Wild Grape Wine
Recipe by Jim Garnier
Thanks to Laurel Hart for writing this recipe down.
We have been making wild grape wine for over 30 years. I guess it’s the challenge of making a wine from a fruit that’s growing for free out there on the highways and byways of the county. It’s your own personal vineyard – no need to neither prune, spray nor own the land or the fencerows the vines grow on. However, it requires more detail than a batch from your local brew club. They say there are five different species of wild grapes – you want the ones that are least labrusca or foxy in taste. Pick them as late in the season as practical when they are falling in clusters to the ground. They should be sweet and mild in taste. You may have to pass by many heavy clustered vines that look so good but in taste they have that strong labrusca flavour that will carry over into a wine that is generally objectionable.
Here is the recipe in general for one gallon (imperial) but who makes one gallon? We work around 12 gallons, to in time fill a 10 gallon oak barrel. You will need about 1˝ bushel – 36 lbs grapes for 12 gallons.
3 lbs grapes
1 lb sultana raisins
1 lb bananas (approx. 2)
1 ˝ lbs sugar (approx)
˝ tsp pectic enzymes
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
A good yeast
1 gal water (imperial)
As I said earlier, after 30 years we have this venture down to a science and the finished product receives rave reviews and at a price of 35 cents per bottle for ingredients.
Prepare the raisin/banana portion of the wine. We have found mincing the raisins and bananas is better than chopping them too fine in a food processor. They will be easier to press in time. We have found that to reconstitute sultanas requires 2/5 of a gallon (64 oz) of water per pound to arrive at a 1.094 SG must. Place raisins to soak for a couple hours before mincing them. Half required water will do. Pour off water into fermentation vessel before mincing; add back to water when minced. Stir well and extract a sample of juice to make a yeast starter. Now, mince bananas and add to raisin must and add crushed C. tablets (2/gal). You can use some of the balance of water needed for the raisin/banana must for cleaning up the mincer and any other sticky equipment from mincing operations. Place must in a cool place till next day.
Stir in balance of water in which pectic enzymes and yeast nutrient have been dissolved. (Remember we needed 64 oz water for each pound of raisins?) Now…pour in yeast starter, which of course is active by now. I just pour starters in the middle of a must and don’t stir. I find the yeast spreads more readily from a central position. Cover and allow fermenting at room temperature or cooler. A thermometer floating in the must is good. A temp of 65-70F is ideal. Let this portion of wine ferment for 4 – 5 days…. rotating the cap that forms on the surface every 6 hours or so.
Days Three and Four
Start on wild grape portion of wine. Crush grapes (stems and all). Run through wine press capturing every drop of inky juice. Waste not..…want not! There are measured amounts of water used here to clean the grape crusher of its black coating. Remember 3/5 of a gal of water for each 3 lbs of grapes. Ration your use of water. Store juice with
2 C. tablets (dissolved) per gal. in a cool place. Return pressed grapes to original container and add measured quantities of water. With your hands wash the grapes of their precious cargo of more colour, juice and flavor. Return the grapes to the press and once more extract what you can. One seems to get back only the volume that you added but of course the colour and taste indicates that you are garnering more juice. Return the pressings once more to the container and add more of your allotted water. Make a special note of this quantity of water, because you will have to add sugar for it later. Remember not to exceed 3/5 of a gal per 3 lbs of grapes. It’s best to stay light on the water where you can so you will have some along the way for cleaning up and dissolving sugar. Add dissolved C tablets to second pressing juice and store as well the last container of grapes soaking till the next day plus C tablets.
Mix the sultana/banana portion of the wine with the soaking grape skins and stems. Press once more. Note you may wonder at timing the pressing of the sultana/banana must to the last pressing of the grape skins and stems. We have found it is easier to squeeze. I believe the stems form little streams to carry the liquid to the outside of the hard clug that forms in the bottom of the press.
I save my burlap bag in the refrigerator between pressings. While pressing you can make the grape juice portion of the wine. Add the previous days pressing of juice and juicy water to a suitable primary fermenter. Add sugar needed to raise SG to 1.095 and necessary sugar for the last quantity of water used to soak grape skins.
Note: P.S. I use brown sugar when it’s on sale over white.
At this time you can add the last of the required water and sugar. Now add the pressed off wine from the sultana/banana/grape skin/stem portion. Cover and let ferment for 3 or 4 days when water sealing can take place. Rack as required over time. Cold stabilizing is essential and malolactic fermentation an added plus. Aging for a year or two does wonders – one in a barrel.
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