Author Archives: Erroll

Happy New Year!

In a hurry? Make a kit!

Kits are a great way to start making wine, but that’s not the way I started. In fact, my first kit isn’t in bottles yet. One thing I learned from making one is that kits are a great way to make wine fast. I get asked about that a lot and I didn’t have many concrete ideas because I usually take my time. Until now. It isn’t just that kits come with simple instructions and a clear schedule, it’s that you can adapt the technique and mindset to conventional winemaking. So if you’re in a hurry, make a kit or three. Learn from it (even if you’re not a beginner) and use as many of the techniques as you can in your next blueberry wine (or whatever strikes your fancy). I’ll have more to say about this after my own kit is bottles.

Liqueur: More sugar, more alcohol, no yeast

Another fast way to taste the fruits of your labor is to make liqueur. As I mentioned at the end of my plum wine recipe, I’ve recently made plum liqueur. I quickly followed up with a cherry liqueur, and  friend sent me some of his limoncello. Winemakers will find much of the liqueur making process familiar, but there are differences. No fermentation, for one! Another thing that struck me is that I couldn’t find recommendations for acidity, alcohol, and sugar. I’m convinced that a good balance is just as important as it is for wine, but I may have to find out by trial and error – someone’s gotta do it 🙂

These are new to me, and I expect to write about them in 2011. There’s still a lot to say about more familiar topics, so there won’t be any radical changes. I’m looking forward to the New Year – I think it’ll be a good one!


Last year, I made mulled wine. That was a first for me, and this year I thought I’d write about an old Christmas favorite.

Item Quantity
Eggs, seperated 12
Cream 8 cups (1900 ml)
Liquor 3 cups (700 ml)
Sugar 0.75 lb (1.75 cups, 340 g, 400 ml)
Vanilla Extract 2 tsp (10 ml)
Salt 0.5 tsp (2.5 ml)
Nutmeg as a garnish

The liquor can be brandy, whiskey, rum, or any combination. Be creative, but stick to 80-proof liquor (the full amount 151 Rum will ruin the recipe).


Step 1
Beat yolks with a hand mixer until light in color
keep beating and slowly add:

  • 0.75 lb sugar
  • 3 cups liquor

let sit for one hour

Step 2
while beating the yolk-sugar-liquor, slowly add:

  • 8 cups cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

refrigerate for three hours

Step 3
Add 0.5 tsp salt to egg whites beat until “almost stiff” – soft peaks
fold into the rest of the mixture

Step 4
pour into cups and sprinkle freshly grated nutmeg

Variation – Cooked eggs

Use this variation to minimize the risk of food poisoning from salmonella in the eggs.

Substitute 4 cups of milk for 4 cups of cream. Discard the egg whites.

In step one:

  • Beat the eggs and sugar, but not the liquor
  • Gradually bring the milk to a boil
  • Slowly add it to the sugar-yolk mixture, beating constantly
  • Heat in a double broiler for 3 minutes or until thick – stir constantly, do not let it boil
  • let sit for one hour

Step two is the same, except that you add all the liquor and the salt

Skip step three. Step four is the same.

Variation – Egg products

Another way to make a safer eggnog using processed eggs, sold as a liquid, instead of raw eggs.

  • Substitute an equivalent amount of egg product for the eggs.
  • Step one is the same, except that you use egg product instead of eggs.
  • Step two is the same, except that you add the salt
  • Skip step three. Step four is the same.

Commercial eggnog

It would be a lot easier if someone else did all the whipping, folding and so forth, wouldn’t it? That’s one reason to buy a carton of ready made eggnog. If you can’t or don’t want to spend time in the kitchen, you can buy one, bring it home, and just add booz! I don’t know how this compares to homemade concoctions, but it’s a simple matter to find out. If you’re going to make it from scratch, buy a commercial product too. Add the same liquor, in the same proportions and see for yourself. Don’t forget to come back and let the rest of us know what you find out.

