I got really excited by the recent NFL draft process — three days in which 32 teams chose 256 college players in seven rounds. Each team came into the event with a number of draft picks — some high and some low — depending on their philosophy to collect picks or collect players in making trades with other teams.
OK, so now I’m ready to use my own wine draft picks to choose from recent winery releases in order to restock my wine cellar. Some choices will be for my own current consumption, some will go for entertaining friends, some will be used to lay down for a few years. Finally, I’ll pick a special purpose wine or two — a category not unlike choosing punters and place kickers in the NFL.
I have three first-round picks and four second-round picks. Let’s see if I can use them wisely. Cheering when a pick is made is permissible. Booing my choices gets you ejected from the cellar.
I’ve decided in this round to pick the best wines available from the sample rack.
First selection: Paul Hobbs “Catherine Lindsay” Russian River Pinot Noir 2012. ($88). This is a big and burly wine that nevertheless dresses up well to take to the table — drink it now or let it sit on the bench for a few years. It is a complex wine with dark cherry flavors, a touch of tangy balsamic, some notes of mocha cream, and a finish of dark raspberries.
Second selection: Zenato “Alanera” Rosso Veronese 2012 ($20). A steal from one of the lesser-known regions, this Corvina-based wine has lots of rounded blackberry/blueberry fruit with good finishing acidity and a pleasant tanginess. Can be inserted practically anywhere in the food-matching lineup.
Third selection: Martinelli “Bella Vigna” Sonoma County Chardonnay 2011 ($40). A very big chard with lots of creamy oak and caramel tastes to go along with the apple fruitiness. Rather than start immediately, it may need to sit an hour or so in the decanter.
The real gems are often chosen in the later rounds, and now I’m picking for a specific need.
First selection: Paul Mas “Saint Hilaire” Pays d’Oc Chardonnay 2012 ($12). There aren’t a lot of good white wines in this draft pool, so I grabbed this one before someone else did. While the Martinelli may need some time, this one is ready now — a lot like a southern Burgundy with crisp apple flavors and just a hint of toffee at the end. Very long on the palate.
Second selection: Badia a Coltibuono “Sangioveto di Toscana’ IGT 2009 ($59). B a C has several players available in this draft, but I like this one because of its combination of power and finesse — rounded, ripe flavors of dried cherries with crisp, savory notes and an echo of raspberry cream in the finish.
Third Selection: CVNE Viña Real Rioja Rosado 2014 ($9). I’m out of rosés, so I can’t leave the draft without choosing one. Even though it’s a pink, close your eyes and you taste Marlborough sauvignon blanc — tart strawberries with some citrus and lots of acidity and minerality.
Final Selection: Li Veli Santino “Orion” Primitivo 2013 ($14). I like its work ethic — rich and complex with dark flavors of black grapes and fresh figs and an excellent finish.
France&rsquos Most Seductive Wine
Why are collectors so crazy for France&rsquos famed red blend Châteauneuf-du-Pape? F&W&rsquos Lettie Teague visits the producers of the most lust-inducing labels.
I’ve always been intrigued by the passions of others, particularly when it comes to wine. What makes someone crazy for Chardonnay? Prize Burgundy over Bordeaux? Or, as in the case of my friend Park B. Smith, adore the wines of Châteauneuf-du-Pape? Park and Châteauneuf are one of the world’s great love stories, right up there with Shah Jahan and his late wife (he built the Taj Mahal over two decades in memory of her). While Park has made his fortune in home furnishings, he has centered his life around Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He can’t even say the name without drawing every syllable out𠅌hâ-teau-neuf𠄽u-Pape—the way a lover might name his beloved.
Never mind that Park can drink anything that he wants from his truly stupendous cellar of 80,000 bottles or so, wines from every important region in the world. (Park once owned more cases of 1982 Château Mouton Rothschild than the Baroness de Rothschild probably did herself.) But half of that cellar is Châteauneuf-du-Pape in fact it’s the only wine I’ve ever seen Park drink.
I like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, truly I do. I admire its exuberance, richness and earthy minerality, its aromatic notes of spice and blackberry and its great acidity, which makes it go so well with food. And though I’ve bought a fair amount of it over the years, including some bottles from Park’s own cellar that were sold at a Sotheby’s auction last year, I’ve never felt the passion that Park does. Was it my shortcoming or that of the wine? Or was it because I’ve never been to the region itself? (Park has been to Châteauneuf-du-Pape so many times, he’s even been named an honorary mayor.) Perhaps a visit would change my perspective after all, the best way to appreciate a wine is to explore the place that it’s made.
When I called Park to tell him my plans, he seemed rather nonplussed. (Mecca is never surprised by a pilgrim, I guess.) He just asked me to say hello to his friends. Park didn’t give names, but then, I supposed everyone in Châteauneuf-du-Pape was his friend.
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (“new castle of the Pope”), in France’s Rhône Valley, got its name when its capital city of Avignon became the new home of the Pope in the 14th century. During this time, just before the Great Schism, seven Popes, all French, chose to live in France rather than Italy. (Pope Gregory XI, though French, decided to return to Rome. He came to a bad end.)
Châteauneuf-du-Pape is both a town and a wine region, and while the former is small, the latter is quite large. Both are located within the southern Rhône Valley, though they are geographically part of Provence. Accordingly, the climate is mild, unlike the valley’s northern end. And unlike the cool northern Rhône, where the Syrah grape is the star, in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, the softer, lusher Grenache is featured, most often as part of a blend. Indeed, Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers can legally blend up to 13 grapes, including Mourvຍre, Syrah, Cinsaut and six white varieties, making it the most-blended great wine in the world. (White Châteauneuf-du-Pape can be very good and occasionally great, but like Park, I was primarily interested in the red.)
The one thing that the north and south ends of the Rhône do share is le mistral, the legendary wind that blows in the summer and winter. It can blow quite hard and last as long as a week in fact, its relentlessness has been said to cause a few residents to lose their minds. Le mistral was blowing hard the day I arrived with Scott Manlin, my wine-collector friend from Chicago, who also aspired to a Park-like love of Châteauneuf. 𠇍o you think the mistral affects visitors the way it does residents?” I asked Scott as we left the Avignon train station in a rental car. 𠇊re you trying to tell me something?” he replied.
In fact, while the mistral may challenge the mental stability of the region’s winemakers, it’s been a boon to them as well it brings (mostly) sunshine and helps keep the vines free of disease. It’s one of the keys to the creation of great Châteauneuf-du-Pape, along with the huge stones called galets that help the vineyard soil retain heat during the day, later released at night, thereby helping to ripen the grapes. And yet, until the past 20 years or so, there weren’t many great Châteauneuf-du-Papes, since most of the wines were sold in bulk through cooperatives. But a new generation of producers has revived the old estates and begun turning out more modern wines, transforming the region into one of the most progressive in France.
My friend Robert Parker, the wine critic, was the first to recognize and champion these changes in fact, if there’s anyone who loves Châteauneuf-du-Pape as much as Park, it would be Bob, who has repeatedly extolled the wine’s generosity of flavors. Indeed, when I asked Bob for the names of his favorite producers, he gave me such a long list, I knew I𠆝 never be able to see them all.
