Making Booze!

This was a good weekend spent making lots of different kinds of booze. A long hot summer led to some really nice chardonnay grapes at the parents’ farm.


It wasn’t a large yield, but the sugar, or brix were really high, hopefully yielding a nice end product. If you want to see how we make white wine, more pics are below the fold.

The first step is really easy. Starting early in the morning, before it gets too hot, you go out with clippers and start the harvest, chucking the grapes into containers called “lugs”.

Then you get anyone willing to be helpful to start cleaning and sanitizing the equipment. This year, I used a commercial cleaner rather than sulfites or bleach.

The next step is to crush and destem the grapes. For this you use a crusher/destemmer, which is basically just two gears designed to break open the grapes and pull them off the stems.

Just pour them in.

Then you take this mash and fill nylon bags with the grapes (the nylons prevent to many seeds and particulates (bees, spiders etc) from getting into to the pressed juice.

Then load them into a press.

And get juice!

The most important measurement to make before even trying to make wine is of specific gravity/brix/sugar content.

This wine topped out somewhere between 1.084-1.086, which is about 21 brix which will probably make a 12-14% alcohol wine depending on the fermentation.

We also measure the pH (it was a little over 3.0 which is perfect), and titrateable acids (wine that is too acid or too base is either undrinkable or likely to ferment bacteria rather than yeast) were measured at 7g/l, which again was perfect.

The last step is to use sulfites to sterilize the solution and prevent the natural yeasts and bacteria from fermenting the juice, which can be variable.

Due to a late frost and the goddamn deer (who we will take adequate countermeasures against next year), we had a pretty low yield – about 25 gallons.

This year I lost my last remaining sympathy for deer. I no longer have any illusions of their cuteness, and think all Americans as part of their patriotic duty should eat lots of venison.

Once the sulfites wear off – about 24-48 hours, I’ll dump in 1g/gallon of yeast, I use a strain called BM45 which I’ve had success with in the past. The wine ferments in steel or glass containers for about 2 weeks in a primary fermentation to convert the sugar to alcohol, which smells really nice – just like baking bread. After that you can go nuts and do all sorts of stuff in terms of aging in casks, or with wood chips, or malo-lactic fermentation (whites start out very tart and you often need to do something to soften the taste). I’ll cover those steps when I get to them.

Pictures thanks to Kristen and Jessica.