Ahhh, my hobby. Wine making. I’ve decided to keep a separate page and share. People are always interested in how it works when I bring it up, so I thought it would be fun to take pics with each batch as I go through the steps. Then I’ll let you know how each kit turns out.
BTW, I buy my supplies from Chuck at The Brew Shop. He offers online ordering, too.
I’ve been making wine for years. Made it for weddings, Christmas, family gatherings and just because. I’m a red wine drinker myself. I love a good Cabernet and am a big fan of Malbec. But there are a few fruity kits I love to make for summer. Flavors like Green Apple Riesling and Apricot Peach Chardonnay are excellent chilled on a hot summer day. And for fun, I sometimes add fresh fruit from my local Farmer’s Market into a pitcher of homemade fruity wine.
The last batch I made was for a wedding. The only pictures I took were after I’d bottled. These are Mango Citrus Symphony–Bride’s request. This was actually a lovely wine–sweeter than I normally like, but it had an excellent citrus flavor.
Today I started a batch of Cabernet. This one.
And because I didn’t get the idea to photograph the progress until after the first step, you get to miss seeing the strange, brown liquid that made up the beginning of this Vintners Reserve. I had dissolved a packet of bentonite into two liters of hot water.
Then I added the juice. It came out of this bag. Don’t let its innocent looks fool you. This was HEAVY.
At this point, my wine looks like this:
Doesn’t look like much, but this is a six gallon wine bucket.
Next, I topped the bucket to the 23 liter mark with cool water. Here’s a quick image of some of the supplies from the wine kit:
This is my first experience with adding oak. It’s in the white bowl. You’re supposed to stir the oak into the mix at this point and make sure it’s stirred under the surface of the wine. This part was tricky. As you can tell, the oak didn’t want to un-clump or get off the stirring spoon.
Not exactly something I want to drink either. So, I stirred. And stirred.
It was turning into this gorgeous, deep red mixture with a pleasant oaky odor. (Sorry, too much Buffy lately. )
So then, I took the temperature and made sure the mixture was between 18 and 24 degrees C. I also waited for it to stop circulating from my mad whipping skills. At this point, I sprinkled the yeast onto the top. You don’t want to stir it in.
Looks nice and calm, yes? No. You can see the yeast start to react immediately. It kind of fizzles and pops. My kitchen quickly filled with the smell of oak, wine and yeast. This will increase a lot over the next few days. I latched the lid and attached the airlock and bung to the top. This is the airlock and bung. (I usually just call it a bung.)
It allows air to escape, but not get in. Honestly, I’ve always attached the bung at this point-mainly because I don’t like leaving an open hole at the top of the wine fermenter, but some don’t at this particular phase. When I had a nice wine closet, I didn’t mind leaving it open, but at this time, I’m fermenting my brew in this corner, so for now, bung covered, it is. The sign is a bit of a joke. I really should get around to hanging it up…
So, this will sit for five to seven days and then step two begins. Between May 12th and 15th, 2010. I’ll be back then with pics!
It’s okay to let a few extra days pass, btw. Today is the 16th and I completed step two of the Cabernet. Quite a few people rack their wine into a carboy at this step, but I own four of these wine buckets, so I do everything in them.(BTW, the person who taught me to make wine never took measurements of the gravity of his wine. So, I don’t either. It is mentioned in the directions, but my wine has always turned out, so I’m not sure how necessary it is.) Here’s a glimpse of the wine at this point.
It’s a gorgeous, deep red–something my camera phone is not picking up. That ring around the top looks to be mostly bits of the oak that wouldn’t sink under the surface no matter how much I stirred. Next up
I attach a curved racking tube with a side clip. This tube has a rubber foot at the bottom that sits directly in the sediment. We want to rack the wine and leave the sediment behind, so the rubber foot is very handy!
I’ve attached siphon tubing onto the curved racking tube. I then siphon the wine into a clean, sanitized wine bucket. Here’s a glimpse of the directions. I write down the date of every step directly onto this.
I’m so careful to not get sediment into the new bucket, I usually lose a little wine. This is the sediment left at the bottom. And here it is on my finger. It’s grainy and thick.
Racking the wine is the only part of step two. It’s simple and fast. Now, the wine rests for ten days. Step three has more to it. See you again around May 25th!
On May 29th, I finished step three. It’s the second most labor-intensive step. Here are the supplies used.
You take package 2 (Metabisulphite) and package 3 (Sorbate) and dissolve in 1/2 cup cool water. You add that to the wine and stir. And stir. And stir. The stirring in this step is very important. You’re stirring the sediment at the bottom back into the wine and you’re working to drive off CO2.The color of the additives after dissolving in water:
When you begin stirring:
Then you shake package #4 (Chitosan-which is a fining agent.) cut off one corner and add it to the wine. Then stir. And stir. And stir. You’ll end up whipping it into a foam on top.
