The season of crushing and stomping, fermenting and sipping, is soon upon us…
Get your order in! Yes, the grapes are coming. How many demijohns will I need?
Do I have enough yeast? Should I cold soak? Pectic enzymes? Colourpro?
Should I buy a new barrel this year? Do I have enough tartaric acid?
Will I do a malolactic fermentation?
September is here, and that means the big trucks will be arriving with grapes and juice from, not only California, but also Washington State and the Okanagan Valley. Winemakers will be working hard for the next several weeks to ensure that the elixir they produce, will be worthy of serving to Bacchus (the Roman god of wine).
Back in the “days of old”, when my dad made wine, it seemed like a lot of fun, and not a lot of consideration was given to all the “technology” that we consider today.
The grapes came in by eighteen wheeler, usually from Lodi, or Central Valley California. If the grapes were larger than years past, then the quantity was up. If the grapes were all dried out, then yield was down, but the flavour was up. Hydrometers, Ph meters, and refractometers were seldom used. My dad never used yeast. He, like most of his wine making friends, never considered making a yeast starter to ensure that the natural yeast was replaced with a proven fermenting aid.
The grapes were crushed, (including the stems) and fermented in large barrels. After seven to ten days, the “must” had converted from sugar to alcohol. The juice was ready to be removed from the grapes and stems. The mash (skins, and stems) was then put into the press, where they were squeezed so hard and tight, that there was no moisture left in the mash. Sometimes the bitterness of the stems came through into the wine, but they drank it anyway.
All the juice was put into barrels, demijohns and carboys. Then the waiting, began. But not too long, as it was imperative to rack the wine on a falling moon, so, after a week, or sometime up to three long weeks, before the gross lees were removed from the wine. The sampling, and subsequent drinking, of the new wine was dependant on how much remained from the year prior, but for the most part, the 11th of November (Festa di San Martin, dove tutti li mosti diventa vin) was considered tasting day.
Wine making has taken on new life over the years, as more people learn to appreciate the joy of accomplishment, as they pull a cork from a bottle of wine they produced. Today there is more opportunity to make better wines through the improvements learned, and implemented in years past.
A few points to consider when you are making your wine for the coming year.
-Keep everything clean.
-Using proper yeasts, cold soaking, de-la-stage, and not pressing every ounce of juice out in the press will help you make better wine.
-Removing the stems, before you start the ferment, will help eliminate bitterness and vegetative flavours from overpowering your wine.
-When racking your wine, ensure that the storage container is filled to within an inch of the top. Leaving a demijohn, half full is just asking for oxidization and potential disaster.
-Use airlocks to allow the wine to complete its fermentation.
-Preserve your wine, Metabisulphite will give your wine protection against oxidization. Use it!
Wine making can be a very rewarding experience, and many have tried and succeeded. However, if it just seems to be a lot of work and worry, then consider going to your favourite beverage store and pick a bottle of your choice. Don’t be afraid to try something new. In BC there are many wineries and winemakers (over two hundred in the province) that are happy to make the wine for you. The options of blends, and varietals is almost endless, and most of these wineries will give you an opportunity to taste their wines for free, (or a small fee). Next month we can touch on a few favourites that we encountered on our trip into the Oakanagan. Please send me a note if you have questions or comments, at firstname.lastname@example.org
Happy Wine making,
I’ve drunk to your health at reunions
I’ve drunk to your health at home
I’ve drunk to your health so many times
I’ve almost ruined my own.