Today’s letter is “Q”, so we’ll talk about Quality!
Quality: there is not many wine word starting with Q, but quality is what all wines should have, and what all winemakers and drinkers aim at. Just because you’re making your own wine at home doesn’t mean you can ignore making quality wine.
You can start with the freshest quality ingredients – whether it’s the fruit (cherries, grapes, blackberries, etc.) or if you go the route of skipping the crush and ordering already pressed juices from a supplier – always always get top quality so your wine turns into quality wine.
Make sure whatever fruit you’re using is ripe – a quick test is by squishing a double handful, then measuring the sugar level with a hydrometer. Or eat a couple and see how they taste.
The grapes or fruit must also be clean, sound and relatively free of insects and other vineyard debris. Discard any grapes or fruit that look rotten or otherwise suspicious. Also, it’s very important that all the stems are removed, since they will make your wine bitter.
Also make sure to sanitize everything you’ll be using – we’ll cover that more when we get to ‘S’, but winemaking demands a sanitary environment. It’s very important you keep your winemaking area and equipment sanitary so your wine doesn’t incur unwanted microorganisms and throw ‘quality’ out the window.
Pay attention to the temperature of your must – you’ll want a perfect environment for the yeast cells, so make sure you read the yeast packet and don’t pitch the yeast unless the juice is at the right temperature. You can also activate the yeast by taking some of the juice and warm it gently (don’t cook or boil it) to bring it to the right temperature, add the yeast, then once it’s nice and foamy, add it to your primary fermenter and gently stir it into the rest of the juice.
Winemaking can be tedious for some, as it requires the winemaker to constantly check and monitor the wine to ensure that things have not gone awry. If you’re bulk-aging, or after you’ve bottled your wine, be sure to keep it stored in a cool location, as it will help minimize bacterial growth or yeast spoilage, while preserving the wine.
There really isn’t much to maintaining quality throughout the winemaking process as long as you pay attention to what you’re doing. Common sense really does help!
Winemaking is so much fun – at least for me – and am tickled every time I give the wine I make 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!
Here are the links going backwards for your convenience, in case you missed any:
A for Aromas, Acidity and Appearance
B for Barrels, Bottles and Blackberry Wine
C for Color, Clarity, Carboys and Cherry Wine
D for Decanting and Decanters
E for Equipment
F for Fermentation
G for Glass and Grape
H for Harvest
I for Infusion
J for Jeroboam and Jug
K for Kabinett
L for Leaf, Label and Lees
M for Merlot, Muscat and Must
N – the Nose has it!
O for Oak and Oxidation
P for Palate and Press