Back on July 28, I kicked off a test of three different types of yeast. I inoculated some Welch’s grape juice with K1 V1116, EC1118, and D-47. The K1 and EC got off to a quick, foamy start, but were mostly done after a week, and completely done after two. The D-47 was slower to get started and is still going. I didn’t want the the first two hanging out there without active CO2 production going on for too long, so with Tressa’s help, I measured and extracted them.
I moved them up to the kitchen counter and used my deconstructed auto-siphon to old-school-siphon them out into a wine thief, where I measured the specific gravity. Both were exactly at 1.000. So, fermentation was pretty complete. The Welch’s started out at about 1.098, so I was looking at about 13% alcohol there.
It had developed a thin, but notable layer of yeast down at the bottom of the carboy. The bubbles from the degassing CO2 at the top were starting to dissipate as well. I figured that it would be good to get it off the yeast residue and that the racking would speed up the degassing process. I grabbed a sip as I racked and was pleasantly surprised. It was certainly still bubbly but pleasantly acidic and not overly sweet.
The racking process left me with a bit of headspace again, but I fortunately had a bottle of Frey white hanging out in the basement. I used about half that bottle to get the level back up. (Does that count as an additive?)
Regardless of the season, San Francisco is almost always between 50–70 degrees. So, the past few days have been a surprise. It’s been in the 80s (reaching 90s at some points) during the day and it’s even been warm at night.
When I went to check on my no-additive kit attempt last night, I was met with another heat related surprise. I had left a very small amount of headspace in the carboy with the intent of reducing oxygen exposure. There was maybe an inch to an inch-and-a-half of space there. But, last night, that space was gone and the wine was creeping up the airlock tube. Judging by the color of the water in the airlock, it had also overflowed at some point.
I started off my winemaking with cheap kits I bought off of Amazon. I then moved on to frozen must from Brehm’s and fresh pressed juice from the 2018 harvest. Between those points, I had the idea to give a higher quality kit a try. So, after a good amount of research, I chose the Washington Riesling kit by Wine Expert. I was looking for a white variety since of my first two attempts, the white was drinkable right off the bat and I wanted a kit that might kick out a product that would be pretty decent. Online reviews I read pointed me in this direction.
And yet, just as soon as the kit arrived in the mail, my interest had moved toward planning for the frozen must. At the same time, I was starting to bust out of the closet I was making wine in before moving to the basement. This all meant that the kit sat under my desk for a year, untouched.
My first two forays into winemaking were with the cheapest kits I could buy on Amazon (even cheaper than this): first a white (“Chardonnay”), next a red (“Merlot”). (Quotation marks added because, at least with the Merlot, the packaging clearly called out that it may not actually be Merlot, but grapes like it instead.)
With the wine, the idea was to follow the kit instructions as closely as possible and not screw up. I mean, I should have known better. If there were a lesson I learned from all my other alcohol making projects it was that it’s kind of hard to screw up. Hell, I made Welch’s grape juice wine 12 years ago on instinct alone. Wasn’t great, but it was wine.