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Wine Making from Home

"Amateur" is a Latin word which means "lover". An amateur originally meant a person who did something because he loves doing it. Amateurs used to be viewed as experts because they didn't do something for money; instead, they perfected their craft with love as the motivator.

In wine making, the professionals are still as passionate as skillful. However, amateur wine makers, thanks to modern technology, are able to create wines that are as good, if not better, as the ones made the pros. And they are able to do it right in their homes, usually in their basements.

Until the dawn of the 20th century, fermentation biochemistry was something that only a few understood. That said, man has been using the fermentation process for more than 5,000 years. Left on its own, wine grape ripens until the skin ruptures, causing the juice to naturally ferment. This was how our ancestors fermented wine.

Art and science guide the fermentation process today. Grapes are placed in a press and allowed to turn into must. Must is a mixture of pulp, skin, and grape juice. Natural yeast and added yeast interact with the natural sugars in the grape juice. This interaction produces a type of alcohol called ethanol, as well as heat and carbon dioxide. The process goes on until all the sugars have reacted and the yeast is killed.

We have Louis Pasteur to thank for developing the fermentation process so that it can be tightly controlled to create the desired result. If you're making wine from home, you can buy juice concentrates to get yourself started in wine making.

In a carboy or jug, add sugar, yeast, acids, and nutrients to the juice concentrate. Let the mixture sit for 3 to 10 days at 75F. Then separate the liquid from the pulp by straining it. Let the mixture ferment at 65F for several weeks until there is no more bubbling. There will be sediments (lees) so siphon these off before pouring the mixture in bottles and corking them. Store the wine on their sides at 55F. White wine needs to be stored for 6 months and red wines for 12 months prior tot tasting.

Throughout the process, you'll need to keep a close eye on the fermentation process taking place. There are refractometers you can buy to help you measure sugar concentrations, as well as thermometers, hydrometers, and cabinets that are temperature controlled. And if you need more information and even recipes for your wine making project, you can turn to the Internet. You'll find plenty of websites for amateur winemakers!