Raw egg safety

Another reason to buy a commercial product is the slight risk of food poisoning from salmonella in raw eggs. The eggnog you buy in the store is safe because it’s either made without eggs (yeah, well they have sugar-free “caramel” too!) or because it’s been made safe by cooking, pasteurizing, or some other process. In the US, you might find pasteurized or irradiated eggs for sale that are safe. These are still raw and should be stored and treated that way. They are also rare. For the most part, consuming raw eggs (even really fresh and/or organic eggs) carries the risk of food poisoning.

What to do if you want to make eggnog? You can use the store bought concoctions. If you can find them, you can try the irradiated or pasteurized eggs. The liquid or powdered “egg products” are an option. You can cook the eggs as you make the eggnog, or you can just use raw eggs and take the risk. I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll do yet, but I probably wont go with raw and uncooked.

Further Reading

The Joy of Cooking has a great eggnog recipe, but the one in my edition (1975) was a little too strong.

I borrowed from this recipe, at allrecipes, in adapting mine to use cooked eggs.

I also like the recipe in the New York Times Cookbook. I have the 1961 edition by Craig Claiborne. His is a little more “eggy” and less sweet than mine.

Apple Wine: Literary references

I like to make apple wine, and I’ve noticed it popping up in popular culture. Here’s a list of some references that I remember. Going forward, I’ll update this post with new apple wine appearances as I notice them. And ok, yes, I used to watch “Desperate Housewives.” There. I said it.

Desperate Housewives

Bree gets out of bed and goes downstairs to where Rex is sleeping on the couch. When she reaches him, she coughs politely and he rolls over, telling her that he’s up. She smiles and sits down on the edge of the pull out bed. “Good. I have a question for you.” He rolls his eyes, then pulls off the covers to sit next to her. “Okay.”

    Bree: “Do you remember when you proposed?”
    Rex: “For God’s sake.”
    “We sat on Skyline Drive and drank a bottle of apple wine and when we finished it, you turned to me and you said, ‘If you marry me, Bree Mason, I promise to love you for the rest of my life.’ And even though I was engaged to Ty Grant, and even though my father didn’t like you, I said yes.”
    “That was a long time ago.”
    “You are going to cancel the meeting with that divorce lawyer and we are going to find ourselves a marriage counselor.”
    “You promised.”

They look at each other.

    He nods. “All right.”
    “Good. I’m gonna go, uh, make myself some warm milk.” She gets up and walks to the kitchen, stopping halfway to turn around and look at him. “Would you like something to drink?” As he gets up from the bed, he mutters, “Anything but apple wine.”

~ Desperate Housewives – season one, episode 2: Ah, But Underneath

Assassin’s Apprentice

Prince Regal gives a gift of poisoned apple wine to Rurisk and tries to blame Fitz for the murder

~ Assassin’s Apprentice – The Farseer Trilogy, Book 1, by Robin Hobb

After the Sunset

00:11:14  A bottle of the apple wine was his prescription

~ After the Sunset (Movie: 2004)

Something to Talk About

00:54:46  What are you talking about? Have you gotten into the apple wine?

~ Something to Talk About (Movie: 1995)

Update 7/3/2011: One Thousand and One Nights

Often called The Arabian Nights, this collection of Middle Eastern and South Asian stories goes back centuries. In the tale of the Mock Caliph on the 288th night:

Quoth the sham Caliph, “I have drink other than this, a kind of apple-wine, that will suit thy companion.” So he bade them bring the cider which they did forthright

~ Thousand Nights and a Night, Volume 4, translated by Richard Burton

Burton translated, “Sharáb al-tuffáh” in Arabic to “apple-wine” in 1885. His notes say it means melapio or cider. Does this mean that in the late 19th century, apple wine and cider were synonyms?

Update 7/23/2011: A Dance With Dragons

No one slept, not even Droopeye Dale, an oarsman who had been known to nap between strokes. Some of the men shared a skin of Galbart Glover’s apple wine, passing it from hand to hand. Those who had brought food shared it with those who had not.