At the top of Bob’s list (and mine) were Sophie Estevenin and Catherine Armenier of Domaine de Marcoux, my first destination. “You’ll like the Armenier sisters,” Bob predictedurately, as it turned out. Sophie and Catherine were friendly and unpretentious in both outlook and dress—strictly jeans and sensible shoes. In fact, every producer I met, save one (more on that later), was just as easygoing and nice.
Like most Châteauneuf-du-Pape producers, the Armenier family has been making wine for hundreds of years—practically since the time of the Avignon popes𠅊nd yet there was little in the way of ornamentation at their winery: Our tasting took place in a sparsely furnished room where a bare bulb on the wall gave off a burning smell. 𠇍oes that bother you?” Catherine inquired anxiously. It did—though not nearly as much as the wind, which had begun to howl.
We talked about the most recent vintages, all of which were quite good to varying degrees. The wines of 2003, the year of the great heat wave, were inconsistent: Some were very good, while others were alcoholic and overripe. The 2004 wines were more balanced, structured and restrained the 2005s were exuberant, showy and easy to love. The full power of 2006 was not yet known at the time of my visit, as most of the reds were still in barrel. While many producers have said 2004 was their favorite vintage, “we prefer 2003 wines because the year was difficult,” said Sophie. In fact, their 2003 Vieilles Vignes (“old vines”) bottling was drinking beautifully, though the 2004 was the more elegant wine. The 2005 was opulent, ripe and high in alcohol. The vieilles vignes wines are some of the most sought-after in Châteauneuf𠅎ven though, at $250 a bottle, they’re hardly cheap. (Domaine de Marcoux’s standard Châteauneuf-du-Pape bottling is a lot more affordable at around $50.)
The next day, at Sophie’s suggestion, Scott and I drove to the actual castle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, now mostly ruins, high on a hill overlooking the town. But ours wasn’t a historical tour: We were looking for lunch. Sophie’s husband, Jean Pierre Estevenin, is the chef and owner of Le Verger des Papes, located just below the castle ruins. Alas, it was closed. Scott looked unhappy. Fortunately, the wine shop next door, Cave du Verger des Papes, also owned by Estevenin, was open. Scott looked more cheerful when we went inside. “They have everything,” he said, scanning the bottles on display. A young saleswoman approached us: “Your face is familiar,” she said to Scott. “Is that a good thing or a bad thing?” he replied. The woman smiled, “We have no bad clients.” In fact, most clients, she said, were American—nearly 90 percent. ore I worked here, I didn’t know that Châteauneuf-du-Pape was so popular with Americans,” she added.
That of course is largely thanks to Bob, whose fulsome praise of Châteauneuf-du-Pape has helped raise recognition of the region and, some have said, increase the prices of the wines. And yet Châteauneuf-du-Pape is still nowhere near as expensive as Burgundy or Bordeaux. In fact, according to Dan Posner of Grapes the Wine Company in Rye, New York (where I buy my Châteauneuf-du-Pape), there are still lots of values in the $40 to $50 range, like the wines of Les Cailloux and Domaine de la Janasse. “It’s the luxury cuvພs that have become so expensive,” he added.
Their prices didn’t seem to matter to Scott, who promptly spent over 2,000 euros on luxury cuvພs. “They’re cheaper here than in the States,” he explained. Among the wines he purchased was the 2003 Deus Ex Machina from Clos Saint Jean—one of Parker’s thbed wines.” “It’s the Domaine de la Romanພ-Conti of the Rhône,” said Estevenin, who had joined us. “You can’t find it,” he added. I thought he meant the wine, but he was referring to the domaine. “I’ll drive you you’ll never find it yourselves.”
Four men, one quite large, emerged from a tiny white truck as we drove through the (unmarked) gates of Clos Saint Jean. Inside, the large man brushed past us as we walked into the winery office. The large man sat down at a computer. I looked at the screen: He was checking Clos Saint Jean’s Parker scores. “That’s Philippe Cambie,” Vincent Maurel, the proprietor of Clos Saint Jean, said to me. Cambie was the consultant whom Parker dubbed “the Michel Rolland of the Rhône,” after the famous Bordeaux enologist. Cambie has been credited with modernizing Clos Saint Jean and dozens of other Châteauneuf-du-Pape estates by focusing on making wines with riper fruit and using small barrels for aging instead of the traditional large foudres or tanks.
The Grenache-dominant wines of Clos Saint Jean are all made from very old vines. They’re opulent, with notes of dark berries and spices. They’re also immensely concentrated wines with rich fruit, the prototype for modern Châteauneuf-du-Pape𠅎specially the 2005 Deus Ex Machina and the 2005 La Combe des Fous. I found it hard to believe they could age for years they were so delicious in their youth. But according to Cambie, that is the beauty of Châteauneuf-du-Pape: “You can drink it now and in 20 years. You can drink it old and young.”
Our tasting concluded, Cambie folded himself into his tiny white truck again with surprising ease. “I will lead you to Rayas,” he said. (I wondered if Michel Rolland ever helped a journalist find a neighboring Bordeaux château.) The route to Château Rayas was longer and more complicated than the one to Clos Saint Jean and, as it turned out, the journey took three times as long as our tasting there.
Under winemaker Jacques Reynaud, Rayas had been one of Châteauneuf’s great producers. My first taste of Rayas (with Park, of course) had been Reynaud’s famous 1995 bottling, which Park had declared “the finest young wine” he𠆝 ever tasted. Since Reynaud’s nephew Emmanuel took over about a decade ago, the wines had been inconsistent. But I still wanted to see the estate.
The winery was in disrepair—the building needed a fresh coat of paint𠅊nd Emmanuel seemed to be in a bad mood. He gave Scott and me exactly five minutes to taste samples of three of his lesser wines, then showed us the door. “That was unique,” Scott commented. “Somehow I don’t think he’s one of Park’s friends,” I replied.
Our next visit was with one of Park’s favorite producers, Laurence Feraud at Domaine du Pegau. The Domaine du Pegau Cuvພ da Capo was the first modern prestige cuvພ made in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, starting in 1998. Nuanced, elegant, and deeply flavorful, it’s almost like an everyday wine for Park, he loves it so much—never mind that it’s about $600 a bottle.
Feraud, a punkish-looking woman with a spiky hairstyle and tight, boot-cut jeans, was getting ready to bottle her wines, including Capo, when we arrived. In creating Capo, Feraud said she was inspired by the big flavors of California wines. Her fellow Châteauneuf producers seemed to be inspired by her prices. “Now everyone has to make a prestige cuvພ,” she complained. 𠇋ut it’s also important to make a good regular Châteauneuf-du-Pape.”
