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Wine-making for Beginners.
P. F. ADAMS.
This paper originated from a request that I would inform a friend what was wrong with some wine he had been making out of the surplus grapes from his garden. He complained that it “would go sour,” and inquired if he “ought to have used sugar.” To do justice to the subject, I found I was in for a small treatise, and after a trial gave it up. However, it since occurred to me that many others might desire information which would enable them to turn their surplus fruit to account, and produce a wholesome change from the everlasting bush tea.
In now writing for publication, I wish it to be clearly understood that these pages are not for the expert or practical wine-maker, but for those who may be ignorant of even the first principles of wine-making, who by following out my directions may learn practically the process of fermentation, racking, &c., and be afterwards in a position to read and profit by books of a more advanced class. Men have repeatedly complained that they cannot learn wine-making from published accounts, and ask for a description so simple that any one could follow it. Now this is impossible, because so much depends on seasons, and seasons cannot be predicted ; the difficulty lies in the ever varying amount of sugar and fermentive matter present in the grape juice or “must," and these quantities vary with climate and season to such an extent that wine made by a hard and fast rule would probably not be successful in one year out of five.
To overcome this difficulty, it is proposed, artificially, to raise or lower the natural sugar to a standard strength by adding sugar, or if the must is already too rich in sugar, reduce it with water. Of course only a secondrate wine can be expected. The object being instruction, quality is a secondary consideration, the result of the first season's operations may be more or less failures, but ultimately a really good wine will be produced.
In the first instance, the beginner should provide himself with one of Keene's Saccharometers, and the tin or glass vessel supplied therewith. These can be had at Lasketter & Co., Sydney, or other firms, for five or six shillings. The use of the instrument is to determine by weight the amount of sugar contained in the grape-juice or “must," as it is called. Inside the stem of the instrument is a scale, on which is read off the amount of sugar; on the other side is a scale marked "specific gravity"; but this latter is, however, beyond the scope of this paper.
In testing the must, squeeze and strain the proceeds of a bunch or two of grapes of average ripeness into the vessel provided, and drop the instrument in till it floats in the liquid ; then note carefully the degree or division of the scale at the surface. The figure will indicate the extent of sugar present; trials should begin as soon as the grapes are sweet to the taste.
The testing should be continued as ripening progresses, till 21 degrees of sugar is indicated, but it is undesirable that the strength should exceed 23 degrees for the purposes of this paper. On the other hand should wet or cold interfere with ripening, and decay be likely to set in before the proper standard is reached, sugar should be dissolved in juice and stirred carefully into the bulk of the must till the whole is up to the desired strength.
If the average strength of all the different sorts of grapes in the garden does not exceed 17 degrees of natural sugar, it is not worth while to waste sugar thereon. It is further advisable to try the strength of each bort separately, and possibly it might be advisable to discard some of the inferior sorts. Black Hamburg, for instance, should only be used with grapes of much greater saccharine strength, although this grape is sweet to the taste, it does not contain much sugar.
For crushing grapes a tub, which may be made out of a beer barrel, should be provided and fitted with a false bottom resting on blocks of wood, about 3 inches above the true bottom of the tub. Tbis false bottom should be pierced with holes of about three-eights of an inch, and a hole bored in the side of the tub, below the false bottom, for a plug or tap.
The grapes should be crushed with a wooden rammer, covered at the end with several thicknesses of leather. It is important that the leather should be kept soft, in order to prevent the crushing of the seeds or stalks ; and this is sometimes accomplished by the insertion of a few thicknesses of felt or blanket, under the leather, so as to, as far as possible, assimilate the process to the ancient practice of "treading out the wine."
A press will be necessary; and one can be readily improvised on the principle of the old bush wool-press (see plate I), and might be set up under a tree. The bottom "base-board” is made of 3-inch plank, and is about 3 or 4 feet square; round the margin of the base-board, and bolted to it with screws
and nuts, is a rim 4 inches wide, and about 3 inches deep, the baseboard and the rim forming a strong tray. At one side a plug-hole should be made at the level of the bottom, through which the must is drawn off. The skins and stalks " mark" are retained by side-boards of 4-inch plank, which should be 12 inches
wide, pierced with 1-inch -0 ... ...
holes; to these side
boards strong battens Fig. 1.
should be nailed, to
strengthen them, and also to allow the must to flow to the plug-hole. When the boards are in position, the lower ends of the battens rest against the rim, and when filled with “mark," the pressure causes the boards to bulge outward. This force should be counteracted by a frame of wood or iron. (Fig. 1.)
When the side-boards are on, and filled up to the top with crushed grapes, or “mark,” lay boards, 6 inches by 1 inch, and pierced with 1-inch holes on the top; and across these lay two narrower and thicker
Jo 0 0 0
battens, and across these latter a block of wood (Fig. 2), about 6 inches by 4 inches, on which the lever beam will rest. More blocks, 4 inches by 4 inches, should be kept in readiness to fill up the space under the lever as the mark yields to the pressure. If a screw-jack is available, it would prove better than the lever; but it involves heavy framing to resist the impact of the screw (see fig. 3).
The next consideration is casks and the vat, the latter being a
Fig. 2. hogshead with the head out, and having a plug-hole below; another hogshead for fermenting white wine, a quarter-cask of 28 gallons, a 20-gallon, an octave (13 gallon), a 10-gallon keg, and three 2-gallon jars. With this plant an experiment might be made with some 30 or 40 gallons of must.
Beyond this, it is merely a question of more casks to make 200 or 300 gallons of wine. The casks and kegs in which wine is to be kept should be made out of brandy, sberry, or port wine casks; the wood of rum casks should be carefully avoided. Whisky casks, if not too strongly impregnated