I am really getting into this wine making stuff. I have a vision that, if the world should fall apart, my friends and I could become the local Baldwin sisters (from the Walton’s), and make a handsome living selling bootleg whiskey. Since the spirit, if you can excuse the sorry pun, comes on me rather suddenly, I have several times now found myself ready to go except for….. Ah, there is always something I seemed to be missing. Pectic enzyme, Camden tablets, something necessary that prevents me from proceeding until I make the trek to town. So yesterday, I put together a wine kit. It contains everything I need to turn flowers, fruit or even herbs into wine.
You will, of course, need wine bottles. Those should be easy to come by if you put the word out. My friend, Leni, the second Baldwin sister, has amassed hundred of them. She’s an artist by trade and is not satisfied with most bottles as is and decorates them with beautiful etchings but your basic bottle will do just fine as long as you clean it well. You will also need carboys. These are the larger glass jugs that wine sits in while waiting to be decanted into bottles. I have a 5 gallon jug but that is too big for most beginners. I am picking up some 1 and 2 gallon jugs today from my local wine shop. They cost a couple of dollars each and you can reuse them forever so I think this is a great investment. You need corks too. Rubber corks with a hole in the middle are what you use to hold the air lock while the wine is working. You will also need regular corks to stop the bottles while the wine matures. You can use screw top bottles rather than corks. Most of us are not making fine wines that will age for years in temperature controlled cellars. Screw tops will do just fine. Syphon tubing will aid in transferring wine from one container to another. Be careful here. Leni and I were racking our elderberry wine last year and had not really gotten the hang of how to do it. We swallowed more wine than we transferred and Leni couldn’t drive home until she sobered up. I just bought a bunch of air locks. The are very inexpensive and plastic. A good glass blower could probably make a couple of bucks by making these. A hydrometer measures the alcohol content in you wine. A big wooden or plastic spoon, a couple of plastic buckets, assorted measuring tools, a funnel and a strainer will round out your equipment. You can always use what you have in your kitchen but I like the idea of kits. It suits me to have dedicated tools and a spot for everything at my fingertips.
What is left are the ingredients. You need wine yeast, yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme, Camden tablets, acid blend and tannin. You also need sugar and some kind of acid like citrus juice. You also need a really good book.
I have a copy of Making Wild Wines and Mead (Vargus and Gulling). It is a terrific book. I am sure I would have a lot more wine aging than feeding the compost if I read the directions before I started wine making. I tend to experiment first, then read the book to find our where I went wrong. Until now, I always found myself without something necessary and improvised. Not a good idea until you know what you’re doing.
I know that people made wine for thousands of years without the benefit of a book or a supply shop or any pre-packaged ingredients. Maybe someday I will know how to use herbs and improvise equipment but for now, as I really want something I am not afraid to consume, I will stick to the directions, at least until I run out of tannin again.