Certainly being able to price a special cuvພ at 10 times the regular bottling had to be a temptation. And other modern producers, like Domaine de la Mordorພ, whom Scott and I saw next, seemed to have no trouble selling their cuvພs at Capo-level prices. Domaine de la Mordorພ’s young proprietor, Christophe Delorme, who runs the estate along with his brother, has created some of the biggest, richest special cuvພs in the appellation: La Plume du Peintre and La Reine des Bois. “We have the most concentrated wines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape,” Delorme asserted. And some of the highest alcohol levels, too: The 2005 La Plume was well over 16 percent. But this wasn’t at the expense of finesse. No wonder Parker had said the wine could age for 40 or 50 years.
For the next several days, Scott and I visited as many producers as possible, including Henri Bonneau. Bonneau’s house may be one of the hardest places to find in all of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, marked only by a scrap of paper by the door that read ve Fermພ,” or llar closed.”
Bonneau, who works out of a cobweb-strung cellar that Parker has described as a t cave,” is more of a medievalist than a traditionalist indeed, unlike the modern producers who leave their wines in barrel for a fairly short time, he often leaves his to age for many years—or until he “needs the money.” Bonneau was obviously doing well some of the wines in barrel were seven years old.
It was Thierry Usseglio of Domaine Pierre Usseglio & Fils who had led Scott and me to Bonneau’s door. “Otherwise you won’t find it,” he had said, a now-familiar phrase. His own domaine was quite easy to find, just below the ruins of the castle and marked with an enormous sign. The Usseglio wines were likewise easy to appreciate. Their regular bottling is an always-reliable, traditionally made wine, while their special cuvພ, Mon Aul, is a more modern-style wine, enormously concentrated and rich.
Our last visit was to Château de Beaucastel, the crown jewel of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, off the national road. Beaucastel is an enormous winery by Châteauneuf standards, turning out a wide range of wines, from basic Côtes-du-Rhône ($25) to small, special cuvພs like Hommage à Jacques Perrin (a mostly-Mourvຍre wine, about $450). The winery also makes use of all 13 grapes in fact, its sommelier, Fabrice Langlois, had composed an imaginary orchestra that included each one. “Grenache is the violin,” Fabrice said. “Mourvຍre is the viola and Syrah, the piano.”
I returned to New York impressed and enlightened, yet not really sure that I fully comprehended the source of Park’s passion. Then, several months later, Scott came to town. A friend held a dinner party in his honor, to which I contributed a bottle of 2000 Domaine du Pegau Cuvພ da Capo. As everyone tasted it, there was a collective gasp. “This is a truly flawless wine,” one friend finally said. And so it was: intense and hedonistic, but totally balanced. But most importantly, I realized, looking around, the wine had made everyone incredibly happy. So that was the secret of Park’s Châteauneuf love: It wasn’t just the wines themselves, but what he felt when he shared them with friends.
Does Your Wine Require Formula Approval
The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) has the authority to regulate the production and importation of wine in the United States. In some cases, the TTB requires approval of the formula before a manufacturer may make certain wines. The rules relating to whether a formula is required, however, can be confusing. For example, is a formula required for a wine made from both apple and raspberry? What about a dry-hopped mead? ere is a well-known joke among lawyers:
A law school professor said to a graduating class, “Three years ago, when asked a legal question, you could answer, in all honesty, ‘I don’t know.’ Now you can say with great authority, ‘It depends.”
Thus it is with wine formulas the answer to both questions above is… it depends.
What is a Formula and Why Does It Need Approval?
In simple terms, a formula is a recipe for the wine. It tells the TTB the total yield or batch size, provides a quantitative list of ingredients, describes how the product is produced, and quantifies the alcohol content of the finish product. As the agency charged with ensuring the safety of alcoholic beverages, the TTB needs this information to ascertain any potential health threats. While wine made solely from the juice of ripe grapes (see “Natural Wines,” below) is well understood and does not require submission of a formula, manufacturers like to push the boundaries of flavor and impact, fermenting whatever they determine to be fermentable. Submitting formulas for such wines enables the TTB to determine whether those boundaries may have been pushed too far.
Types of Wine
While there are many types of wine defined in Title 27, Section 24.10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (27 CFR §24.10), for the purposes of this article, we will focus on four.
Natural Wine – “The product of the juice or must of sound, ripe grapes or other sound, ripe fruit (including berries) made with any cellar treatment authorized by … this part and containing not more than 21 percent by weight (21 degrees Brix dealcoholized wine) of total solids.”
Special Natural Wine – “A product produced from a base of natural wine… to which natural flavorings are added, and made pursuant to an approved formula in accordance with… this part.”
Agricultural Wine – “Wine made from suitable agricultural products other than the juice of grapes, berries, or other fruits.”
Other than Standard Wine – this catchall category encompasses wines that either don’t fit another category or fall outside a regular category by exceeding some defined limitation (e.g., a natural wine that contains more than 21 percent by weight of total solids).
Most wines on the market are made from ripe grapes using standard production and cellaring practices and, therefore, fall within the category of Natural Wines, which do not require the submission of a formula for approval. Natural Wines may be ameliorated, chaptalized, or sweetened and may only be fortified with wine spirits. Before or during fermentation, the following ingredients may be added: sugar or concentrated fruit juice from the same kind of fruit, yeast, yeast nutrients, malo-lactic bacteria, sterilizing agents, and water (so long as the added water does not reduce Brix below 22 degrees (SG 1.092).
A list of the specific materials used in the process of filtering, clarifying, or purifying wine and the amounts that are permitted to be used in Natural Wines is listed in 27 CFR §24.246. Use of these materials outside of the specified ranges, or use of unapproved treatment materials, may render the product an Other Than Standard Wine, requiring a formula approval, see below.
Included in Natural Wines are also products made from the fermentation of a blend of fruit juices. For example, a wine made from fermenting apple juice and raspberry juice or grape juice and cherry juice are Natural Fruit Wines and do not require a formula. However, a blend of two finished Natural Wines of different fruits (e.g., apple wine and raspberry wine) is considered an Other Than Standard Wine, requiring a formula.
Special Natural Wine
A Special Natural Wine begins with a base of Natural Wine, but is then flavored with natural herbs, spices, fruit juices, natural aromatics, natural essences, or other natural flavorings. The quantities or proportions of these additions must result in character and flavor that is distinctive from the base wine and distinguishable from other natural wine. Only 100% natural flavors may be used. Examples of Special Natural Wine include wine made from apple juice and flavored with hops or wine made from pear juice and flavored with honey. For coloring purposes, only caramel is permitted.
Interestingly, under 27 CFR §24.197, the natural flavoring materials may be added before or during fermentation. For example, one might add natural cinnamon to an apple wine during fermentation. In that case, the wine would require a formula, because it is a Natural Wine to which a natural flavor was added (i.e., a Special Natural Wine). But, if the natural flavor is itself a fermentable, like raspberry juice, then whether a formula is required depends on when the raspberry juice is added.
Fruit juice added after fermentation is a natural flavor that is acceptable for Special Natural Wine. However, fruit juice added before or during fermentation will ferment and will be considered a fermentable instead of a flavor and the product is considered a Natural Wine, not requiring a formula.
