THE HOME WINEMAKERS MANUAL

the-home-wine

the-home-wine

A great deal of expensive equipment is not required to make 50 gallons of wine. Grape crushers and wine presses can be rented by the day for a few dollars each. Used barrels can be purchased for less than fifty dollars, and the deposit on a 15-gallon beer keg is about fifteen dollars. Each year, home winemakers ferment large quantities of red wine in new 32-gallon plastic trash cans. Much of the equipment needed to produce small quantities of wine can be found around the home.

FRUIT QUANTITY

Wine is measured by the case, and a case contains approximately 2.4 gallons of wine. Estimating just how much wine can be made from a ton of grapes is difficult. The amount depends upon the grape variety, the equipment used and the winemaking methods employed. Professional winemakers often get 160 to 180 gallons of wine per ton of grapes. Home winemakers working with small basket presses are doing well to get 150 gallons of wine per ton of fruit. One hundred and fifty gallons represent about 62 cases of wine.

GRAPE PRICES

The price of a ton of grapes will depend upon the grape variety, the location of the vineyard and upon supply and demand. In 1994, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon grapes sold for about $1200 a ton. Temecula Cabernet sold for around $600, and Cabernet grown in the Bakersfield area sold for less than $500 a ton. Representative prices for several varieties of wine grapes grown in southern California are shown below.
Wine grapes are bought and sold by the ton. When home winemakers purchase fruit in 100 pound quantities, they often must pay a premium price. Grapes purchased by the pound often cost three or four times the per ton price.

PACKAGE COST

Table wine is a very perishable food product. Wine oxidizes quite easily, and wine is susceptible to attack by a variety of microorganisms. If wine is going to be stored for any significant time, it must be sealed in air tight containers and stored in a cool, dark environment.

The standard “package” for quality wine consists of a 750-milliliter glass bottle, a standard 1 3/4 inch cork, a capsule and an appropriate label to identify the contents. The costs of the fruit and the costs of the package are the major out-of-pocket expenses for the home winemaker.
Glass

Glass bottles are packed in standard cardboard cartons, and the glass is clean and sterile when it leaves the factory. Glass bottles are heavy, so shipping costs are high. Consequently, glass is normally shipped in truckload lots, and the quantities are quite large. Smaller commercial wineries often pool resources and buy a truckload of bottles to reduce their glass costs. This is why the home winemaker seldom has access to new glass.
The average home winemaker really has only two alternatives. The winemaker must either “wash his own” or rely on commercially re-sterilized, used bottles. Commercial bottle washing enterprises usually charge $4.00 to $5.00 for a case of re-sterilized glass. Unfortunately, re-sterilized glass is usually hard to find, and sometimes it is not available at all. Ecovin has re-sterilized glass available for about $4.00 per case, but they are in the San Francisco Bay area, and shipping costs can be high.

Corks

Standard wine corks are sold in large sealed polyethylene bags that contain one thousand corks. The bags are gassed with sulfur dioxide, and the humidity in the bag is carefully controlled. The corks are sterile until the bag is opened. Dry corks taken from a new bag are soft and pliable. They can be easily driven into a bottle. Corks quickly dehydrate and become hard after the bag has been open for a few weeks. Old, dry, hard corks are difficult to drive, and they are a terrible nuisance. Good corks sell for about $140 a bag.

the-home-winemakers-manual

the-home-winemakers-manual

Capsules

Capsules are purely decorative. Home winemakers generally use “push on” or “heat shrink” plastic capsules. Plastic capsules are shipped by the manufacturer in large cardboard cartons that contain about five thousand capsules.

Labels

All wine should have a label permanently attached to each bottle to identify the contents. Custom wine labels are easy to make using a home computer, and very attractive labels can be made for a few cents each. However, full color labels, printed on heavy weight papers, often cost more than twenty-five cents each when they are produced in the small numbers needed by most home winemakers.

REPRESENTATIVE WINE COST

The following example is given to illustrate possible home winemaking costs. Please note that the costs given in this example assume that the grapes and most of the winemaking supplies are purchased in commercial quantities.

