I have been brewing my own wine for several years now. For the most part I make mead (honey wine), but I am just starting to try other types of wine. Really, wines are really simple:
Under anaerobic conditions, yeast converts sugar into alcohol. I’ll make that simpler, if there is no oxygen, yeast eats sugar, and pees out alcohol. This makes the whole process simple, sugar + yeast = booze. That is brewing wine in a nutshell, all wine brewing stems from this principle. Some of it is tasty, some of it is not, and some of it is lethal; but it all undergoes the same process:
1. Create a mash.
The mash is the basic material that the wine will be made out of. When you watch movies and you see the beautiful Italian virgins stomping on grapes, they are making the mash. The mash consists of three things: sugar, water, other stuff. The sugar and water are what the yeast will feed on, the other stuff will make the flavour.
2. Add yeast
This is the stuff that makes the magic. It floats in the water, eats the sugar, and makes the alcohol. Without this, nothing interesting happens.
3. Prevent Oxygen from entering
As the yeast does its thing, it creates one very key thing: Carbon Dioxide. This is important because if there is Oxygen present, yeast doesn’t produce alcohol. It only does that when it is under the duress of hypoxia. Since Carbon Dioxide is not Oxygen, and is heavier than oxygen, it will slowly push the oxygen to the top, away from the yeast. This is good, because once the Oxygen is gone, the yeast starts peeing alcohol… that’s what we want. So we have to put something in place that will allow the Oxygen to leave.
The first two steps are highly critical. The mash obviously affects the flavour since there are plenty of things in the mash that the yeast doesn’t use; these are things we taste. There are thousands of varieties of yeast out there, each imparts a slightly different flavour to the wine.
Be warned, there is plenty of chemistry in all of this. It is absolutely necessary to have the right amount of sugar for the yeast to feed on, the right acidity for the yeast to thrive, and the right temperature to ensure they don’t metabolise too quickly.
- Make mash
- Place in Primary
- Add yeast
- Wait 4-5 days
- Add sugar
- Put in secondary and cut of oxygen
- Wait one month
- Repeat step 6-8 as necessary (this is called Racking)
- Put in bottles
Don’t let anyone tell you there is any more than this. There are a thousand details along the way, but these principles hold true no matter what type of wine you are making. Once you master these steps, making any wine should be a simple step. Every new mash you work with will have its own problems and foibles, but making the wine will follow this pattern.