One other wrinkle arises in the context of blending Special Natural Wines. If two Special Natural Wines, each having their own previously approved formula are then blended together, it will require the approval of a formula for the blend unless, the two Special Natural Wines are of the same type. For example, producing a sweet vermouth by blending two sweet vermouths, each produced under an approved formula, the submission and approval of an additional formula is not required. See 27 CFR §24.198.
Agricultural Wine is made from non-fruit agricultural products, such as carrots, onions, rhubarb, or dandelions. Honey wine (mead) and rice wine (sake) are also Agricultural Wines. With the exception of rice, however, fermented beverages made from grains, cereals, malts, and molasses are considered malt beverages (i.e., beer) and not Agricultural Wines.
Pure dry sugar may be added to agricultural wines provided that the weight is less than the weight of the water and the agricultural product. The Agricultural Wine may only be sweetened if the alcohol content is below 14% ABV. No added natural or artificial flavors or colors are permitted, with the exception that hops may be added to honey wine, so long as the hops do not exceed one pound per 1,000 pounds of honey.
While, as a category, Agricultural Wines require prior formula approval, the TTB has made certain exceptions. In view of the nearly 4,000 wine formula applications submitted in 2015, the TTB sought to streamline the approval process. One of these efforts resulted in the issuance of TTB Ruling 2016-2, which approved general formulas for certain “standard” agricultural wines. So long as the production guidelines set forth in 27 CFR §§24.202-204 are met, no formula is required for the following Agricultural Wines: carrot wine, dried fruit wine, honey wine (mead), maple syrup wine, onion wine, pepper wine, pumpkin wine, rhubarb wine, sweet potato wine, and tomato wine. If one of these wines is produced outside the guidelines in the regulations, however, it will be classified as “Other Than Standard Wine,” as discussed, below.
Other Than Standard Wine/Wine Specialty
More of a catch-all category, this group of wines generally falls outside the bounds of other groups either by containing ingredients not permitted in those categories or by exceeding the permissible range for one or more allowed ingredients. Specifically, wines in this category include: high fermentation wine, heavy bodied blending wine, Spanish type blending sherry, and wine products not for beverage use.
Further, wines made with sugar and/or water outside the limitations prescribed for standard wine wine made by blending wines produced from different kinds of fruit wines made with sugar other than pure dry sugar, liquid pure sugar, or invert sugar syrup and wine made with materials not authorized for use in standard wine fall into this category. Distilling material and vinegar stock are also considered part of the category, but unlike the others, they do not require formula approval.
Although these wines may be produced on a bonded wine premises, they must remain segregated from standard wine. These wines must also be labeled with a statement of composition. The statement must include the source of alcohol (including any spirits added), the flavors, the colors, and artificial sweeteners. Certain ingredients, such as FD&C Yellow #5 and carmine/cochineal must be listed explicitly. For example, “carbonated apple wine with cherry brandy, artificial flavors and cochineal extract.” If different fermentables are combined before fermentation, the statement of composition will list them all followed with the word, “wine.” E.g., “Apple-grape-pineapple wine.” If different types of finished wines are combined, then the statement of composition lists them as separate wines. E.g., “A blend of apple and rhubarb wines.”
In general, a wine formula is required if flavors, colors, or artificial sweeteners are added to the wine or if the base wine is not produced according to regulatory requirements. It is important to note that once a formula is approved, if a manufacturer wants to change the recipe, through the addition or elimination of ingredients, changes in quantities used, or changes in the process of production, she must file a new formula application. After a change in formula is approved, the original formula must be surrendered to the appropriate TTB officer. See, 27 CFR §24.81
As for our questions from above, if apple and raspberry juices are combined and then fermented, the product is a Natural Fruit Wine and does not require a formula. If the apple juice is fermented and then the raspberry juice is added as a flavor, it is a Special Natural Wine, which does require a formula. And if a finished apple wine is mixed with a finished raspberry wine, it is an Other Than Standard Wine and also requires a formula. As for the dry-hopped mead, a formula is only required if the recipe exceeds one pound of hops per one thousand pounds of honey.
A Note About Cannabis
As the trend to marijuana legalization continues to grow, it seems that cannabis and alcohol are on a collision course, particularly with beer, but also with ciders, meads and other types of wine. In states where marijuana has been legalized, homebrewers have begun to experiment with adding marijuana to their products, but can commercial breweries and wineries do the same?
No. Certainly any winery that wanted to include some form of cannabis in its products would require a formula approval, because the additive would be either a natural flavor or an agricultural product. The TTB issued FAQ No. A29 on May 23, 2018, stating, “TTB will not approve any formulas or labels for alcohol beverage products that contain a controlled substance under Federal law, including marijuana.”
Substances, such as tetrahydrocannabinols (THC), cannabidiols (CBD), or terpenes that are derived from any part of the cannabis plant that is not excluded from the Controlled Substances Act definition of marijuana are controlled substances, regardless of whether such substances are lawful under State law.
Certain portions of the cannabis plant, however, may be permitted. Specifically, hemp seed oil, sterilized hemp seeds, and non-resinous mature hemp stalks may be included in alcoholic beverages, subject to formula approval, which requires submission of certain lab analyses. The product label, however, must accurately identify the ingredient such that it is clear the ingredient is not a controlled substance. The label also may not mislead the public into believing the product contains a controlled substance or has effects similar to those of a controlled substance.
Brian Kaider is a principal of KaiderLaw, an intellectual property law firm with extensive experience in the craft beverage industry. He has represented clients from the smallest of start-up breweries to Fortune 500 corporations in the navigation of regulatory requirements, drafting and negotiating contracts, prosecuting trademark and patent applications, and complex commercial litigation.
The Obscure French Grape Making Amazing American Wine
Nobody ever strolled into a winery looking to taste petit manseng. Merlot, chardonnay, even riesling, sure. Those varieties emerged as mainstays of Virginia’s tourism-oriented wine industry in the 1970s, to be sold in tasting rooms alongside marginal concoctions like plum and blueberry wines. But an obscure grape from the French region of Jurançon, unknown even to most Frenchmen? You couldn’t sell it. So why plant it?
Yet there comes a time in the maturation of every major viticultural region when its best producers segue from the grapes that everyone knows to those that thrive in the local conditions. For Michael Shaps, that meant petit manseng. Its tiny berries have high natural acidity, the attribute that can make wine thirst-quenching. They also have unusually thick skins, so they’re more likely to stay disease-free in humid weather. What would never have worked in Napa or Oregon was perfect for America’s Piedmont.
When Shaps, who had no ties to Virginia, returned to the U.S. from Burgundy, he declined various offers to serve as a cellar hand at West Coast properties in Oregon and Washington state because he wanted autonomy. After landing at Virginia’s Jefferson Vineyards, he started the Michael Shaps brand in 2000. He dabbled in merlot and cabernet, but knew that for his adopted state to stake its claim as a great winemaking region, it needed to produce wine that tasted like nothing else.