A ton of local wine grapes might cost $600 and produce 62 cases of finished wine. Here, the cost of the fruit needed to produce one case of wine would be $9.68. The cost of re-sterilized glass might be $5.00 per case, and corks might cost $1.50 per case. Label costs can range from less than $0.50 to more than $3.00 per case. However, pleasing labels can be made on a home computer for less than $0.60 per dozen. Plastic capsules cost from $0.40 to $0.60 per case. The cost of miscellaneous winemaking materials like acid, sulfite, etc. will depend upon the characteristics of the wine. An average cost of about $0.65 per case is a good estimate.

The table below shows how per case wine cost depends upon the cost of the grapes. Note that the cost of the fruit and the cost of the package is about the same when $500 per ton grapes are crushed. When less expensive grapes are used, the cost of the package is the major cost factor.
If “wash your own” bottles were used in the above example, the per case cost would be $5.00 less than the values shown. Obviously, these estimates do not include the original cost of winemaking equipment, and they do not include the cost of repairs, yearly maintenance, etc.

SUMMARY

Wine is very perishable, and table wine spoils quickly unless it is sealed in air tight containers. The standard package for quality wine consists of a 750-ml glass bottle, a 1 3/4 inch cork, a capsule and an appropriate label. The cost of homemade wine depends on the cost of the grapes and the cost of the package. The cost of the fruit and the package are about equal when $600 per ton grapes are used, but the package cost is dominant when inexpensive grapes are used. Home winemakers can reduce their winemaking costs by purchasing grapes by the ton and supplies in commercial quantities. Washing used wine bottles is another way to reduce home winemaking costs.

Winemaking can be divided into four basic phases. The first phase consists of finding a source of high quality fruit and making sure the grapes are harvested in an optimum condition. Buying small quantities of high quality fruit is not easy, and this is the most difficult winemaking phase for home winemakers.

The second phase consists of fermenting the grapes into wine. Winemakers manage the fermentation by controlling several different fermentation parameters such as temperature, skin contact time, pressing technique, etc.

During the third phase, the new wine is clarified and stabilized. Winemakers clarify wine by fining, racking and filtration. Wine is stabilized by removing excessive protein and potassium hydrogen tartrate (potassium bi-tartrate). These materials must be removed to prevent them from precipitating out of the wine later.

In the fourth phase of winemaking, the winemaker ages the wine. Most high quality wines are aged in bulk and then for an additional time in the bottle. Winemakers have an active role throughout the lengthy bulk aging process. Wines are smelled, tasted and measured every few weeks, and any needed adjustments are made promptly.

Except for the first phase, the other three winemaking phases overlap each other. New wine starts to clarify toward the end of the fermentation period. Some tartrates precipitate out during primary fermentation, and the wine becomes more stable. Of course, wine is aging throughout the winemaking process. Each phase makes a specific contribution to wine characteristics, but the first phase has the greatest influence on wine quality.

RED WINES AND WHITE WINES

High quality, red wine grapes have colorless juice. All of the red color is in the grape skins, and winemakers must leave the juice in contact with the skins for a considerable time to extract the color. Red wine is made by crushing the grapes and then fermenting the juice, the pulp, the skins and the seeds together for several days. Near the end of sugar fermentation, a wine press is used to separate the liquid from the solid materials.

White wine is made by a different process. First the grapes are crushed and pressed immediately to separate the juice from the solids. After pressing, the skins, stems and seeds are discarded, and the juice is cooled to a low temperature. Then the cold juice is allowed to settle for several hours, and the clear juice is decanted off the residue before it is fermented. White wine is made by fermenting clarified juice. These are the fundamental differences between making quality, red wine and white wine.

At first glance, the two winemaking processes may appear similar because several steps are identical. Nevertheless, the steps are done in a different sequence, and the sequence makes a large change in wine characteristics. The two processes are shown in the Figure below.

