homebrew wine kit: week 1

I finally got down to business with the small batch of Chardonnay from the Master Vintner kit! Here are the steps required to kick off the first part of fermentation.

Not pictured: sterilizing the sink and counter, then doing an oxygen wash of all equipment.

To start, I filled the secondary fermentation vessel with a gallon of water and poured it into the wonderfully-named “Big Mouth Bubbler”.

Marking the one-gallon line. You’d think they could just have a notch there, but I guess this works too.

Next up, I filled the bubbler with the juice concentrate. It had an incredibly sweet smell and deep color.

Then I re-filled the juice pouch with filtered water and topped it up to the one-gallon line. The temperature of the juice is crucial, and I ended up tossing the bubbler into the fridge for a few minutes until it reached the ideal 72-77 range. Too cool, and the yeast will be sleepy. Too warm, and the yeast will be overly vigorous or worse still, dead.

Used the wine thief to fill the test jar and then lowered the hydrometer into the juice to get a reading of specific gravity. It actually was a tad too sweet, so I added a little more water and stirred like mad until the reading was appropriate for table wine.

This strain of saccharomyces cerevisiae is from Champagne, and is one of the most widely used yeasts in the world, because it’s easy to work with and fairly predictable.

In it goes! It was magical to watch the yeast spread out over the surface and then slowly begin to fall.

Finally, the lid and bung go in the top of the fermentation vessel. The airlock (filled halfway with water) allows gas to escape but keeps oxygen out.

So now the vessel sits on the kitchen counter, away from light and heat, loosely covered by a paper bag. I keep peeking at it, and the yeast seem like they’re having a good time munching on the sugar and creating a layer of foam on the top of the juice. This stage takes a week. Here’s hoping it goes as planned.

I had the pleasure of interviewing at Dodon last week, where the owner assured me that “The great thing is […] nothing that can kill a person can grow in wine.”

So even if this Chardonnay turns into Chard-o-hell no, at least it won’t be lethal. 🙂

Wine of the week, coming up next! Warm weather = time for the pink stuff.


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