Wine Making Ingredients and Additives
The most basic ingredients in wine are, of course, the must (or the juice of whatever you're using) and the yeast. But to produce a perfect, delicious wine, you often need to add a bit more to help the process on its way and to clear and stabilize the wine. We'll go over what and how much of the following you'll need in our directions and recipes (A lot will depend on what type of wine you're making). Again, for getting hold of these items see our list on "where to equipment and ingredients."
But the following list will familiarize you with the basic wine ingredients and additives that the home wine maker is most likelt to encounter.
- Must. Must is the most essential part of your wine. It's the raw material that becomes your sweet intoxication elixir. You can use bottled juice from the store, make your own juice or order concentrate from a special supplier. The neat thing about the concentrates is that they are for the most part inexpensive, they're easy to use and you can order, say, Bordeaux grapes from the finest vineyards in France or the concentrate that will make a perfectly mellow California Shiraz. Note: some fruit wines tend to taste better if the pulp is included in the primary fermentation. Others should be fermented as juice alone. If you have an expeller juicer which separates the pulp from the fruit then you'll want to check the recipe to see if it's one where you should add the pulp back to the juice for primary fermentation by putting it in a nylon mesh bag (which is removed at the end of primary fermentation). A must (the raw wine) can come in many different forms: a bottle of cranberry juice from the grocery store, freshly-squeezed apple juice from an orchard near you, frozen concentrate from a wine supplier. The possibilities are endless. See our recipe section for a few ideas.
- Yeast. To make wine, you'll need to order a special yeast culture from a wine making supplier See our section on where to get supplies and ingredients on where to order on-line or to find a store near you. It's typically very cheap, about fifty cents is enough to buy you what you need for five or so gallons of wine. Wine yeast can come in powdered form or liquid. (Baker's yeast from the grocery store, although it will ferment sugar and make a sort of wine, usually doesn't cut it in terms of flavor and it doesn't settle at the end of its job: you have to drink the dead yeast. Mmm-mmm, good..) There are many types of yeast, but to get started you'll want a simple all-purpose powdered wine-making yeast. As you gain more experience, you may want to start experimentng with different yeast cultures, (What effect does Rhinewine yeast have on rose hip wine? Will burgundy yeast make a more delicate blueberry wine?) But to start with, get your bearings with one package of all-purpose wine making yeast.
- Sugar. Often, juices don't contain enough sugar to spur the yeast into action so they need some more. Table sugar from the grocery store works fine for this. Sometimes, raisins, brown sugar, honey, or other dried fruit are added in a recipe for the same reason in addition to or instead of sugar.
- Yeast nutrient or energizer. Yeast is a living organism and sometimes needs extra nutrients to remain healthy and active. Some juices have everything a growing yeast cell needs to stay healthy, others require a bit of help. (Our recipe section will let you know which is which). It's good to have about 5 ounces of crystalline yeast nutrient on hand.
- Nylon straining bag. If you're making your own must, you'll want to strain the pulp away from the juice and a nylon straining bag does just the trick.
- Acid blend. Again some juices have the right proportion of acidity. Others need a little help. An acid blend is called for in some recipes where the acid content of the must is low. Around 5 oz is enough to get you started.
- Grape Tannin. This is an ingredient found in abundance... guess where? In grapes. If you're making grape wine, especially red grape wine, you probably won't need to add much grape tannin, but some fruit wines and others require some grape tannin which aid in the clearing process. About 2-3 ounces are good to have around.
- Campden tablets. Sodium metabisulfite is a compound that helps clean and sterilize equipment. It's also frequently added to the wine itself to stabilize it and prevent unwanted bacteria from flourishing and competing with the wine yeast. It most often comes in the form of "campden tablets" which are crushed and dissolved for use by the wine maker. You'll want a bag of about 25 of these. You use them to clean your equipment and in the wine itself: they come in handy at several stages.
- Finers. Usually a wine will clear on its own, but sometimes it won't. In this case, a fining agent, such as Bentonite, is used to clear the wine. Keep a small package on hand, and hope you won't ever have to use it.
- Pectic enzymes. Grapes have enough pectic enzyme to help the yeast break down the cellular structure of the must during fermentation. Other fruits may not. Fruits such as apples, peaches, apricots, etc will need some added pectic enzyme. Get about 4 ounces.
- Water. If you live in a place with healthy, clean tastey drinking water, then count your blessings and use it to dilute concentrates. If not, you'll want to add bought spring water to prevent the wine from developing off flavors.
Again, we'll tell you which of these and how much you'll need in our recipe section. It will depend on which wine you choose to make and how much of it.
To see how these ingredients come together to make wine, click next for a general set of directions on home wine making.