IN THE VINEYARD

in-the-vineyard

IN THE VINEYARD

It has often been said that wine quality is made in the vineyard, and few experienced winemakers disagree with this statement. The soil, climate, the viticulture and all other aspects of the vineyard environment contribute to the quality of the wine. Even if the winemaker does a perfect job, the quality of the starting grapes always determines the potential quality of the wine. Grape quality is extremely important. Many winemakers feel that when a grape growing problem develops, the difficulty must be recognized and promptly resolved to assure fruit quality. Consequently, both professional and amateur winemakers prefer to grow their own grapes. Then they have complete control over the vineyards.

FERMENTATION

Two different fermentations occur in most red wines. The same two fermentations are also encouraged in some heavier styled white wines like Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc. A variety of yeast and bacteria can grow in wine, and many of these microorganisms cause other fermentations that reduce the quality of the wine.

Primary Fermentation

Conversion of the two major grape sugars (glucose and fructose) into ethyl alcohol is called “primary” fermentation. Yeast in the wine produce enzymes, and the enzymes convert the sugars into alcohol. Converting grape sugars into alcohol is not a simple process. Many steps are involved in this transformation, and the yeast must produce several different enzymes.

Malolactic Fermentation

Malic acid in the grapes is converted into lactic acid during the “secondary” fermentation. The necessary enzymes are produced by bacteria rather than by yeast. Several different types of bacteria can produce malolactic (ML) fermentation, and these bacteria are called “lactic bacteria.” Lactic acid is weaker than malic acid, so malolactic fermentation reduces the overall acidity of the wine. In addition, some byproducts produced during the ML fermentation can make a positive contribution to the complexity of the wine.

Other Fermentations

Depending upon the winemaking conditions, several other fermentations can and often do occur in wine. Some bacteria can ferment the glycerol in the wine into lactic and acetic acids. The natural grape sugars can be transformed into lactic and acetic acid by other types of bacteria. A few species of bacteria can ferment the tartaric acid in the wine into lactic acid, acetic acid and carbon dioxide gas. Vinegar bacteria can convert the alcohol into acetic acid. Then the same bacteria convert the acetic acid into water and carbon dioxide gas. These other transformations can produce several materials that detract from wine quality. Byproducts of these undesirable fermentations can be devastating, and when these fermentations occur, wine is often called “diseased” or “sick.”

During the fermentation phase, the primary function of the winemaker is to make sure the primary and secondary fermentations take place in a controlled and judicious way. Making sure the unwanted fermentations do not occur is also very important, so the wine is measured, smelled and tasted often.

CLARIFICATION & STABILIZATION

At the end of the primary fermentation, the new wine contains many spent yeast cells, several different types of bacteria, tartrate crystals, small fragments of grape tissue, bits of dirt, etc. All these particles interact with light that passes through the new wine. The particles absorb or scatter the light, and they give the wine an opaque, turbid appearance.

Gravity will slowly pull most of these particles down to the bottom of the wine container. Then the winemaker can decant the clear wine off the sediment. The larger sized particles may settle out in a day or two, but smaller particles may take several weeks to fall. Some suspended material may be so small it never completely settles out of the wine. After gravity has removed most of the impurities from the wine, the winemaker may add a “fining” material to help the settling process. Alternatively, most commercial winemakers would choose to filter the wine and mechanically remove the remaining particles.

At this stage of its evolution, the wine may be clear and bright, but the wine probably is not completely stable. In other words, the wine may not remain in a clear condition over an extendedtime. Most wines contain excessive amounts of protein and potassium hydrogen tartrate. When wine is stored under certain conditions, the protein and the tartrate can precipitate out of the wine and produce a haze or a sediment. Any white or blush wine will probably be a total loss if either of these materials precipitates after the wine has been bottled. Wine stability is very important to the winemaker because of the protein and tartrate problems. Several techniques have been developed to remove excessive amounts of protein and tartrate from wine, and these procedures are part of the normal winemaking process. After the excess protein and tartrate materials have been removed, the wine will be chemically stable. Then the winemaker can continue the winemaking process with reasonable assurance that the wine will remain clear and bright after it has been bottled.

WINE AGING

Odors in the wine that came directly from the grapes are called wine “aroma.” “Bouquet” is the term used for the odors in the wine produced by the winemaking process, and winemakers use the term “nose” when referring to both the aroma and the bouquet components.

