I am very new to making wine at home. I have seen a lot of info on what to do. Is there a resource of what not to do, so I can avoid some common pitfalls?
I don't think I've ever seen a list of what not to do for making wines. Past the basics, I think a lot depends on someone's style and willingness to dump a few batches in search of the perfect taste so what would be outrageous for one person is standard issue for others. I guess for starters some what not to do's would be:
- Don't keep a dirty brewing area. You can easily lose a batch to infection if all things that come in contact with your wine aren't clean. Cleaners can run from b-brite to bleach but they're very important to success
- Don't use bread yeast. If you're making wine, go with a wine yeast, beer yeast for a beer or a combination for things like braggots. It really does affect the taste.
- Don't just throw fresh fruit into a fermenter and let it go. Unless you're actually trying this experiment to see if you get lucky, most fresh fruit has wild yeasts on them that will impact your final product. Best to sterilize the fruit before fermentation.
- Don't just cover your batch with some cotton or cheesecloth and wait until the bubbles stop. Use an airlock and a specific gravity meter to keep the wine free from bugs and bacteria and to know when your wine is really stopped fermenting
- Don't bottle wines that are still fermenting in regular bottles. You'll make bombs (though usually the corks pop first ... overcarbonation in beer blows the bottoms and sides out of the bottle)
- Don't worry when the wine you made 6 weeks ago is nice and clear but tastes like metallic bread. Give the wine some time to get balanced ... if you look at the wines they sell in the stores almost all of them are at least a year old.
- Don't rush. Winemaking takes time to get something good out. Normally, my wines take around 6 weeks for the fermentation to completely stop (much longer for meads), another couple of months in a carboy so that they can clear nicely and then a few months in bottles so that they mature.
For small batches at home, I always consider winemaking more of an art than a strict science so I try not to panic when things aren't going according to schedule and take the attitude of "hey, if it's not perfect it can always be blended, made into sangria or mull it to have in front of a fire". If I'm in a hurry for gratification, I'll brew a batch of beer so that in a couple of weeks I'll have something to drink and calm me down as I wait for the wine! Let's see what others have to recommend 'cause I'm sure I'm missing some don'ts.
Really, really great information Makalu. Thank you.
What do you do with your wine that you make into Sangria? Do you have a specific recipe you follow?
Not really any specific recipe since I'm tasting wines prior to bottling from around March to November so I use whatever is either from the garden, in season locally or on sale at the store. The basics I use are:
- 1 bottle red or white wine (usually red since I make more reds)
- 1 cup rum or cheap brandy (brandy doesn't work as well for whites)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar (to taste)
- 1 cup Orange Juice
To start, I take whatever fruit is around ... usually 2 large apples, 2-3 peaches, a cup of berries or 2-3 large pears and cut them into thin slices (I'll also add a sliced orange and sliced lemon or lime especially in summer). Then I put the fruit in a bowl and pour in the rum and let that sit in the fridge for a couple of hours so that the fruit soaks up the rum and the flavors mix nicely. When ready to serve, I just pour the initial ingredients into the bowl, stir to mix and serve.
It takes a little guessing on how much sugar to add based on what I didn't like about the original wine but I start with less and keep adding since it's easier to put more in than take it out.