A comprehensive look at the wine making process

_American Wines._

The term wine is properly applied only to the fermented juice of the grape, but is popularly used in a more extended sense. What are termed domestic wines made from the currant, gooseberry, etc., are often supposed to be more wholesome and less intoxicating than the wine of the grape. This is an error; they are more acid than true wine, and have added to them sugar and spirits, neither of which are necessary with good grape juice. The culture of the grape and manufacture of wine have increased very rapidly in the United States of late years and the time is not very distant when we shall be independent of foreign sources of supply.

_The Vine._

The varieties of grape employed in wine making, in the United States, are the Catawba, Delaware, Schuylkill (Cape), Isabella, and Scuppernong. In California, now so noted for its wine product, the vines are of Spanish origin. Of those named, the two first varieties are most prized. Vines require a dry, airy situation, preferably with a southern or eastern exposure.

_Picking the Fruit._

The fruit should be allowed to stay on the vines until fully ripe. If any error is committed it should be that of allowing it to remain too long. A slight frost will not injure the grape for winemaking, but rather improve it. Remove all unripe and bad berries. In some cases the berries are detached from the stem, in others not; the latter method is most usual. All vessels and utensils used in wine-making, must be most scrupulously clean when used, and should be thoroughly cleansed after using. Without attention to this good wine cannot be made. Grapes should not be gathered in damp weather nor when the dew is on them.

_Extracting the Juice._

The grapes are first crushed, the object being to break the skin and pulp, but not the seeds. This may be done in any of the ordinary cidermills sold at the agricultural warehouses, or on the small scale by bruising in a mashingtub. The juice is then expressed as directed in making cider. For extracting juice of fruits on the small scale the ordinary clothes-wringer will be found very useful. The expressed juice is termed must, the remaining seeds, husks, etc., after being pressed, are put on the manure pile or used for making inferior brandy.

_Fermenting the Must._

In this country the fermentation is performed in barrels; abroad vats are used. The barrels should, if new, be filled with pure water, and left to soak for 10 or 15 days; then well scalded out, and fumigated by means of a match made by dipping paper or rag into melted sulphur. When not in use they must be kept bunged, and each year they must be thoroughly cleansed or fumigated before using.

The barrels are to be filled within 5 or 6 inches of the top. The beginning of the fermentation is shown by a slight rise in temperature; this soon increases, the liquid froths, and carbonic acid gas escapes; in 2 or 3 weeks this ceases, the lees settle and the wine becomes clear. Fermentation out of of contact of air is accomplished by having a bung fitted with a tube which dips under the surface of a pan of water. The gas escapes through the water, but the air cannot enter the cask. This is considered a great improvement by many. The bung should not be inserted until fermentation has begun. As soon as fermentation has ceased fill up the cask and bung tightly. If you have not the same wine with which to fill the cask, put in enough well-washed flinty pebbles.


The object of racking is to draw the wine from its lees, which contain various impurities, and the yeast is the fermentation. Some rack more than once, others but once. Rehfuss recommends to draw off the wine into fresh casks in December and again in March or April, and again in the fall, after that only in the fall. Buchanan recommends one racking in March or April. It is objected to frequent racking that it injures the aroma of the wine, and renders it liable to become acid. The wine may be drawn off with the syphon or by the spigot; care being taken not to disturb the lees.

_Spring Fermentation._

About the time that the vines begin to shoot the wine undergoes a second but moderate fermentation, after which it fines itself, and if kept well bunged will continue to improve by age. During the spring fermentation the bungs may be slightly loosened, otherwise the casks, if not strong, may burst, and the wine be lost. It is better kept in bottles. Wine may be bottled in a year after it is made, two years will be better. The bottles should be sealed and laid on their sides in a cool place.

_Sparkling Wines._

The above directions will give a still wine of fine quality; no sugar, spirits or other addition is required. To make a sparkling wine is a matter of nicety, and requires considerable experience; and cellars, vaults and buildings especially adapted to the process. Abroad the wine is bottled during the first fermentation, although air is necessary to the beginning of fermentation, yet it will go on when once begun if air be excluded. The must continuing to ferment in the bottles, the gas generated is absorbed by the liquid under its own pressure. A very large percentage of bottles bursts.

_Mr. Longworth's Process._

In the spring following the pressing of the grapes the wine is mixed with a small quantity of sugar, and put into strong bottles, the corks of which are well fastened with wire and twine. The spring fermentation is accelerated by the sugar, and the carbonic acid generated produces pressure enough to burst a considerable percentage of the bottles. At the end of a year the liquid has become clear. To get rid of the sediment the bottles are put in a rack with the necks inclining downward, and frequently shaken, the sediment deposits near and on the cork, and is blown out when the wires are cut. More sugar is added for sweetness; the bottles recorked, and in a few weeks the wine is ready for use.

_Acidity of Wines._

The acidity of wine made from ripe grapes is due to cream of tartar or bitartrate of potassa. The grapes always contain a larger proportion than the wine, as much of it is deposited during fermentation, forming Argols of commerce. Tannic acid always present, giving, when in quantity, astringency or roughness. Citric acid is found in wine made from unripe grapes; malic and oxalic acids in those made from currants, rhubarb, etc. The cream of tartar gradually deposits as wine grows older, forming the crust or bees-wing. Hence wine of grape improves with age. Domestic wines do not deposit their acids, which have therefore to be disguised by the addition of sugar. Acetic acid is formed by the oxidation of the alcohol of wine. When considerable in quantity the wine is raid to be "pricked." Moselle and Rhine wine are among the most acid, and Sherry and Port among the least so.

_Sweet Wines,_

Such as Malaga, are made by allowing the grapes to remain on the vine until partially dried. The must is also evaporated about one-third before fermentation. Wines, such as still Catawba, Claret, etc., which contain little or no sugar, are called dry.

_Proportion of Alcohol in Wines._

The following gives the average proportion of absolute alcohol in 100 parts by measure: Port Madeira, Sherry, 20; Claret, Catawba, Hock, and Champagne, 11; Domestic wines, 10 to 20; alcohol gives the strength or body to wine. It is often added to poor wines to make them keep and to increase their intoxicating qualities.

_Bottling and Corking._

Fine clear weather is best for bottling all sorts of wines, and much cleanliness is required. The first consideration, in bottling wines, is to examine and see if the wines are in a proper state. The wines should be fine and brilliant, or they will never brighten after.

The bottles must be all sound, clean and dry, with plenty of good sound corks.

The cork is to be put in with the hand, and then driven well in with a flat wooden mallet, the weight of which ought to be 1 1/4 lbs., but, however not to exceed 1 1/2 lbs., for if the mallet be too light or too heavy it will not drive the cork in properly and may break the bottle. The corks must so completely fill up the neck of each bottle as to render them air-tight, but leave a space of an inch between the wine and the neck.

When all the wine is bottled, it is to be stored in a cool cellar, and on no account on the bottles' bottoms, but or their sides and in saw-dust.

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