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Techniques of Making Grape Wine Class

By: Brewmaster Timotheus Zacharia von Schloss Zwilling / Tim Coyle

History of Grape Wines

Throughout history wine has made an appearance. Other than finding evidence of wine in cultures dating back to 11,000 BC there has not been much knowledge of the type of wine. Mostly due to the nature of the beast: who lets it sit about – you drink it. In most cases the DNA evidence only lets us know that the wine was a red or a white, not much more detail is available.

Enough evidence survived between 1000 BC to 700 BC that we can determine that there were about 5 red and 5 white wines in the world, but there didn’t seem to be much standardization in the blends.

Around 700 BC record keeping and the desire to create more wines give us a picture of the wines that came into existence.

History of Grape Wines

While we often tend to drink the same few wines over and over, there are MANY more types and varieties of wine to choose from. Below is a short listing of what’s available -- the numbers were compiled 15 years ago, and have probably expanded quite a bit since then. Go out and explore the wines available. Taste, evaluate, enjoy … and brew your own!
15 Well Known Reds
  • Barbera
  • Cabernet Franc
  • Cabernet Sauvignon
  • Carignan
  • Cinsaut
  • Gamay (Rosé)
  • Grenache /Garnacha
  • Malbec
  • Merlot
  • Mourvèdre/Mataro
  • Nebbiolo
  • Pinot Noir
  • Sangiovese
  • Syrah /Shiraz
  • Tempranillo
  • Zinfandel
Other Major Reds: Between 45 to 55 types.

Other Minor Reds: Temporary wines, blends, or varieties modified from the above wines. Between 100 to 250 types at any point in time.

15 Well Known Whites
  • Chardonney
  • Chasselas
  • Chenin Blanc
  • Gewurztraminer
  • Gruner Veltliner
  • Marsanne/Roussanne
  • Muller-Thurgau
  • Muscat Blanc a Petits Grains
  • Pinot Gris /Grigio
  • Reisling
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Scheurebe
  • Semillon
  • Sylvaner
  • Viognior
  • White Burgundy
Other Major Whites: Between 50 to 60 types.

Other Minor Whites: Temporary wines, blends, or varieties modified from the above wines. Between 125 to 200 types at any point in time.

Period Wines – How Did They Differ From Today’s Wines?

There were a number of differences; enough so that the average drinker today would not enjoy a period wine, which is why it is important to tell anyone judging your wine if it is period or not.

Grapes on the Vine

If you are brewing from homegrown grapes, you need to think about when you plan to harvest them. If you pick grapes early in the harvest season you will get drier wines because the grapes will have developed less sugars then they will later in the season. So pick as late as possible to get your best sugars.

However, if you don’t pick until after the first frost, you’ll get ice wine grapes. When a ripe grape has frozen on the vine, the water freezes leaving a concentration of the sugars and solids in the grape. This produces a sweet, crisp dessert wine. But the grapes must be harvested and processed while they are still frozen, making this a risky venture.

Fermentation Methods

There are two basic ways to get fermentation started. What you do depends on what you are trying to do and the way you want your drink to progress. And this is the time to decide which of the fermentation methods you will use.

Fermentation Method #1: Discard the grape solids and use packaged yeast to start the grape juice fermentation

Fermentation Method #2: Use the yeast that naturally occurs on the grape to start your initial fermentation

Crushing the Grapes

So you throw your 200 pounds of grapes in a vat and jump in with bare feet to crush them! Maybe not.

If you have a fruit juicer or crusher than crushing is simple.


Starting Fermentation

First, taste the juice and measure with a hydrometer to determine the possible sugars.

Then get your fermentation started:

Fermentation Method #1 (Start with packaged yeast)

Fermentation Method #2 (Start with naturally occurring yeast)

Checking Sugars, Tannins and Flavors

When you tasted the juice you will be planning how you will treat it …

Additives and Sugars

After tasting the juice, you’ll need to decide how you’ll be treating the juice: Additive Info


Bottling and Aging

Once fermentation stops, let the wine clear and then rack it.

Decide how long you are going to age the wine (see guidelines below).

After racking, let it sit in the fermentation vat for half of the time you plan to age it. Then bottle it, and let it age it the rest of the time in the bottle.

Aging and the Dinner Table

So you grab a bottle out of your wine cellar or you ordered a wine at the restaurant – How good is it?

Most wines at a restaurant have been bought at a young age, allowing a few extra years of shelf life. So chances are that you may have received a bottle that is not yet at its peak, or is just past its prime.

A bottle of wine from your own cellar may have been forgotten and is just now seeing the light of day.

So how do I know how good this wine really is?

So it’s not perfect, what can I do?

There are items on your dinner table that can help revive a wine that has just started down the slope. In order to utilize them think about the wine’s proper flavor profiles.

When to Toss

I almost never toss a wine. It can often be revived as above, or enjoyed in its lesser state. But sometimes it is just foul … and the only thing left to do is pour it down the sink and wish you’d gotten to it sooner!

That Ends Our Exploration into Making Grape Wine

There are many resources available to help you on this wonderful journey.

An excellent resource is the Right Noble Brewers Guild of Caid Facebook Group, there you find brewers willing to help and sharing their own brewing activities.

I also recommend Home Beer Wine Cheesemaking Shop in Woodland Hills, CA.

And feel free to contact me with any questions, I love to talk brewing!

Have fun and enjoy your grape wine!

(Copyright 2018 by Tim Coyle)

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