Wine! From the grape to your glass

Sep 29, 2010

This time of year might be better known for the abundance of October style beers and the fall foliage, but in fact it is the most import time for wine lovers. From August to October the harvest of grapes occurs in the northern hemisphere and the production of wine begins.

To mark the celebration of wine season I will try my hand at making wine for the first time. I am going to make wine the traditional way my father learned from his father that was passed down from generation to generation, all the way back to when grape vines were first planted on the island of Madeira (Portugal) where my family is from.

As the saying goes if you want something done right, you must do it yourself. Although it may not apply to what I'm about to produce, I can assure you I will not be making something that Robert Parker would give me 90+ points for. Instead I will attempt to produce a semi dry, red table wine that would be enjoyable to any wine novice but yet complex so that any "wino" can nod in agreement with.

But first, there are several important steps that must be done before making wine. In my opinion preparing the barrel is the most important step. Preparing the barrel involves cleaning the inside, sanitizing it and soaking it so it will not leak. I am using a 3 year old, 30 gallon, French Oak barrel to hold my wine. It has been soaking for the past week and most importantly does not smell of vinegar. Any sign of vinegar in the barrel will spoil the wine. If you are going to use a stainless steel barrel then you wont have to worry about this. The next step would be cleaning and sanitizing tools and the area where you will be crushing your grapes. If you are going to use a wine press make sure you soak the wooden frame of the press in water so it can handle the pressure and not soak up any grape juice.

The final step before making wine is to choose you grapes. Don't be afraid to shop around for price and quality. I am currently browsing fruit markets for ripe grapes and I've only been able to find grapes that are not vine-ripened.

In the next few weeks I will continue to update you and share my experience.