While we were bottling the ancient Rhubarb wine on Sunday, we started a 5 gallon batch of Riesling. I like crisp white wines like Mueller Thurgau, and dry Chardonnays, but Reisling is my favorite wine (I have a weakness for sweet stuff), and our homemade riesling comes out very well. We have no idea how it ages because we tend to drink it up, or give it away, pretty quickly. But living in Diabetesville means a much lower alcohol consumption, so this wine has an actual chance to age properly.
It's been a long time since we started a wine, and I had forgotten the steps. Luckily, I took obsessive notes back in the Wine Heyday, and with them, it all came back pretty quickly.
As always, any wine making enterprise begins with sparkling clean equipment, which is then sanitized with a food-grade no-rinse sanitizer (from a spritzer). We get our water from an artesian well, which has a heavy mineral content, so we used about 4 gallons of filtered water from the fridge, run directly into a 5 gallon brewing pail (food-grade plastic, purchased specifically for wine making, and used for no other purpose) through a tube, using a high-tech system involving a Fresca can to keep the lever pressed (necessity was the father of invention after my husband stood for 20 minutes, manually holding the lever).
While the water ran into the pail, I *started* the yeast by stirring a packet of wine yeast into a pint jar with a cup of warm no-preservative apple juice and 1tsp of Yeast Nutrient. That mixture was covered with a cloth and set aside, to let the yeast wake up and activate (wine is yeast poop- by the way. Alcohol is the by-product of the yeast's sugar consumption).
To the water bucket, we added: 2- 46oz cans of Alexander's Sun Country Emerald Riesling juice concentrate, 5 cups of sugar, 2 more tsps of Yeast Nutrient, and 10 tsps of Acid Blend (a specific blend of acids for wine making), and stirred vigorously to dissolve the sugar. We then tested the specific gravity of the mixture with a hydrometer. The SG was 1.080, which is exactly where it's supposed to be.
We warmed the bucket warm to room temp with the help of a blanket and a heating pad, and stirred in the yeast starter. Wine yeast is not bread yeast, but it's still yeast- it likes warmth.
After that, there was nothing to do but sit back and wait for fermentation to begin. By the next morning, the top of the must (the juice/sugar/yeast mixture) was covered with bubbles. All we do now is keep the bucket lightly covered (this is the aerobic portion of fermentation, it needs air), stir it once a day, and test the SG periodically.
This morning, it was foaming merrily away. The SG was 1.065. When the SG reaches 1.030 (tomorrow, or the day after, I suspect), we'll rack the must from the bucket, into a 5 gallon carboy, for the anaerobic fermentation phase.
It's an amazing process. Expense so far: 2 cans of Juice concentrate at $18@, about $3 in sugar, and maybe 50 cents in other ingredients. We'll get about 24 bottles of wine from this batch, at around $1.64 @.
And I am in the winemaking mood now, so after the riesling goes into the carboy, I am going to start a 5 gallon Merlot batch. I ordered a can of Muscat concentrate for a 3 gallon batch of sweet wine. And I am going to start a 3 gallon batch of hard lemonade (made college-dorm-room style, with frozen lemonade concentrate. This stuff isn't cleared or bottled, it's frozen as slush. Yummy!)
p.s. If you want to try winemaking, but are leery about assembling all of the ingredients yourself (or raiding the neighbor's rhubarb patch), you can buy winemaking kits, which have all of the ingredients and full instructions for fermentation. The kits, which come in every wine variety imaginable, can run from $80-$180, but you're still only paying $3-$9 per bottle, which is a bargain. Check out Northern Brewer for kits (link in yesterday's post).