~ A Dance with Dragons – A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 5, by G. R. R. Martin

Any others?

Have you noticed apple wine in tv shows, movies, or books? Leave a comment and let me know!

Washington Initiative 1100

Washington voters will have the opportunity to liberalize alcohol retailing by passing initiative 1100. It would end the state’s monopoly on spirits sales and allow normal retail practices in the sale of beer and wine (quantity discounts, central warehousing, direct purchases from wineries, etc).

Why that’s not a bad thing

Sometimes opposition takes the form, “Of course I oppose a state monopoly on liquor sales, but …” There is no “but.” If you want to end the state liquor monopoly, this is your chance, and it’s the only one you’ll get for a long time. The last time we got a public vote was in the 70’s. Must we wait another four decades? Meanwhile the legislature has clung to it’s monopoly and protected their wholesaler patrons for over seven decades. Enough’s enough!

Opponents predict more drunk driving and underage drinking if retailers that sell beer and wine start selling hard liquor. They don’t offer any proof for this claim, and that’s because there isn’t any. There is about as much binge drinking, drunk driving, and underage drinking in states with normal alcohol retailing as in states with government monopolies.

More choice & lower prices – I’ll drink to that!

But the evidence-free claims of the opposition aren’t why this initiative should pass. We will get a lot more choice when we’re free to buy what we like rather than what state bureaucrats’ think we should. Here’s a list of what’s available from the Washington State Liquor Control Board. It’s a big list, but any hard liquor not on that list is unavailable from anyone in the state. When I visit my local wine shop and chat with the owner about what he discovered on his latest trip, I get excited about what he could do with brandies and other spirits. How about the cheese selection or the wine aisle at Trader Joe’s? These guys are superb at offering an offbeat collection at great prices. What might a Trader Joe’s spirits aisle look like?

Better prices are another reason to vote yes on initiative 1100. The Liquor Board jacks up the price of spirits by 51.9% across the board – monopolists can do that! – then you get to pay a 20.5% + $3.7708/liter tax on top of it. Those taxes are among the highest in the country, and they would remain in place, but a free market would compete away those monopoly profits. Costco is a big backer of this initiative and when I see the great prices they offer on high quality wine, I can’t wait to see what they do with spirits!

Let’s find out what we’ve been missing!

Further reading

The Wine Economist has a good analysis of the initiatives.

Plum Wine Recipe: From Grocery Store Plums

12 lb of store-bought plums
My bonsai orchard yielded some terrific plums, but not enough for wine. So when Safeway offered plums at $0.99/lb I jumped at the chance. Here’s how I made 12 lb of plums into a gallon of plum wine.


Plums 5375 g (11 lb 13 oz)
Sugar Syrup 1250 ml (5.25 cups)
Water 800 ml (3.33 cups)
Pectic Enzyme 2 teaspoons
Sulfite 1 campden tablet equivalent

If you’ve looked at other plum wine recipes, you’ll notice I’m using a lot more plums and a lot less water than most people. I’ve made plum wine the traditional way, and I liked it. It was thin, however, and rather than adding bananas, raisins, glycerin, or anything else to give it more heft I decided to just use more plums. I go into more detail about how much water I added and why in the measure and adjust section.


I’m making this plum wine a lot like you’d make a rose. One way to make rose is to juice red fruit (or fruit with red juice), and make it like a white wine. So the plan is to juice the plums, add acid (if the titratable acidity is too low) or water (if it’s too high), then pitch the yeast.

The big difference from a conventional wine from grapes comes from the sugar and acid content of plums. That will mean bigger adjustments than for a grape wine.

