In recent years we have both enjoyed making home-made wine and have finally decided to place our recipes along with some wine-related
humour on this page of our vast website. We hope you will enjoy reading and have a good laugh as well as trying out our recipes.
It all began several years ago when Heather remembered the lovely home made wines her mum and dad used to make and although she
does not drink much she enjoys the smell of the wine as it brews and the sound of the bubbles popping from the tubes. We decided to try
a very unusual recipe -- Oak Leaf Wine -- to begin with; this uses leaves from a traditional English Oak tree at the right time of year.
The result tasted so nice we could not stop after that and embarked on making more types. Natalie's amazing knowledge of science and
chemistry was then brought into play to fine tune the recipes which are presented here with much technical help as well. Heather has
contributed as usual by coming up with some humorous cartoons to brighten up the page and make you smile.
Our recipes, information and poem may be copied (entire and unchanged only), provided you acknowledge the source.
You can contact us at:
Part I: Background Information
Many people think of wine as being a drink brewed solely from grapes, but this is not
true. In warm countries where grapes grow readily, there is of course a very long
history of making wine from grapes, and there has been relatively little interest in the
possibility of making wine from anything else. But in cooler countries, such as the
British Isles (and indeed most of Northern Europe), grapes have been impossible (or at
least very difficult) to grow, and so there has grown up an almost equally long
tradition of brewing wine from whatever is to hand -- and not necessarily limited to
fruit, as you will see in our recipes! These non-grape wines are collectively known as
'Country Wines', and although some wine-snobs sneer at them as being suitable only for
folk who carry a pitchfork, hold their trousers up with baler-twine and say "Oooh
Arrr" a lot, this prejudice is quite unjustified, since good Country Wines can be truly
delicious, and often much more exciting than boring old grape stuff!
Historians might point out that in the Middle Ages, wine grapes
across much of Southern England, often by monasteries, and some good wines were made.
This is true, and during the 'medieval warm era' when the climate was warmer even than
today, grapes were quite practical, but once that spell ended (circa 1250) grapes became
much harder to grow anywhere in Britain, and quite impossible during the 'Little Ice
Age' (circa 1550-1850), only becoming possible again in recent times -- and even now,
it isn't easy to grow good wine grapes even in the southernmost counties of England. It
was during the 'Little Ice Age', then, when local grape wine was impossible and imports
were hugely expensive, that the real heyday of Country Wine making came.
Today, with astronomical taxation on commercially-made alcohol as well as a growing
interest in all matters natural and environmental, there is something of a renaissance
of Country Wine making (as well as other forms of home-made alcohol), as you can see
from the sudden upsurge in the number of home-brew shops in recent years. As well as
the obvious benefit that home-made wines are a fraction of the price of shop-bought
ones, there are many other advantages and benefits to 'brewing your own'; it's an
interesting hobby for all the family -- the kids will enjoy picking berries or wild
fruit for the 'brew' and can even sample a little of the end-product if it's diluted
with water to suit their age-group; home-made wine contains no artificial additives or
preservatives; with the wide variety of materials to ferment, there is much more scope
for interesting and unusual flavours than with grape wine; and, of course, it's always
rewarding to be drinking the results of your own efforts!
The instructions on these pages are detailed, although an outright beginner might be
well advised to read through one of the many books or booklets available that introduce
the basics of home-brewing, or simply spend a few minutes chatting with an expert;
almost all specialist home-brew shops are run by enthusiasts, and most are very willing
to spend a few minutes advising a newcomer on how to proceed. So if you've never tried
home-brewing before but can get a few minutes of an expert's time, probably all you need
to do is show her or him the recipe that you want to make, and they can make sure you've
got everything you need and are clear about what to do.
Equipment & Materials
Much of the equipment you need will already exist in most kitchens, especially if you
have ever made jam -- a
large pan or cauldron is vital, as is a means of
finely straining fluids, such as a 'jelly bag' made of porous cloth such as fine nylon;
we find it's convenient to have both coarse and fine jelly-bags as well as an
extremely coarse strainer made out of a plastic bucket with lots of 5mm holes
drilled in the bottom -- when straining out the remains of the fruit after the
soaking stage, the bucket strainer takes out the coarsest material, then
we use the coarse bag and finally the fine bag; this gives perfect removal of
"bits" from the fluid but without blocking the fine bag solid with excess rubbish.
