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Basic Method

Step One: Sterilise Everything

This is done using sodium metabisulphite which can be bought from brewery shops either as a powder or in tablet form. Instructions will be on the packet, but generally, you just rinse all your equipment in a solution of it, leave for a few minutes, and then rinse off. A lot of books say that you needn't bother rinsing it off, but I always do it just to be sure. It is usually a good idea to rinse any fruit, vegetable or plants used in a solution as well to be sure that there aren't any wild yeasts that could ruin your wine.

Step Two: Activate the Yeast

To activate the yeast, it is best to boil up about 1 cup of fresh orange juice with a tablespoon of sugar. Leave this to cool to about blood temperature, place in a sterilised bottle and add the yeast. This must then be plugged with some cotton and left in a warm place until it is needed.

Step Three: Extract the Juice

The main ingredient(s) such as the fruit, vegetable, herb or flower that the wine is based on should first go through the flavour extracting process. I find that the best method for most types of ingredients is pulp fermentation, where the ingredients are crushed and then added to about three litres of water. Another method is pouring the boiling water over the ingredients and then pulp fermenting, or bioling the ingredients in the water and then straining the liquid off. The last option is to crush the ingredients in a juicer, mincer or by hand and then strain off the liquid through some cheesecloth.

Step Four:Preparing the Must

The must is the mixture of ingredients that the wine is created from. If there are any sultanas or raisins in the wine (except sultana or raisin wine) about a litre of water should first be poured over these in a sterilised plastic container (ideally). A banana or two can be chopped up, skin and all, and added about now to add body to the wine, though this is not absolutely necessary. The juice or pulp should then be poured on top of this. After that, about a third of the sugar should be added, preferably in syrup form. The reason you only add a third is that if all of the sugar is added at once, it may inhibit the fermentation. If the must is hot, wait for it to cool down to about 25 C and then add the pectin enzyme, yeast nutrient, any acids, and finally, the activated yeast.

Step Five: Primary Fermentation

The primary fermentation is the aerobic stage. The must is left in a plastic container, covered in cheesecloth and left for a few days, the length given in each individual recipe. If there is pulp in the must, it should be pressed down twice daily to let oxygen get through.

Step Six: Secondary Fermentation

After a given number of days, the must is strained and then put into a one gallon (five litre) demijohn with an airlock. At the same time, add another third of the sugar, and add about half a litre of cooled boiled water.

Step Seven: Maintenance

After about ten days, the liquid must be racked into another sterilised demijohn. This involves getting a long plastic tube, one end of which you drop into the filled demijohn, just above the layer of scum on the bottom (lees). Place the first demijohn in a high place, and the other just below it. Suck on the end of the tubing to get the liquid flowing, and quickly place that end into the other demijohn. This will get all of the clearest liquid seperate from the gooey stuff. You should start racking while it is still fermenting. This will probably start the airlocks bubbling away furiously. When it slows down, add the last of the sugar syrup and fill the demijohn up to about three centimetres from the top with cooled boiled water. You should rack it about once every three or four weeks after.

Step Eight: Finishing Fermentation

It can be difficult to know when to stop fermentation, or if you should. If you want to be absolutely sure that it has stopped, use a hydrometer to measure the sugar level. About two weeks later, measure it again, and if it is the same, you can be pretty sure that it has stopped. Hydrometers are too complex for me to explain, so if you want to find out about them, you'd better look somewhere else. You can stop the fermentation process by adding enough sodium metabisulphite to kill all the yeast, and if you do use a hydrometer, it is best to stop dry wine at 1000 specific gravity or less and sweet wine at about 1010 s.p. If you seal up wine that has not finished fermenting, your containers will explode, so be certain that it has stopped! NOTE: Just because it has stopped bubbling doesn't mean that it has stopped fermenting!

Step Nine: Leave it for a while

The wine should now be left in the sealed demijohn until it has cleared. There are many fining agents that can be added for this period to help the wine clear, but being a lover of all things organic, I prefer to ignore the commercial products and just add a tablespoon or two of milk, which contains casien. Casien can also be bought on its own I believe, but why bother when you can just go to the fridge? The wine should also be racke frequently to help the process along, adding water each time to fill up the demijohn.

Step Ten: Bottling

Once the wine is clear and bright, it is siphoned into sterilised wine bottles and sealed with sterilised corks. About two or three centimetres should be left in the neck of the bottle so that the pressure of the compressed air between the wine and the cork doesn't make the corks pop off. Generally, green or clear bottles are used for containing white wines, and brown bottles for red.

Step Eleven: Storing

Bottles should be stored on their sides, but if the wine is to be stored for a long time, it can be left upright for about 24 hours so that the corks will dry against the neck of the bottle, creating stronger adhesion. Put labels on every bottle, including the type of wine and when it was made.

Step Twelve: Maturing

When wine is stored correctly, the acids and the alcohol mix to produce pleasant esters. Fruit, vegetable, herb and flower wines may only take about three to six months to mature, but full bodied reds should mature for at least one to two years. Mead can take even longer. If you can't resist opening a bottle or two, try to keep a couple for a few years, as you may find it will taste even better.

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