Juice the plums

I juiced the plums by freeze-thawing and got a 56% juice yield (3 liters from 5.375 kg). That’s a lot higher than for the apples, but I took too long to do it. It was four days from thawing the plums to getting settled juice, and by then I noticed signs of fermentation. Wild yeast or some other unwanted microcritter was helping itself to my plums, so I needed to check the infection and introduce my yeast of choice. I added sulfite immediately, and my yeast had been growing and multiplying in a starter – they should have no trouble dominating the must.

This method can work pretty well – I juiced almost twelve pounds of fruit and more than 55% juice with Ziploc bags and buckets – but you’ve got to stay on your toes. Be quick (do as I say, not as I do!), clean an sanitize thoroughly, and use sulfite.

Measure and adjust

I took the usual measurements of the juice: SG: 1.057, TA: 10 g/L, pH: 3.31. These will be off because of the infection, but it’s better to have data that’s a little off than to go in blind. I decided on a target of 1.100 for the specific gravity and 6 g/L for the titratable acidity, and used the Wine Recipe Wizard to determine the amount of water (0.8 liters) and sugar syrup (1.2 liters) I needed. Adding this to my 3 liters of juice got me 5 liters of must.

Haven’t I forgotten something?

Most of the work is done. It’s been two months, I’ve racked twice, and there is no sign of off tastes or smells. There will be some waiting while the wine clears and ages, and I’ll need to rack (and measure and taste) a time or two. I might adjust one more time, depending on how the wine tastes and what my measurements show. I expect to bottle some very nice plum wine in six to twelve months.

Oh, and the harvest from my bonsai orchard? I thought about tossing those plums in with the store-bought fruit, but I have a better idea. There may not have been enough for plum wine, but that little harvest was just right for a half-gallon of plum liqueur! I’ve made liqueur before, but haven’t talked about it on this blog before – watch for it in an upcoming post.

Juicing Apples By Freeze – Thawing

Can you process apples at home without a lot of work or expensive equipment? That’s what I tried to find out when I sealed my small harvest in Ziploc bags and put them in the freezer. They went in whole, no peeling, coring or chopping. I thawed them in sealed bags, treated with sulfite, and pressed them by hand (well, by sanitized spatula anyway).  I wrote about my plans last fall and my hopes of finding a quick cheap and easy way to process apples. Here I’ll talk about the results and the details of what I did and why.

No peeling, coring, or chopping

The first detail is that I froze the apples whole. That’s because I was dealing with about 8 lb (3700 g) of apples and I was looking for a method I could use on 20 or 30 lb – too many to chop, peel, or core.  They are ready to process as soon as they are frozen solid, but can be left in the freezer for a convenient time. When it came time to thaw, I opened the bags and treated them with sulfite.

Sulfite, pectic enzyme, and keep the air out

To guard against oxidation, I treated the apples with sulfite while they were still frozen. As a further precaution, I expelled most of the air by partially submerging the Ziploc bag – only the mouth of the bag was above water. They thawed like this, sulfited and with almost no air contact, overnight. The thawed apples were still whole, and the next morning I crushed them by hand (the apples stayed in the bags, so my hands never touched the fruit) and added pectic enzyme. I expelled the air as before and let the pectic enzyme work for about eight hours.

Pressing: Maybe I shouldn’t have used a spatula

That’s when I strained/pressed them in my three-bucket press. With only eight pounds of apples, I couldn’t use the press like I normally would. That’s because the buckets don’t fit together snugly and the small amount of apples fit in the gap between the buckets. Such a press is only effective with 30 lb or more fruit, so I used a sanitized spatula.

I ended up with 1320 ml of juice from my 3.7 kg of apples, which is only 36% juice yield. You can expect double that or more with a conventional crusher/press, and the yield is even lower if you consider only settled juice. I poured the 1320 ml of juice into a 2 liter cylinder and sealed it with an inverted sanitized Ziploc bag that I filled with water.