If your jelly-bag(s) can't handle boiling water (depends what they're made of; nylon
and cotton are OK) some old-fashioned butter-muslin is also very handy for straining boiling-hot fluid -- just line an
ordinary wire sieve with muslin and you've got a reasonably fine filter that will tolerate hot
liquids. A large spoon is also essential for stirring the cauldron; a wooden one is
suitable, although a polypropylene one is better because it's easier to sterilise and
still OK with boiling liquids, which is essential. If you prepare your wine 'must' (the
term for the stuff that you're going to ferment) in quantities suitable for two
Demijohns at a time, generally a convenient amount to handle at one time, your main pan
or cauldron should be able to boil up 9 litres of fluid comfortably. You will also need
some food-safe plastic buckets, with close-fitting lids, that will take boiling water;
these are commonly made of Polypropylene (PP); do
use PVC or Polyethylene (PE)
as these are unsafe at boiling temperatures. You'll need at least one really big one,
say 25 litres, for soaking fruit in boiling water, and at least one large (10 litre)
one; a selection of smaller ones can also be handy, e.g. for soaking items in
sterilising solution. A plastic or glass funnel is also essential; a thermometer is
also very handy -- if you don't have one, you can buy one from the
section of the Dawnmist Shop at a very reasonable price; the same section also
lists inexpensive Pyrex Beakers in a variety of sizes, which can be very handy for mixing
up additives like Pectin Lyase or Citric Acid, or for cooling boiled water to
produce sterilised water for filling bubblers etc -- being Pyrex, they're safe to
use with boiling water.
Much is said about what materials should and shouldn't be used for wine-making
apparatus, and some of what is commonly said is bogus. The first essential is that
everything must be able to be thoroughly sterilised; a variety of methods of
sterilisation are described in the Hints and Tips below. Secondly, you will often hear
it said that 'no metal must ever touch your wine'; this is not strictly true. Stainless
steel is fine, and a large stainless steel cauldron is perfect for boiling up the
'must'. Copper is also traditionally used by some and has no adverse effects, though
copper pans these days are hard to find and horribly expensive. Cast-iron is
good idea, nor is aluminium -- both can react with fruit acids and leach metal ions into the must.
Old-fashioned enamelled cast-iron ware is OK so long as the
enamel is totally intact, so the 'must' cannot touch the iron, but any cracks in the
enamel make it unsafe to use.
The only really specialised bits of equipment you need are as follows; all can be found
in any home-brew shop or the brewing departments of many large stores, along with all
the specialised consumables listed in the recipes (Yeast Compound, Pectin Lyase, Sodium
- Demijohns: The traditional one-gallon (4.54 litre) glass fermentation
vessels with a narrow neck to take a bung. You'll need one for each lot of wine
fermented simultaneously (all the recipes given here make
two Demijohns full,
but can obviously be multiplied up for larger batches, or halved for a single Demijohn,
if desired). Don't fill Demijohns right up to the neck, otherwise any froth from fermentation will get up into the bubbler. Our recipes
are calculated to take this into account. It's also wise to keep one totally spare
Demijohn for 'racking' (see
Hint H6 below). Recently, 'plastic Demijohns' with a
square cross-section for optimum use of space have come into use: there is no reason to
suspect that they give any different results to the traditional glass ones, but because
they are made of plastics that will not tolerate boiling temperatures, aggressive
chemical cleaners, or scrubbing with
a bottle-brush (which damages the special alcohol-proof lining), they can be immensely
difficult to clean and sterilise effectively, and for that reason we prefer the
traditional glass type. Do not try to use ordinary plastic drinks bottles for
fermenting wine, as the plastic used (polyethylene terephthalate, PET) reacts slowly
with alcohol; the purpose-made "plastic Demijohns" have an inner lining of PVOH that keeps
the alcohol out of contact with the PET bottle wall.
Some people have lately claimed that glass Demijohns are no
longer manufactured -- this is
not true. However, you may find that demand for
these outstrips supply, making them hard to find, during the peak wine-making time of
year (August through October). You can often buy them second-hand at a fraction of the
new price; see
Hint H10 below for advice on deep-cleaning old Demijohns. You can also get "giant Demijohns",
typically of 20 to 25 litres capacity; these are OK if you can cope with lifting the weight of a full one
(we find them much too heavy) and if you want to ferment a lot of wine in one go, but make
sure you use a really good bubbler with them, as some of the bubblers designed for use on a
standard-sized Demijohn can be overwhelmed by the sheer amount of gas bubbling out of
such a large fermenting batch.
- Bubblers (Fermentation Locks):
During fermentation, each Demijohn is topped
with one of these, containing a little sterile water. Working like a sink trap in
reverse, the bubbler allows the CO2
from fermentation to escape without allowing
external air (which is not sterile!) in to contaminate the brew. Each bubbler is
permanently mounted in a bung (with a hole in the centre!) sized to fit a Demijohn neck.
In years gone by, bubblers were glass, but are now usually plastic. Some bubblers are
supplied with bungs already fitted, with others you have to buy the bungs separately.
These bungs should always be of synthetic rubber,
of cork. We advise you to
the 'mini' or 'compact' bubblers that consist of concentric tubes, because
they cannot cope with a fast fermentation and tend to 'overflow', breaking the airtight seal; the
traditional-shaped ones, shaped like a letter S on its side, work a lot better.
Sometimes, bubblers can be a very tight fit in their bungs (they do need to make an
airtight fit) and inserting them too forcefully can split the bubbler open, causing a
leak (with disastrous effects if not spotted!). Fitting a bubbler into a bung can be
eased greatly with a smear of Vaseline.
- Plain Bungs: You need as many plain bungs, also sized to fit a Demijohn, as
bubblers: after fermentation is complete, replace the bubbler with a plain bung (without
a hole) to seal in the wine while it matures. As with bubbler bungs, the plain bungs
should be of synthetic rubber, never natural cork.
