After a week of work and wait, I prepared for the first fermentation. Step 1: clean like crazy. After a heavy wash of all the equipment, I mixed water and sulphite powder. After fearfully reading and rereading the packet, I stuffed my nose and covered my eyes. Gloves would have been nice, but lacking a biohazard suit I cleaned carefully.
After a fervent rinsing/not bursting into flames, I left the equipment out to dry. Impatient, I poured over the instructions. The translation from Quebecios French was shaky but I had bigger worries.
The linger of sulfur sent me back to the bathtub.With equipment drying again, I lined up the usual chemical suspects.
First to go in, Bentonite, the clay of kitty litter fame.The single page of instructions wouldn’t assure me why I wanted cat-tasting wine, so wikipedia came in handy. Supposedly, Bentonite has cleaning and bonding qualities perfect for drawing out unwanted proteins and haziness. However, my instructions asked for “2 litres of warm water”. That’s a lot of water for 23 litres of wine. So I checked the French, and behold, “500 ml (2 tasses) d’eau tiède”.
Once the litter was stirred to near-lumplessness, I grabbed my bag o must and dumped it in. Welches and berry scents wafted into the air but luckily not onto the carpet.
Next came the hydrometer to test the specific gravity/sugar content/brix of the must. Packlab did their job, balancing mother nature to a near perfect 1.080. This is a big deal because the sugar in grapes will become alcohol. Not enough sugar means hungry yeast. Hungry yeast means no alcohol. Which means no wine, just yeasty, kitty-litter-y grape juice.
Next up: bread-making.
Adding yeast is cheating and sacrosanct to some winemakers, who believe in letting the naturally occurring yeasts in the grape skins to turn the sugars into alcohol. Yet most add Mr. Pasteur’s genius stroke without blinking (and occasionally forget to filter them later).
So I added yeast to warm water (from, well, my coffee maker). While waiting for them to wake, Alton Brown will catch you up on these guys. My dehydrated yeast fungi zombies from Champagne should thus be resurrected with a little wet warmth. They may not absolve my sins, but once reborn will turn sweet into heat.So I set the timer and went back to staring at the yeast. Nothing. Maybe now? No. Ten minutes later? Nope. But then…thanks entirely to my mind meld…
IT’S ALIVE!!! The air became heady and bready. After stirring it vigorously into the grape must, I clamped the airtight lid onto the food safe trash can, accidentally jammed the grommet into the juice with the airlock and then proceeded to ignore the problem by tasting the leftover juice:
Appearance: clear, ruby, medium intense color
Nose: clean condition, medium intense aroma, grape juice and red apple notes
Palate: high sweetness, low acidity, light body, light tannin, forward blueberry preserves, blackberries, medium length, quality…um juice?
Now the five day wait begins!