Neat, isn’t it?

 

Here is the hydrometer floating in my 4.25 gallons of juice:
hydrometer in juice You need to blow away those bubbles to get a good reading, but even with them, you can see that the specific gravity is 1.055.

 

Now we need to calculate the amount of sugar we need.  There is a nifty calculator for this here.  Just click on the “alcohol” tab, then the “hydrometer SG drop” tab.  Adjust the temperature settings.  Your hydrometer will be calibrated for a particular temperature, and it will be written on the side.  A thermometer in the juice will give your actual temp.  If you plug in an initial SG of 1.055 and a final SG of 0.099 (which is as low as it seems to typically go, although theoretically it can go lower), you get a little less than 9% alcohol — not enough to preserve the wine.  If you play with the “starting SG” number, you’ll find that 1.075 will give about 11.5% alcohol.  This is what I’m going for.  Even if the wine only ferments to 1, I’ll still be a bit over 10% and therefore the wine will still be preserved.

 


Now click the “sugar” tab and choose “specify target SG and volume.” My target SG is 1.075, my target volume is 5 gallons and my SG now is 1.055. My initial volume is 4.25 gallons. Plug all that in and I need 1398 grams of sugar

calculating sugar
Here’s my scale with the sugar:

Because I’m just guessing at the 4.25 gallons, I mixed the sugar with water and boiled it to make a syrup, then poured it into the juice and stirred it up. If you don’t make a syrup, the sugar sits at the bottom and you can’t get an accurate SG reading.
Here is the hydrometer in the sugared juice. The reading is a bit low, but if you correct for the warmer temperature, it’s perfect:


Now is a good time to hydrate the yeast. I put a little of the juice in a small dish, warmed it in the microwave, and poured in the yeast.

The yeast packet says 105-109 degrees F, so this should be fine. I’m using Lalvin ICV D47 yeast, which is good for making fruity wines. The yeast needs time to hydrate, and does this much better at warm temperatures. Set the yeast aside and add it at the end.

I added five teaspoons of yeast nutrient, which is not absolutely necessary, but it’s not expensive, and it can keep the yeast from being stressed. Stressed yeast can make bad smelling chemicals.

I also tested for titratable acid and added 7.5 teaspoons acid blend to get to 0.6%. This is also not absolutely necessary, but fruity wine is better with some tang to it, and the acid is also a preservative. I used this kit to test for titratable acid. Some day I’ll explain the science of it, but this post is already getting too long.

I added 1/2 teaspoon grape tannin, which will add a bit of astringency. Again, this is not necessary.   I used 1/4 teaspoon pectinase, which is necessary because I’m using fruit, and it breaks down the pectin that can cloud the wine.  If you’re just using juice, you can skip this.

Finally, it’s time to pour in the yeast.

Now my five gallon bucket is very full. Too full. Fermenting wine gets foamy. I transferred one gallon to a smaller container, and will combine them in the next step.

I let the wine sit on a heating pad on low for 24 hours and then added 1 crushed campden tablet per gallon. These tablets contain sulfites, which will keep undesirable microorganisms from growing. The reason I waited is to allow the yeast time to grow. If you hit them with the preservative right off the bat, you might kill enough of them to prevent the fermentation from starting.

In case you’re wondering, the cost of ingredients is:

9 cans frozen Welch’s white grape ($2 each) = $18
Can of apricots = about $40 with shipping
Yeast, nutrient, tannin, etc = about $5
_______________________
Total about $63

Five gallons will make 25 bottles
$63/25 = $2.52 per bottle.

Now I just need to wait for the yeast to grow and ferment. To be continued!

 

How to make wine — overview of steps

This is the first of a series of posts that will go through the steps of making wine from juice. Most commercial wineries start not with juice but with fruit, and it is possible for the home winemaker to get grapes from a local vineyard, but I haven’t gotten that far myself. Many home winemakers buy a wine kit that has everything prepared for you, but that takes a lot of the fun out of it.

 

Step One is to set up the primary fermentation.  This turns the juice into wine.

Step Two is to rack the wine into a carboy.  This just means to transfer the wine (but not any sediment) into a large container with a small opening that is then fitted with an airlock.  The airlock allows carbon dioxide gas to escape, but prevents oxygen from getting in.

Step Three is to rack the wine again.  This is done after most of the sediment in the wine has had a chance to settle, and gets the wine off of these “gross lees.”  After step three, the wine will still be a little cloudy, and will have a harsh taste.  It needs to sit for several months so that it can mellow and the rest of the sediment can settle.

Step Four is to bottle the wine.  And of course to enjoy it!

 

That’s it!  Now I’m off to start my primary fermentation to get pictures for my next post.

 

Making wine without special equipment

balloon wineYou can buy a six gallon wine making starter kit for under $150 (plus about $40 shipping, because all that glass is heavy) but that’s an intimidating amount of wine to deal with, and if you mess it up, you’ve wasted a lot of money.

 

What if you’ve never made wine but want to try setting up a batch of wine this weekend without ordering special equipment or juice?  I set myself the challenge of trying to make a small batch of wine using only stuff that I could buy at my local Walmart for less than $5.

 

The biggest difficulties here are the yeast and the airlock.  Normally I use yeast sold specifically for winemaking, but all that’s available at Walmart is bread yeast.  The airlock is a device that allows carbon dioxide gas to escape, but prevents air from getting in.  I’ve heard of using a balloon with a pinhole in it as an airlock.  The idea is that the carbon dioxide goes out the pinhole, and when the fermentation is done and the gas is no longer produced, the balloon collapses and seals the pinhole.  Although most experts on the subject say not to use bread yeast, it is the same species as some wine yeast, and I found a Dutch blogger who used it successfully to make wine from apple juice.