- Bottles: Obviously, you'll eventually want to bottle your wine. You can buy
these new, or you can re-use old wine bottles as long as they are undamaged and
thoroughly cleaned and sterilised. Even screw-top bottles are OK as they virtually always
have a smooth bore that will accept a cork. Hint H10 describes a useful method for
cleaning and de-labelling bottles for re-use. It is even possible to use plastic bottles
to store finished wine provided these are purpose-made for alcohol (ordinary
soft-drinks bottles lack the PVOH lining that prevents the alcohol from attacking the PET plastic),
although these should probably be used only for wines that will be drunk young:
for wines that are to be kept and aged, the seal of a plastic drinks bottle may not be secure
enough to ensure that the wine does not deteriorate -- also, most plastics are very
slightly porous (on a microscopic scale) and this again makes them a bad choice for long-term
storage of wine. Glass bottles with good corks (see below) really are the best choice for
wine that is to be kept.
- Corks: Every bottle needs a cork! All too often, a good wine can be ruined
by a bad cork: we have found so-called wine corks on sale in many places that are really quite
unsuitable for corking wine and some that are so bad they would instantly ruin the wine!
Because cork is a natural material of variable quality, many commercial, and some amateur, winemakers
use non-cork closures, such as screw-tops and plastic stoppers. The following methods are available:
- Plastic Stoppers:
Plastic stoppers are certainly marketed
to amateur winemakers, and are very easy to use as well as re-usable, but they have two serious limitations: firstly, they
do not tolerate variations in bottle neck diameter; in a recent sample of standard-size bottles used
for commercially made wine sold in the UK, we found plastic stoppers would only fit about 50% of the bottles;
therefore it is really only practical to use them with bottles specifically made to match them.
Secondly, it is claimed (and seems plausible to us) that even well-fitted plastic stoppers do not give a
reliable long-term seal and are therefore best used only for wines that will be drunk very soon after
bottling. However, if you can be certain that your bottles are all perfectly sized for plastic stoppers and
do not intend to keep your wine for long, they can provide a quick, simple and trouble-free closure which
needs no special equipment to insert. They are also handy for temporarily re-sealing an opened bottle.
- Plastic-flanged Cork Stoppers:
These are an attempt at a hybrid between plastic stoppers and real corks, and like plastic stoppers, they are easy to insert. But
they suffer from just the same dimensional limitations as plastic stoppers: they won't properly fit a large proportion of
the available bottles, unless you buy bottles specially made to match them. And like plastic stoppers, they probably don't
give a reliable seal for long-term storage, though they may possibly be slightly better than plastic stoppers
in this regard. They are a lot more expensive than either plastic stoppers or conventional corks, and because the sealing
part is made from cork, it is questionable whether they can be re-used reliably. For all these reasons, we don't think they
are worth considering.
- Raw Natural Corks:
These are generally the cheapest, but also the least reliable and most trouble-prone closures. They consist simply of
a cylinder cut from a plank of natural cork. They should have been sterilised and boiled by the manufacturer, though we
have seen plenty that had not been properly treated, especially the cheapest sorts. They need to be soaked, usually in hot
water, to soften them sufficiently to go into a bottle, and since they lack any surface coating, can be quite hard to
pull out (we have actually broken a fancy "automatic" corkscrew trying to take one of these out!). The three biggest
disadvantages of this type are firstly the relatively high risk of the cork contaminating the wine (much reduced by proper
treatment by the manufacturer), secondly the risk that one of the natural pores or cracks will penetrate through the cork and
cause it to leak slightly, which of course ruins the wine, and thirdly the fact that uncoated cork can be very absorbent, which
can lead to the cork becoming "soggy" with wine and deteriorating, again spoiling the wine.
Natural cork comes in different quality grades, but more often
than not, raw natural corks are made of the poorest grades. We have even seen corks cut from trees infected with diseases,
containing large cracks filled with fungus -- guaranteed to instantly ruin your wine!
- Coated Natural Corks:
These are made in the same way as raw natural corks, and have some of the same potential problems. The only difference is that they
are coated with a thin layer of wax or silicone, and may be "filled" with the same material (to block up small crevices).
Thus they are easier to get in and out of bottles, generally don't require soaking, and are less likely to leak, go "soggy", or
contaminate the wine. They are also more likely to be based on a better grade of cork than the raw type. Price tends to
reflect quality: indifferent ones may cost little more than raw corks, whereas premium-quality ones (which generally
perform very well and are still often used for high-quality commercial wines) can be fairly expensive.
- Composite Corks:
Sometimes known as "technical" or "reconstituted" corks, these are made from compressed cork granules and a combined binder/sealant.
Because they are composite, they do not have the pores or cracks that can be troublesome on cheaper grades of natural cork, and
also have the advantages of the coating (as for coated natural corks), most being "no-soak" types. They are also usually very
competitively priced, and for all these reasons are often the preferred choice of knowledgeable amateur winemakers. So long as they are
well-made (not excessively "open" and porous) they seldom cause any problems. Composite corks of excellent technical quality can
often be bought for little more than the cost of the cheapest, nastiest raw corks, because they are made from small pieces of
cork instead of having to be cut whole from virgin planks of cork, and therefore make very efficient use of cork.