You are supposed to stir until it stops foaming. This image is actually the winding down of the foaming part. I have never gotten it to stop foaming entirely even after stirring for a lot longer than the two minutes the instructions recommend. But I do stir it a long time-usually until it feels my arms will fall off.
And you’re close to done at this point! You put the lid back on, attach the airlock and bung and let it rest for 14 days. After 14 days, I’ll take a small amount out and look at it in a wine glass to see how clear it is. If it isn’t to my liking, I’ll let it sit longer before bottling it.
So, I’ll be back in 14 days or so. The bottling process is the labor intensive part. But it is SOOO worth it.
June 15th, 2010:
After 14 or in my case 17 days, it was time to check for clarity. This is VERY IMPORTANT. Wine will not clear in the bottle. The way it goes in is the way it stays. So, you take a glass of your finished wine and hold it up to the light. If it’s clear, it’s ready to bottle. At first, it looked fantastic!
It’s a gorgeous, deep red and has a luxurious scent. I can pick up the berry and oak. Unfortunately, it’s not ready to clear and I’m concerned that it will be. When I held it to the light, I saw small dots.
As you can tell, getting those small dots with my camera phone was a bit of a challenge.
There! See them? They’re extremely fine–like dust–yet I’ve never had a batch show this much sediment at this point. So, this is possibly the oak. It was my first try at stirring oak into wine.
In a nutshell, this Cabernet is obviously not ready to bottle. I’ll leave it another week, possibly two and if it doesn’t clear by that time, I may have to filter. Filtering is my LEAST favorite part of this process and normally not needed. I went ahead and poured this wine through a coffee filter to see what I was dealing with. (Um, the filtering process has absolutely nothing to do with coffee filters, by the way. <g>) I merely wanted a closer look at what was clouding up this wonderful wine because trust me, it tastes great and it hasn’t even gone through the three months in the bottle. (A lot of wine kits are ready to drink when they’re ready to bottle. But your reds will be so much better if you let them age a bit.)
See? Extremely fine-almost like dust. So, I’m going to remain hopeful this Cabernet will clear on its own. We’ll give it a little more clarifying time.
It cleared! In fact, I took some to a friend who also makes wine and we poured it into glasses and took it outside to stare at the sun through it. I’m sure we looked crazy to his neighbors. But, I wanted a second opinion. He agreed that it looked great. It’s dark, rich and smells incredible. It also tastes excellent, though it will improve after a few months in the bottle. This is a terrible picture that for some reason makes the glass look weird, but it showed the wine’s clarity the best.
This image shows the beautiful, dark red.
So, it’s time to bottle. I overdo this part according to my wine guy. There is a product you can buy to soak the bottles in-one that gets them ready in one go. I haven’t tried it. The person who taught me had me soak all my bottles in scalding water with bleach, then scrub them in hot, soapy water with a brush. I soaked about 30 bottles in several big, white wine buckets for 24 hours. Then I scrubbed. These bottle brushes are indispensible.
I am a rinsing fool. Seriously, I rinse and rinse until I’m absolutely positive each bottle is fine. Then, I rinse again. <g> And look! So many to wash!
This is a handy and necessary item. It’s a bottle tree. Before…
And after all the bottles had been washed.
I let the bottles settle there a long time so they can drain. Then, it’s time to fill them.
Again, I attached the curved racking tube with side clip into my wine bucket. See that white, plastic thing on the tubing? I have no idea what it’s called but it is your very best friend. I keep several on hand because they do wear out and break. Here’s a better image. They’re cheap yet worth more than their weight in gold. Your thumb goes along the top part there and you press in to stop the flow of wine from bottle to bottle.
Here’s my other best friend. It was considerably more expensive but I recommend the investment because I had a hand-held corker before and just didn’t have the proper upper body strength to work it easily.
The cork goes in here. I’m using a synthetic cork. I do occasionally use the real ones, but these seem to be more in stock these days. Plus, with real corks, your wine has to stand upright for three days before you lie it down. And the bottles have to be stored on their side. With synthetic, you can store however you want.
And once you’ve placed the bottle on the spring platform, you pull down the handle. The cork is squeezed tight and this metal forces it into the bottle.
And here is the finished product.
I don’t put labels on the bottles unless I’m giving them away as gifts. And not always then either because most of my wine fans bring the bottles back to trade for full ones. It’s such a pain to soak and scrape and scrub labels and glue. But, it’s easy to get the wine mixed up, so I do label. With a Sharpie on the cork.
Cabernet, bottled June 2010. Though it’s okay to drink now, reds improve after a couple of months in the bottle. I’ll end up opening a few early. This makes an EXCELLENT cooking wine even in the beginning. In fact, I saved out a little to use in a nice marinara tonight.
Hope you enjoyed!