A DIY settling tank

I wanted to seal the 2 liter cylinder (these rock, by the way – I never knew how much I’d use one until I got it) with little or no air space. I didn’t have a stopper that would fit and it was only about 2/3 full anyway. Imagine in inflating a balloon inside the cylinder. As you inflate it, it presses against the top of the liquid and sides of the cylinder. With enough height, it should form a good seal. I used a Ziploc (sanitized then inverted so that the sanitized surface was in contact with the juice) filled with water instead of a balloon filled with air. At any rate, I siphoned off 1240 ml of clear settled juice the next day (using this, my yield is now only 34%):

SG: 1.048, pH: 3.2, TA: 7 g/L (tartaric).

Keep in mind that time spent thawing, straining, and settling is time that all sorts of microcritters can attack. Use sulfite (about 1 campden tablet or equivilent for every 6 lb/2.7 kg of fruit), minimize air contact, and be careful about cleanliness and sanitation.

A partial success

Oh, one thing I’m really patting myself on the back about is that the apples never browned – not even a little. In the past, I relied on sulfite to reverse the inevitable browning – this does work, but it’s better to prevent it altogether.

So how about my opening question? Well, I did process the apples without expensive equipment, but my juice yield was very low. What happened is that the freeze/thawing/hand crushing worked pretty well to crush the apples but I still needed a good way to press them. My sanitized spatula didn’t cut it. I think that means more fruit so I can use my 3-bucket press or building/buying a small press.

Honey Prices Rise In 2010’s First Half

It got a little more expensive to make mead this year as honey prices rose about 5.5%. All the prices I track were higher in the first half of 2010, with Dutch Gold Clover posting the smallest increase (2.8%) and Costco Clover surging the most (9.3%). Maple syrup and sugar are both down a little (though I only have one source for them right now), and malt extract has been flat.

In the table below, I show the honey prices I track and how they changed from the beginning to the middle of the year.

Source and Type January ($/lb) July ($/lb) % Change
Costco Clover 1.83 2.00 +9.3%
Miller’s Honey Clover 1.73 1.87 +8.1%
Miller’s Honey Wildflower 1.43 1.50 +4.9%
Miller’s Honey Organic 1.83 1.90 +3.8%
Dutch Gold Clover 1.80 1.85 +2.8%
Dutch Gold Wildflower 1.71 1.81 +5.8%
Dutch Gold Organic 1.80 1.87 +3.9%

Where can you get the best deal on honey?

The packers offer slightly better prices on clover honey than Costco, but to get those prices you have to buy in 60 lb buckets and pay shipping. Costco lets you buy in smaller 6 lb jugs and avoid shipping charges by visiting their retail locations. The best price around is still Miller’s wildflower – a high quality honey at a great price. It’s also available as a pair of 3 lb jugs from Amazon, but at $3.42/lb this is a much more expensive option. It’s eligible for free shipping though, so if you don’t have access to an affordable local source like Costco, you don’t want to buy in 60 lb lots, and/or shipping for those heavy buckets would eat up any savings, then it might make sense for you.

Easy Apple Wine Recipe: For Leslie

Over a year ago, Leslie asked me for an easy apple wine recipe with step by step instructions. My first reaction was surprise. She posed her request in a comment on one of my apple wine recipes. That one was pretty easy, wasn’t it? I combined some apples from my backyard with some store-bought juice. All I had to do was juice the apples, add that to the juice I already had, measure the specific gravity and the titratable acidity, figure out how much sugar and acid to add, and … oh. Ok, now I remember what it was like when I was first starting out. I went looking for an easy recipe that didn’t make me run tests or figure anything out. So I thought about it for a bit, scribbled down some things I remembered about apples and apple juice, ran some numbers through a calculator, and whipped up a recipe for her on the fly.

I never heard from her and I forgot about the whole thing until I saw some apple juice at Trader Joe’s the other day. I hadn’t made a new batch of wine in a while, so I grabbed it from the shelves on impulse – I was going to make apple wine! Then I remembered.

Since a lot of people miss the conversations in the comments, I decided to update it a little and make it a top level post.

