About 15 years ago, my Dad and I decided to make wine with a bumper crop of raspberries that we had harvested. We had never tried making wine but we figured if Hank Jr said a country boy could do it, we needed to make sure we were up to snuff. So we headed to the recycling place to snap up a few gallon jugs in which to ferment our hooch. We made homemade “bubblers” to vent carbon dioxide from the fermentation and started along our way. The internet was, of course, young, so online stores hadn’t cropped up. Finding wine or champagne yeast was not a simple process so we started our fermentation with regular bread yeast.
In case you didn’t know, wine is made by adding fruit/flowers/sweat socks to a mixture of sugar and yeast. If all goes well, the yeast feeds on the sugars and produces alcohol and carbon dioxide. To prevent a mess, the carbon dioxide is vented off (without allowing new air or contaminates to enter the mixture) leaving the alcohol. At some point (usually no more than 15% alcohol), the alcohol kills the yeast and fermentation stops. Of course, if the yeast runs out of nutrients (i.e. sugar) before that point, fermentation also stops. Our first batches of wine made from regular bread yeast were not as high in alcohol (and we sweeter than usual wine) since the yeast was not meant to tolerate full wine-level alcohol content. They also didn’t taste quite as good as regularly fermented wine tasted, I suppose. Still, they were dang drinkable and well worth our effort. We eventually branched out and, quite successfully, made apple and grape and dandelion and all sorts of other types of wines as well.
As is typical, I recently got a wild hair and decided that it was time to once again get back into the wine making business. It is legal for individuals to make homemade wine (thanks to the 21st Amendment). In fact, one can make several hundred gallons of wine before there begins to be any problem (look it up on your own and with regard to your own local laws). No one is allowed to sell homemade wine, however, without proper licenses, taxes, etc. I don’t intend to make much wine, and certainly not hundreds of gallons so this operation will be well within legal limits.
Anyhow, I ordered some real champagne yeast, nice bubblers and some other additives to make my own wine. I still recycled my fermentation vessel like I did before as that worked perfectly well. Later on this week I will tell you the specific sort of wine I am making (it ain’t boring old grape) and show you how I put it all together. I suppose the wine we are making is one that is in line with what Hank had in mind for a country boy!