Wine making has been something that I've wanted to try for years. For some reason I thought it would be difficult or take a lot of equipment. A few of my friends have been fermenting various things and having some pretty decent results, so I was inspired to tackle the project myself.
I purchased a simple one-gallon equipment kit from a beer and wine making supply shop in Grand Rapids last weekend. I also picked up a hydrometer at the shop as it wasn't included in the kit. After looking over the recipe book that was included, I decided to try lemon wine to start. I had a lot of lemon juice in the freezer from another project I am working on (I'll tell you more about it after Christmas). The recipe called for some white grape concentrate and some yeast energizer. Luckily, I found a supply shop in Saginaw where I could get them -- so Charlie and I made the drive on Sunday to get the remaining items that I needed. You could certainly piece together the items you need without buying a kit, and you might save a buck or two -- but I was more interested in saving time.
So, the basics: 1. Sterilization is very important. You don't want wild yeasts and funky stuff growing in your wine. You add a Campden tablet (included in the kit I got) which contains sodium metabisulfite. It acts as a sterilant and antioxidant. I'm assuming this is the stuff that causes problems for people with sulfite sensitivities. 2. Keep the air out. The kit also comes with an airlock that allows carbon dioxide to escape while preventing air from entering. 3. Patience and observation. Obviously it takes time to make any fermented item. Observation is the stage I am in right now with my batch.
On Wednesday night I mixed together lemon juice, white grape concentrate, sugar, water, Campden and yeast energizer. I covered it and let it sit for 24 hours. Thursday night it was time to add the packet of yeast and cover it again. This morning I sanitized my hydrometer equipment and did a test.
The hydrometer helps you test when the wine is "done" -- it tests the specific gravity of the solution it is floating it. You don't have to be a scientist to do this, you just have to be able to read measurements.
My recipe calls for a specific gravity of 1.04 -- mine is at 1.12 right now. After a few more days (testing on a daily basis), I should be able to syphon it into my secondary (the white bucket is the primary, a 1-gallon glass jar is the secondary) and let it do it's magic for a couple of months. Then it gets bottled. It is that easy.
The equipment ended up totaling about $40. The white grape concentrate was NOT cheap. $15 for one liter (but it will last a while). The lemon juice was something I already had on hand that I didn't want to waste. Considering this equipment will last a long long time, I think it was a pretty good investment. I'm excited to try different flavors. Now I'm going to be on the look out for orchards and u-pick places that might want to get rid of their left overs. I also want to find some elderberry bushes next Spring and see what I can get when the fruit ripens. Lastly, I want to plant some fruit vines/canes/trees around our property so I can grow my own.
Be warned -- I have no idea if I am doing things correctly. I probably should have spent some time reading a book about wine making first. I just decided to jump right in with the very basic instructions that came with the kit. Luckily, I have friends that have been doing this for a while, and another friend that works at her family's vineyard (I would adore that kind of career!). If I need help, I have some support from people who know what they are doing.
Stay tuned for more updates...