 

Other missing components are additives like sulfite (which inhibits the growth of undesirable microorganisms), acid (which improves the taste and also acts as a preservative), and yeast nutrients (which help some types of yeast grow properly).  The juice has acid added to it already, and because the juice is pasteurized, the yeast do not have much in the way of spoilage organisms to compete with.  I suspect leaving these out will not hurt.

 

So here’s my shopping list:

$2.78 — half gallon of store-brand white grape juice

$0.97 — bag of 12 ballons

$1.32 — three-pack of yeast

_______________________

$5.07 — grand total

Okay, so it’s seven cents over my $5 limit, but I’m not using all the balloons or yeast, so if you prorate those, we’re down to $3.30.  Not bad for 2.5 bottles of wine.

 

The first step is to proof the yeast.  This may not be strictly necessary, but it’s not hard.  I just poured a little of the wine into a (very clean) dessert bowl and microwaved it until it was warm but not hot.

balloon wine

 

You don’t want to stick your finger in it to test the temperature, because the germs on your skin could spoil the wine.

 

Next, add the yeast to the warm wine and wait about 10 minutes for it to start to grow:

 

During the 10 minute wait, clean a bowl that is large enough to hold all the juice with space to spare. Dump the juice into the bowl, but save the bottle it came in, and wash it out well. Once the yeast has started to bubble, dump it into the bowl with the juice. Cover the bowl with foil or plastic wrap and then with a towel. Flies love the smell of fermenting juice, and you want to keep them out.

balloon wine

 

If your house is on the chilly side, you might want to place a lamp next to the bowl for the first day. I used a small lamp with a 100 W bulb. In a few days, the juice will be bubbly and smell of fermentation. Carefully pour it back into the clean bottle and stretch the balloon over the mouth of the bottle. Using a pin, make a tiny hole in the balloon, at the end away from the bottle. The gas will eventually fill the balloon. For me, it took a few hours.

balloon wine

Now you wait for the balloon to collapse. This took a week for me. It does look like it has sealed the pinhole.

balloon wine

 

At this point, the only step left is to wait for the dead yeast cells to settle out so that the wine is clear. At this point, it’s only had a few days after the fermentation to settle, and it’s already starting to clear up. The settled yeast at the bottom are the lees.

wine lees

I will post an update once the wine is clear. As a friend put it, the “proof” will be in the tasting.

Wine and Depression

In a recently published study, researchers in asked 13,619 college educated Spaniards about their drinking habits. As expected for a Mediterranean culture, wine was the most commonly consumed alcoholic beverage (at about half the total). At the start of the study, none of these people were depressed. The researchers then followed them for about ten years and tracked new cases of depression, as determined by a doctors diagnosis and/or prescription of antidepressants.

At the end of the study, they asked whether people who drink (a little, moderately, or a lot) were different than those who didn’t drink with respect to depression. It turned out that those who were moderate drinkers (1/3 of a glass to one glass per day) at the beginning of the study were less likely to have experienced depression during the years of tracking. The effect did not hold for the lower and higher categories of alcohol consumption.

They then separated the data for men and women, and the effect was greater for women. For men, the effect was not statistically significant, which means that there is a greater than 5% chance that the researchers found men that were not representative of the greater population. That doesn’t mean that alcohol doesn’t correlate with a reduction of depression in men; it just means we can’t say either way from this study.

This study was not a placebo-controlled trial (the gold standard of scientific experiments). It’s possible that people who are able to afford wine also have healthier lives, and that the benefit was not from the wine. But the researchers did adjust for diet, and Spain has a national health care system, which would tend to reduce differences in access to health care between people.  I don’t see any controlled trials out there, probably because of the known risks of excess alcohol consumption.  If researchers randomly assigned some people to drink a glass of wine every day, some people might develop an addiction and end up worse off than they otherwise would have been.  But for people who are already moderate drinkers, it’s a bit of good news.

Welcome to my winemaking blog!

Welcome to my winemaking blog!  About a year ago, I started making wine at home.  I’m a biologist, and had experience growing microorganisms in the lab, so I figured making wine wouldn’t be that different.  Really wine isn’t made by people; it’s made by microorganisms.

 

Winemaking has turned out to be an excellent hobby.  It doesn’t take much time to set up a batch.  Most of the wine making process is waiting for the yeast or other microorganisms to do their thing, or waiting for the dead microorganisms to settle, or waiting for the wine to age.  If you’re the kind of person who starts hobbies and then sets them aside when you get busy, wine making might be the perfect hobby for you.  If you set wine aside and forget about it, it only gets better!

 

Winemaking is also a relatively inexpensive hobby.  I can make three gallons of wine (which will fill about 15 bottles) for about $20, or $1.33 per bottle.  That’s with Welches’ grape juice.  Using juice from wine grapes (Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)  bought in concentrated form, it’s a little less than $3 a bottle.  Wine grapes definitely yield a more complex wine, but ordinary Welch’s grape juice makes perfectly good table wine.

 

When I first got the idea to make wine, I did a lot of searches online, and found that there really isn’t a huge amount of information out there, especially for people with no experience.  I’m still a beginner at winemaking, and plan to explain how to get started at it.  Each time I start a batch, I’ll show you what I’m doing and let you know how it turns out.  There is also a lot of scientific information out there about wine and winemaking that I hope to translate for the non-scientist.  So add me to your RSS feeds and watch for future posts!