Saturday, October 20, 2007

wine by night

We are like an old couple on a t.v. sitcom. Perhaps like George's parents on Seinfeld. The wine-making begins on Wednesday night. At 10:30, after a dinner of cheese and salumi, shrimp cocktail, and white wine, reading by the fire, I decide it's a good time to start the first fermentation because after the first twelve hours, we must add yeast, and I figure if we start in the morning, we won't be home early enough from the restaurant to get the yeast in on time. On this one point, we agree this is sound thinking.

I am not clear on sugar content. I've read several passages in several books on this now, and many of them also cover other kinds of fruit and flower wines, that I'm a little flustered and not sure if we need actually need the 8 pounds of sugar that the diagram says to add to the first fermentation, or not. There is a lot of "bright" repartee about this amount of sugar, like "But you said we had plenty of sugar," and "You never told me we needed that much sugar." The dialogue sends me into the pantry to hunt down the container of sweet. We do not have 8 pounds of sugar. We hope this is not an omen. Minor panic sets in. We decide to take a reading of the sugar content currently in the Barbera juice to at least see what we need to do, but of course, that forms a whole other conversation, like a slowly growing and billowing mushroom cloud, about temperature conversion with the hydrometer--a thermometer-like gadget that somehow measures the above-mentioned sugar content in the wine. To make an even longer story short, the ideal temperature for reading the hydrometer is 59 degrees Farenheit. If it is below or above that, subtractions or additions must be made to the reading on the hydrometer. It is 50 degrees outside, a warm evening.

We take a test sample of the juice. Our vial for reading the hydrometer has a leak in it and bleeds all over the diningroom table. We hope this is not an omen. We get a reading, and lucky for us the juice has exactly the right amount of sugar for starting the fermentation process. We are relieved that we don't have to add anything at this juncture, and we can actually get started. We smile at each other, and poke each other in the ribs like this was all fun and games from the get-go.

Grape juice pours from one container to another. There is no moon, no stars. We hope this not an omen. (They say wine should be made on the wax of the moon, they being ones who know.) Five crushed campden tablets dissolved in a little water get added for stability. We carry the primary fermentation bucket between us inside and set it in the bathtub like many a good moonshiner before us. First fermentation happens most successfully at 70-75 degrees, and we know we can keep the upstairs bathroom that temperature. It's always 70 degrees. We cover the bucket with it's clever lid with the hole in the top for oxygen, and cover the top with a clean dish towel (to keep out the fruit flies.)
Now, we wait.

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