When Shaps had his first glass of local petit manseng in 2006, its crispness intrigued him. “I knew that I had to try to make it,” he says. If he could get the grapes ripe enough, he figured, all that acidity would work in his favor. Beginning in 2012, he started sourcing them from the Honah Lee Vineyard near Charlottesville. He made sure they stayed on the vines long enough to gain flavor and roundness, but not so long as to lose that signature tang.
Winemaker Michael Shaps Andrea Hubbell
The result is a uniquely American wine. The 2013 vintage, his second, is tasty but still broad and imprecise, like a crayon drawing. With the 2014, from a cooler season, it has come of age. Crackling with energy, with a flavor profile that hints at apricots and mangos with a squeeze of lime, it’s versatile enough to work perfectly with as complex a blend of tastes as Thanksgiving dinner. “Our best yet,” Shaps says.
He makes about 500 12-bottle cases of petit manseng annually and sells it as fast as he can get it in the bottle. When the Washington, D.C.-based chef and restaurateur José Andrés, a strong supporter of Virginia wines, tasted it, he tossed his credit card on the counter and asked to buy everything that remained. That consisted of a three-case stash of the 2012 that Shaps had earmarked for his own cellar. “I said, ‘You don’t understand, that’s for me. That’s all I have,’” Shaps recalls. Shaps wouldn’t budge until Andrés told him he wanted it not for his restaurants, but to drink at home with his wife. “When I heard that,” he says, “I sold him a case.”
At his small facility near the city of Charlottesville, Shaps makes a wide range of wines. His petit verdot and cabernet franc, especially, show the potential of bordeaux varieties in the region. They’re among the many bottlings, notably Barboursville Vineyards’ Octagon blend and Jim Law’s Linden Hardscrabble Chardonnay, that make Virginia worthy of consideration. But those are variations on a theme, wines so good that you’d almost identify them as French. This one is different. It could be nothing else.
Best Rosé: Grounded Wine Co. Space Age Rosé
Imagine the excitement of sitting around a television to witness Neil Armstrong take “one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind,” as it was happening. Grounded Wine Co. founder Josh Phelps is tapping into that excitement with his playful, eye-catching Space Age label, drawing inspiration from the “space race” that ended with America landing on the moon. In Phelps’ new-age take on that ambitious time in history, a bottle of Space Age rosé, made from grenache growing in California’s Central Coast, is due to land on your doorstep. The label alone makes it worthy of a "best" rosé pick, but the delicious wine in the bottle is the real ticket.
Rich tropical fruit finds farmer’s market strawberries and candied watermelon in a mineral-fueled, tangerine-peel-tinged, elegant, and lip-smacking rosé. Drink it while stargazing or while re-watching Spaceballs, the 1987 Mel Brooks film, and toast with the classic line: “May the Schwartz be with you!”
Storing and Enjoying Your Kit Wine
Once you’ve mastered the art and craft of making kit wines, what do you do with them? Drink them, of course! We don’t need to teach you how to drink and appreciate wine, but there are some finer points to cellaring, decanting and pairing wine with food that you may findhelpful. Building a wine collection full of your favorite styles of wine, and with varied types that pair well with all kinds&hellip
In focus: South Africa’s wine tourism hotspots
The wine tourist who makes it to South Africa in the next year or so will have never had it so good. The range, excellence and value-for-money of the western Cape winelands’ accommodation, cuisine and cellar doors continues to reach new heights. And you’ll be hard-pressed to receive a warmer welcome, such is the gratitude felt towards visitors since the pandemic.
Being one of the fortunate few from overseas to have spent time in the western Cape in January and February this year, I can vouch that very strict adherence to anti-Covid procedures is being observed in wineries, hotels and restaurants.
Entry into them is only permitted after a temperature test hand sanitisers are everywhere you go and masks, which are compulsory in all public places, are worn much more fastidiously than in the UK.
This is especially the case in Constantia, on the Cape Peninsula – the obvious place to start an exploration of the winelands. The Vineyard Hotel is something of a misnomer, being situated in the southern suburb of Newlands rather than in the midst of any vines, but it is an ideal location from which to explore Constantia’s wineries.
It is also a wonderful place to stay, being four-star but nearer five in quality. Its rooms look out over eight acres of gardens, with Table Mountain behind them. The former managing editor of the Daily Telegraph, Jeremy Deedes, likes The Vineyard so much that he and his wife spend every January and February there.
Those wanting to stay outside Cape Town on the Cape Peninsula should look no further than Steenberg Hotel & Spa, which is situated in the middle of Steenberg Vineyards. The hotel, very much a five-star, has 24 spacious rooms that are exquisitely furnished as well as three suites and two villas suitable for a family.
The historic old manor house, a 17 th century national monument, can also be booked and sleeps ten. The hotel has a pair of outstanding restaurants – Tryn and BistroSixteen82, the latter named after the year the farm was first settled.
Throw in a popular tasting room, where Steenberg’s full range of notable wines can be tasted, as well as a challenging golf course that is available to guests, and you have all the recipes for a self-contained wine tourism holiday.
There are, though, a number of wineries on the Cape Peninsula that shouldn’t be missed. The two southernmost are Cape Point Vineyards and Trizanne Signature Wines. The former’s cellar door boasts not just world-class Sauvignon Blancs, notably the Isliedh label, but also marvellous views of the white sands of Noordhoek beach below it.
Boschendal’s Orchard Cottage
Trizanne Barnard’s boutique setup is tucked away on the edge of Kommetjie, but her wines are well worth making the necessary appointment to taste. Her reserve Syrah is among South Africa’s best.
A quartet of leading Constantia wineries boast both excellent cellar doors and restaurants. The Jonkerhuis eatery at Groot Constantia, the oldest wine farm in South Africa, serves a savoury ‘estate tasting plate’ and scrumptious pavlova. Opposite it lies the magnificent manor house, built in 1685, now a museum and well worth a visit.
Klein Constantia, reached down the prettiest of winding drives, is a place you can happily spend half a day, with its welcoming tasting room and delightful new bistro, through whose deck a pair of jacaranda trees protrude.
The long list of wines, made by talented young winemaker Matt Day, needs time to taste through, and includes several top Sauvignon Blanc labels (such as Block 382, Clara and Perdeblokke), an aristocratic Bordeaux blend and South Africa’s finest sweet wine, Vin de Constance – a favourite of Napoleon.
Made from Muscat de Frontignan, the regally unctuous 2017 comes in at 165 g/l of residual sugar: that and older vintages can be tried with an afternoon cheese platter at the bistro. Chef Graham Davies produces ambrosial lunches to pair with Klein Constantia’s superb wines.
Neighbouring winery Buitenverwachting is another scenic old estate with impressive tasting and eating facilities. Beau Constantia, whose vineyards are the highest in Constantia at 362 metres, makes full use of its brilliant location.
Birkenhead House is prettified with paintings
Its restaurant, Chefs Warehouse, enjoys jaw-dropping views over False Bay while serving some of the best cuisine in the region. Chef Ivor Jones conjures up food of great flavour with a strong Asian influence, while Megan van der Merwe makes enticing wines to partner his dishes.
