Friday, February 22, 2013

Making our own wine

For years, I've wanted to start making our own wine, but I was adamant that we start with growing our own grapes. Well, that hasn't exactly happened yet. We've planted grapes a couple of times. Lack of water got them one year. Goats got them another year. And the last time I ordered vines, we just never got around to planting them!

So, a year ago I decided that making our own wine from concentrated grape juice would at least be a step in the right direction. I am not talking about grape juice concentrate from the grocery store. You can actually buy concentrated juice from wine vineyards all over the world. We've made Riesling from Washington State, Cabernet Sauvignon from California, Pinot Grigio from Italy, and more. We've made seven batches of 30 bottles already, and we've started drinking five of the different wines. We bought all of the equipment and ingredients from Midwest Supplies.

One thing I really like about making our wine is that we can reuse bottles. It used to drive me crazy to see perfectly good wine bottles going into the recycling bin. For years, I had even saved some of the prettier bottles with the idea that we could make drinking glasses out of them. Now we can reuse bottles after washing them out. After washing them out, we put them in the dishwasher rack to dry.

Making wine isn't really hard. And it isn't terribly time-consuming until you get to bottling. But you can procrastinate on bottling as long as you need. Our Gewurztraminer and Pinot Noir stayed in the carboy for three or four months because Mike didn't have time to bottle it. So, it got a head start on the aging!

In addition to saving our own wine bottles, we ask friends to save their bottles for us, but you can buy new bottles to get started, if you prefer. Although you can reuse bottles, you need to use new corks. We got this fancy corker to make it very easy to put corks into the bottles.

We couldn't be happier with the results! I was initially skeptical about the quality, because I hate "cheap" wine. I started off buying only wines with lots of 5-star reviews, but I got brave after a few and ordered a wine that had no reviews at all. We wound up loving it! Other than one very reserved response, friends and family have all given our wine two thumbs up, so I think it has about a 95% approval rating. And it winds up costing us only about $2-4 a bottle!

Although I felt like I was wimping out in terms of sustainability by not growing our own grapes, this is a better option than buying individual bottles of wine. One 2.5 gallon container requires a lot less energy to produce than 30 wine bottles.

And when I visited Monticello last year, I learned that Thomas Jefferson and I have something else in common beyond our love of farming. He was never able to grow grapes on Monticello during his lifetime, although he believed that America could someday make wine as good as Europe. In the meantime, however, he bought large casks of wine and bottled it on his farm, rather than buying individual bottles of wine!

If you've ever thought about making your own wine, I really recommend starting with a kit.


Velva said...

I had no idea you could purchase concentrated grape juices from vineyards-that is seriously good news. Love it.

Cheers to you for taking on the challenge of bottling your own wine.


MichelleH said...

I nominated you for a Shine On award! :)


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