- Synthetic Corks:
A recent innovation, these wholly-synthetic, extruded-polymer closures look rather like composite corks, but without their granular
appearance. There has so far been no long-term experience of using these "corks", though it would be reasonable to expect their
performance to equal or surpass that of the very best natural corks, and for this reason a number of high-end commercial winemakers
are now using them. Being wholly synthetic, they have no pores or cracks and are totally leakproof; they also cannot leach
contaminants into the wine. Naturally, they are a relatively expensive option, but can be expected to becone cheaper and more
widely used in future. As yet, we have not found them on sale to amateurs, but we think they will probably find their way
into the amateur market before long. They are of course "no-soak", and claim to be easier to insert than natural or composite corks.
It should also be noted that corks (natural or composite) can be obtained in both "straight sided" and "tapered" form.
The tapered type have the advantage that they can be inserted by hand (no need for a corker), but produce a much less reliable seal than
the straight-sided type, so they are only suitable for wines that are not to be kept for long. Straight-sided corks require
a device known as a "corker" or "cork flogger" to insert them into bottles; this device temporarily compresses the cork to a small diameter
so it can slide into the bottle neck, where it expands again and forms a tight seal. Corkers range from simple hand-operated
devices costing a few pounds (which are OK for corking a few bottles if you're strong), through two-handed lever-operated types
(much easier to use and cost ten to twenty pounds), right up to "industrial" floor-standing types for bulk production.
Corks should be clean and sterile before insertion into the bottle, particularly if the wine is preservative-free (as all ours are).
Good quality corks are often supplied pre-sterilised, but if you are unsure, sterilise them with boiling water first. If the
corks are the type that require soaking, sterilisation and soaking can be combined simply by using boiling water for the soak; for
no-soak (coated) corks, a quick dip in boiling water is all that is necessary. We do not advise soaking corks in a chemical
sterilising solution (unless they are the coated type, and are rinsed well afterwards), since this will otherwise lead to some of the solution
getting into the pores of the cork and thence into the wine.
We generally favour good-quality, straight-sided, composite corks with a no-soak coating, inserted with a lever-operated corker.
This gives a good reliable seal at a very reasonable cost, easy corking, and avoids the risk of defective natural corks.
Never, under any circumstances, re-use Natural or Composite corks! They will not make a good seal "second time around".
- Cork Sealing Material (optional): It is advantageous to seal the cork to the bottle, ideally with a wax compound
specially formulated for the purpose (candle wax is not suitable!). Corks seldom give a totally perfect seal even when freshly
inserted, let alone after months or years in a wine cellar, and a good sealing compound can make all the difference between a wine
that has improved with age and one that has been ruined. Many commercial wines, and increasingly many amateurs too, now use either foil
or plastic sleeves to cover the cork; however, these methods are really only of aesthetic benefit -- they may look good, but they
don't give an airtight seal to protect the wine. For this reason, we are of the opinion that a properly-formulated wax seal is
vital on wines that are to be kept, and highly desirable on all wines; to answer this need for the home winemaker at an
economical price, we have developed Dawnmist WineWax, and we seal all wines we make with it. Follow the link below
to learn more about the benefits of using a sealing compound as well as specific details of Dawnmist WineWax:
Method & Philosophy
All our wine recipes use a 'boiling water' method in which everything to be fermented
gets boiled and therefore sterilised, with a commercial yeast preparation being added to
do the fermenting. Some older recipes for wine don't sterilise everything and many
don't add yeast, relying on the natural, wild yeast that can be found on most fruits; we
don't like this method for various reasons: firstly, with unsterilised materials there
really is no telling what
else you'll grow as well as yeast, and you risk
growing something nasty; furthermore, with the no-added-yeast recipes you can't even
the fruit (it would remove the natural yeast!), so you could be adding all
sorts of pollutants to your brew, and also the 'wild' yeasts often give an unreliable
fermentation, poor taste and low alcohol content. The 'boiling water' method avoids all
these possible problems, and is very easy in a modern kitchen.
The fermentation process is temperature-dependent, and for good results conditions
should be neither too hot nor too cold, nor should there be wide fluctuations in
temperature. You will probably be able to find a suitable location in most houses,
but avoid attics, garages and sheds because they can cause trouble with temperature swings.
Most of the modern yeasts used by home wine-makers require relatively warm conditions; many will
not work well below around 20°C and "stuck fermentations" can result.
On the other hand, the temperature must not be too high either: higher than around 35°C
is liable to kill the yeast. Therefore it is vital to give some thought to ensuring that your
fermentations are kept at a suitable temperature. Most of the modern yeasts work best at
around 25°C, and so for best results and rapid fermentation, many winemakers use
some form of thermostat-controlled heater to maintain the optimum temperature. A range of
heaters are marketed specifically for wine-making; most good home-brew suppliers will sell
these, designed to keep one or several demijohns at the proper temperature. Here at Dawnmist, we use a purpose-built
"warm cupboard" which is well-insulated and held at precisely 25°C by an electronic controller,
and which can hold up to 24 demijohns at a time; this is the best solution for "serious" home
wine makers who wish to have a large number of demijohns "on the go" at once.
