I started my first batch of wine about a year ago after reading several books, collecting the necessary equipment, and deciding what I wanted my method/philosophy to be. I started making wine for several reasons.
First of all, I like drinking wine. It’s delicious, and I love to think of the fruit, time, and attention that goes into wine. Second, I look at it as a good extension of my gardening hobby. Third, I like to have something personal to share. It’s a good feeling to give a friend a wine you made, or even better to make a toast with the homemade wine. Winemaking just seemed to be something I could really get into, so I read several books on the topic.
My favorite book for several reasons was Wild Wine Making by Richard W. Bender. This book spoke to me for several reasons in comparison to the other books I read. This book has great photos and lots of exciting sounding recipes. The first recipe I made was the strawberry-rhubarb wine. I used rhubarb from the garden, and for my first attempt, I think it turned out pretty well. The book also has good instructions for the basic process, which is the same or similar for all of the recipes. The process the book promotes is really what made me engage in these methods over what I read elsewhere.
In the recipes in wild wine making, no sulfites or fermentation inhibitors are used. I also liked that whole fruits are used. The process involves sanitizing equipment, boiling water with sugar, and pouring the boiling water on top of the fruit. In most winemaking books, sulfites are added at this point to ensure that other bacteria are dead and only the yeast can flourish. But pouring boiling water onto the fruit ensures the same result. After this, the batch is left to cool to room temperature before “pitching” the yeast.
I did veer off of the method just a tad. I actually made strawberry rhubarb mead, not wine. I replaced the sugar in the recipe with local honey. The result was strong, but good. We drank some with friends around New Years, and I have some aging. It is extremely small batch, one gallon, which I bottle in beer bottles, so there were about 10 bottles. I gave a couple bottles away, and stashed a few away to age in the bottle. I think around June we’ll open another one, as it will have been aging for 6 months in the bottle, and it will be around my wife’s birthday.
I have a second batch going that is apple mead (in the book it is wine), made from apples from Triple B Farms and honey from Jefferson Hills Honey. I started the batch in October of last year, and will bottle in July so that it can age in the bottle a couple months before the fall season, when apple mead will be a welcome treat.
The next recipe I’m going to do from the book is the chocolate mint wine/mead. I have plenty of chocolate mint in my garden, and it’s one of my favorite mints, but I don’t always know how to put all of it to use. Well, I’m hoping that by next peppermint mocha season I’ll be sharing some chocolate mint mead.
I have had success with the methods in this book. There are other books out there that go even further than no sulfites and actually don’t add yeast to their wine, instead relying on the yeasts on the fruit and in the environment. I’m not there yet, but maybe someday I will be. As an overall book on winemaking, I have certainly enjoyed this book, and successfully created some of the recipes. If you are interested in winemaking I think you can do it as well.