I make my own wine because it saves me a lot of money. Canada has some of the highest liquor prices in the world, and the provinces I live on the border of – Alberta/Saskachewan – have the highest liquor prices in canada. I think the bare bones absolute cheapest bottle of wine is about 12$ – that’s for a 750 ml bottle. By my calculations my homemade wine costs about 1/10 of that price.
These are my batch-by-batch notes based on the tutorial I wrote at http://fivegallonideas.com/1-minute-wine-recipe/ . I believe my tutorial is the best online for beginners because it’s exceedingly simple, and requires an investment of less than 5$ in winemaking equipment.
Batch 1 – “Too Much Sugar!”
Batch started May 27, 2013
Some people like sweet wine – this batch tastes a lot like a port wine. A bit too sweet for my palate.
In my 2.84 liter jug of grape juice, I added 3 full cups of sugar. The juice started at 8% potential alcohol – then I measure after each cup of sugar that I added. 1 cup, 11%. Another cup, 13%. A third cup, 15%. Perfect. Or at least that’s what I thought.
Although my yeast is rated at being able to ferment up to 18% alcohol, in this wine it topped out at about 13%. I added enough sugar at the beginning of the batch for 15% alcohol. This means that the final 2% potential alcohol didn’t ferment out, making the wine pretty sweet. I think the final 2% will eventually ferment but it may take up to 6 months. I’ll probably finish off this wine before then – Brittany says this sweet wine will probably taste good with soda water.
I took the airlock out a few days ago, and it’s still fermenting very slowly so I unscrew the cap to let the excess CO2 out every few days. The risk of it blowing up is pretty much nothing, my vessel is strong plastic that expands if it has too much air inside. My brother used to make apple juice wine inside its own bottle similarly to my tutorial without an airlock and he never had a problem. He just had to make sure to release the CO2 every day.
Since this is my first batch I don’t have any extra containers to “rack” my wine into, so I think I’ll just let it sit on the yeast until I’m done drinking it.
I worried very little about sanitation with this wine, and have absolutely no off-flavors. I’ll be a little more careful in the future when I’m reusing a washed bottle rather than brewing juice in a sterilized environment.
Batch capped on June 23, 2013. Would have capped sooner, but I was away most of June.
Batch 2 – “Try for a Dry”
Batch started June 29, 2013
This time I added the exact amount of sugar that was able to ferment out last time. Two cups of sugar brought me to the 13% potential that matched the 13% brew I made with my yeast last time. I also dumped out less grape juice for myself this time because I didn’t really see any problem with “krausen” in my last batch. Maybe krausen is more of a beer problem and less of a wine problem. Krausen is gross, I’m happy to not see it in my wine. Means less fussing.
I think in the future I’ll try experimenting with adding super concentrated grape juice to my regular grape juice. I think it’s a pretty good deal over at the brew store and will certainly make the wine both taste better and taste better sooner. Because the more white sugar you’re using to brew, the longer you have to let your wine site before its taste matures.
July 7 2013 – I’ve started slowly drinking Batch 1. It gets better every day, but is still too sweet and slightly astringent, just like all immature wines. Brittany and I both agree that right now it’s 2 stars out of 5 – so I’ve started calling it double star which sounds really upscale 🙂
July 9 2013 – I measured the sugar content of Batch 2 today for the first time. Out of an initial 13% potential alcohol, 12% has already fermented out, leaving just 1% left to ferment. It’s been bubbling for 10 days, and it’s just about done. I tasted it and expected something horrendous, but it’s surprisingly drinkable for a wine that’s not even done brewing yet. I noticed more of a haze in this wine, and am not sure if it’s a pectin haze or a haze of the still-active yeast. Either way, this haze will settle in time. Here’s batch 1 and 2 side-by-side – you can see how cloudy batch 2 is (the one on the left) compared to batch 1 on the right.
When I measure with my hydrometer, I normally just dump the wine I used to measure right back into the fermentation vessel. This goes directly against agreed upon best practices because most homebrewers are extremely picky about sanitation – but I’m happier pushing the limits to eliminate fussing wherever possible. If I ever run into problems doing it this way, I’ll be fully transparent about it here on this journal.
Batch capped on July 14 2013 @ 0.5% potential alcohol remaining.
July18 2013 – If anything, this wine’s fermentation has sped up since I capped it 4 days ago. I release the co2 every day or 2 and quite a bit of stored air escapes each time – making the bottle settle visibly. I’ve started drinking it, and let me tell you. It’s absolutely perfect. It’s dry as a bone, just the way I like it, barely a hint of sweetness at all. I can no longer really taste the saccharin taste of the common Concord grape in it either.
Fermentation may have sped up due to the wine now being stored in a dark place. A veteran winemaker commented on the main 1-minute wine article to inform me that would happen, and it seems to be happening now.
I’m willing to bet that this wine will ferment into negative territory, which isn’t uncommon for wine to do. I can’t wait!
I would like to present my batch 2 wine next to another dry red in a blind taste test. I am quite confident that it would be hard to tell apart from a moderately priced red wine from the liquor store. I would consider this the greatest of victories for the 1 minute wine recipe.
Batch 3 – “Batch 2, episode 2”
Batch started July 18 2013
I’m really happy with batch 2, and will probably make lots of identical brothers for it to hang out with. I enjoy drinking drier wines more than sweeter ones, so I will probably only brew another Batch 1 if Brittany want a sweeter red wine once in a while.
I didn’t bother measuring this one with the hydrometer because I already know that it will measure 13% potential alcohol, give or take a hair I am sure.
Batch 5 or 6 – The Public Batch
I stopped making wine for a few months because we had 30 bottles of wedding wine to work through. Now it’s all gone and I’ve entered back into the swing of things.
We filmed this batch on our new Canon T2i and published it to youtube. I used 2 cups of sugar just like I did with batches 2 and 3 and gave it to my camera operator as a gift. After 3 weeks, he reported it tasting way too sweet. His house is an old drafty thing which I suspect slowed fermentation down to a crawl.
Batch 7 – How small can we go?
I did something different with this one. To prove you can use any juice to make wine, I started a batch of peach-mango wine. And at 1.89 liters, it’s approximately half the size of the red grape wines I was making before. I hypothesized that a carboy half the size would make fermentation much slower by a factor of 4.
To make a success even less likely, I only added enough sugar to bring the potential alcohol to 11%.It took a little bit longer, but fermented out beautifully. It took about 3 weeks instead of 2 so my guess of it taking 8 weeks was thankfully dead wrong.
Now about a month old, it’s clarified nicely which indicates nearly universal yeast hibernation.
Batch Complete Feb 21 2014
I’ve also got another 1.89 liter bottle of white grape/pear I’m starting today.