Crushing and Destemming Grapes to make Wine

Grape Crushing Machine

Grape Crushing Machine

After picking the grapes we have to crush the grapes to allow the liquid to escape from the skins and also to separate the stems from the grapes. Many years ago the whole process was done by hand or by foot. The grapes were put into a big container and they were crushed underfoot. This would be a lot of work for even a small vineyard like ours. For this reason we use a detemming and crushing machine.  Our machine uses about 600 watts so as long as the sun is shining we can use the solar panels of the house to power it.

It is at this moment that we have to measure the sugar content of the must. This is the best way of knowing what the final alcohol percentage will be.  We use a refractometer to do the measurement. It works a bit like a prism which  reacts differently to light (by giving a reading on a scale) depending upon the amount of sugar that is available in the sample.

When the must (grape juice) comes out of the machine it drops into buckets. We then carry the must to the 200 litre plastic drums. After a couple of days the yeast from the skins of the grapes will start to ferment the sugars. This is called initial fermentation which lasts a few weeks depending on temperature and other factors. It is in the initial fermentation that the wine gets the color from the skins. In the wine made in the video below we allowed the wine to stay with the skins for about 4 weeks. This is probably a little too long and the wine picked up a bit too much tannin from the skins. This year we will press the wine (separate the skins from the liquid) sooner.

Making Pear Wine

We have a large winter pear tree. Every year the pears fall onto the floor. By mid December they are almost ripe. Some of them have started to rot and the Jay birds have started to peck at them.  Winter pears are strange because if you pick them off the tree earlier in the year and store them inside they don’t go ripe. They seem to prefer being outside or they need some frost before they ripen.  About 3 years ago I decided to try and use my pear  windfall. After a while surfing on internet I found that the Roman soldiers who were stationed in Britain had no access to grapes so they bought pear trees with them and made pear wine. Roman soldiers tended to drink a litre of wine each day so they must have needed a good source of wine.

My pear wine recipe is very simple and could be very useful in a dystopian  post technological age in latitudes where there is no grapes but it is still possible to get sugar.
I suppose the Romans’ pear wine must have been pear beer because they had no access to processed sugar so the alcohol by volume must have been about 5%. (maybe they used honey)

Ingredients:
 A treeload of ripe winter pears maybe 100kg
Some yeast. I used Young’s Dried Active Yeast.
Lots of sugar.
Boiling water.
Sodium Metabisulphate

Equipment:
200 litre plastic barrel
Plastic trugs
Knives

Method:
Cutting up pears

Pick the pears discarding pears which are totally rotten.
Wash the pears in cold water to get rid of old leaves and other debris.
Cut the pears up into chunks. Maybe 1.5cm chunks. Discard all the really nasty rotten bits but keep the over ripe areas. I did not discard the cores. 

Throw the cut up pears into Sodium Metabisulphate solution and let them get covered in the solution.

Three years ago I did not use any chemicals and everything was fine but last year the whole batch of 150 litres turned to vinegar. I don’t like using chemicals but as I am using semi-rotten fruit hopefully it will stop it turning to vinegar. I got the pears out of the metabisulphate trug with my hands and put they into an intermediate trug before throwing them into the plastic barrel. 

Metabisulphate bath for the cut up pears

Metabisulphate bath for the cut up pears

The next thing to do it to pour boiling water into the plastic barrel as fast as possible. We use every available kettle and put big pans on the wood stove.  The idea is that the heat of the boing water will kill any unwanted bacteria. I don’t know how hot we managed to get the must but it was too hot to put a hand in, maybe 60C. 

Heating up water

Heating up water on the wood stove

The next thing to do is to put in a lot of sugar. I put in 22kg. It can be disolved in the water in the pans but it seems to disolve OK in the actual plastic barrel.

I used a refractometer and the sugar reading says that this has an alcohol potential of 5%.

I want the wine to be about 13.5% so I use my Chapitalisation Calculator

This is what it tells me

“You have 150 litres of must
At the moment your must has a potential alcohol volume of 5 %
You would like your finished wine to be 13.5 % alcohol.

To do that you have to add 24.23 kilos of sugar to the must.
BTW: That is 53.42 pounds

If fermentation goes OK I will add about 20KG of sugar after a couple of weeks.

It is very difficult to be scientific about the amount of alcohol because the pears are in chunks not in solution. Supposedly they have a sugar content which would be about 5% alcohol. The last bit of sugar is added bit by bit.

The yeast and Pectolase is added the following day one the liquid has cooled down.

Maybe I had beginner’s  luck with my pear wine 3 years ago. It was wonderful. The pears shrivelled and the wine cleared on its own.  All I had to was siphon it off in April.

I served it chilled to 11C and it was really tasty.

 

 

 

 

How to cork a wine bottle using a hand corker.

This is my first ever instructional video explaining  How to cork a wine bottle.

bottle corker

The bottle corker

Why do we bottle  wine

Putting wine into a  bottle with a cork is an excellent way of keeping the wine until you want to drink it. When wine is stored it should only have a very small amount of oxygen available. Uncorking  a bottle of wine is a pleasant ritual which many prefer to using a screwtop bottle. The corks seen in the video are number 9 corks and are they are the most common. They should last 10 years with no problem.

When to bottle wine
The simple anwser is when no more gasses will be created which could cause the bottle to explode. Wine made from Grapes is picked in the Autumn. The initial very vigourous primary fermentation when most of the sugar is converted into alcohol, lasts about 10 days. The fertmentation then slows down and then many people say that the wine should be kept in a cool place for the  first winter.  The cold temperature seems to help the wine clear. The wine is just about drinkable by March of the following year and by May it should taste good. However, wine is not generally bottled until at least one year after it was first  picked because  sometimes  more subtle types of fermentation can occur such as maleoactic fermentation. This could create carbon dioxide which may cause the bottle to explode. Other types of wine such as champagne and fizzy wine can be bottled when fermentation is still active but they need high pressure bottles and a special cork. It is possible to stop a wine fermenting when it is still sweet by adding Potassium Sorbate which stop the yeast reproducing. However we never put chemicals of any kind into our wine.

 
Cork crusher

Where the cork is crushed.

The video below explains how we put cork into the bottles. For a very small producer like ourselves, a small floor mounted hand corker is enough for our needs. In reality we store a lot of our wine in recycled 5 litre plastic containers. However, a bottle of wine with a cork and a label is a pleasant object so we always bottle some to give away as gifts and to add a sense of occasion when sitting around the table etc. By the way the sphincter like crusher in the centre is called an iris. It dilates and reatracts a bit like the iris in an eye.

Es vino …..

First glass of wine

First glass of wine

There is a Spanish saying which says: “Para San AndrĂ©s, vino o vinagre es”. The idea is that on St. Andrew’s Day – 30th November – you should be able to taste whether the wine will be vinegar or wine.

A day later, on the 1st December, we tried our wine and it was not vinegar. It didn’t taste that great which I suppose is normal but at least we haven’t got 400 litres of vinegar for salad.