Here is Leslie’s Apple Wine Recipe:

To each gallon apple juice add three cups boiled-then-cooled sugar syrup (dissolve 3 cups sugar in 1.5 cups boiling water), one teaspoon acid blend, one teaspoon pectic enzyme, and one crushed campden tablet (or equivalent). Sprinkle a packet of Red Star Premier Cuvee, or other wine yeast of your choice, over the must.

Stir daily. You should notice fermentation in a couple of days. Once it has fermented out (a week or two), transfer to airlocked glass jugs/carboys. Top with other wine, or if you have to, water so that there is no more than one inch of room between the stopper and the wine. In a month or two, you should notice sediment has fallen. Rack into a clean airlocked glass jug/carboy. Add a new crushed campden tablet (or equivalent) every other time your rack.

When the wine stops throwing sediment, it’s ready to bottle. If you want it sweet, stabilize and sweeten according to your taste. If you just don’t know how much to sweeten, start with 3 tablespoons sugar/gallon of wine.

Ingredients for one gallon

This scales up easily. Want to make five gallons? Multiply everything, except the yeast, by five. Three gallons? Multiply by three.

  • 1 Gallon Apple Juice
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 1.5 Cups Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Acid Blend
  • 1 Teaspoon Pectic Enzyme
  • 1 Packet Yeast

Equipment you will need:

A primary fermenter, this is what you put everything in at first. A food grade 2-gallon bucket with a lid (not air tight, just to keep the dust and bugs out) works great for 1-gallon of wine that is fermented on skins and/or pulp. An airlocked 3-gallon carboy does the job too, while protecting juice-only fermentation from air. A 6-Gallon Carboy is just the thing for larger batches up to five gallons.

Two secondary fermenters. These are usually glass jugs or carboys that you can close with an airlock. One-gallon jugs work great for 1-gallon of wine. Why two? So that you have a place to siphon your fermenting/aging wine into.

Extra glass bottles that you can close with airlocks (wine bottles, beer bottles, and so forth). You’ll need these for wine that doesn’t fit when you rack.

Racking cane and siphon hose. You should siphon the wine from one container to the next so that it doesn’t splash and pick up too much oxygen.

A Stirring Spoon. I like stainless steel because they’re easy to sanitize by boiling; 14″ is a good size for 1-gallon batches.

No preservative in the apple juice

It’s very important that the apple juice have no preservatives – look for “pasteurized” and “no preservatives” on the label. If you see “sorbate” or “benzoate” on the ingredients, don’t buy it. It’s not that these things will do you any harm, but they will prevent the yeast from doing their work.

How to subscribe to the comments

A lot people know they can subscribe to the posts and be kept up to date automatically. But some posts generate a lot of conversation in the comments – most of this goes unnoticed. You can stay in the loop, whether it’s a reply to your question, somebody else’s question, or something totally new, by subscribing to the comments.

Update 5/23/2011 – Easy Apple Wine Recipe Bottled!

This wine was easy to make. Everything went smoothly and I bottled ten months after pitching the yeast. Using clarified juice meant the wine dropped clear, without fining, very quickly. In fact, I could have bottled at six months. But looks aren’t everything; this crisp dry white has good flavor and I’m looking forward to seeing (and tasting!) how it ages.

Lost Series Finale

I’ve watched Lost since it premiered, and I wanted to commemorate the last episode. There are any number of ways to do that, but for me it starts with the food. And the wine.

Remember when Sawyer was held at the Hydra station? Remember the fish biscuits? I’m not sure what a fish biscuit is, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t want to eat one. The Lady of the House makes Tuna Burgers. Great comfort food, they’re not really burgers but they’re served hot on homemade hamburger buns. They’re easy to make, and we love them. I’ve renamed them “Fish Biscuits!”

