Today, I finally got around to crushing the grapes I picked at a neighbor’s place on Friday. I also finally got around to picking my own grapes, into a separate bucket.
First, I must say that de-stemming and crushing a bucket of grapes is an absolutely wonderful experience. I sat outside on a stump, pulling clusters from one bucket and plucking them into a second bucket, one after another, just enjoying the solitude and allowing myself to get lost in thought. As I began crushing handfuls of grapes, making sure none of them eluded my fingers, I imagined these grapes as being my own sacrifice offered to God. All my work, all my difficulties, all my life…broken open and poured out, so the Winemaker could use the juice to make something far greater.
Anyway, as I suspected, the neighbor’s grapes had a very low sugar content: the initial Brix reading on the refractometer, once they were all crushed together, was just 11. That’s only half the sugar needed for a complete ferment. My own grapes, however, had a brix of 24 — absolutely outstanding. (And given how many grapes I lost to sparrows and other birds, further evidence that I should’ve harvested them a week ago.) Unfortunately, I had 19.5 pounds of grapes from the neighbor…and only 3.5 pounds from my own vineyard. Extremely lame. I’ll be fortunate to get even a gallon of wine altogether.
As 3.5# is far too little to ferment by itself, I crushed those grapes and added them to the ones from Ed’s farm. I added some sulfites to stun the wild yeasts, and am allowing the bucket to stand overnight. Once the sugar leaches out, and the sulfites run their course, I’ll take a final sugar reading for the entire must. Then I’ll add the appropriate amount of sugar to get to 22 Brix, and also add the yeast. And then, hopefully, the ferment will begin.
The best part about winemaking? The smell of grape juice on my hands that will not go away, no matter how many times I wash them. And, of course, enjoying the finished wine. But you knew that already.