Culinary delights also abound in Stellenbosch, a number of whose wineries offer outstanding accommodation options. Not to be missed is Jordan Wine Estate, a few kilometres west of town, which has half a dozen luxury suites overlooking the vineyards.
Very nicely furnished, these are a short walk from the winery’s bakery and the celebrated Jordan Restaurant, where Scottish-born chef George Jardine fashions cuisine that is as stunning as the views from it of the Simonsberg, Helderberg and Stellenbosch Mountains. Try the aged Chalmar sirloin and the honey and poppy seed soufflé.
Another leading chef, Nick van Wyk, prepares outstanding fare at the Kleine Zalze restaurant, next to the winery. A tasting of Kleine Zalze Wines’ full range, which is produced by top cellarmaster Alastair Rimmer, is a must.
As many as seven of their labels were awarded five stars in the latest edition of Platter, the national wine guide which selected it as its top performing South African winery for 2020.
What is one of the western Cape’s most impressive winery brands (featuring 75 SKUs) is complemented by the comfortable De Zalze lodge and golf course. The latter is recognised by golfers as one of the best in the western Cape.
The Delaire Graff Estate superior lodges, meanwhile, rank among the most luxurious accommodation options in the winelands. Perched on the crest of the Helshoogte Pass, each lodge’s stylish and spacious interior spills out onto a private terrace and plunge pool with memorable views of Stellenbosch Valley below and Table Mountain in the distance.
Delaire Graff’s fine range of wines, made by the able Morne Vrey, is available for tasting, while chef Virgil Kahn cooks delicious Afro-Asian food at the hotel’s Indochine restaurant. Two wives of Stellenbosch winery owners oversee lunches in the most atmospheric of venues.
Elena Dalla Cia produces pasta that melts in the mouth at the Pane e Vino Food & Wine Bar at Bosman’s Crossing in the centre of town. Her husband, George, and father-in-law, Giorgio, the former Meerlust winemaker, craft a superb range of wines and spirits under the Dalla Cia label. Their grappa is among the best found outside Italy.
A few kilometres north of Stellenbosch at Muratie, one of the most characterful wine estates in the district, Kim Melck directs a kitchen whose quality and value-for-money lures visitors from far afield.
While the traditional old tasting room is a splendid nod to history, her husband Rijk has installed modern shower and changing facilities in a converted stable for cyclists and hikers who tackle the 26km of trails on the Simonsberg Mountain behind Muratie. A delightful cottage by the Muratie vineyards is available for short or medium term lets.
The beautiful 5,000-acre Boschendal estate in the picturesque Drakenstein Valley near Franschhoek also has a varied collection of desirable cottages for rent. These include the flagship Cottage 1685, and the secluded Trout Cottage, both of which are found in the private part of the farm, and the lovingly-restored Orchard and Werf farm cottages.
Traverse the estate on foot, mountain bike or horseback, and you come across caves to explore, dams to swim in and even the former set of Homeland, the American espionage TV series, some of which was filmed on Boschendal. The Werf restaurant offers sumptuous cuisine in a glorious setting, while cellar master Jacques Viljoen’s extensive range of Boschendal Wines is well worth tasting through at the homely cellar door.
Not far from Boschendal in the Franschhoek Valley is another big and very old Cape Dutch wine farm with five-star accommodation: Babylonstoren. The hotel section’s thick whitewashed walls, elegant gables and hearty fireplaces provide for an authentic farmstay experience, albeit in considerable luxury.
Another option is the estate’s lovely Fynbos Cottages, set well away from the celebrated eight acres of gardens and main buildings. These include one of the biggest underground cellars in South Africa, which is a special place to taste Babylonstoren’s range of wines. The hotel’s Babel restaurant has deservedly won a very good reputation, drawing almost exclusively on farm produce.
A twenty-minute drive from Babylonstoren takes you to the picture-postcard town and vineyards of Franschhoek. Accommodation options are numerous but the three places I stayed in made for a pleasing contrast.
The Rickety Bridge manor house, a refined old Cape Dutch building situated by the winery of the same name, has the sort of relaxing, ultra-comfy feel to it that makes you want to come back again. Paulina’s Restaurant at the winery is first-class, as are Rickety Bridge’s wines, notably The Pilgrimage Semillon from 1905 vines.
For sheer splendour and luxury, not to mention artwork, nothing beats La Residence. Tucked away in 30 acres of vines, olive groves and plum trees, this is one of the most opulent hotels not just in Franschhoek but the whole of South Africa.
/>Delaire Graff villa
The eleven huge bedrooms in the main building, as well as five vineyard suites, were all designed individually by owner Liz Biden, who has furnished them with consummate taste. An avid art collector, she has hung paintings and works from 29 artists throughout the hotel.
With its dramatic mountain views, world-class cuisine and incomparable levels of comfort, this is a rock-star hotel. Indeed, Elton John regularly stays there, with a signed photo of him left in his favourite room.
Those looking for a charming hideaway in Franschhoek would do well to try Akademie Street Boutique Hotel, named after the quiet road it is located in, a short walk from the town centre. A heritage building and former guesthouse, it was bought by an Irishman, Paul Kinney, in 2014 and refurbished to a very high standard.
Its eight suites are popular with British visitors, while a romantic cottage attracts honeymooners. The sizeable and tastefully-furnished suites have wood-burning hot-tubs on wide balconies. The breakfast around the main pool was the best I had in the western Cape, and included irresistible smoothies and a 12-fruit plate.
For lovers of sushi, GlenWood serves some top-class fare at its winery restaurant, several kilometres west of the town. Its wines, made by DP Burger, are also excellent, and can be sampled either at the handsome cellar door or at the ‘Nature’s Window’ tasting-room high up the mountain, a 20-minute walk from the winery. The vistas from there are spectacular.
/>Matt Day of Klein Constantia
When it comes to the sea views across Walker Bay towards Cape Peninsula that Grootbos boasts, you run out of superlatives. This fabulous five-star lodge, set in a private nature reserve of 6,000 acres that is home to 800 plant species and three milkweed forests over 1,000 years old, is conveniently close to the wards of Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Elim, Napier and Stanford Foothills.
It is ideally situated to take in many wineries, but wine connoisseurs may not want to stray too far beyond its boundaries, for it has one of the finest cellars in South Africa. Owner Michael Lutzeyer has, over many years, stocked it with over 30,000 bottles from 50 top Cape producers, buying multiple cases of hard-to-obtain Cape Winemakers Guild wines. The cuisine at Grootbos matches the high quality of the wines, with the springbok shank being a personal favourite.
Grootbos lies half an hour east of Hermanus, where anyone wanting to explore the local wineries from a heavenly seaside base should stay at Birkenhead House. Perched on a promontory next door to Voelklip Beach, over which it has fine views, it contains eleven stylish rooms and is luxuriously open-plan. Its cuisine and wine list are both first-rate.
