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The Way to Make Wine

The Way to Make Wine: How to Craft Superb Table Wines at Home

Sheridan Warrick
Copyright Date: 2006
Edition: 1
Pages: 267
  • Book Info
    The Way to Make Wine
    Book Description:

    Written by a vintner and science editor with twenty-five years experience,The Way to Make Wineis the most readable and reliable handbook among the many winemaking guides. In engaging conversational prose, Sheridan Warrick shows that making your own wine is not only easy, but also fun. Geared to everyday wine lovers who want to drink well, save money, and impress their friends, this book reveals everything needed to make delicious wines-both reds and whites-from start to finish.Warrick demystifies winemaking by explaining the nuts and bolts and demonstrating that if readers can replace a faucet washer or cook a pasta sauce, they can make food-friendly wines that cost less than the bottles they're now opening. He enables amateur vintners to equip a home winery, procure top-quality grapes, run a flawless fermentation, and enjoy their wine-its nose, its body, and finish-with renewed awareness and appreciation. At the same time, the author points experienced home vintners to new skills, describing top wineries' techniques. Rich with insiders' know-how, this book also divulges the many advances that have been made in the past few decades and makes clear that, with enologists' innovations, home winemaking is easier than ever. With straightforward illustrations of key steps, this book offers one-stop shopping for anyone who's ever dreamed of making table wines at home.* two step-by-step sections: one for beginners, one for experienced home vintners* sidebars offer quick tips and key elements of winemaking lore* includes the only clear and comprehensive guide to minimizing the use of sulfites in wine* section on suppliers and labs provides a wealth of information on sources of fine wine grapes

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93950-9
    Subjects: Environmental Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. List of Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Introduction. REAL WINE, REAL ENJOYMENT
    (pp. 1-10)

    One warm summer evening, with smoke from the grill drifting by, I poured a glass of Syrah for a guest. She took a sip. “You made this?” she said, with her eyebrows arched. “That’s very nice wine.”

    The glow I felt just then was surely from my own swallow of Syrah—or maybe not. My wife and I bottled our first wine more than 20 years ago: a Napa Valley Merlot, deep purple and crystal clear with a clean, pleasing aroma and a soft, fruity flavor. We poured it for friends at dinner parties, gave it as gifts to family...


      (pp. 13-21)

      There’s more than one way to get started in winemaking. Consider my friend who, on a picnic outing with pals in the Napa Valley, pulled up beside a tractor hauling a trailer full of grapes. He poked his head out the window. “Got any for us?” he yelled. The tractor driver waved an arm. “Still some out in that vineyard,” he said. “If you want ’em, help yourself.” The surprised picnickers laughed, but in minutes they were on their knees beside the dusty vines, hacking with pocketknives at the clusters of grapes. Hours later, with a few hundred pounds of...

      (pp. 23-35)

      We’ve all seen photos of dank cellars in France, the rows of barrels lighted by bare bulbs dangling from arches of moldy stone. It’s a charming image—and in part a true one—but it sends a misleading message to anyone thinking about making wine at home. Wine doesn’t have to be fermented in a chilly cellar. In fact, red wines made in small amounts usually need a bit of warmth. And even if you’re making white wines, which are best when fermented slowly at cool temperatures, the ideal winery is not truly frigid. (Once bottled, wine should be stored...

      (pp. 37-47)

      It’s no wonder Mediterranean pottery and other ancient artworks were so often decorated with pictures of grapevines and grapes. Just stroll through a modern vineyard. The leafy vines, twined along wires, may have been trimmed into a top-heavy hedge—a vertical curtain, vintners call it—with shoots curling up toward the sky and bunches of ripening grapes dangling below in the sunshine. Draped just so, as if on display, the purple bunches look radiant and practically magical against the green foliage and dark earth. But their magnificence is destined to fade once they’re snipped from the vines. Heaped in a...

      (pp. 49-57)

      Ripe grapes want to become wine, as vintners love to say, and any winemaker’s job is simply to help them do what comes naturally. It’s no stretch to regard the grapes’ metamorphosis as an actual miracle. At some point in every vintage I stop next to a drum of fermenting fruit and eavesdrop on the yeasts’ bacchanalian babbling—a cheery buzzing like the sound from a hive of bees. Mesmerized, I pull off the lid and poke my nose in, only to be knocked back by a gust of heady alcohol and choking carbonation. Right then it’s easy to imagine...

      (pp. 59-67)

      It’s hard to know whether to cheer or sigh as the primary fermentation bubbles to an end. At this stage, the only things between the stuff in your fermenter and actual wine are some grape seeds and skins. That’s a heartening thought. But at the same time it’s now truly autumn, and suddenly, as the cheery rhythm of the yeasts’ life slows, your days aren’t as eventful—no more punching down, no more purple arm, no more heady aromas filling the room. By the way, take note of a key wording change. You initiallycrushedthe fresh grapes to let...

      (pp. 69-79)

      Wander through a small commercial winery in early winter, after the hubbub of the fall crush and the doggedness of the fermenting and pressing, and the place will seem almost sleepy. Perhaps an electric pump is humming as it sucks new wine from one steel tank and pipes it to another, leaving behind some muddy sediment. Or maybe a winery worker is rinsing empty oak barrels to ready them for the new vintage. There might be someone tugging a hose between rows of barrels, filling one after another with young wine, while a vintner, clutching a wineglass, ambles around taking...

