Making Organic Wine

sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)June 12, 2011

I just found this forum and I'm hoping it will be a great resource! I make my own organic wine at home all the time from anything I think will be good or interesting. I only make organic wine, so I don't use campden tablets (sulphite) or sorbate or kits. Neither hubby or myself can drink sulphite. I make it from scratch and it is so easy!

I always use the Lalvin E-118 wine yeast, as I like the flavour and it's a lot faster than the old yeast from 20 years ago. I have considered using champagne yeast occasionally but don't want to risk it. I also add pectic enzyme and acid blend,(instead of the orange and lemon juice in most old recipes). I like the taste of the acid blend that I buy. It's a combination of natural citric, malic and tartaric acids.

I just started 5 gallons of rhubarb today. I saved about 15 pounds of chopped, frozen rhubarb from the garden so far this year, just for making this batch of wine. It's the first rhubarb I have made. I am excited about trying it!

I am drinking rose petal and sugar snap pea pod right now, both made last year and I also have a dandelion and lilac aging that were made at the same time last year. I have a gallon each of apple, made last fall - maple, made late winter - banana made 3 mos ago - and mint made recently. I am collecting more mint in the freezer for another batch at the end of the season. If I can collect enough mint (and we have a lot of it here!) I want to make 5 gallons.

Soon our strawberries will be ready and I will make wine from those. I also have raspberries, gooseberries and blackberries in my "wine" garden, although the blackberries are new and not likely to produce this year.

Last year I planted two small black mulberry bushes, one black elderberry, one serviceberry and about 5 black currants, also for future wine making. In addition, I am growing 5 small haskap honeyberry bushes and a few tiny, baby goji berry bushes, also for wine making. I have a choc mint and a lemon mint that I intend to make wine with too.

I like the flower wines that I have made and plan to make hibiscus and rose hip/petal this year. It is too late now to make dandelion or lilac again. I was just too busy planting this spring!

I LOVE making my own wine! It's a lot of fun! I have not made a bad wine yet.

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It sounds like you take anything you have growing and make some wine with it. And that sounds great! Kudos to you.

Can you say an approximate investment you have in your wine making operation? Just curious about what it would cost. And how long do you typically wait until the wine is considered "ready"?

    Bookmark   July 21, 2011 at 5:33PM
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Would you share your mint wine receipe and describe how it tastes? I am intrigued as I have common (spearmint) as well as chocolate mint. I also have an abundance of catmint (catnip) and wonder how other herbal wines would turn out.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2011 at 2:46PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

I have a chocolate mint making now, for the first time. I have tasted it when racking and I think it's going to be fabulous! It tastes like choc mint tea with sugar, at the moment. How it will be as a dry wine, I don't know. I do like my wine dry.

The regular mint wine is not ready yet. I would leave it at least a year before drinking it, so I can't really say how it will be. It's drinkable now, and I am drinking it, if you are used to the "green" taste, but I would have preferred to leave it awhile longer.

Most of them take about a year to be ready to drink. Some, like dandelion, take two years.

I don't know that I would make wine from spearmint or catnip, as I am not partial to the flavour of those in tea. I usually drink it as tea first, to see if I like it. I made a gallon of lilac wine last year and didn't really like the lilac flavour. I did drink all the wine, but it wasn't a favourite. I'm just glad I didn't make 5 gallons of it! lol!

I don't plan to make more regular mint wine, either. I have tasted it when racking and it is ok, but not good enough to makae 5 gallons of.

At the moment I have 5-6 gallons of the following making: rhubarb, strawberry, raspberry, rose petal, crab apple. I am collecting material to make 5 gallons of ground cherry and also hibiscus petal in the freezer. I might add a few rose hips to the hibiscus since they are ready now and there's not enough to do anything with.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 1:53PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

As for cost invessted, I buy everything second hand. I get my glass carbuoys, small and large (the most expensive item) at garages sales, from a buy/sell site, from Freecycle or a second hand store.

I get the chemicals and some small things from a wine supply store, but even the little things, like hydrometers, tubing, primary fermentors and so forth have been acquired second hand.

I don't have much invested.

The regular garden mint wine is not as good as the chocolate mint, and I don't think I will make it again. It's ok, and like I said, it's not finished yet so it's hard to say exactly how it's going to taste, but it is not good enough, right now anyway, for me to waste my time on.

However, the chocolate mint is another story. It's great, even unfinished!

I worte a book on "Organic Wine Making at Home" that anyone can download free. It really is just free to help people get started. There's no cost and I'm not selling anything. It's at the link below.

Here is a link that might be useful: Making Wine At Home

    Bookmark   September 25, 2011 at 2:12PM
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Sheryl, sounds like you have some very interesting experiments ongoing there! Is the farm blog yours as well? I had no idea you could eat milkweed. I only let it grow in case Monarchs want to use it. The milkweed here has pink flowers and is fragrant when it blooms.