And the wine? Here I have a dilemma. I want something I really like – my simple mead recipe turned out great (took really well to oak – is aging beautifully) and I think it would go well with the fish biscuits. I’d also like a wine with a Dharma label, and that would be my wine from supermarket grapes. Unfortunately the label is the best thing about that wine. I could relabel one bottle of the mead, and I might do that. I could “have my wine and drink it too” by opening both bottles. Probably not. Maybe we’ll open the mead, and the Dharma wine will just show up for a photo op with the fish biscuits.

So I haven’t nailed down all the details, but we’ll have good food, good mead, and watch the finale of Lost. It’ll be fun!

Making Mistakes And Learning The Right Lessons

As a wine (and mead, maybe cider, sometimes beer) maker, I’m always learning. It can be exciting to uncover the details of an unfamiliar yeast strain or the chemical composition of fruit, but as one of my wine making friends reminded me, sometimes the most important lessons – the ones that can have the biggest impact on your wine – are the mundane ones. Like pay attention, get organized, and plan ahead.

I’ll never forget my first mistake

I don’t know how he’d feel about me relaying his story of how he lost 5 gallons of promising wine, but fortunately (?) I’ve made plenty of my own mistakes. My very first wine got off to an exciting start, and I checked in on it hourly. I worried and doted over every step. Did I add just the right amount of tannin? The right kind? How about acid? Should I have used a different yeast? It’s been hours since I pitched the yeast – how come it’s not fermenting yet?!?! I needn’t have worried about any of that and not just because it was destined to come crashing down – literally – and spread out over the floor as it flowed over and around the shards of broken glass.

I was laser-focused on some important details

Nope. None of the those things mattered one bit. And I now know they wouldn’t have mattered even if I had been paying attention to my entire setup during the First Racking. It wasn’t just the first time that particular wine would be racked (siphoned from one container into another) it was the first time I had ever siphoned anything. So it was a big deal and I was determined to Do It Right. That meant no splashing. The whole point of siphoning is to transfer the wine without incorporating oxygen into it, so I was very intent on the end of the siphon hose – getting it into the receiving vessel quickly and smoothly, getting (and keeping) it submerged as quickly as possible, and keeping the vessel stable to it didn’t agitate the wine. I wasn’t wrong about any of that, and I did them all pretty well. I just left out a thing or two that proved to be important.

But overlooked one or two others

Like making sure the siphon hose was long enough for the height of my counter and the size of the 1-gallon jugs I was using. And keeping in mind that tugging on the (slightly too short) hose to get it and keep it submerged didn’t just reduce splashing but also pulled on the jug of fermenting wine sitting on the edge of the counter just above me. And that just because it didn’t fall right away didn’t mean that, as the racking progressed, the constant tug of the siphon hose wouldn’t overcome the (steadily falling) weight of fermenting wine holding the jug in place.

Everyone makes mistakes

It would have been helpful to learn all of those things a litter earlier than I did – yeah, that would have been great. Instead the 1-gallon jug with about half a gallon of fermenting wine came down with a … well I don’t remember exactly what it sounded like. I just remember being snapped out of whatever I was thinking about, which was probably how great the siphoning was going (no splashing here!), to find myself barefoot, wearing shorts, and sitting cross legged on my kitchen floor surrounded by shards of glass (from really big to really small and everything in between) and about half a gallon of fermenting wine spreading out over the floor.

The trick is to learn the right lessons

That was, um, discouraging. But I survived (I don’t know how, but literally without a scratch) to make wine another day. The remarkable thing is that I’m still learning from that all these years later. Yes, I make sure about the length of my siphon hose and that jugs and carboys are secure as I siphon from them. But today I realized the most important lesson is to develop an efficient and reliable procedure for each step in your wine making. Things like racking, bottling, testing, making up a must should all have a tried and true checklist – literally a written list of every item you will need and every step you will take. No more discovering at the last minute that the racking cane’s foot didn’t get sanitized or that you don’t have enough containers of the right size for all the wine your’re going to rack, or … anything. Each of these processes are simple enough that we ought to be able to do them the same way each time. No surprises, no mistakes, so the excitement in homemade wine can come from how it tastes.