Tasty lunches also await visitors to the Sumaridge winery, which boasts gorgeous views from its restaurant down the Upper Hemel-en-Aarde Valley to the sea. British owners, Holly and Simon Bellingham-Turner, have worked hard to give visitors a special experience, while their winemaker, Walter Pretorius, fashions a wide and impressive range. Sumaridge’s well-appointed estate lodge, which sleeps eight, is available for hire as a whole.
Just as Birkenhead House stands out as the most desirable place to stay in Hermanus, so does another boutique establishment in Robertson, in the beautiful Breede River Valley region. If it has an unusual name – the Robertson Small Hotel – that is only because it has ten rooms.
Tucked away down a quiet residential street, it is a converted manor house that is now a national monument. Everything about it oozes class, from the deluxe rooms to the bar, restaurant and gardens.
Although the scenic Robertson wine district is slightly off the beaten track, it enchants many who get there, containing not just well-known wineries such as Graham Beck, De Wetshof and Springfield but also some hidden gems.
While those big three offer enjoyable experiences for the wine tourist, and should not be missed, much smaller setups like Arendsig Handcrafted Wines, Kranskop and Kleinhoekkloof are a joy to visit.
The Arendsig winery’s location by the Breede River could hardly be more idyllic. Owner-winemaker Lourens van der Westhuizen, who offers choice cottage accommodation near the river, produces single vineyard labels of note. Newald Marais, the former Nederburg cellar master, also fashions appealing wines at his Kranskop farm, with his Tannat standing out.
Tasters can enjoy his range over a cheese platter on a deck with a great view of the Langeberg Mountains. Kleinhoekkloof, being the highest winery in the district at 420m, possesses even more panoramic vistas. Owner Theunis de Jongh is an engaging host, providing a tasty charcuterie platter from his farm pigs that goes well with his appetising wines.
This spirit of enterprise is widespread through the western Cape. Leading Stellenbosch producer De Toren have just completed a revamped drive-up facility at the winery, with booking recommended for their new one-hour tour that includes a walk through the vineyard, cellar, barrel and maturation rooms followed by a tasting of their exemplary wines.
Kevin Arnold, cellar master at another top Stellenbosch winery, Waterford, has started three-hour vineyard safaris through the estate’s 450 acres of vines in the majestic Blaauwklippen Valley. Two stops with tastings in prime spots are included.
The drives, which are limited to ten people, take place twice daily in a game-viewing 4ࡪ vehicle procured from a national park. Waterford’s example epitomises the imagination that the South African wine industry is employing to give wine tourists the best possible experience post-pandemic. Those who do get to the western Cape will be amply rewarded.
Another family-owned winery, Harvest Ridge was originally founded as a hobby with land along the Mason-Dixon Line. (The property even features one of the Line's original crown markers.) The vineyard grows chardonnay, viognier, malbec, and merlot grapes and offers tastings and food so you can enjoy your visit.
Focused on sparkling and dessert wines, San Sebastian is considered one of the premier wineries in Florida. St. Augustine is the oldest city in the state and the winery is just outside of downtown, making for a historic and scenic area to enjoy your wine. The winery tours and tastings are always complimentary—no purchase required. Inspired by Florida's Spanish heritage, the ambiance of the winery is cozy and speaks to Mediterranean influences.
Deirdre Heekin and Eleanor Leger found each other through their love of the wild purity of fruit and botanicals. Orleans ciders are a unique and aromatic expression of the alpine Vermont landscape and a creation of two friends.
It was a snowy night at a hotel tavern in northern Vermont when Eleanor Leger and Deirdre Heekin met. Deirdre had just come out with her book Libation: A Bitter Alchemy, a collection of essays on wine and spirits. This was before the evolution of La garagista, when the idea of growing wine on Deirdre and her husband Caleb Barber’s hillside farm in Vermont was just a shadow at the edge of the imagination. There were some experimental vines planted at the homefarm in Barnard, but there was no inkling that Deirdre’s small, educational project would develop into the domaine it is today. In fact, it was unclear whether growing wine biodynamically at high altitude in this part of the world would work at all. Because Deirdre, a practicing sommelier at the time, was not sure she could grow wines of place like she so loved to serve at the restaurant she and Caleb shared, all that interest got channeled elsewhere, to what she thought at the time were more probable and reasonable possibilities for farming and fermentation in this northern clime. She had become enchanted by the world of infusions and macerations, amaro and rosolio. This seemed like a way to make something spirituous in the hills of Vermont, an agricultural expression that could also represent a sense of place. In Libation she wrote extensively about her fledgling winegrowing and winemaking project, her fingers crossed, and also about her introduction to and immersion in rosolio and amaro during extended travels in Italy which provided endless inspiration for food, culture and spirit.
Meanwhile, Eleanor and her husband Albert had embarked on realizing their own dream of making top notch ice cider from their land in a Vermont so north it was almost in Quebec. Albert, a native Arcadian, and Eleanor with a family history tracing to northern Vermont, chose this outpost to create an orchard and farm. They had been inspired by cideries in Normandy and knew that apples married very happily to the Vermont terroir. They wanted to work with the deep cold of snowy winters and began to riff off of the idea of ice cider. They named it Eden. When Deirdre and Eleanor met, Eden had had a couple of seasons under its belt and was refining the very particular process of letting cider freeze outdoors during the heart of the winter, then bringing that frozen juice into their cellar, drawing off the concentrated and condensed amber liquid to ferment into magical ciders. But like with all artisanal efforts, sometimes plans change, or life doesn’t go exactly as planned. One of the Eden tanks of cider decided it wanted to be something else. It fermented completely dry. At first Eleanor and Albert weren’t sure what that might be, until Eleanor met Deirdre and listened to her read about this world of elixirs infused with different herbs, flowers, fruits collected from the countryside. A lightening bolt struck Eleanor’s vision and as they say, the rest is history.
In 2010, Eleanor and Deirdre launched the first of a series of cider aperitifs inspired by old-world concoctions like Lillet, Campari, Chartreuse and classical French and Italian amari. Made for inspiring the appetite and good health, the first Orleans was named Herbal after the botanical infusion of fresh basil and anise hyssop. Then came Bitter comprised of house-made tinctures of angelica root, chicory root, dandelion root and leaves, and juicy red currant for color. The most recent addition is Wood, a wild-gathered recipe of sweet gale, spruce tips, and wild mint from Caleb and Deirdre’s farm in Barnard, steeped in the deep dry cider base produced during the ice cider process.
The recipes are developed together by Deirdre and Eleanor, and Eden Cider’s cellar master Garret Huber completes the circle of production up in Eden’s Newbury winery.
Grape Wine Recipe
1. Harvesting and processing. In order to preserve wild yeasts on grapes you should pick them only in a dry sunny weather. There should be no rain 2-3 days prior to that. Only ripe fruits are good for winemaking. Unripe grapes contain too much acid which deteriorated the taste of the final beverage. Overripe berries are prone to develop vinegary fermentation which can eventually spoil all of the must (squeezed out juice). I also don’t recommend picking up fruit drops, because they might add an unpleasant earthy taste to the grape wine, which is very hard to fix. Harvested berries should be processed within two days, after that they will become unfit for making homemade wine.
