Welcome to the World of Winemaking! For those of you regulars, you already know that I’ve been making my own wine for a while now. For those who are new to me and my blog, if you’re interested in finding out why I started making my own wine, you can read all about it here. And you might be interested in my very first batch that ended up as Wine Vinegar…heh!
Since I’ve decided to join in the fun of the A to Z Blogging challenge (wish me luck!) I decided the best theme (for me) is winemaking, since it’s a passion, and I love to do it! Plus, I get many emails asking questions about winemaking, and many have expressed they’re sad I haven’t been doing a regular series on winemaking, so this will be a two-birds-one-stone kind of deal.
So to kick off the Alphabetical “A” in this challenge, we’re going to talk about Aromas, Acidity and Appearance. Sounds perfect, right?
Aromas are the odors you smell with your nose in a wine before you put it in your mouth which is when aromas become flavors (a combination of taste and aromas).
Did you know that as much as 80 percent of what we perceive as “taste” is actually smell? Novice wine tasters often find it difficult to translate into words the things they smell in a wine. Fortunately, it is very easy to train our noses and brains to connect and quickly link terms with aromas.
When I’m making fruity wines, I pay attention to the aroma – if it has an ‘off-smell’, it’s going to have an ‘off-taste’, and that’s something we do not want! When you’re washing whatever fruit you’ll be turning into wine, you’re going to pick out the ‘bad’ ones, whether they’re overripe or under-ripe or just funky looking, and only use the best of the best.
When you crush grapes with seeds in them, you have to be very careful not to crush the seeds – I’ve even gone so far as to take the tedious time to remove the seeds from the grapes before crushing, just to make sure I didn’t crush any seeds, since seeds add bitterness – and no one likes bitter wine!
So while you’re picking the fresh fruit, and washing them before crushing and fermentation, breath deep! Smell the fruit and enjoy the aroma! You’ll be glad you did.
Pay attention to the aroma when you’re racking your wine, too – keep vigilant so you can correct any missteps during the process instead of ending up with a batch of undrinkable wine.
Next, Acidity is a fundamental in wine. All wines are acidic, more acidic than many other food or beverages, but less than vinegar, lemon or Coke. Acidity is generally measured as pH. In wine it comes mainly from tartatric, malic and lactic acids.
I know, I know, it seems like all Greek to you, doesn’t it? Believe it or not, acids give wines their characteristic crisp, slightly tart taste. Alcohol, sugars, minerals, and other components moderate the sourness of acids and give wines balance. Some acids are naturally present in the base ingredients of wines, while others are byproducts of fermentation.
Generally speaking, some acid is desired – but not actually required – by the yeast. While it is true that acid is not required for yeast to reproduce and convert sugar into alcohol and CO2, it does seem to be desired. That said, it should be noted that acids play other, perhaps more important, roles in winemaking.
Certainly they contribute to taste – not only the tartness possessed by most wines to varying degrees but also to complex flavors developed during aging. But their greatest role comes from their ability to stop, or at least retard, the growth of many potentially harmful microorganisms that would spoil the wine itself. That last thing we want in winemaking is spoiled wine! All that work for nothing!
Many non-grape wines are made with raisins or grape juice as a minor ingredient to add vinous qualities to the wine, more specifically body and mouth-feel. I usually add raisins or a specific type of grape when I’m doing a fruit wine, like my recent Blackberry Cabernet Sauvignon. I used blackberries (of course!) as well as Cabernet Sauvignon grapes to give it the acidity and body I was going for.
Each time I racked, I inhaled the delicious aroma of blackberries (they’re my favorite fruit) and did a taste test to make sure it was turning into something drinkable. I also used some pH strips to see if I needed to add any acidity (in case I didn’t use enough grapes for that).
I always have a jar of this on hand during my winemaking mode:
This happens to be a blend of the three most common acids around in fruit: citric, malic and tartaric. I add this when I don’t happen to have the grapes or raisins I need for a fruit wine, or if I find that the acid test is low – if wine doesn’t have enough acidity, it will be a flat tasting wine.
Acid Blend adds liveliness to the wine and helps to bring out its fruity flavors. Having a proper level of acidity will also help establish a vigorous fermentation. The hubby gets a kick out of hearing the airlocks bubbling during fermentation .
I keep an eye on how fast or slow it’s bubbling, because when it slows down, the fermentation is slowing down. But I’m getting ahead of myself, we’ll talk about fermentation on a later post. You know, like when we get to “F”…heh!
Before you add any acid to a wine, you should first check its acid level with pH strips or an acid test kit. I have used both – usually going with the pH strips, but often I rely on my palate when blending and tasting when racking and bottling to make sure it has the right ‘mouth-feel’ and body. Tough job, the wine tasting one, but someone’s gotta do it, right?
And finally, Appearance is what the wine looks like: its color, its hues, whether it’s clear or hazy. This is absolutely important, because no one wants to drink cloudy or funky looking wine, right?
Of course there are obvious differences between white and red – but since this post is already getting really wordy, and I have a lot to say about how to achieve the ‘perfect color’ when making wine, I’ll come back to ‘Appearance’, but more specifically ‘Color’ when we reach “C” in the A-Z Challenge. I promise!
Oh wait! Another pertinent “A” is making wine from Apples – I posted about doing just that back in 2009, you can read it here. Not only do I outline the steps of making Apple Wine, but include my recipe for making it – which can be modified for any fruit you’d like to turn into wine. More on the fruity process later.
Winemaking is so much fun – at least for me – and am tickled every time I give the wine as gifts to friends and family who love drinking it as much as I love making it. While we go through this alphabetical series on winemaking, if you have any burning questions, be sure to ask them in the comments below, and I’ll reply there – and maybe even highlight your specific question(s) in a future post!
Thanks for joining me in this fun adventure!