If you wish to avoid the cost of some sort of heating device, for example if you're just starting
out with home brewing and don't want to invest a lot of money, there are a number of alternatives.
During summer, many if not most parts of the average house will always remain warm enough,
but unfortunately most home wine-making is done in the autumn and winter, simply because of
the availability of fruit to make wine from. If you're making wine during the colder parts of the year,
you'll need to find somewhere that remains suitably warm all the time; even with central heating,
most locations in the average house probably won't be consistently warm enough to avoid the risks
of slow or "stuck" fermentations. If you have an airing cupboard built around your hot water tank,
this may well be an ideal location, so long as it is consistently warm. Or there may be a
constantly-warm area in your kitchen, perhaps near the boiler. But be careful that any such warm
area doesn't get too hot.
Once a wine has totally finished fermenting, and probably after it has been 'racked', it
is left to clear and mature. At this stage it does not need to be kept warm, and in fact
the process of clearing and maturing generally proceeds rather better in cool conditions; we transfer
our wines at this stage to the wine cellar, where they can clear and mature undisturbed in the
cool. But do be sure that the fermentation has really finished and isn't simply "stuck" for
The fermentation process does not require light
(it will happen just fine in darkness) but it is not, contrary to some claims, impaired
by light. Direct sunlight might raise the temperature too much, but the light itself is
not a problem -- although prolonged direct sunlight might conceivably cause partial
'bleaching' of the colour of some red wines.
We adopt a scientific approach to wine-making: most of our recipes were originated by
'meta-analysis' of several traditional recipes for a given type of wine, with the best
features of each original version translated into the final recipe, as well as being
refined by experimentation. Many of our recipes also use modern innovations such as
Pectin Lyase; this is a natural substance that 'digests' the pectin (soluble fibre) in
fruit, converting it to sugars, which both releases more of the natural 'goodness' and
flavour of the fruit and also prevents pectin getting into the brew, where it can cause
problems, namely either a wine that won't clear or an unacceptably high methanol
content. You will also find some interesting snippets of wine-making science below.
Despite our "scientific" orientation, we believe strongly in natural wine-making,
particularly with regard to artificial additives. Our pet bugbear is sulfites added to
(usually in the form of Campden Tablets or Sodium/Potassium Metabisulfite).
Most commercial wine producers add sulfites to their wines as preservatives and clearing
agents, and unfortunately, many amateur wine makers do the same. Sulfites are known to
be detrimental to health, particularly to asthmatics, and seem also to be one of the
major contributors to the hangovers experienced after drinking low-quality wines. There
is absolutely no need to use artificial preservatives (after all, wines were made for
millennia without them, and alcohol is a natural preservative), and as long as you use the "boiling water method",
are scrupulous with hygiene and sterilisation,
and cork your wines carefully, home-made wines will keep very well without any need for
preservatives. You will see in our Hints and Tips below that we do use sulfites purely
for sterilising utensils that can't be boiled, and they are indeed good for this,
but we always rinse the solution off well before
the utensils come into contact with any wine ingredients! Our recipes do use
certain "additives" (citric acid, pectin lyase, yeast nutrients etc), but it must
be emphasised that these are all entirely natural substances that are found
in fruit, or in the case of pectin lyase, in organisms naturally found on fruit.
If your wines are "put together" correctly and you are patient, you should not need
to resort to artificial additives to get wines to clear -- the only clearing agent
(or "finings" as they are called) used in any of our recipes is bentonite, a
wholly natural clay mineral that is contained, in tiny but sufficient amount, in the Yeast
Compound that we recommend for our recipes. Even though bentonite is totally harmless
(it's used in medications and beauty products!) it doesn't end up in the finished wine
anyway, since having done its job of "flocculating" the dead yeast cells, it drops to the bottom
of the fermentation jar and is discarded along with the rest of the sediment (or "lees").
Another 'trick' that we use if a wine is slow to clear (as long as all fermentation has finished!)
is fine filtration: directly removing even the finest suspended solids from the wine by
running it through a very fine filter material. Since we have access to a chemistry lab,
we use fine glassfibre filter membranes under partial vacuum, which work extremely well,
and fast too. Even if you don't have access to such fancy equipment, you can buy filter
kits made for home wine-making which should work adequately, though much slower than proper vacuum
filtration. If you do happen to try vacuum filtration, never put wine under full vacuum,
otherwise the alcohol will boil, even at room temperature! We never use a vacuum of deeper than half an atmosphere (-500 mbar);
this is more than enough to get quick filtration and runs no risk of boiling. We find that doing
the final, finest, filtration under rather gentler suction (-120 mbar) gives
the optimum removal of the finest particles and will still filter a whole Demijohn of
wine in a minute or two.
By following our recipes and methods, you'll benefit from the scientific development that we've done
as well as the latest technical innovations in home wine-making and considerable
practical experience, as well as being secure in the knowledge that you are using
only natural ingredients. You should also end up with a lot of very pleasant wine, and we
hope too that you'll enjoy the making as much as we do!
