– Part Two –
You may need four hands
I highly recommend getting someone to help you for this part. I had a little trouble trying to balance and open the heavy 23 liter box of Pinot Noir grape juice. It wasn’t pretty.
Sure I knew that making wine would be a bit messy, but I was determined to keep this a clean and tidy operation with no spills, no stains. Almost defiantly wearing my little white dress for this procedure, all I had to do was simply open and pour the must into the bucket.
After desperately trying to open up the humungous box of grape juice with scissors and random sharp objects, I wondered if I was going to make any wine at all. And then, a gusher of dark Pinot, meant for my fermentation bucket, landed mostly on the floor.
What’s that lovely shade of purple? I imagined people asking me when they noticed the lovely violet accent now on my once-white walls. I would proudly declare that these are the wine-stained walls of a true garagiste.
With sticky purple arms and legs, I managed to use all of my limbs to heave the remaining juice into the fermenter bucket. I carefully mixed the must with water and added a packet of wood chips which would give the wine subtle oak aromatics.
In winemaking, the yeast is as important as the must. All yeasts are not created equal. Baker’s yeast from the grocery store is not suitable for winemaking. In this case, a general purpose winemaking yeast was used.
Measuring your SG
After mixing the must with water, it was time to use my hydrometer. A hydrometer indicates the amount of sugar in the must by measuring Specific Gravity or SG.
The SG of a fermenting alcoholic beverage indicates the density of the liquid compared to water. Before fermentation, the liquid is more dense due to the sugars present in the must. After fermentation, the yeast has converted sugars to alcohol which is lighter than water. Recording these measurements – prior to and after fermentation – will help determine the potential alcohol content of my wine.
I removed a sample of the must with my wine thief and filled up the test cylinder. I dropped in the hydrometer to measure the specific gravity. Proudly, my wine ‘scored’ an SG of 1.090 which was well within the recommended pre-fermentation range. Sprinkling the seemingly innocuous little packets of yeast on top of the juice, I tightly clamped the lid on the bucket.
Because the carbon dioxide that would be produced by the yeast in the tightly sealed fermenter bucket could possibly blow the lid off, an airlock device is used. This creative little plastic device allows a safe one-way escape of carbon dioxide gas from the bucket without allowing oxygen back in to the container.
With the wine left to rest in a cozy little corner of my warm laundry, the yeast would soon come alive and start fermentation.
This article is a Green Thumb AdventureTM series – a collection of documentary articles about finding your inner gardener and winemaker. If you have any similar experiences, thoughts or comments, chime in! Share with us. We hope you enjoy.
— Heidi Butzine
Senior Editor, Wineopolis Press