In 2009, I added “make my own wines” to my bucket list. That was the start of a very fun and educational next few years of home winemaking.
To date, my husband and I have bottled hundreds of bottles of homemade wine. We import different varieties of grape juices to Hawaii from wineries all over the world, and then we turn that juice into wine. It’s an intricate process with quite a few steps and deadlines, so winemaking is not for everyone.
Home winemaking will be hard to improve and master if it’s treated as a novelty. You need to love wine, and be able to embrace and learn from disappointment, to be able to stick with this particular hobby for the long haul.
For our first batch of wine, we chose a pinot noir. Since it was our first batch, we gained a wealth of knowledge. My husband and I didn’t know the power of gas yet. Okay, not that kind of gas. I mean the carbon dioxide (CO2) kind.
During fermentation, wine lets off gas, and it is critical to get as much of that gas out of the wine before bottling it. After bottling our first batch of wine, my husband and I realized that we didn’t spend enough time getting the CO2 out. What should have been a smooth pinot noir ended up as 30 bottles of a semi-gassy sparkling wine. After we choked down that dreadful batch, we recognized our mistakes, chalked it up to experience, and tried again.
Our next batch of wine was a ruby port. My husband and I made sure we spent extra time on degassing the port, and those efforts really paid off. We made 15 bottles of nice, young ruby port. It was such a pleasant wine that our friends actually wanted to buy bottles from us with customized labels to give out as Christmas gifts.
We learned a great deal from that batch of ruby port, and from there moved on to an Australian Riesling, a zinfandel, a chocolate raspberry port, and a Chianti. We even got brave and ventured out into experimenting with five exotic and organic fruit flavors, adding them to a traditional ruby port: black cherry, pomegranate, strawberry, lychee and passion fruit.
Home winemaking has been an enjoyable hobby for us so far, and maybe it will be for you as well. If you’ve tried it, leave us a comment. We’d love to hear your experiences. Cheers!