Aroma

Wine aromas come from the grapes. Aromas do not result from the winemaking process. Cabernet Sauvignon wine smells like Cabernet Sauvignon because of specific aromatic materials in that particular variety of grape. The “grassy” aroma, so characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc wine, is a consequence of the grape variety, not the winemaking process.

Bouquet

The formation of wine bouquet is a more complicated process. Wine bouquet is a result of the winemaking process. Wine bouquet is produced by the yeast, bacteria, barrels, winemaking procedures, etc. Some bouquet components are prevalent soon after the completion of fermentation, but these components decrease in intensity with time. Other bouquet components may require several years to develop fully. Byproducts produced by the yeast contribute to the fresh, fruity nose so typical of white table wines such as Gewurztraminer, Riesling and Chenin Blanc. However, these odor components are short-lived. They often disappear in less than a year or so. Consequently, these types of wines are best consumed when they are young, and the nose is still fresh and fruity.

Bouquet components decrease, remain constant or increase in intensity as the wine ages. By products produced by lactic bacteria can give wines a lasting buttery attribute. Wines stored in oak barrels slowly accumulate vanillin and other substances from the wood. Wine acids react with alcohols to produce volatile esters, and during bulk storage, oxidation slowly changes many wine ingredients. All these different materials contribute to the bouquet of the wine. After the wine is bottled, oxygen is no longer available, and a different type of aging begins to take place. Winemakers call these transformations reduction reactions because they take place without oxygen. Reduction aging is responsible for the changes that produce “bottle bouquet.” This is the bouquet that develops after a wine has been in the bottle for some time. As a wine ages, the aroma gradually decreases, and the wine becomes less and less varietal in character. Wine becomes more vinous as the aroma decreases, and the bouquet increases. When wines are blind tasted, wine experts sometimes have trouble distinguishing old Zinfandel wines from old Cabernet Sauvignon wines.

SUMMARY

Winemaking can be divided into four major steps. First, grapes are harvested in optimum condition. Second, the grapes are fermented. In the third step, the new wine is clarified and stabilized. In the last step, the wine is aged to enhance its sensory qualities. Each of the four steps contributes to the quality of the finished wine. However, basic wine quality is determined in the first step.

The potential quality of any wine is established when the grapes are selected and harvested. Once the fruit is harvested, the winemaker attempts to realize the potential quality by carefully guiding the wine through the other three winemaking steps. Making high quality wine from poor quality grapes is impossible, but making poor quality wine from high quality grapes is very easy.

The winemaking process may take a few months, or it can extend for several years. During this time many procedures and operations are preformed, so both professional winemakers and home winemakers keep accurate records of the procedures used to make each wine. This record documents all the winemaking details starting from several weeks before the grapes were harvested until the wine is bottled and aged to perfection.

Napping Bear Wines

Napping Bear Wines

Napping Bear Wines

Personal Notes After taking the summer off from winemaking, I got back to work a couple weeks ago. Truth be told, I was a little discouraged by the behaviors of my Mosti Mondiale wines and threw up my hands. Turns out it may have been the smartest thing I’ve done in a long time… The Sauvignon Blanc turned out to be my best wine to date and opened my eyes to a few concepts… like time really does help!

Since I started making wine, I have saved the first bottle bottled from each batch (thanks, Charlie) and usually one other. Sometime in late November, early December, I’m going to throw a tasting party where I’m going to open one of each that has at least 3 months age and see how they compare. I suspect that we’re not only going to drink some pretty good wine, we’re also going to see a real progression in the quality from that first Vintner’s Reserve Pinot Noir.

At some point, just out of curiousity, I may also hold a smaller tasting to see how my wines stack up against commercial wines of the same type. That could get very interesting, even if I am a little prejudiced.