Hints And Tips
|H1.|| Cleanliness is vital! Anything that is not going to be boiled before
going on to the fermentation stage must be sterile.
|H2.|| A good microbicidal soak can be made with 20 Campden tablets (or 10 grams
of sodium metabisulfite, which is the same thing in powder form), plus a pinch of citric
acid, in 2.5 litres of water (use a little boiling water to help it dissolve, then make
up to 2.5 litres with cold). Once cool, this solution can be used to sterilise most
equipment, even filter bags. Always rinse the solution off so that it can't get into your wine: boiling water
is ideal for things that can tolerate it (but not glass, unless it's Pyrex); use boiled-and-cooled water for things that
cannot tolerate boiling temperatures.
|H3.|| Boiling water can be used
to sterilise things that can tolerate
have a low thermal mass -- bungs, for example.
made of glass (danger of thermal shock cracking), or large metal objects (too much heat
for sterilising Demijohns and other glassware.
|H4.|| To ensure bubblers (fermentation locks) are sterile, first soak them
(complete with bungs) in the above Campden solution (see
Hint H2) for an hour,
being careful to ensure they are totally full of solution (no air bubbles trapped inside
-- a simple way to make sure is to immerse the bubbler in the solution, then squirt a
large syringe full of solution into the top of the bubbler, expelling any air). After
soaking, shake out all solution and rinse through well with boiled-and-cooled water.
Shake out all rinse water, then fill
(no more than half full) with
use boiling water on bubblers -- the heat damages
|H5.|| Don't fill bubblers more than half full: then if a suck-back should
occur, at least the water in the bubbler can't get into the brew. Likewise, if the
fermentation gets a bit 'excitable', the bubbler is unlikely to overflow.
|H6.|| Always replace bubblers with plain bungs as soon as all fermentation has
finished, in order to avoid risk of suck-back and contamination. The fermentation
process always produces a sediment, consisting mainly of yeast that has done its life's
work and died, plus a few insoluble by-products; if at this point the wine has already
dropped significant sediment, it is preferable to 'rack' it off into a clean, sterile
Demijohn so as to eliminate the sediment; in certain cases, leaving a sediment in
prolonged contact with the maturing wine can produce 'off' flavours. Some wines that
throw off a lot of sediment can benefit from being re-racked several times during the
clearing and maturation process -- if in doubt, get rid of the sediment! Racking simply
means transferring the wine to a fresh container (Demijohn),
leaving the sediment
behind -- best performed by syphoning through clean, sterile clear PVC tubing,
taking the utmost care not to disturb the sediment. A simple way to start a syphon is
to use a sterile syringe to suck wine into the tubing;
don't use your mouth as
it probably isn't very sterile!
|H7.|| Demijohns, bottles and other glassware can best be sterilised, once clean, by
heating in the oven to 150°C
for 30 minutes, then allowing them to cool slowly to
room temperature before being filled.
|H8.|| In winemaking, it is often necessary to measure large volumes of water or
'must'. To make this simple, it's worth 'calibrating' a suitable sized plastic bucket
by marking levels (e.g. 1, 2, 3... litres) on the outside with indelible pen. Some
buckets do have approximate capacity scales moulded into them, but these are often not
accurate, so calibrating a bucket yourself is worthwhile. The easiest way to calibrate
for volume is using water and accurate (preferably digital) kitchen scales: one litre of
water at room temperature weighs precisely one kilogram (but do be aware that this
weight-volume equivalence only works for
water -- so to measure how many litres
of 'must' you've got, you must use your calibration marks, not try to weigh the 'must'!).
You will also see that virtually all our recipes instruct you to adjust the volume of liquid
to 6.8L (for a two-Demijohn batch) before boiling it up -- allowing for the addition of the
sugar and the top-up for the second-stage fermentation, this ends up with a final
volume of 4.5L (six standard bottles of wine) in each Demijohn. Therefore it can be very
helpful to give your main boiling pan/cauldron a 6.8L calibration mark, so that you don't
have to measure the volume before transferring the liquid to the cauldron. With a
stainless-steel (or copper) cauldron this is very easily done. Again using accurate scales,
measure 6.8kg of cold water into the cauldron, set it on a level surface, then use an automatic
centre-punch to make a ring of little embossed dots around the inside of the cauldron where the water level
comes to (but don't try this trick on an enamelled pan, for fairly obvious reasons!). Then,
when you pour the strained liquid into the pan, all you need to do is add water until
the liquid level just reaches the ring of dots and you know you've got exactly 6.8L.
|H9.||When straining some types of fruit, especially soft berries,
you may find that your jelly bag(s) are left coated with slimy residue that blocks their pores and can be
hard to remove entirely. A good way to remove this is to turn the bag inside-out (so any big bits of residue
can easily be washed away) and soak it in hot water with a couple of
teaspoons of sodium carbonate (sold widely as "Washing Soda"); this both breaks down the "slime"
and also removes any staining on the bag from red/black fruit. Be sure to rinse the solution off
thoroughly with clean water, and wear rubber gloves since sodium carbonate is very irritating to skin.
