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Fruit Wine

Here are the benefits of my wine making experiences with fruit. My orchard consists of pears, apples and grapes so I will concentrate on making wine with these. You can use other fruits in a similar way.

I have found over the years that over ripe fruit are best. Your problem is that over ripe fruit attracts insects, so it is best to pick the fruit as late as possible but before it is a windfall or gone soft. The fruit needs to be stored until you are ready to use it, and then ripened until it is over ripe.

Storing and Ripening your Fruit
Ideally you should store the fruit until the onset of winter when the insects are out of the way. You can do this by wrapping the fruit in paper so that insects will not be able to attack the fruit.

There are two easy ways to over-ripen the fruit:
 • Transfer the fruit separately into plastic bags, keeping the top of the bag open. Store in a cool area like a garage until the fruit is weeping into the bag, it will look disgusting by now and soft to touch. Don't worry about it freezing, frosts are bound to occur. It will be early January before you start the next process.
 • The second way is to generate heat to turn the fruit over ripe quickly. If you grow your own tobacco, a tobacco curing chamber will do this for you in a matter of hours. If not place the fruit in a hot conservatory or greenhouse, or even an oven. Remove and wait until the flesh has gone extremely soft and brown, and the fruit can be crushed by hand.

Sugar and Yeast
Once you have put the pulped fruit and juice into the fermenting container, add enough water to just cover the fruit. Boil up 2 teaspoons of tea (or 2 teabags) for every gallon of wine and add this to the fermenting container. Adding the tea adds tannin, which will vastly improve the taste of your wine and is essential if you want your wine to keep.

You also need to add sugar and yeast. Ideally you should use about 1 kilo of sugar for every gallon of wine, but do not add it all at once. The yeast will convert the sugar into alcohol, and once the alcohol content is high enough, it will kill off the yeast. If you have added a lot of sugar and the alcohol level kills off the yeast before all the sugar is converted, then you will end up with a sweet wine. If you don't add enough sugar and the yeast is killed off then you will have a dry wine. A wine hydrometer can tell you the specific gravity of your wine (how much sugar remains in the liquid) and therefore how much sugar to add to give you the desired sweetness.

Most fruits as mentioned have natural sugar in them and without adding extra sugar, these can be turned into a wine of about 4% to 6% volume alcohol. This is a low alcohol content and the wine will not keep for long, although it could be drunk young. Most home wine makers prefer to make a stronger wine of about 12% to 17%, so sugar is needed to bring the alcohol content up to a level high enough to store longer.

If you have a hydrometer, calculate the amount of sugar required to give you the sweetness of you wine require. If your hydrometer reads 990, then this will be a dry wine and you will need to add sugar if you want to sweeten it. If your hydrometer reads 1020 then it will be a sweet wine. You will need to use the hydrometer several times while your wine is fermenting to test whether you need to add more sugar. Ideally you should aim to use 1 kilo of sugar per gallon (4.5 litres) of wine. If you do not have a hydrometer, you will have to rely on guesswork and experience. If your wine is too sweet, you can use less sugar in the next batch. If it's too dry, then you can use more sugar in the next batch.

You can either use a special wine yeast from a home brew shop, or you can create your own yeast. Wine yeasts can be added straight into the fermenting bin, but it is better to start them off in some warm fruit juice (the juice from your fruit is ideal) and then add it to your fermenting container once the yeast is bubbling. Yeast is found naturally in the bloom of grapes, so you can create your own yeast by crushing a few grapes into some warm natural fruit juice. Orange juice works well. Once this is bubbling, add it to your fermenting bin.

Making the Wine
Once your fruit is over-ripened, crush it to a pulp and add it to your fermenting container, with the juice. I use a 13 gallon plastic drum as my fermenting container, but any similar plastic drum will do, even if it is smaller. Your drum will need a lid, and this will need to be airtight to prevent infection by insects, although it need not be 100% airtight during the winter when the insects have gone.

Add some of the sugar to the fermenting bin and stir it in very well until it has all dissolved. Then add your yeast and your wine should start fermenting. You should ideally keep the fermenting bin at around 21C, so keeping it in your living room should be fine. Wine will continue to ferment at lower and higher temperatures, so don't worry if you don't have room in your living room. Fit the lid onto the fermenting bin and leave the wine to ferment for about 4 to 7 days. Every day, test your wine with the hydrometer and add more sugar if necessary, remembering to stir well to dissolve the sugar. You will need to stop adding sugar when the fermenting stops due to too much alcohol and hopefully the wine we be sweetened to suit your palate.

After a few days, you need to draw off the liquid into fermenting jars (demijohns), leaving the fruit pulp behind. The easiest way is to pour the liquid through a strainer or a sieve. 2 or 3 thicknesses of muslin will do the job just as well. Squeeze the juice out of the remaining pulp to get as much juice as possible from the fruit. Fill the fermenting jars to within a couple of inches of the top and fit a bung with an airlock. The bung and airlock will allow the gases produced by the fermenting to escape and prevent unwanted bacteria and insects attacking your wine. Leave your jars to continue fermenting, testing with the hydrometer and adding sugar as necessary. Again you can keep these jars in the living room to allow the wine to continue fermenting.

Your wine will appear cloudy due to the yeast in the wine. After about 3 months or so, the wine will begin to clear as the yeast settles to the bottom of the jar as sediment. Once cleared, you should syphon the wine from the jar into a second jar, being careful not to transfer the sediment. This is known as racking. Again, fit a bung and airlock and leave the wine to continue fermenting. Your wine will still contain some yeast and this will multiply and your wine will again turn cloudy. After about 3 months, the wine should have cleared again and you should rack the wine a second time. You can now bottle the wine.

Before bottling, ensure that your wine has completely finished fermenting. If the wine continues to ferment in the sealed bottles, then the gases produced by the fermenting will cause the bottles to explode. The racking will help prevent continued fermentation by removing the yeast. You can tell if the wine has finished fermenting by leaving it in the fermenting jar after the second racking and fitting a bung and airlock. If the wine turns cloudy, then there is still yeast in the wine and it is still fermenting. You can stop the fermenting by adding one crushed Campden tablet for every gallon of wine. If the wine is not fermenting, then bottle the wine and seal the bottles with airtight caps or corks. If using corks, store the bottles on their sides to keep the cork wet and stop it from shrinking.

Cloudy Wine
Most wines will clear of their own accord, although it may take some time. Some fruits such as pears, and some vegetables such as parsnips, will produce a cloudy wine that won't clear easily. Leave the wine as long as possible to see if it clears on it's own. If not you may wish to try using a commercial fining product or a powder filter. You should check what is available at your local home brew winemaking shop and ask their advice according to which fruits you have used. Another method is to stir some raw egg white - the particles which cause the cloudiness will hopefully stick to the egg white, and you can then strain the egg white from the liquid to leave a clear wine. However, this is not a reliable method.

Over-sweet Wine
If you have wine too sweet to drink, don't worry as you can rectify this. Start a new batch of wine the same as the over-sweet batch and introduce the yeast culture from a wine still fermenting. Then add the over sweet wine to the new one, and follow the instructions above. Be more careul with the sugar this time and hopefully your wine will taste just right!

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