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How We Learned to Make Homemade Wine
Has it ever crossed your mind to wonder how to make homemade wine? To be honest, it never crossed my mind, until we received an invitation from our wine sherpa friend, Denny, to go with him to a couple of parties where, with a group of people, we would have the opportunity to crush our own grapes, and two weeks later, we’d press our grapes, and through that, we’d make our own homemade wine.
Now you may think that sounds crazy. It almost sounds like an invitation to make bad wine, and then have to look for a way to get rid of it, by foisting it off on friends as homemade Christmas gifts. But that’s not the way it hit us.
Because we’d tasted the wine Denny made, himself, at a previous party. And, dang, it was delicious! Made from Sangiovese grapes that had been shipped to TN from Lodi, CA.
And the events Denny described to us sounded like a lot of fun! We’d be making this wine with high quality grapes, with a bunch of Italians, using some guy named Ernesto’s father’s wine press! And it would be a community effort, with everyone bringing food to share.
My husband and I like to go back to the basics, and learn HOW food is made. That’s why I have so many posts about whole wheat bread baking, and sourdough bread baking, and how to roast your own coffee beans.
And, not having a drop of Italian blood between the two of us, we were pretty stoked that a bunch of wine-making Italians would welcome us to be a part of such a unique event. (Turns out they heard I can cook.)
So I’m going to start out with an overview of what this process is like, by showing you a video. And once you have the general idea of just how much fun it is, I’ll explain the steps involved. Ready? Here we go!
The Crushing Party
We start with a whole bunch of bunches of Sangiovese grapes.
We load the grapes into a crusher that we crank.
I should start by telling you that all the equipment, and our hands, get cleaned using a sulfite solution to kill any bacteria that would cause the wine to spoil. But otherwise, this is very much a Natural Wine. We add no yeast, and no other sulfur or sulfites.
Next, we de-stem and de-leaf the crushed grapes.
Then we dump those crushed grapes into big barrels lined with food grade plastic, to ferment for two weeks.
Next, we wait approximately two weeks.
During that time, Ernesto checks the sugar content of the barrels, and measures how the fermentation seems to be coming along. So, after what’s usually two weeks, we have another party, the Pressing Party.
The Pressing Party
We dip colanders into the fermenting barrels to pull out the grapes.
Next, we put those colander contents into Ernesto’s father’s wine press.
Wine comes 0ut the bottom of the press, and pours into buckets
We pour the juice in the buckets into large barrels lined with food grade plastic.
Meanwhile, Back in the Press:
The crushing process has left a cake of completely squished grapes behind. Some years, we have sent the leftovers to our local elephant sanctuary, but it’s also good for feeding pigs, or if you’re REALLY Italian, you can use it to make grappa. Grappa is a lot like Italian Moonshine. Finally, the juice from the large barrels goes into individual carboys
A carboy is a five gallon glass jug. A carboy will go home with each family who contributed money to buy a share of the grapes. One carboy of grape juice ends up making around 24 bottles of wine.
But I Want My Own Wonderful, Small Batch Wines!
If you love natural, organic wines, from boutique, small-batch vineyards, but don’t have a group of Italians with their grandpa’s wine press beating down your door to come to their wine making party, I strongly encourage you to check out the California Wine Club. They offer excellent, boutique wines from select vineyards, at very reasonable prices.
My husband and I ordered wine from them, and we were very, very happy with the caliber of wines they offered. I’m chomping at the bit to go to California and meet the owners. I think we just might have quite a bit in common. Check them out! Get 50% off First Month when You Join a Club Level. Valid 1/1/-3/31.