Saturday, February 5, 2011

Turning Water into Wine!

   No, I'm not entertaining Jesus, but I will in fact be turning water into wine...technically.  I mentioned in my last post that I had made my own wine last year.  It was a red, Pinot Noir.  This time I am making a white wine. I chose a blended kit. It is suppose to produce a wine with a medium body, which should pair well with a variety of foods without being over or underwhelming.  I use the Pinot Noir more for cooking than drinking, but it is very "drinkable."  The reason behind this is that I tend to drink wine with food rather than just have a glass, and I generally only drink wine with a special meal that I have put a lot of effort into.  Shake and bake chicken does not warrant a bottle of wine in my household. 

     The process of making wine is fairly simple.  You start off by sanitizing your equipment with a solution of metabisulphite.  This is in fact a very important step, it kills all the nasties, and trust me, you want them nowhere near this process.  Google food borne illness and you will understand why.  On second thought, Don't Google food borne illness.  Trust me on this; i didn't want to eat for a week after taking that particular class in my safeserv course.  I've gotten off topic here, let us return to the wine.  After sanitizing your equipment, you then dissolve a packet of bentonite in 1/2 a gallon of warm/hot water in your 8-gallon capacity carboy  (giant bucket with pierced lid).  Bentonite I've discovered can serve 2 purposes in wine making. If a small amount is added to the wine at the beginning, which is the case here, it acts as a yeast energizer which gives the yeast a kick in the pants to start fermenting the juice sooner and faster.  The second use for it is after the fermentation has finished.  A larger quantity of the clay like bentonite is added at the end of the fermentation process a few days before bottling.  It helps to clear the wine and pull any remaining yeast out of the wine.  My particular kit uses a different clearing agent, but we will cover that topic at a later date. 

    I choose to use spring water for making wine, as my town's water has a few issues with total dissolved solids and the next town over is the town that the movie "A civil action" was based on.  The next step is to add the concentrated grape juice to the carboy, after which you add enough water to bring the liquid level to 6 gallons (water into wine!) and then check the specific gravity using a hydrometer/saccharometer.  The specific gravity (or Brix if you went to culinary school like I did) measures the density of the juice/wine in regards to the amount of sugar in the liquid.  The same thing is done when making a sugar syrup, but the sugar syrup is much more dense than the juice and later wine is.  The one used for wine is generally called a hydrometer while the one for syrups is a saccharometer.  To me they are both the same tool, but made to test at different levels.  The sugar in the juice needs to be at a certain level for the fermentation to go properly.   The sugar acts as food for the yeast, if it does not have enough it will die at worst, or just not ferment very well or long enough at best. In order to get longer stronger fermentation and as a result more alcohol into a wine, some producers will add additional sugar to the wine. (*Yeast Fun Fact: the more sugar the yeast gets to consume, the more alcohol it creates)

   The final step of day 1 is to add the yeast and then cover the carboy.  The yeast is what makes wine possible.  Without the yeast the wine does not ferment.  It’s possible that the juice can ferment with out the addition of yeast, but that is generally only when you start with whole grapes.  Whole grapes tend to have yeast on the skins and the skins are present in the juice long enough after crushing to get into the juice and start fermentation.  I'm going to put off explaining the wonders of Saccharomyces cerevisiae, more commonly known as yeast, until we cover bread.  And if anybody is wondering, yes I had to know the proper name of yeast for my culinary school final, but conveniently I didn't have to spell it. 

     Now we can have laugh at Amy time.  I actually started the wine on Thursday evening 2/3/11, however I forgot a step because it has been quite a long time since I have actually made wine, and I got distracted from the task at hand.  I realized Friday evening, when I went to take a picture of the yeast doing its happy fermentation, that I had forgotten to add the yeast.  I thought I had added it, but there the yeast packet was sitting, unopened and certainly not in the carboy with the juice.   I decided not to worry too much about it, so I gave the contents of the carboy a vigorous stir, tested the temperature to be sure it was not to cold, and added the yeast. So by Sunday evening it should be a happy fermenting colony of yeast. I'll post a nice photo of the  yeast colony on Sunday evening. 

     Making this white wine has got me thinking about what kind of wine I want to make next.  I have 3 specific wines on my to-do list.  They are as follows in no particular order:
       1. A rose or blush wine.  
       2. A mead, ether plain or with berries.  
       3. This one your going to laugh at, but a "mist" wine in form of a berry Merlot. 

   The first item on the list requires very little explanation.  Blush or rose wine is simply a third, often overlooked style of wine that I happen to enjoy.

    Number two on the list would be Mead.  Mead is wine made from honey instead of grapes.  Some times it is made plain, and sometimes it is made with fruit to add extra flavors.  They don't generally sell kits for this, so i would have to source all the ingredients separately as well as work out the recipe and wine making process.  I have plans for some of this mead, the rest would just be for general drinking.  (*History Fun Fact about mead: The word honeymoon comes from the old English custom of a newly married couple drinking mead, a honey wine, for the first month or moon of their marriage.)

    The third item on this list requires an explanation.  The wine supply store sells "mist" wine kits that to my understanding, creates a beverage very similar to the barely alcoholic beverage known as Arbor Mist.  My friends and I refer to Arbor Mist as 'faux wine' because it is just not wine, and it has the alcohol content of a slightly over ripe cherry.  It is basically a wine cooler sold in a multi serving bottle, and its super tasty.  It is also super embarrassing to buy it at the liquor store, and they rarely have the only good flavor: Blackberry Merlot.  So My Friend and i who enjoy it, thought it might be a good idea to make some.  It would be cheaper, likely tastier and less embarrassing.

      I'm still very unsure which wine will come next.  It won't happen for a while, but maybe I'll put up a poll as to which style to do next when the time comes.  It's just a thought.
      I'll be back tomorrow with a brief post about our lovely yeast colony.
Happy Cooking!


  1. Love your new culinary adventure in creating this blog. It is very informative already! And you've caused me to smile several times, so that must mean it's a good blog. :)

    I couldn't help but chuckle reading your wine-making adventures. All I could think was that down here in the South, what you're doing is called "bootleggin'" LOL! Ssshhhh....I won't tell. And I am just teasin' with ya! I think it's fascinating that you can make wine. Cool!

  2. WOW, how very industrious. I don't think I would have the patience for it. Great job with your blog. I'm leahrosesmom from

  3. Karla, the wine supply shop actually has a book on making a still. At least thats what the cover indicates. I was down in North Carolina in the Smokeys about 2 years ago and while i was there i tried to get hold of some shine, just to have really. I had a lead, but nobody trusted my yankee accent. lol.