Becca here with a blog I have been meaning to write for ages!
A few years ago we were bought grapevines as a gift. The house gardener (not me!) took on the challenge to grow wine grapes in Prestwich. Not possible you may think? Well here goes..........
For the first few years the vines thrived, eventually fruiting about 5 years in. Just a few to start with and then more yielding some lovely grape juice (both red and white - the white is a Chenin grape but we can't remember what the red is) Then in 2020 with more time on our hands we decided to give wine making a go. With no idea I turned to the internet, did loads of research and purchased some basic kit. We reckoned there were about 10kg of white grapes which would make a lot of wine (about 25-30 bottles) but didn't fancy drinking multiple bottles if it didn't taste great so started with a gallon demijohn (about 4.5 litres or 6 bottles)
I started out with 2kg of grapes and for the first batch used a wine making kit (with all the required chemicals weighed out) There's lots of steps to follow and I won't go into masses of detail here (notes at the bottom for anyone who is really interested!!) but suffice to say it involves buckets, demijohns, massive spoons, funnels, thermometers and measuring jugs plus loads of sugar, loads of empty wine bottles, patience and a nice warm airing cupboard.
So the verdict......after an initial scepticism we made 4 batches of white wine from the 2020 vintage. All good but each slightly different. No idea why but guessing fresh/frozen grapes, temperature at the time of making (we made each batch at different stages through the year), length of time left between steps/stages etc. Not an exact science. For 2021 we will get 6 batches of white AND we were lucky enough to get a small haul of red grapes so the experiment continues with a red (4 bottles in total) - this one is named Chateau Neuf de Prestwich.
And just so you don't just have our opinion to go off I shared a bottle of the white (a vegan one) with the shop team and here's their feedback.
Karen - "I liked it, Nice and sweet, not too dry"
Steph - "You can taste the fruit & my shop close is going to be fun now!!"
Emma - "It's strong" - Yes not 100% sure but think it's about 13%
Julian - "I'm not normally a wine drinker but love this!"
And Sara liked it too
Thank you team for trying it 💚
1. It's important to sterilise everything at every stage. Equipment, bottles etc. This can take some time but it's worth it so your wine doesn't spoil. Wash all the fruit and remove the stems. This takes ages (especially if you have 10kg of fruit) but if you freeze the surplus in weighed out bags then it makes further batches easier.
2. Add the fruit to a bucket, smash up the grapes a bit (no we didn't get our feet in there but just popped the grapes when adding to the bucket). Dissolve 400g of sugar in 1litre of hot water and set aside to cool. Add the sugar to the fruit and leave to cool until under 50 degrees (thermometer required here) Add pectolase and leave for an hour, then add the yeast. Leave in a warm place with a loosely fitting lid for 3 days.
3. After 3 days the concoction will look and smell lovely (very yeasty!) Now the fun part. Strain all the fruit through a muslin bag, collecting the liquid in the demijohn. Add 0.6kg of sugar dissolved in 0.8 litre of hot water (once the temperature has dropped to below 30 degrees) Add the airlock to your demijohn and leave to ferment in a warm place (airing cupboard)
4. Leave for 3 weeks (yes there's lots of waiting with this wine) During this time you will hear a lot of fizzing and bubbling as the air escapes but after 3 weeks you'll have a lovely demijohn filled with what can only be described as dirty dishwater!!
5. Next step is adding the stabiliser, leave for another week and then the wine is ready for clearing. We've had fun with different methods for clearing because some ingredients aren't vegan. I wanted to try different options so we could share with vegan friends. So I've tried a liquid sachet (contains crustaceans) and a clay (bentonite) The liquid is much easier, you just add the contents of the 2 part sachet, The clay requires a slurry which is then added to the wine and sucks out all the gunk.
6. After the clearing step you leave for a further 2 weeks for the ingredients to work their magic. After these 2 weeks you should have a crystal clear lovely looking wine.
7. Now for the fun bit! Bottling. I should add at this point it's worth saving wine bottles which can be reused. I soak them in cold water for a few days to try and remove labels (some easier than others) and then just added our own labels back on. We siphon from the demi john into between 5 and 6 bottles for each batch being careful to leave the gunk at the bottom of the vessel.
8. Then it's recommended to leave for a further 6-8 weeks before drinking. Enjoy!