Bored at home? drank all your wine reserves and now your palate is accustomed to all wines in the world? well, you can try making your own wine at home. But first, you’ve got to know how a thing or two about how to make it and the ingredients required. Lucky for you reading this, here we are only talking about making wine at home as hobby, if you fancy starting a full winery the investment can be substantial. A simple winery may need about Ksh 6million upwards on machinery and land to grow some grapes of your own. That does not include the processing plant rental, marketing, distribution and operational costs. Add on top of that 6 years of amateur wine making just to learn the skills before opening your doors to the selling wine in the stores.
Although grapes are the ingredients commonly used in making most wines, fruits or plants also find usage in wine making. The entire wine making process can be categorised into still wine production (without carbonation) and sparkling wine (carbonated). We shall break down the whole process into parts – Sampling & Harvest; Crushing & Pressing; Fermentation & Blending; Filtration & Aging and finally Bottling & Dispatch.
A summary of the winemaking process
Let us take an in-depth look at the process and see how you can go around sampling and harvesting the grapes/fruits.
How its done…
Specialist workers and hand pickers pour into the vineyards at harvest time and pick the grapes from the vines, loading them onto a basket or loader. The moment the grapes are plucked determines the wine’s acidity, flavour, aroma and character. As grapes mature, the berries swell with sugar levels rising and acid levels dropping. This process is enhanced with warmer weather and conversely, slowed down with cooler weather. Every winemaker is faced with the same universal challenge – how to make the best wine. Exactly what “best” means is relative and deeply rooted in the philosophical perspective of each winemaker.
There are myriad decisions to make in wine-growing… and another slate of decisions encountered when the grapes enter the winery. Some winemakers use a wide range of techniques to reach their goals e.g. automation, handpicking etc. With professional winemaking, wine grapes are used; vine varieties can easily be more than 1,300 out there so choices are limitless. The choice on which grape to use depends on whether you want to make still white or red wine, sparkling wines, fortified wines, ciders, fruit wine, brandy and so forth.
What you could do…
First off, not all grapes are equal when making wine. Table grapes are the ones available in your local groceries shop e.g. Delaware, Thomson seedless, Flame seedless, Kyoho, and Red Globe.
Wine grapes tend to be smaller in size and have plenty seeds with thicker skins and juicier on the inside. Some include Pinot, Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz and Sauvignon. However, these grapes aren’t readily available to the public unless you know a particular winemaker in possession of grapes for sale. What you could do is search for some grapes that are both table and wine grapes – Muscat & Chasselas. Pay a lot of attention to the right grapes; ones with smooth skin; no wrinkles; nothing rotten; intense and uniform color with fresh and flexible stems intact.
You could opt to make the wine using fresh fruits. Some of the common fruits used are:
- Apples– Makes a light white wine (ciders) that is best when aged at least 1 year.
- Blackberries– Yield a bold red wine.
- Peaches – They are messy to use, but peach wine delivers great aromas in a full-bodied white wine.
- Pears – They make a wine that can taste flat on its own but you can improve the taste by adding raspberries.
- Strawberries – Has a long fermentation period, so don’t rush to bottle it. It’s best when aged for at least 1 year.
Preparing the grapes
Harvesting is done manually by hand or mechanically. Once picked, the bunches are taken to the winery, sorted and de-stemmed in preparation for crushing. In large wineries, you will often see sophisticated machinery that can remove the stems without damaging the grape.
In part 2, we shall discover how crushing and fermentation is done on both the industrial scale and how you can do it at home with some illustrations.