Growing up, one of the many traditions that my parents and their families carried on and do today is making Homemade Wine. As a History Major, learning about the history of those before us and that of traditions and experiences of family members is something I hold near and true to my heart. My family is Portuguese and I remember being a child and sitting around the table at family functions or running around with my brother and cousins as the adults enjoyed some great food and a glass of wine and there was lots of laughter and talking, lots of food to go around and some more pouring of the wine. Portuguese folk music would be sung and family members would play their instruments. Wine would be enjoyed at a larger family function, a Sunday dinner at our Grandpa & Grandma Jack’s home, during the holidays or a family dinner at Grandpa and Grandma G’s place or an evening at home. We reminisce, carry on and continue to enjoy moments sharing some wine and food today as well! Great food, wine and company!
When my family or anyone shares their homemade wine with loved ones, you take pride in knowing that you made the wine, something of your own, made with love and lots of elbow grease to share with those around you. Sharing and having a glass of wine in our family was and is surrounded by building great memories. When we made the wine from scratch using a machine by hand and got to squish the grapes in the barrels, which was really exciting seeing the juice and all the pails and the smell of the juice - sure, there were bees everywhere from the smell of the sweet grapes and juice and it was a lot of work, but I remember being a part of that at my Grandparents and getting to taste the freshly squeezed grape juice and then probably running off to play with my brother and cousins again haha!
Every year since we got married, my husband and dad carry on this tradition together and it makes me so happy that they do this and that I get to share in it and of course enjoy some delicious homemade wine. I love to write and share the things that inspire us, in hopes of inspiring others as well and so today I will sharing my post all about our Family Tradition: How we make our Homemade Wine!
Our homemade wine is a great treat during a weeknight dinner or a family get together. We head downstairs to our cellar with our wine canister or bottle and pour some fresh wine out of the vintage barrel – just a great treat!
We have had these barrels for years and they have been passed down and we are honoured that we have one of these barrels for our cellar. We love collecting and getting to use anything vintage- style and so this barrel has a lot of marks on it and history to it and we love that.
STEP 1: WINE MAKING SEASON AND EMPTYING THE BARREL FOR NEW WINE
When it is time for wine making season, whether you have finished your wine or not (that is if you managed to get a barrel previously or are thinking about making wine for the first time) you need to empty what is left inside of the barrel. We usually make our wine around the 2nd or 3rd WEEK OF SEPTEMBER. Rinse the barrel with cool water, using pails (we do this inside of our basement laundry sink that is close by the cellar) until the liquid coming out its clearer. They fill about half of the pail with water and pour it into the barrel.
-Empty what is left in the barrel
-Pour water into it
-With your hand over the hole at the top of barrel, rock it/swooshing the water back and forward.
-Drain the liquid/water.
-Repeat 2-4 times until the liquid coming out is clear.
STEP 2: TURN THE BARREL AROUND TO CLEAN THE INNER WALLS
After the barrel is cleaned out, turn it upside down so the opening at the top is at the bottom and put a small bucket under so any leftover water will make its way down. Ours, my parents’ barrels and those of my grandparents are sitting propped up on a makeshift platform that they had made. So, you leave it to drain out so that anything left in there can go along and makes it way around the walls and down out below. Leave this for at least 24 hours.
STEP 3: USING A CONDITIONER TO PREPARE THE BARREL FOR WINE
The next day, turn it back around, upright. Take a piece of wire and make a hole through the conditioner. This is yellow and comes in double the size shown. My dad and husband split it in half and use ½ per barrel. This conditioner is used to prepare the barrel for a new batch of wine. It seals all the gaps and cracks inside of the barrel. **IT IS VERY POTENT/STRONG SMELLING SO WE USE A MASK AND IT IS ADVISED TO KEEP YOUR HEAD FAR BACK AS IT STARTS. MAKE SURE THAT YOU PHYSICALLY SEE THAT IT STARTS TO BURN or else you will have to wait another day, to do it again.
STEPS FOR CONDITIONER:
-**The length of the wire should be approximately ½ the depth of the barrel if the wire is too long, it might touch bottom of the barrel and it will not burn. If it is too short, it will burn too close to the cork, it wont seal and it will leak out**.
-Take the piece of wire and make a hole through top of conditioner.
-It must be at the centre point of barrel when it is lowered. Wire must have a 90 degree bend at the top so that when you cork it, it holds the wire and conditioner in place.
-Light up the conditioner. If it fires up, then it is good inside, if not, the barrel is not in good shape.
-As you lower it, cork it with the wire in place, which will hold the conditioner in place at centre of the barrel, as you cork it. When you put it in it hisses because air is pushing up against and around the walls of the barrel.
-Let it sit for 24 HOURS
STEP 4: POURING THE JUICE INTO THE BARREL
-We buy our juice. This year, we bought Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from a place where they bring the grapes to that location and sell it. You have the option of buying either the juice or of the grapes squished on the spot. We purchased NINE, FIVE GALLON PAILS of wine of the juice (which had already been squeezed).
-We brought them to the basement, split them into half pails for lighter pouring.
-Hold onto wire and remove the cork. Place funnel into the barrel. Begin pouring new wine batch into the barrel.
-STRONGLY ADVISE – 1st 2-3 PAILS POURED WILL GIVE OFF A VERY STRONG SMELL AS A RESULT OF THE CONDITIONER. HOLD YOUR BREATH, KEEP FACE AWAY. If you need your sinuses cleared, this will surely do so. BE ADVISED OF THE STRONG SMELL you will cough… A LOT.
-Pour all the contents of the wine into the barrel.
-DO NOT CORK THE BARREL, just have it sitting upside down on top, to allow it to ferment.
-Clean off all of the tools, pails, etc so that it is all ready for next season. Enjoy the smell of the fermentation, it does get better, but will stick around for about the next week or so.
-Once and awhile check it, you will hear it fizzing.
-CORK IT approximately 2-3 weeks after.
The wine is ready usually around Christmas time. How do you know it is ready? When it ferments, it mixes. When you pour a glass of wine out of the barrel, if it is foggy, it is not ready. If it is clear – the colour of the wine – then it is ready!
I really enjoyed learning the steps and process of how we make our wine and taking pictures and sharing it with others and my husband and dad enjoy making it! We cannot wait to indulge and share some homemade wine with friends and family. We often give our wine bottled as gifts along with our homemade tomato sauce! Homemade with love to share with others.
I hope you enjoyed this post and if you have family or friends that make wine, lucky you getting to enjoy it! If you would like to make wine on your own, good for you - it is totally worth it! You save some money on buying wine during the year and you’re stocked up for a few months out of the year! There are many ways and varieties of wine to make and this is how we do ours in recent years and again, enjoying something homemade and getting to share that with loved ones is a great feeling and we look forward to a glass of wine and sharing it once the wine is ready! Cheers :)
Have you had homemade wine? Which type of wine/flavour is your favourite?