Making wine from fresh juice:
I have always been a proponent of making wine from grapes over pre-pressed juice. The cost is almost twice the price of juice and five times the work but, you get more control and a better quality end product. Concentrate kits have come a long way since the days of those god awful cans. If time is an issue, I highly recommend Winexpert kits. They make a better quality wine and they are available all year. This means you do not have to make 50 gallons all at once or all of the same type. You are free to make it when you want and not just when the season allows.
Remember the first three rules of homebrewing:
( 1 ) Sanitation ( 2 ) Sanitation ( 3 ) Sanitation
Wine makers use Sodium metabisulphite; Use 1 Tbs per gallon of water and let soak for 10 min. and then drain. No rinsing is necessary. If a little solution remains, don’t worry, it’s the same stuff we will be adding later.
If you are making wine from the buckets of juice, these are my recommendations:
DAY ONE: Pour the juice into a larger (sanitized) FOOD GRADE container that will leave between 10 and 15% of head space (for foam) and add a packet of yeast. DO NOT FILL YOUR FERMENTER TO THE TOP! The first 10 days of fermentation will be vigorous and foamy. Leave plenty of room between your must and the airlock. Splashing and oxidizing the juice at the beginning is good ONLY AT THIS STAGE. It will help with a full fermentation and will help lower the amount of sulfites in the juice. Many batches I have tested have much higher than recommended (100 ppm) levels of sulfite added to insure a stable product during shipping. This can cause problems later by killing too much yeast and/or preventing the malolactic fermentation, which softens and matures wines.
YEAST: Adding a cultured yeast to grapes or juice helps with a more consistent wine from year to year. Sometimes the added sulphite kills too much of the yeast and there is not enough cells to finish to dryness. There are hundreds of strains of yeast on the skins of grapes. Adding a good culture of yeast will eat most of the sugars and prevent the less desirable yeasts from eating and adding off flavors
Peptic enzyme should be added to white wines. Although this is not always necessary, it will insure your wine will come out clear. It’s better to add it and not need it than to not add it and end up with hazy wine.
FIRST RACKING: After 10 days, rack (siphon from one container to another) into a (sanitized) glass carboy or demi-jon leaving 1 - 3 inches of headspace. Add oak chips at this time if desired. I like to add oak after the second racking.
RACKING: When racking, make sure you go from the bottom of one container to the bottom of the other to prevent over oxidation. This early racking is highly recommended. It helps full fermentation and aids in the clarity of the finished wine, by agitating the yeast and adding a small amount of oxygen to the must, the yeast will have an easier time fermenting all of the available sugars. If you get some lees (sediment) during this racking.. don’t worry, you will get it next time
TIMING: How long you wait for the first racking is not especially critical. You do want to do it early so that the yeast is still young and healthy. This first racking “Wakes up” the yeast and adds a small amount of oxygen that will help with a more complete fermentation; lowering the risk of sediment in the bottle and fizzy wines due to fermentation in the bottle.
SECOND RACKING: After 4 - 6 weeks, Rack again and top off headspace with wine.
DEAD YEAST: This step helps prevent autolysis, the decaying of dead yeast. Like all dead bodies, yeast cells rot if left alone too long, and decaying yeast cells will cause an off taste to your wine.
ADD OAK: If you have not added oak yet or you want more woodsey tannins, you can add oak chips at this time. It helps fill the fermenter and gives your wine an oak barrel finish without the hassles of a barrel.
Oak chips are available in many flavors to enhance your wine. Dark, light or medium toasted French, American or Hungarian wood. Each with thier own distinct flavor.
THANKSGIVING DESISION: If you are going to drink your wine early, then this is the time to stabilize and clarify your wine.
STABILIZATION: To stabilize your wine, rack into a sanitized fermenter, then add 1/4 tsp of potassium metabisulphite to each 5 gallons of wine and 1/4 tsp of potassium sorbate to each gallon to prevent further fermentation. Then stir with your racking cane vigorously for 5 minutes to mix the stabilizers and to de-carbonate your wine. If you skip this step you run the risk of exploding corks or at least fizzy wine and sediment on the bottom of your bottles. Adding a clarifying agent, like chitosan or super clear, at this point will reduce the time needed before you can enjoy your nouveaux wine.
CLARIFICATION: Let your wine settle for at least two weeks before bottling. Rack it again and give it another de-carbonating stir just before putting it into bottles.
AGING: After 4 - 6 months, rack again and add 1/4 tsp of potassium meta-bisulphate to each 5 gallons of wine. Do this sooner if you notice a significant amount of lees in your fermenter.
SULPHITE: adding sulphite to you wine is an important step to keep your wine from oxidizing and turning brown. Ideally you should have a sulphite testing kit and always maintain 80 -100 ppm in your wine to prevent spoilage and infections. Despite it’s undeserved reputation, sulphites are a good thing to add to wine.
SULPHITES DO NOT CAUSE HEADACHES for 98.2% of people. The major causes of headaches and “allergic reactions” from wine are caused by the tannins from the skins of the grapes or by hot and fast fermentation, which cause fusel alcohols to be produced. Improper storage and handling of finished wines is also suspected in the creation of headache forming compounds.
BULK AGING is better for wine than bottle aging. Vibration and rapid temperature changes are harmful to wine. If the temperature of your wine room changes 10 degrees from morning to night, then your bottle will change 10 degrees. Larger volumes like carboys or demijons will only change 2 or 3 degrees. You need to decide if the benefit of bulk aging exceeds the need to free up the fermenter for the next batch.
BOTTLING: After a year in the fermenter, it should be safe and ready to bottle. Sanitize your bottles and corks (soaking corks in a sulphite solution for 20 min. should do. Boiling is not recommended for corks) and fill and cork bottles. Remember; bottle one bottle them all. You can not leave half a carboy filled with air to sit too long. Let your bottles sit upright for a few days after bottling so that the pressure you created in the bottle, by forcing a cork in, can stabilize by pushing the air out rather than pushing out a small amount of wine.
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