SOONER or later, most winemakers are not content to make just one gallon of their favourite wines; their thoughts turn to the idea of making them in larger quantities, say 4 /, 5, or 6 gallons, or even more.
Many winemakers make 20 or 30 gallons of their favourite wine each year and this "bulk" method has much to commend it. Many winemakers are nervous of attempting, say, five gallons of one wine, but it is a fact that five gallons is much less liable to "go wrong" than one, if ordinary precautions are observed.
And consider the advantages . . . wine seems to ferment better in bulk (in small quantities it is like a plant in too small a pot!); the large bulk means that it is less subject to violent temperature fluctuations; it is very little more trouble to make five gallons than to make one (and it lasts nearly twice as long!). Certainly, if you have a good stock of wine, bolstered by one or two wines made in quantity, there is less temptation to drink wine which is immature, and you can still do your experimental single gallons.
By making a few wines in bulk you can have as much wine to drink as you wish, every day . . . a satisfying thought.
The way to set about it is to choose one or two ingredients which are readily available, or very cheap, and which can be retied upon to give you a wine of reasonable quality for your vin ordinaire, both red and white.
I personally have settled for apple for the white (from which a whole range of wines can be produced), and dried bilberry for the red.
The apple I make on the principle of 12 lbs. of mixed apples to 1 gallon of water, which gives 1 ^ gallons of "juice." Twelve pounds of apples fill a plastic bucket (an easy measure) and are run through a Bryants crusher, the resultant "purée" falling into an 11-gallon dustbin. Then a gallon of cold water is added. Then another 12 lbs. of apples, another gallon of water, and so on. When I have enough a vigorous yeast is added and well stirred in. Fermentation on the pulp goes on for a week, the "cap" of fruit which rises to the top being broken up and well stirred each day.
Then the must is pressed and the juice runs off through a fine sieve into 1-gallon jars for measuring purposes. For each jar 2 ^ lbs. of sugar (for a dry wine) or 3 lbs: (for a sweet) are put into a large dustbin, and all the one-gallon jars emptied on to it. Then one stirs well to dissolve all the sugar before pouring all the must into a cask or carboy for the main fermentation—and the wine is made.
Apples are usually readily obtainable free in our area and we use a couple of hundredweight each year.
Dried bilberries, on the other hand, may sound expensive if one uses them at the rate usually recommended, 1 lb. to 1 gallon, but this is, if anything, too much. In practice, by successive washings, one can get no less than 4 gallons of wine off 1 lb. of dried bilberries, the first gallon being of heavy body and the succeeding mashes each producing an increasingly light wine, the last being only a pale rosy. These four grades of wine enable one to blend to produce a wine of exactly the desired body and colour.
I now use 5 lbs. of dried bilberries to 8 gallons of boiling water, 20 lbs. of sugar, and five level teaspoons of citric acid. The water is boiled in an electric boiler and run straight on to the ingredients. When it cools, add the yeast, and ferment for a week. Strain off the fruit and put on one side; run the liquor into fermenting casks, but put the last half-gallon aside in a glass jar stoppered with cotton-wool.
Return the fruit to the fermenting tun, run in five gallons of boiling water and a further 12 ^ lbs. of sugar and three level teaspoons of citric acid. When this has cooled pour in the half-gallon from the previous must as a starter and it will almost explode into fermentation. The second batch is also fermented for a week before straining off the pulp and there will still be colour in the skins of the bilberries and goodness in the fruit to make a third batch if desired. This is an easily made winter wine and to my mind the colour and flavour of the bilberry is infinitely to be preferred to the more commonly made elderberry.
Utensils for making wines in quantity are a gas or electric boiler holding, say 5 gallons. A "Baby Burco" I find ideal; it is even marked out in gallons internally. Such a boiler can often be picked up second-hand for next to nothing and is easily cleaned. A large plastic dustbin (11 gallon size) is useful, so is a fruit crusher to avoid having to cut up large quantities of fruit. A press you can do without at a pinch, and use a pectin-destroying enzyme to break down the fruit instead. A wooden paddle is useful for stirring, so is a plonker for pushing down the cap of fruit during mashing. Both these are easily made from broom handles and squares of oak.
Containers for fermenting and storage? Carboys (fragile, but all right if you keep them in their rather untidy cages), stoneware "barrels" (old-fashioned and heavy), plastic bags in cardboard outers (suitable but not very longlasting) and rigid polystyrene 5-gallon cubes. Of the last, those in which wines have been sold are usually safe, but others can confer horrible flavours upon your wine, even when they smell sweet, and are best treated with suspicion.
BEST containers of all to my mind are casks; they are safe, easy to handle, long-lasting, and do impart "character" to a wine. Optimum sizes for home use are probably the 4 / gallon and 6 gallon sizes, a 3 gallon being rather too small and a 9-gallon heavy to move. Paradoxically, the larger a cask is, the cheaper it is proportionately.
A few golden rules: Avoid like the plague casks which smell of vinegar. Keep your cask on a stand or stillage, so that the centre bottom stave is not supporting all the weight; always keep casks FULL (most important), topping them up regularly; refill a cask as soon as it is emptied; avoid the use of taps (which always drip and leak) and siphon wine out through the bung-hole. Use always oak casks, wine casks if possible (beer "barrels" are thicker). Siphon wine into 1 gallon jars or bottles for drinking and refill cask. Normally keep separate casks for white and red wines.
TO PREPARE NEW CASKS: Fill with clean water for 2 or 3 days, then with hot soda solution (4 oz. soda in 1 gallon of boiling water). Rinse with sulphite solution (H oz. potassium metabisulphite and H oz. citric acid in 1 gallon water) and then with water.
TO STERILISE SECOND-HAND CASKS: Fill with solution of hypochlorite (4 oz. of domestic bleach in 10 gallons of water). Leave 24 hours. Or half-fill with hot soda solution as above. Roll, empty when cool. In either case then rinse (i) with water, (ii) with sulphite solution, and (iii) with water. (To remove surface deposit insert 3 foot length of heavy chain and roll cask.)
MUSTY-SMELLING CASKS: Use 1/3 oz. of calcium chloride, 2/3 oz. sulphuric acid and 5 pints of boiling water. Leave 2 hours. Rinse with 10 % solution of sodium hydroxide, then thoroughly with water.
STAGNANT-SMELLING CASKS: Wash with 2 gallons of boiling water and 1 oz. of calcium chloride. Rinse with cold water.
STORAGE: Wash thoroughly, removing all surface deposit with chain, sterilise with sulphite solution. Some of this (say / gallon for a 4 / or 6 gallon cask) should be left in the bunged-up cask. Store cask on end; invert at intervals; renew solution every two or three months.
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