|H10.|| "Dawnmist ZapItClean" is a two-stage chemical treatment designed to
remove stubborn residues, especially organic, in Demijohns, bubblers, bottles etc. It will also
dissolve most of the types of glue used to attach labels to commercial wine bottles and is
therefore valuable when re-using bottles. To clean an
item, first soak it for a time (typically overnight, but can be shorter or longer
according to dirtiness of item) in Solution A. This can be used hot for quicker results,
but do not exceed the temperature limits of the item being cleaned. Following this
soak, pour away Solution A (it can often be used more than once if items are not
excessively dirty), rinse item lightly with water, then rinse well with Solution B (no
need to soak, no need to be hot). Finally rinse very thoroughly with water, followed by
sterilisation in the normal way. This preparation is suitable for use on glass and most
types of rigid plastic (such as the PE, PP or PVC often used for plastic bubblers)
as well as PVC tubing and synthetic rubber bungs, but must
be used on Nylon
(polyamide), Polyesters (e.g. PET), Polycarbonate, nor on any type of metal. Use on
natural rubber (now
seldom used) is not recommended.
Very stubborn deposits can benefit from agitation at the end of the soak period, either
with a brush (but be sure it is not nylon!) or by partially emptying the item and
then shaking vigorously. The very toughest label adhesives may need a little rubbing with
wire-wool to remove the last traces. Anything that remains during or after the use of Solution B can
be scrubbed with almost any type of brush, including nylon -- even the most stubborn
deposits should brush off easily at this stage -- but do not use metal items (other
than stainless steel) with Solution B.
The full-strength solution is very potent, and for all but the dirtiest equipment it can
usually be diluted to half- or even quarter-strength. In the most extreme cases, such as
Demijohns that have been left in a forest for twenty years and are thickly encrusted
with unspecified organic gunk(!), two applications of ZapItClean can be used.
Solution A is harmful to human tissue; wear rubber gloves when handling,
and if any skin contact occurs, flush with copious water. If there is any risk of
splashing, we also advise eye protection (goggles). Solution B can be irritating
to skin, so again rubber gloves are recommended.
Dawnmist ZapItClean will be available for you to buy
soon -- watch this space for the link, or email us and we'll contact you
as soon as it's available!
|S1.|| How much does the volume of 'must' reduce during the process of
fermentation? (Provided you use a bubbler, so the only water lost is that which comes
off as vapour within the carbon dioxide that bubbles off)...
6.7 ml for every 1kg of sugar converted to alcohol (at a fermentation temperature of 20°C). This is so small that
for most purposes you can assume that fermentation doesn't change the volume.
|S2.|| To determine % alcohol (%ABV v/v) of a finished wine (Method I): this can be found from
the weight lost (by evolution of carbon dioxide) during fermentation, provided that
a bubbler is used so that evaporative loss is limited to the water vapour carried away
by the evolved carbon dioxide; this equation assumes fermentation takes place at a
constant 20°C, though a variation in temperature of ±5°C would result in an
error margin of no more than 0.33%, or ±0.05 %ABV on a 15% ABV wine.
%ABV = Dm / (7.62 Vf)
| || Where
(final) volume of brew in Litres,
| || ||
weight lost during fermentation in Grams;
|S3.|| To determine % alcohol (%ABV v/v) of a finished wine (Method II): this can be found from
the change in specific gravity (SG) during fermentation. To use this method, you need to use a hydrometer to measure
the SG of the must, prior to fermentaion, termed the Original Gravity or OG. You can then re-measure the SG at any point
during or after fermentation to obtain the current alcohol content. The %ABV is given very simply, by multiplying the difference
between the OG and current (or final) SG by 132.7. As with Method I above (Note S2), this method is an approximation but gives good
accuracy provided that a bubbler is used (thus avoiding loss by evaporation) and provided that the SG measurements are made close to
the temperature for which the hydrometer is calibrated, usually 20°C -- and, of course, provided the hydrometer is accurate!
|S4.|| To determine maximum theoretical alcohol yield of a recipe (ignoring
limits imposed by yeast) from initial sugar content; for accuracy,
sugar figure should include sugars from fruit etc as well as added
%Max = 68.1 Ms / Vi
| || Where
(initial) volume of 'must' in Litres,
| || ||
total available sugar, as sucrose, in kg;
|S5.|| How sweet or dry will my wine be? First, determine theoretical alcohol
above. Take the ratio of the yeast's
%alc limit to
%Max; this will be the fraction of the sugar actually
converted, the rest remaining to sweeten the wine. So, for example, a recipe with a
of 20% made with a yeast with a 15% limit will convert three-quarters
(15÷20) of the sugar, thus leaving a quarter unchanged -- a fairly sweet wine.
the sugar is converted, the wine will be very dry. It follows from this
that if a recipe, as written, produces a result that is too sweet for your tastes, you
can 'adjust' it to produce a drier wine by reducing the amount of sugar added to the
must; typically, reducing the sugar by 20-25% will make a sweet wine fairly to very
dry; a smaller reduction will of course give a medium wine.
|S6.|| Correct use of Pectin Lyase (see also
below): this can be
added to the fruit during the soaking/extraction phase to maximise the extraction of
flavour, sugars and general 'goodness' from the fruit, as well as to prevent "pectin haze"
in the finished wine -- but it must be used properly
and safely. It is a natural protein enzyme derived from a fungus of the genus
Aspergillus, and as such is destroyed by heat -- any temperature over about 40°C
may harm it, and it is destroyed by boiling. Therefore there is no point in adding it
to the fruit until it has cooled down below 35°C
since it will simply be destroyed.
