I consider the ability to make alcohol an important skill. Like guns, ammunition, and gold, you’ll probably always be able to trade it for something. Now it’s the time of year when you can get fresh grape juice and grapes out of California. I ordered what’s called “bucket juice,” because it comes in large buckets. You know, the kind that kill kids in drowning accidents more often than guns.
When the season arrives, the local home brew stores put out alerts that you can put in orders for juice or grapes. After the orders are all taken, the stores put in orders to have the juice shipped from Golden State vintners to the store. Obviously this takes a few days from order to delivery, and who knows how long the stuff has been sitting in refrigeration out West. As soon as I got mine in the car, I heard hissing.
“What’s that hissing? I think that juice is already fermenting,” I told Bitter.
So I get the juice back home, and sure enough, it’s fizzing away. Apparently it’s not unusual for bucket juice to arrive fermenting. I’ve even read of cases where people have gotten bucket juice where fermentation has completely finished. We thieved a sample of the juice, and both agreed it tasted excellent. I added a bit of extra sugar, since the specific gravity wasn’t all that high. I could taste no alcohol on the juice, so I’m not sure fermentation had gone that far, but sugar also is very very effective at hiding alcohol. If I added too much, we’ll get a sweeter Burgundy. Wine yeast tends to commit environmental suicide at around 14% alcohol by volume, so if you add too much you will have some residual sweetness. I much prefer dry wines, so hopefully I did not overdo it.
I’ve generally not gotten burned in home brewing or winemaking just going with whatever happens. I’ve never had to toss a batch for being so foul it couldn’t be drunk. The juice tasted good, so even if wild yeast are going at the juice, they seem to be working well so far. I pitched my starter in, so hopefully that will be the dominant strain in a few days. We’ll see how this goes.
The one thing about winemaking vs. home brewing is you put a lot more time into a wine than you do a beer. An all-grain batch of beer might take a whole day to produce, but one racking a week later, then two weeks in secondary, and you’e ready for kegging and drinking. Winemaking never will take a whole day of your time at once, but over time it will take more of your time. It takes more care and you have more invested emotionally in its outcome. On the upside, if you screw up beer, you’re generally screwed, and it’s time to make like Elliot Ness and just dump it in the storm drain. Wine is easier to fix and doctor if you make mistakes. If you’re goal is adult beverage goodness, I can’t really say one path is superior to the other.