Nestled in a beautiful valley in California’s wine country, the Napping Bear Winery consists of a converted barn with a stone foundation…

Now there’s a little unadulterated BS for you. The Napping Bear Winery is essentially a closet and the front room in the Polo residence in Dover, Delaware. But, Closet Winery just didn’t have the right ring to it. After due consideration, we decided to go with a name that had some meaning and base the logo on a photo taken at our place in the Pennsylvania mountains. The photo shows a large black bear that came to visit us one evening and stayed for 2-1/2 hours… taking a nap on the hill in front of us. He only opened his eyes because he heard me open the back door to take his picture.

I started making wine in self-defense, as much as anything else. It’s less expensive than buying bottles of wine, especially if you like wine that’s better than the cheap Gallo with the screw-top corks. And, let’s face it, theater people can drink. (Recipe for a good party: take 10 or more theater people who’ve just finished a show, add alcohol, mix well, enjoy.) I’ve thrown more than one party that left my house looking like the locusts of old had descended on it and enjoyed a three-day bender. Of course, the fact is, I really like making wine… everything else is just an excuse. I also like drinking it, which means the whole aging thing can get out of whack if I don’t keep a very close eye on Mr. Polo.

The wines are made from kits available through the Internet. I’m just getting started and am learning so much so fast, it’s a little scary. The product, though, is wonderful. As the wine ages, the nuances and character really begin to come alive. I started with the simple, 4 week kits and am gradually working my way up. I have discovered that the more complex (i.e. more expensive) kits make a more complex and satisfying wine. Since Brew King kits are most readily available, I’ve pretty much stuck to them… although that will change as I get more adventurous.

I’ve been sticking to reds and a little cider, because that’s what I like, but I am now branching out into whites as well. I’ve also had the pleasure and agony of working with pure juice, which takes a lot longer to clear than the kits I was used to. I’m not sure that I have the patience to try real varietal grapes, which are not easy to find here in Delaware, anyway.

Being that I am having so much fun with fermentation, I’ve also started to make my own naturally carbonated sodas. The first, a Root Beer, was pretty good but I had fermentation problems due, I think, to cool temperatures. The Ginger Ale I tried next had none of those problems and really gave Chris and I a chance to find out why they call it ginger ale… man, that stuff is good! However, the concensus is the Cream Soda is the best, especially mixed with a flavored rum, such as banana or coconut.

I put this page up because I like talking about what I do… some would say I just like talking. It also helps me to have something to do when I’m waiting for things to happen in The Closet. I have found that the most difficult thing about winemaking is the waiting.

The part of the process I look forward to, aside from the sampling, is the bottling. I usually try to get a few friends over for that process, making an evening out of it. Wine, some friends, and something to do… it doesn’t get any better than that.

(Note to the Revenuers: This is homemade wine, not a real winery… just a hobby. I don’t sell it, period.)Throughout the history of community theater, the topic of guns on stage has reared its head over and over again. Murder mysteries, thrillers, comedies, dramas, even musicals require this device as an integral part of the plot. Theaters have used all manner of devices to simulate gunfire on stage, from toy pistols and sound effects, starter pistols, blank firing guns and real guns using blanks (very bad idea). In this article, we’ll delve into the do’s and don’ts of guns on stage, with an emphasis on safety and security.

Types of Guns for Use on the Stage

Non-Firing Replica – This is the safest gun for use on stage. It looks and feels like a real gun, but cannot chamber a round and will not fire, lacking a firing pin. Relatively inexpensive, these guns are manufactured from original blueprints from less robust metals. They can be used when a gun needs to be displayed on stage but not fired. Safe as they are, non-firing replicas should still be treated as real guns and locked up when not in use.
Blank-Firing Replica (Blank Gun) – This is a gun built specifically to chamber a blank round. A blank round is a shell that does not contain a projectile (bullet). Generally, these are built from blueprints matching real guns and then modified to chamber a blank round, usually 8mm, and ported so that the gasses from firing do not come out of the end of the barrel, but are shunted out the top or side. Treat them as if they were a real gun. These come in three basic types: the revolver and semi-automatic handgun styles, and the long gun.
Revolver (below left and right)– This handgun has a cylinder that holds the blank rounds and rotates to bring them under the firing pin. Best for use on stage because of its simplicity and the fact that it does not eject spent shells.