Is Home-made Wine Any Good? How do you make Your Own Wine?
Due to high costs and/or personal preference, for centuries people have been making their own wine at home with varying results. Some home wine-makers are true craftsmen and make wines that can easily rival the best of the best that’s on the market; others just want something cheap, simple to make and not too terrible tasting. To answer the question above, the only thing that can be said is “it depends”. It depends on the person making the wine, their goals, and it also depends on personal preference. It can range from barely drinkable to fantastic. Here we’ll have a look at one of the most basic methods of home winemaking, results, and what steps you can take to dramatically improve the quality of your wine.
“Jug and Balloon” wine making
This method is the most basic and it’s inexpensive. Wine experts will turn up their nose at this method, but if you’re not too fussy, it will be worth a try.
You’ll need a sterilized gallon (4-liter) plastic jug and a large balloon that’s been rinsed out (balloons sometimes have a thin coating of powder, so don’t forget this step).
1 package (0.25 ounce) package of dry active yeast (the same type you use to bake bread)
4 cups of sugar
1 can of thawed fruit juice concentrate (use any flavor except citrus)
3 ½ quarts (3.3 litres) of cold water; use more or less if necessary
Before mixing any of the ingredients, use a sterilized needle to poke a miniscule hole in the tip of the balloon: this will allow gasses to escape while preventing any oxygen from getting in and ruining the flavor of the wine.
Mix the sugar, dry yeast and fruit juice concentrate together, and pour into the sterilized jug. Fill the jug with cold water, and then fit the balloon over the opening of the jug. Use a rubber band if necessary to secure the balloon in place.
Place the jug in a cool, dark place. In a day or so, you’ll notice the balloon starting to inflate; this is due to the sugar turning into alcohol. During this process, gasses are released. When the balloon has deflated back down to its original size, it means the wine is ready to drink. It usually takes about six weeks for this to occur.
Results: This recipe for home-made wine will give you a beverage that is quite high in alcohol content and taste, according to reviewers, can range from “unbearable” to “ok to sip”. The problem with this method of wine making is that the wine doesn’t get siphoned off from the resulting sediment at the end of the fermentation process; furthermore, if the balloon doesn’t have a small hole in it, the wine will develop an “off” taste. If the hole is too big, the resulting exposure to oxygen and other microbes in the air can make the wine taste musty. However, if you’re new to winemaking and want to try something simple before running out to buy expensive equipment, this might be a good method to try.
Also working in favor of this recipe is the fact that a degree of experimentation can be done; sugar can be reduced and proper wine yeast may be used to improve flavor.
According to home wine-makers with years of experience under their belts, the above process can be improved tremendously by two factors: siphoning after “primary fermentation” and “aging” in a sealed sterile container in a cold place for about a month.
When the balloon has deflated, it’s a sign that the primary fermentation is complete. With plastic tubing, siphon the wine; however be careful not to disturb the sediment at the bottom. The sediment is the stuff that will make the wine taste bad. Make sure the new container is also sterile, and glass will work much better than plastic.
Tightly seal the new container once it’s been filled with the wine; no gasses will need to escape. Keep the wine in a dark cool place like a refrigerator, and let it sit for about a month. The taste will be comparable to that of an inexpensive commercial wine, but the alcohol content will still be higher.
For more professional results, it will cost more money. First of all, instead of using a fruit juice concentrate, fresh fruit can be used, but this fresh fruit will need to be processed by crushing, chopping, or boiling, depending on the variety used. This “must” will also need to be strained.
A wine kit including things like primary and secondary fermentation containers, 6 feet of food-grade tubing, thermometer, bung and airlock and straining bag can be purchased in a specialty shop, along with ingredients such as special wine yeast, campden tablets, acid blends, and pectic enzymes.
Many more steps are required to make professional-quality wine at home, and for this reason most wine drinkers simply prefer to buy a commercially available variety. In countries like Canada, there are businesses that cater to “home-made” wine makers; they have all the supplies, will mix your ingredients for you, store your wine while it ferments, and when the wine is ready, they may even siphon the wine into the secondary fermentation containers for you; some of these “U-Brew” companies will even bottle your wine so that all you have to do is pick it up when it’s ready.
The Final Verdict
Making basic wine at home with the jug and balloon method can bring mixed results. That being said, one of the best wines I’ve ever had was a home-made wine; the winemaker used a jug and balloon, fresh peaches picked at their ripest stage, very little sugar, and wine yeast. She siphoned the wine into big glass jugs, sealed them and let them age for several months in the cool basement of her home. The result was a wonderfully dry white wine that was crisp and had the aroma and flavor of dried apricots and snap peas.
The point of making wine at home is to experiment while keeping costs down. With a bit of practice, you’ll find a recipe and method that suits you and your tastes just fine.
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