Anytime you take on a new hobby there is always a learning curve. It is very unusual that you can begin something you’ve never done before and hit perfection right off the bat. We are going to cover a few tips for beginning winemakers here so that we can hopefully help you to forgo some of the most common difficulties as you begin to enlighten your wine enthusiast endeavors.
There are a few tips that can save you loads of time, heartache, and money. We will begin with those because to avoid the most critical errors from the beginning is to begin your journey into winemaking in a more positive light. The simple difference in a little this or a little of that can make the difference in a delicacy or a sputtering disaster. So, let’s get started in helping you prevent those most common and dreadful mistakes of new beginning winemakers.
5 Great Tips for Beginning Winemakers
One of the first things you want to do when you begin making your own homemade wine is to appreciate the modern sciences. The discoveries in the last 250 years or so have led to stark modernization techniques and the prevention of extremely grotesque errors of ancient winemaking. This is something all modern winemakers should at least at some point stop and reflect on in appreciation.
In order to burp your wine as some like to call it, you will want to obtain a bung and an airlock. These two simple tools are relatively cheap and will help your wine to taste much better. The intent here is to remove the CO2 created during the fermentation process while not allowing oxygen back into the wine vessel.
This helps your wine to taste much better and prevents a rudimentary taste of elevated CO2 in the wine. An older technique and one still used by some who make “cheap” wine and don’t care about the taste is using the balloon burping technique. This can be done still today, but your wine will not taste as good.
Use fresh ingredients when they are called for. Here’s a question for you to consider. What tastes better – a fresh strawberry from the vine or a week old strawberry from the grocery cooler? Okay duh, right? Again, what tastes better fresh blackberries from the bush out back or blackberries shipped across the nation right to your grocers shelve? Yep, now you’re getting the picture.
If a recipe calls for fresh, use fresh. If a recipe calls for frozen, you can use whichever you choose. Just remember fresh generally will always add a richer, yummier flavor to your wine regardless of the fruit. Fresh fruit makes fresh tasting wine even after fermentation there is still a difference.
Use a hydrometer. This is one of the handiest tools you can possibly have in your winemaking tool collection. The hydrometer measures one of the most important components in your wine and can help you get a much better tasting wine with a lot less work.
The hydrometer is based on Archimedes’ principle related to the suspension of solids in fluids. Basically, this little jewel measures the specific gravity of the wine. What happens is that as the sugar converts via yeast and the fermentation process into CO2 and alcohol the hydrometer will sink lower in the liquid.
As your hydrometer gets nearer and nearer to the specific gravity of 1.090 you know you are getting where you want to go. At this number the wine contains around 12% alcohol which is good for your wine preservation. So when it comes to wine making this should probably be near your top of the tip list – when it comes to your hydrometer – don’t make wine without it.
Sterilization is critical. Remember this little phrase and you’ll be very happy for it in the long run. Sterilization prevents spoilization. No, that’s not a word, we made it up, but it fits here so let’s run with it. If you don’t start with total purity, you risk the introduction of bacteria into your wine via your tools and vessels. Don’t ruin all your hard work by starting with dirty dishes.
Simple tip it is, but a critical one and one we would be remiss not to point it out to you with abundant clarity. Whether you use a sterilizer, a dishwasher, a boiling pan of water, or whatever your method, just be sure your tools are clean and sterile.
Topping up or topping off, depending on the school of thought, is a practice which varies greatly amongst homemade wine entrepreneurs and wineries alike. Because the process of racking wine (process of moving wine back and forth from vessel to vessel throughout the fermentation processes) causes some of the wine (liquid) by volume to be lost, there is a necessity to equal out the volume.
Here are a few different ideas you might consider:
- Addition of the same, complimentary, or a neutral wine
- Addition of spring or boiled/cooled water
- Displacement of volume by something like glass marbles or pebbles
The intent is only to bring your volume back to the appropriate volume you are measuring in. Just in case you are wondering…the marbles or pebbles give the wine a really nice ambiance.