One of the things that’s lovely about allotmenteering is the sharing that goes on between plots. One gardener’s glut can be a fellow plot holder’s need. So when a neighbouring allotmenteer asked hubby and I if we wanted his grapes we jumped at the opportunity with the idea of having a go at making proper grape wine.
The vine is in his poly tunnel so is well protected from the damp British climate and this year with the amazing summer we have had the grapes are quite sweet and well ripened. We collected a huge bucket full in less than 5 minutes and we wished that bilberries,our favourite fruit for pies,were this easy to harvest. So on a wet Friday afternoon we return home armed with an exciting bucket of plunder for the weekend project.
The wine making book we use is an old tatty thing that belonged to my Grandma. It’s a fab little book and gives you all the information you need to have a go. Wine making is quite technical and my husband has made quite a lot over the years so the best thing to do is buy a good book and read it and follow it step by step. We bought our demijohns second hand and paid £10 for 6 , the rest of the equipment is relatively cheap to buy new. We sterilise all our equipment with crushed Campden tablets dissolved in water ,this is a really important step because vinegar flies and unwanted moulds and bacteria can ruin the wine.
So on a sunny Saturday afternoon we start the process, after much debating whether to tread the grapes we chicken out,reckoning it might be a wee bit cold and also we didn’t fancy athlete’s foot undertones to our finished wine. Yuk!
It took longer than expected to extract the juice from the grapes, they were surprisingly difficult to crush but half hour later and aching hands and arms we had done the job and a murky looking liquid was filtered out. We hope the magic of the fermentation process turns it into a better looking liquor.
We used a hydrometer to ascertain the specific gravity of the wine , or in layman’s terms the amount of sugar in the liquid ,and after consulting a table in the winemaking book it was decided that the specific gravity needed to be higher, this is done by adding sugar. Once the specific gravity reached the desired level Campden tablets were added to kill all the nasty bacteria that might ruin the wine . The liquor was then left for 24 hours to sterilise.
After 24 hours we added the yeast, this is the exciting bit ,the start of the magic process of turning grape juice into wine . The demijohns are given a cosy home next to the stove where they ‘blip blop’ , a sound we love, the gas bubbles passing through the air locks for the next 4 weeks as the fermentation process is completed and the sugar is converted to alcohol. All we need now is patience and crossed fingers and hope that we have done everything correctly. The video shows the process as it is difficult to describe every step we did.
When four weeks have passed and fermentation has ceased the wine will be racked off into clean demijohns to remove the sediments. It will be left for 6 months or longer to mature. And if all is a success we will be able to return the kind gesture and share some of our fellow gardener’s unwanted grapes back with him in the form of a bottle of wine. Cheers !