      (pp. 81-91)

      Amateur brewers love to tease home winemakers. Wine takes so long to make, they say. Our brew is ready in days—well, okay, weeks. But you have to wait, what, years? Of course, their taunts hold a grain of truth. It’s now way past harvesttime and well into winter, and you still have months to go before you bottle the vintage. Ideally your new wine is resting in a cool, quiet spot, and the weeks are ticking by.

      In the first racking, after the end of the fermentations, you siphoned the new wine away from the “gross lees,” the thick...

      (pp. 93-101)

      According to decades-old handwritten notes, my wife and I bottled our first wine barely four months after the harvest date. Using a new siphon and a floor corker we borrowed from friends, we started filling bottles and driving corks in mid January. Our wine had “aged” in a brand-new 15-gallon French oak barrel for all of three weeks—ample oakiness by then—receiving a fourth and final racking before bottling. As it turned out, we jumped the gun. My notes say the bottles soon began showing a thin layer of sediment (yeast, I assume), and justpoured glasses had what I...

      (pp. 103-113)

      After years of making only red wines, my wife and I finally delved into whites and rosés. What changed? Nothing, really. We simply stepped through a gate that had been chained shut by misconceptions—that the making would be troublesome, the details over-whelming, and the wines insipid. We were wrong. It’s true, making white wines requires some extra choices and steps, especially before fermentation, and it definitely helps to have gone through the crushing, fermentation, pressing, and racking of a red wine so that you’re practiced in the arts of checking temperatures, adding sulfite, topping up carboys, and so on....

      (pp. 115-124)

      Because white wines ferment in narrow-necked carboys, literally out of reach, there’s something remote and a little clinical about the fermentation—no twice-daily punching down, no sticky hands in thick must, no aromatic blasts of carbon dioxide from an open-topped fermenter. The sugar just ticks away, the yeasts’ life reaching a modest crescendo of bubbles and foam before easing back to slumber as if it had all been a dream. Take it easy, you’ve been saying, don’t hurry, stay cool. But now, as the action fades,youneed to hustle a bit. The wine is in danger.

      When the foam...

      (pp. 125-134)

      Here’s a rundown on the winemaking stages detailed in chapters 3 through 10. Although the main actions are highlighted, you’ll want to turn back to the chapters to find specific guidelines and especially explanations. These steps assume you’ve already chosen, ordered, and received between 50 and 500 pounds of wine grapes or 5 to 40 gallons of white wine grape juice.

      1. Rent a crusher-stemmer from the nearest brew shop.

      2. Have on hand four additives: genuine wine yeasts; yeast food to keep the yeasts nourished during their population boom; freeze-dried malolactic bacteria, benign microbes that’ll follow up after the yeasts and...


      (pp. 137-149)

      Winemakers love to spout self-deprecating homilies: “The grapes make the wine.” “Great wines are made in the vineyard.” “Winemaking is a custodial endeavor.” They’re all true, mostly—the grape’s the thing, as the playwright might have said. But great fruit doesn’t just pop from the ground. Winegrowing is both an art and a science, and it demands a fanatic’s attention to detail: the age and health of the vines, microclimate, soil type, vine density, irrigation schedule, trellis system, pruning regimen, and the yearly ups and downs of the weather. Expert grape growers have become latter-day sorcerers, managing the impact of...

      (pp. 151-167)

      No matter how much professional vintners glorify the grapes they ferment, and their own intuition as well, they still depend heavily on laboratory tests as they turn the raw fruit into wine. Every winery worth its corks has at least a small chemistry lab, and many make liberal use of independent analysis laboratories. These outfits, which take in juice or wine by courier or express mail and e-mail or fax back the results, do superb work as a rule, and they have helped legions of winemakers turn out better wine. But off-site testing takes time—a day or two at...

      (pp. 169-187)

      Winemakers like to tout their products’ purity—“wine is just grapes, nothing but grapes”—but of course that’s not true, and it never has been. Yeast, yeast nutrients, malolactic inoculants, water, tartaric acid, and sugar are all ingredients that winemakers may add at or near the start of fermentation. It’s of course always best to intervene as little as possible, refraining from adjusting grapes that are already great. But as noted in chapter 11, different enologists define ideal ripeness in different ways, and some otherwise good grapes fall outside even the most liberal limits. So you may find yourself having...

      (pp. 189-201)

      “Contains sulfites.” Those blunt words, required by law, grace the label of virtually every bottle of wine sold in this country. The declaration puts sulfur dioxide on the table, so to speak, and makes wine lovers meet it face-to-face, like it or not. It’s a chemical preservative, and that’s bad—we’d all prefer our food and drink to be as pure as possible. But it also makes any wine live longer and taste better.

      So honorable winemakers add only the smallest amounts needed to protect their wines. Adding none isn’t a realistic option. In fermentations run without added sulfites, the...

      (pp. 203-232)

      It’s one thing to make wine as if you’re lighting a roman candle: set it off and let it go. It’s something else to do it exactly the way you want. The grapes may be all-important, but the character of the wine they produce can be adjusted or even transformed by a winemaker’s decisions: The length of time the crushed grapes stand before fermenting. The yeast strain. The temperature and length of the primary fermentation. The use of yeast nutrients and malolactic inoculants. The amount of force applied in pressing. The size and timing of sulfite doses. The frequency and...

  8. Suppliers and Laboratories
    (pp. 233-236)
  9. Further Reading
    (pp. 237-238)
  10. Index
    (pp. 239-252)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 253-254)