Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Wine Making at Home, Part I: Primary Fermentation

On Sunday, May 3rd, I began my wine making journey. Since my husband and I both dream of one day owning a winery and make our own wine, I figured I better learn the process. I've decided to start by using a wine making kit that came with the juice and additives. Eventually I will move on to using my own grape juice that I crushed, but before I get ahead of myself I wanted to start at the very beginning.

I bought this kit from Midwest Homebrewing and Wine Making Supplies in St. Louis Park, MN. They had the best price for the kit that came with everything: primary fermenter, carboy, hydrometer, floor corker, wine kit and 24 wine bottles and a few other necessary items. Additionally, the Vintner's Reserve Merlot wine kit that came with my purchase only takes 14 days to ferment and the wine can be ready to drink by 28 days (but they recommend aging for 3 to 6 months). So I figured, in 5 months my baby will be born so what a great way to celebrate by giving out wine instead of cigars!

The steps below are directly from the Vintner's Reserve instructions. One of the main things that they keep telling any novice or expert wine maker is sanitize, sanitize, sanitize. By making sure all your equipment is sanitized, your wine will come out great and there is less chance of your wine spoiling.

After I cleaned and sanitized the primary fermenter, the lid, spoon, hydrometer and test jar, thermometer and wine thief, I added 2 liters of hot water (all the water used is spring water) to the bottom of the primary fermenter along with a packet of bentonite and stirred well so that there were no clumps.

Then I added the grape juice that came with the kit. I added 2 additional liters of warm water to the empty wine juice bag to rinse it out and poured that into the fermenter. Then I topped the fermenter with additional cool, spring water to reach the 23 liter mark (6 gallons).

I took a sample of the juice and used my hydrometer and test jar to test the specific gravity. The gravity measures the sugar level and it's a way to figure out when your wine is fermented and ready to bottle. Mine read 1.070, which I is good because I was looking for 1.070 to 1.085.

Then I sprinkled the oak chips and stirred them to just under the surface of the liquid.

By now, the wine juice cooled down a little and I needed it to be between 18 to 24 Celsius. I had to wait about an hour to let it cool a little because mine was at 25 Celsius.

Lastly, I sprinkled the package of yeast that also came with the kit, but I didn't stir. I just let it float on the surface. I tightly covered the primary fermenter with the lid and fermentation should begin within 24 to 48 hours. I will start my secondary fermentation in 5 to 7 days! Wish me luck.

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