A Wine Fermentation Tip for Home Winemakers

An amateur winemaker shares some wine fermentation advice from his own personal experience.

| January/February 1983

  • wine fermentation - cluster of grapes illustration
    Whether with grapes or rhubarb, make sure you use the right container for wine fermentation.
    Illustration by MOTHER EARTH NEWS staff

  • wine fermentation - cluster of grapes illustration

Folks say that experience is the best teacher, and I suppose they're right. There's no reason, however, why we can't share our lessons with each other. That way everybody saves a little bit of the usually expensive "tuition" that the school of hard knocks charges.

For instance, I recently had an educational experience that I'd like to pass along to you now (before next summer's fruit comes in).

You see, two years ago I made up a four-gallon batch of rhubarb wine. I bought a brand-new crock for the project, and — let me tell you — that brew turned out just great!

With a whole heap more confidence, then, I decided to mix myself up seven gallons of the tasty concoction last year. My little crock, of course, wouldn't hold that amount. So I borrowed a larger container from a neighbor, washed it out well, and filled it with my new batch of fixings.

A couple of days later I found the crock full of smelly, mold-covered liquid.

Now, I couldn't just throw out all of that potential rhubarb ambrosia, so I consulted the local vintner for advice on wine fermentation. And he had the answer. It seems that my neighbor had made pickles in the crock that I'd borrowed, and pickles — the vintner told me — leave a brine that's nearly impossible to wash out of the slightly porous material of which most crocks are made. That residue prevents fermentation in the wine and turns it moldy.

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