Thursday, October 18, 2007

days of wine and....

The wine making equipment has arrived. We ordered on-line an introductory wine-making kit which comes with all of the necessities: primary fermentation container (a 6 gallon plastic bucket with spigot), five packets of wine yeast, campbden tablets, rubber tubing, yeast nutrients, an hydrometer, corks, labels, and lots of other things for making other fruit-based wines. We also order a carboy, a glass container for the second fermentation. We were too late to order whole grapes--the days have gotten away from us--but we have been able to acquire grape juice: Barbera from California, and surprisingly, Nebbiolo from Italy. Two books were included with the kit, Wine-making Recipes, and a wine-making primer by an Englishman with a aptitude for chemistry. I'm nervous about the chemistry.

We stash the equipement in the barn, and begin to think about making changes to what we'd always planned as a woodworking shop. This space would make quite a nice wine-making room. The barn is naturally cool in the summer. There is a porch roof which would make a nice, workmanlike loggia. We can see a tasting table underneath made from the rest of the cedar of the old garage, the porch posts clad in grape vine and roses, small wooden casks inside the barn waiting to be racked. The cogs in the wheels begin to fire.

The juice arrives. A six gallon bucket of Barbera from Madera, California. We admire the brightly colored picture on the front of the bucket and it reminds us of the brightly colored agricultural posters from California in the 40's and 50's. The Nebbiolo is somewhere between here and Italy. The juice goes into the cool barn, and we hope it stays cold enough to keep it from starting to ferment because the batch is too big for our refrigerator, and we are not quite ready to start the process.

We've bought a backyard vinter's book, all about grape growing and making. We begin to study the pages of our three books, cross-referencing, and trying to understand about specific gravity and sugar content, and acidity, and when to stir and punch, when to leave it all alone. I read over and over the basic directions, trying to memorize their order. I read about the hydrometer numbers, and how they change with the temperature, and what you have to calculate to accomodate. This is just a recipe I tell myself, but it's easy to convince yourself that all will be lost if we mis-read the hydrometer, or forget when to add the yeast. But then I think about all the people who've made wine before us, hundreds, thousands of years ago, and how they didn't have hydrometers, and they didn't track time in quite the same way. They fermented the juice, and they let it age, then they drank, and all was somehow right with the world.


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