Conversely, once it has done its job, the fruit extract
be boiled to destroy
the enzyme before the wine is fermented; we have seen several recipes online that fail
to include this step and therefore produce a wine that risks causing a
stomach upset in sensitive individuals.
Despite being natural, in its concentrated form it is also a potential skin
irritant and allergen and needs to be handled with due regard for this: if you get it on
your skin, wash it off at once. Pectin Lyase should always be dissolved in a small
amount of sterile (boiled-and-cooled) water before being added to the soaking fruit.
There is little point in using Pectin Lyase with non-fruit materials (e.g. leaves,
flowers) since their structure is not heavily pectin-based. The type of Pectin Lyase
used in wine-making needs acidic conditions to function efficiently; most fruits contain
enough natural acid for this, but in a few cases (e.g. rosehips), adding a small amount
of acid (usually citric) to lower the pH slightly is beneficial. You will see that our
recipes include specific directions for correct use of Pectin Lyase when it is
appropriate to that recipe. Finally, be aware that Pectin Lyase may attack certain
|S7.|| Beware of pseudo-science! In our researches, we have come across some
spectacular cases of totally bogus but 'scientific'-sounding statements in websites and
even books on wine-making; don't forget that the vast majority of home wine-makers
aren't scientists, so don't take their 'scientific' claims on trust without checking
them. One of the most egregious pieces of pseudo-science we've seen is in a
seemingly-authoritative book and has been repeated extensively elsewhere; it concerns
the 'malo-lactic ferment' or MLF. The book asserts that MLF is a process that causes
wine that has long ago finished fermenting to spring back into 'life' when the bush or
tree from which the fruit came comes into flower! This is, of course, totally wrong and
also biologically impossible: any apparent bubbling of fermentation locks on
long-finished wine in springtime is due to nothing more mysterious than simple thermal
expansion as the ambient temperature rises. In reality, malo-lactic fermentation cannot
be performed by yeast
at all -- it requires the addition of a bacterial culture
Oenococcus species) to the wine after the yeast-based (ethanol)
fermentation is complete, and is generally only induced in certain grape wines that
would otherwise taste too 'sharp' due to excessive malic acid, though in some non-boiled
recipes it is just about possible that 'wild' malo-lactic bacteria could be
inadvertently introduced into home-made wines (along, of course, with a sizeable risk of
introducing harmful bacteria, which is why we always use boiled recipes). It is
otherwise of no relevance to the home maker of Country Wines -- and the whole idea of a
'mystical' connection between the tree flowering and the wine from its fruit is just
General Notes About The Recipes
|G1.|| All our recipes make an appropriate amount for
|G2.|| "Yeast Compound" means a ready-to-use preparation of wine yeast with
trace nutrients/vitamins, e.g. Young's "Super Wine Yeast Compound".
|G3.|| "Yeast Nutrient" means a commercially-available preparation of
ammonium phosphate and ammonium sulfate, e.g. Young's "Yeast Nutrient".
|G4.|| "Pectin Lyase" (or
Pectolase, the commercial rather than scientific name) means an acid-stable pectin lyase
sold commercially for wine-making; do
attempt to use the types sold for textile
processing or for making fruit drinks from fruit pulp! Also please be aware that we have found
cheap "Brand X" pectin lyases being sold (often on Ebay or other websites), which although sold
for wine-making are in reality the much cheaper fruit-drink-making type (probably bought in bulk from China
and repackaged for retail sale) and cause a good deal of trouble if you
try to use them for wine. In view of this, we would strongly advise you to stick to well-known brands
so you can be sure you're getting the right type; we've used both Youngs and Ritchies, and both
work well. See also Note S6 above.
|G5.||All our recipes are now set up to use "two step fermentation". In this method, some of the sugar is reserved and added to
the brew part-way though fermentation, when the first rush of fermentation has died down but not stopped (typically after a week or so of fermentation).
This ensures good conversion of sugar to alcohol, makes fermentation faster, and minimises the risk of a "stuck" fermentation.
You don't absolutely have to do it this way, though we strongly recommend it -- especially for sweet wines, which are more at risk of getting "stuck";
but if you want to do a single-step fermentation, simply add all the sugar, and the extra 0.5L of water,
immediately after the boiling step.
|G6.||All our recipes now specify a range of weights of sugar rather than a single value, so that you can choose how sweet
to make your wine. To make a drier version, choose the lower weight; for a sweet version, choose the upper weight -- or choose an intermediate value to make a medium-sweetness