Brian likes to brew beer at home now that we have the space, but in these past few years we’ve also talked about making our own wine at home as well. It’s cost effective (particularly if you have friends who want to split a batch since the kits make so much – our kit is making 30, so we’re splitting with JP & Lisa who are making a white wine!), and wine’s pretty easy in comparison to beer.
So I consider Brian my in-home beer expert, and we brought Brian’s parents over to be our in-home wine experts. They’ve taken a couple classes on wine-making too!
Unlike beer, wine takes quite a bit more time to become drinkable (ours is decent at 1 year and better at 2), and Sunday was just step 1 of a months-long process.
To start, we bought our kit, which included two types of oak, our super sweet grape juice, yeast and sanitizer and bentonite.
Our house red will be petite sirah/zinfandel, and the description across the web is as follows:
Grippingly tannic, bold and deeply coloured Petite Sirah complements the jamminess of Zinfandel, taming the abundant blueberries and blackberries with a hint of dark cherry and vanilla. Full-bodied with a lingering palate and peppery spice, this is a wine of unprecedented power and length.
And directions, which made the process look a lot more complicated than it was with Brian and Ed there.
Brian got our kit from Abruzzo’s, at a great discount since they are moving locations.
So our first step was to get our cold spring water from the basement up to room temperature. Brian and Ed did some math related to temperature and what everything needed to be at.
Meanwhile, Brian sanitized all our supplies. The sanitizer he used was not from the kit, though the kit came with some. He has some in the smaller bucket below which he uses when he makes beer, that doesn’t need rinsed. Eliminates a bit of extra work.
He is standing next to the primary fermenter (fancy term for large bucket with fancy lid) which we use in just a little bit to pour the water into with the bentonite (I believe we called this a settler, and wikipedia calls it a fining agent or clarifying agent).
The bentonite makes the water look muddy and unappetizing. So we stir that in, and the we pour in our lovely, sweet, deep red grape juice, to make our petite sirah/zinfandel wine.
And because it’s red, it’s going to take even longer than a white would to mature. We’ll probably drink it for the first time in 6 months to a year, and it should get best after 2 years. Crazy, right?
Brian and Ed are adding a little more water and checking the temperature.
I’m sorry, I’m making this all sound super easy and un-exact, aren’t I? That’s probably because to make wine you need to drink wine, right??
Nothing like a little kit-made wine to help make a new house wine, right? This three-year-old old vine zinfandel kit wine has gotten very nice with age.
We made this with Brian’s parents at Brew Kettle/Your Wine Cellar, where Brian used to go to make beer long before he started brewing at home.
Meanwhile, Brian’s mom is playing with Jameson and keeping him occupied. With the wine box.
(She tried to put him in it, but he wasn’t particularly happy about that. He isn’t afraid of much but he’s not a huge fan of boxes, haha!)
Now it is time to test the specific gravity, so Brian pulls a sample.
Brian actually has another tool for this as well, called a refractometer, though the unit of measure is different.
There was a slight difference between the two.
You look through and into the light to see where the shadow line develops against a ruler in the tool.
We have this lovely grape juice in a bucket with water now, so it’s time to add the oaks and the best part, the yeast.
We have two types, a darker and lighter oak, to add in; a “premium oak” sawdust, and the darker French oak chips.
The oaks get stirred in.
And then last, but most important, is the yeast. It doesn’t get stirred in, it just rests on top.
Then it’s time to put in the air lock and seal in the fermenting grape juice. It will be like this for 5-7 days.
So our house red is fermenting on our kitchen counter.
We are so classy.
P.S. For more info about this particular kit (and more sophisticated terms about wine making, here’s a message board thread just on our kit)