Hope you will mention what the various wines taste like from time to time. I'm trying different kinds of wines too. I heard of a guy making an onion and garlic wine to use in cooking.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 11:41AM
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If you don't put sulphite in to stop fermentation, how do you bottle the wine? Do you leave airlocks in all the time?

    Bookmark   September 26, 2011 at 1:18PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Yes, that's my blog. I'm so glad you found it :-)

No, I only put in enough sugar to reach 12-14% alcohol. We like our wines dry.

After the sugar is gone, the wine is finished. You only need to stop fermentation if you are bottling wine with sugar still in it or don't want much alcohol. As soon as the alcohol level in the wine is high enough to kill off the yeast, fermentation stops as well. In either case, you don't need chemicals to stop fermentation.

But it has to be kept cool. We (society) has only been making wine with chemicals for a generation or so. 100 years ago they didn't have sulphite or sorbate and made the very best wines, but they have to be kept in a cool wine cellar, which I have.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 8:49PM
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You can tell that the sugars are used up by using the hydrometer?

In the past, they fermented in oak barrels, too, and the wine could breathe a bit through the wood, so that may have helped to release gas and prevent an explosion.

I wish I had a cool wine cellar.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2011 at 10:46PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

Yes, that's what the hydrometer does, measures the sugar content of the wine or it's specific gravity. It tells you when there is no more sugar left in the wine so you know when it is ready to bottle, as well as how much sugar to add at the beginning (or possible alcohol content from the sugar you have added). I always use it at both ends of the process. I would never bottle a wine without the hydrometer reading. That's how you get exploding corks and bottles. Likewise, how would I know how much sugar to add without the hydrometer reading? unless you are following someone else's recipe. It would have to be from someone I knew and trusted very well for me to use someone else's recipe to make a batch of wine. I prefer to measure the sugar content and acid levels myself as I go along.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 7:48PM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

The hydrometer is one tool every wine make should have. It's not cheap, mine was $8 without a tube, but I got a second one, used with other pieces of equipement, for almost nothing. I wouldn't attempt to make bottles of wine without it.

Bottled wines either have 1) no more sugar for the yeast to use, 2)yeast all killed by the natural alcohol content, 3) yeast killed by sulphite.

Since I drink my wines all dry, I go with the first option. If you are planning on going with the second option, make sure you konw the specific yeast you are using and it's tolerance for alcohol. Some of the newer yeasts, like Lalvin EC-1118, can tolerate alcohol up to about 18%. I don't like that much alcohol in my wines.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2011 at 8:00PM
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bejay9_10(zone 9/10)

I'm curious about the correct hydrometer reading for the finished wine. I'm new to wine making - my 4th try now going with "Skeeter's Pee" lime wine, which was slow to start fermenting until I added heat.

But - about hydrometer readings - I was able to get a 23 Brix on the lime OK, but not sure what the reading should be at the finish.

The wine is now on the 3rd or so day of fermenting - with the air lock still showing a rather solid "burp" - although the slow start was rather worrisome.

I'd like to do without the sulfites - because I think that is one of the allergens I have - although not quite as bad as Bermuda.

Just purchased a pH meter on this batch - as lime is very acidic. It took a half day to unscramble the directions - buffers, etc., and hope to perfect this technique as I'd like to pH other things as well sometimes.

Thank you for your interesting post. How much mint is necessary to make a gallon of wine - and is it mixed with something else - like apple juice maybe. My winter garden is low on subject material now - tho still have limes, oranges, lemons, and mandarins to play with - if suitable.

Fun -


    Bookmark   October 25, 2011 at 8:59AM
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sheryl_ontario(Muncho Lake, BC z2)

For the flower petal and leaf wines, I like to have a packed gallon of produce to make a gallon of wine, frozen while collecting. Freezing is important as it helps break down the cell walls to get more juice and flavour.

I add white grape juice. I keep a frozen can of Welche's white grape juice in the freezer and add 1 tblsp of concentrate to one gallon for some wines that will need body, like the petal/leaf wines. You can also add 1 cup of raisins to the boiling mash to steep with the produce.

Also, bananas can be used for body too. I mash and boil the bananas first and use a hand blender. Let the pulp settle for a day or so and sipon off the liquid to add to the wine. It makes way too much pulp if you process the bananas with the other produce. Keep the liquid refrigerated until you need it, then take it out and warm it up some before adding to your wine. It will settle even more pulp out in the fridge. I would add about 1 - 1.5 cups to a gallon of wine. It doesn't add much flavour, just body.

The hydrometer reading for a finished wine should be below 1.000 (.990 - .998), no sugar left.

    Bookmark   November 3, 2011 at 11:17AM
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