Harvested grapes are thoroughly sorted out, removing stems, unripe, tainted or berries with mold. Then the berries are mashed and together with the juice are placed in an enamel pot, filling it up to ¾ of its volume. It is best to mash the grapes by hands, thus not damaging the seeds, which contain substances that make the taste of wine bitter. If there are too many berries, then you should gently shuffle them with a wooden rolling pin (pestle).
You should avoid letting the juice touch metal (unless it’s stainless steel), because this causes oxidation, which spoils the taste of homemade wine. That’s why berries should be mashed by hands or with wooden tools, and put the pulp (mashed grapes) into an enamel hollow-ware – a bucket or a pan. You can also use food grade plastic (Plastic Containers – we have them for sale)
Then cover the container with a clean cloth and leave for 3-4 days in a dark warm place (65-74F° / 18-23°C). After 12-20 hours the juice will start fermenting, and on its surface “a hat” from peels will appear, which must be removed 1-2 times a day by stirring the pulp with a wooden spoon or by hand. If you don’t do that, the mash might start vinegary fermentation which will spoil your wine material.
2. Obtaining pure juice. After 3-4 days the pulp will get brighter, it will obtain sour scent and you’ll hear a hissing sound. This means that the fermentation has successfully started it’s time to squeeze the juice out.
The upper layer of peel is gathered in a separate container and squeezed with a press or by hands. All of the juice (should be separated from the sediment of the pulp) is filtered through gauze and transferred 2-3 times from one container into another. This transferring allows not only to get rid of impurities but also enriches the juice with oxygen, facilitating proper operation of wine yeasts.
Then fermentation containers get filled with pure juice (up to 70% of their volume). Ideally, glass containers should be used.
3. Installing an Airlock. In order to prevent your homemade grape wine from souring, you should secure it against air-influx and provide an outlet for the main fermentation product – carbon dioxide. This can be achieved by installing Airlock on top of the juice container. The most popular one is a classic Airlock consisting of a lid, a tube, and a jar (as can be seen on the photo – you can get it in our store).
A classic water lock scheme
A simple medical glove with a hole in one of the fingers proved to serve well at home too.
Wine fermentation with a glove
The design of a Airlock is not critical, but installing standard airlock on bigger containers is much more convenient.
4. Initial (active) fermentation. After installing a Airlocklock you should provide suitable temperature conditions for the containers. Optimal temperature of red homemade wine fermentation is 72-83F ° / 22-28°C, of white wine – 60-72F° / 16-22°C. You shouldn’t allow temperature to drop below 50F° / 10°C, otherwise there’s a chance of yeasts dying before turning all of the sugar into alcohol. Due to various reasons after 2-3 days the must might stop fermenting. If that happened, to restart the fermentation you may have to add wine yeast make a wine broth. Wine yeast is simplest, but here is short info on broth: put 5.3 oz / 150 grams of raisins into the bottle, 1.7 oz / 50 grams of sugar and add warm water up to 1/3 of the volume. Close the bottle with a cotton cork and leave it for 3-4 days in a warm place. When raisins start fermenting (bubbles will appear), you should pour out the broth, mix it with1 liter of the must and put it back to the wine container. That will restart the fermentation.
5. Adding sugar. Approximately 2% of sugar in the must give 1% of alcohol in the matured wine. In most of the regions sugar content of grapes does not exceed 20%. This means that without adding sugar you’ll end up with wine with ABV of 10-12%. The maximum strength of beverages is 15-16% because higher content of alcohol kills wild yeasts.
The problem resides in the fact that determining the initial sugar content of grapes in home conditions without a special device (hydrometer) is impossible. Focusing on the average grades is also useless because it requires having information about the sugar content of the selected variety in its climatic zone. In non-winemaking areas nobody does such calculations. Therefore, we will focus on the taste of the juice.
For maintaining normal fermentation sugar content of the must should not exceed 10-15%. In order to maintain this condition sugar is added by parts. After 2-3 days the fermentation has started taste the grape must. When it’s getting sour (sugar transformed) you should add 50 grams of sugar per liter of the juice. For this pour 0.25-0.5 gal / 1-2 liters of the must into a separate container, dissolve sugar in it, pour the obtained wine syrup back into the bottle and shake it well.
This procedure is repeated several times (usually 3-4) during the first 14-30 days of the fermentation. At certain point sugar content of the must will stop decreasing. This means that boiling fermentation has stopped and it’s time to go to the next stage.
6. Separating wine from the sediment.When the airlock stops bubbling for 1-2 days (the glove deflates) and the must got brighter and formed loose sediment at the bottom, the new homemade wine is poured into another container. The deal is that dead fungi are gathering at the bottom. If they stay in wine for too long, they will give it a bitter taste and a bad smell. 1-2 days prior to removing wine from the sediment the fermentation container is put above the floor (1.5-2 ft / 50-60 cm). You can put it on a bench, a chair or anything else. When there’s sediment at the bottom again, the wine should be poured into another container (dry and clean) through a siphon – a transparent soft tube 0.25-0.4 inches / 0.7-1 cm in diameter and 3.2-5 ft / 1-1.5 meters long. You should not get the end of the tube closer than 0.8-1 inch / 2-3 centimeters to the sediment.
Poured homemade wine won’t be absolutely transparent. You shouldn’t be afraid of it, the appearance of the beverage has not yet settled.
7. Sugar content control.It’s time to decide the sweetness of the new homemade wine. Since active fermentation has stopped added sugar will not transform and will stay in the beverage.
You should add sugar or sweeteners to your own personal taste. At first pour 0.25-0.5 gal / 1-2 liters of wine, add sugar (not more than 3.5-7 oz / 100-200 grams per 0.25 gal / 1 liter) and then stir it, pour the wine with dissolved sugar back into the bottle and stir it again. If you’re okay with the sweetness of the beverage then you can skip this step, just how you did with dry wine.
8. Still fermentation (maturation). This stage defines the final taste. It lasts for 40-380 days. Longer aging of homemade wines is pointless, since it doesn’t improve beverages features.
To mature wine container is closed with a airlock (recommended) or tightly sealed with a lid. You should keep the container in a dark cellar or basement at a temperature of 50-61F° / 10-16°C. If it’s impossible, then you should provide a temperature of 65-72F° / 18-22°C (but not higher) for the maturation of the new wine. It’s important to avoid temperature drops otherwise, the taste will get worse. The minimum term of white wine aging is 40 days, of red wine – 60-90 days.
You should transfer the wine from one container to another through a straw every 7-10 days, removing it from the sediment like we did at the 6th stage. As a result, it will keep getting brighter and brighter. Simultaneously you control its taste.
9. Artificial fining of wine (lighting).Even after several months in a basement homemade wine might still remain cloudy. If that’s not okay with you, you can use techniques of wine clarification.
You should remember that clarification can improve only visual appearance of the beverage but not its taste.