He finally got around to ordering the kit this past fall, and in October began the process of making 30 bottles of home-brewed Merlot. We chose Merlot because we thought it might be easier than a bigger red or pretty much any white. Here's what the kit looked like after we unpacked it:
Basic contents are: A bucket to mix the grape juice with various additives. A glass jug that holds the wine for aging - and bottle brush for cleaning it. Some sort of siphoning squirty thing for transferring wine from "barrel" (jug) to bottle. A corking tool and a bunch of corks.
After sterilizing everything with a special solution, Mr. W set off on his Mad Scientist adventure.
Grape juice was added to the bucket:
And a hydrometer was used to test its gravity. No idea why. Maybe so when we drank it, we wouldn't float away like that one burping scene in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Clearly, Mr. W should be writing this post...
Once gravitational pull (I just made that up) was established, the wine was poured back into the bucket where it was mixed with additives and yeast to help mimic the flavor and chemical reactions that occur when wine is in a barrel. As usual, the cat was extremely helpful during this entire process.
For about 8 days after this step, that bucket sat in Mr. W's bathtub doing its thing. He had to retest the gravity (which I just found out measures alcohol content) and temperature several times to determine when fermentation had stopped. At that point, the wine was ready to get "racked"—i.e. put into the glass jug to age.
In this jug, nestled among the remote-controlled helicopters, dust bunnies, and landscaping books in our guest room, the wine aged until this past Sunday.
Then it was time to be bottled.
We carefully sterilized 36 bottles in the sink, 32 of which we ended up filling with wine.
Can you tell Mr. W just got a haircut the day before? I'll tell him you said you liked it.
Once the bottles were sterilized, the siphony sucker thing was used to transfer wine from the jug into each bottle.
I'll be honest: part of me was totally jonesing to cut those bottles up and turn them into candle hurricanes for my Etsy store. But we have to reuse them when we do this again, so I will refrain...
After all the bottles were filled, it was time to cork. We realized after doing a few on the countertop that it was about a hundred times easier to force the corks in while kneeling on the floor.
We left one bottle uncorked and drank part of it with our dinner. I have to say, it was pretty good considering it was our first time. And all this only cost about $13 a bottle, which isn't horrible—especially since we can use the equipment again.
For the next batch, we think we'll try making chardonnay. I'm hoping this is just the beginning of a long career of wine making together.