This is the time of year that gets folks antsy about home winemaking. I get tons of calls and questions about personal winemaking at home, so I thought I'd answer a few important questions about the process. Okay, here we go!




Home winemaking has really taken off in the last five years. With the amazing amount of newly planted grapes in our neighborhoods, we are seeing a chance to make our own wine at home and people are jumping at the opportunity. Here are a few important thoughts in making your own wine:




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162; Sourcing: Find good, mature vines if you can. The internet is a good source to find local grapes, as well as trade mags and home brewing and winemaking shops. One can also purchase extract of grape in almost any flavor one wishes. These are nice items, clean and very solid juice cans, from all over the world. I purchased Cabernet from Yakima, Wash., some years ago and the wine turned out very nice indeed!




If you are really interested in real grapes, find a grower that you can have a relationship with so that, when the grapes are ready to harvest, you'll be the first in line. There are some wineries that will sell grapes, as well. Again, it is all about forming a good relationship with the grower.




We can also make wine from any fruit. Elderberries are a biggie, as are apples and pears. If you cannot find a good source for grapes, move on. I have tasted superb pear wine, as well as elderberry, raspberry and blackberry treats! Try not to limit yourself.




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162; Equipment: Purchase good winemaking equipment. Do not use ceramic to ferment in because there are fissures in the walls of ceramic jars that can and do harvest bacteria. Try food-grade plastic or stainless steel for fermentation and you will be much better off for it. Those who ferment in wood also find huge problems with bacteria, so stick with the nonporous fermeter.




Remember, just because grandpa and grandma fermented in oak or wooden vessels, try a modern approach; things have moved on.




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162; Yeast: The fresher the better. If you are buying yeast from a purveyor, be insistent on the time frame. Over a few months, forget about it. Liquid yeast are superior. I like Montrachet or Champagne yeast.




Whatever you do, do not (!) use bread yeasts, as they are not designed for wine use on any level. I have known of many great batches of homemade wine to go bad because of lousy yeast. Nothing is more maddening than getting everything in line only to be ruined by bad yeast! Be careful!




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162; Clean: Yeah! This is really numero uno. If you are not sterile in your winemaking, things will simply go to hell in a handbasket very quickly.




There are many ways to maintain cleanliness &

check out winemaking books or go to the Net to figure out what is best for you. I steralize by boiling everything that comes in contact with the fruit. This means is not exclusive to spoons, hoses, containers, caps, bottles and corks.




Hands should be cleansed before working. And a place with a sink and a drain are essential. All air locks, as well as any fermenters, should be squeaky clean. In other words, work as you would (an old maxim) in surgery and consider your home wine as your patient to grow and prosper.




Well, these are the overall points of good winemaking. More next week!