Wines and Brandies

Wines are the fermented juices of fruit, and when wines are distilled the final product is called brandy. Some fruit wines are commonly called by alternate names - for example, cider for fermented apple juice and perry for fermented pears. Most fruit juices will ferment by themselves if left out in the open air (witness an over-ripe plum), but the results are often not pleasant because many different kinds of organisms are present. Many fruits contain considerable quantities of acid (malic acid in apples, citric acid in citrus fruits, etc.) which not only give them their "tang", but also inhibit bacterial and yeast growth.

By far the most common wine is made from grapes. Grape juice is quite acidic, and falls between malt extract and honey in nutrient levels. Mature grapes usually have a coating of wild yeast on the outside of the skin, living on the sugar that "leaks" out of the grape. This means that simply crushing the grapes to release the juice will result in the production of a wine - but a wine that will often be sour and unpleasant to drink. These high levels of acidity allow one to make wine with lower sanitation levels than are required for beer and mead, but as a general rule better sanitation will always result in a better wine. Be sure to wash your feet very carefully before using traditional methods!

The standard method of producing wine today is to treat the juice with a product that kills the wild yeast, then to heavily inoculate the juice with a carefully selected yeast strain. Wine fermentation takes significantly longer than beer, but less time than mead. Most home wine makers perform the initial phase of fermentation in a plastic food-grade garbage container, then transfer the partially fermented juice (called "must") to glass carboys or wooden barrels for the remainder of fermentation.

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