People have been making and drinking great wines for many thousands of years without even knowing that yeast exists and yet yeast is an indispensable ingredient to what makes the wine. And this is all it takes to make a great wine: a great grape, its juice and yeast. So, why not make it yourself?
Think about how often you have discussed wine with your friends at a dinner table or on other occasions. And how often have you talked about making wine for yourself? I would guess that all of you reading this article have, at some point of time, had these discussions and have had thoughts of making their own wine.
The beauty is that anyone of you can easily make your own wine at home! In fact, I have already described the general process in this article.
Now and here I will focus on Chardonnay only, especially for the many USA Chardonnay lovers.
Chardonnay’s popularity as the white wine is probably attributable to its ability to deliver a full-bodied, buttery white and its easy marriage to oak, as well as a fresher style when fermented in stainless steel tanks. For winemakers of any style, including you, however, this white grape responds to a wider variety of wine making techniques and styles than any other white, which is excellent for you.
It follows that Chardonnay is an easy wine to make and making it at home is a great way to impress your friends and have something unique to give out as gifts. It is simply a matter of purchasing the right grapes from your nearest wine growing region. With a minimum investment in a stainless steel tank or possibly an oak barrel to age it in you can easily produce a year’s supply (assuming one bottle a week) of wine. Being your own boss, you can adapt the quantity as you wish. When you read on, I will describe how easy it is to make Chardonnay at home.
Chardonnay ingredients needed for 10 gallons (will make you about 50 size 750ml bottles of wine)
140 lbs (63.5 kgs) fresh Chardonnay grapes
½ tsp potassium metabisulfite
5-6 tsp yeast nutrient
2 tsp pectic enzyme
6 tblsp oak powder (if you want an oakier wine)
White Labs Chardonnay (liquid) wine yeast, Burgundy (dry) wine yeast
Wine kits can be bought at many places, the internet being one of them.
The first choice you have is whether you will ferment your wine in an oak barrel or a stainless steel tank. This really means choosing between unoaked or a more or less oaked wine, which is entirely up to your taste. You can read all about unoaked Chardonnays here and about the oaked ones here. Whatever choice you make, you will need to ensure that you have thoroughly cleaned and sanitized the tank or barrel, in which the fresh juice is going to ferment. In fact, this goes for all tools you use that may come in contact with the wine. Now here we go!
- The grapes will have to be de-stemmed and crushed or whole-cluster crushed. You can crush them yourself or make use of a custom grape press if available in your surroundings.
- Stir pectic enzyme into the crushed grapes, cover it, and let it sit for 4-6 hours.
- Stir potassium metabisulfite into the juice, cover it and let it sit an additional 6 hours or overnight.
- During this process (2 and 3) you can prepare the yeast. You hydrate the yeast in warm water that is usually in the range of 104 degrees F and wait fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes you add a small amount (roughly half as much as the water) of the grape juice to the yeast water. Then wait another 15 minutes and add more juice. What you are doing here is to slowly lower the temperature of the yeast with small amounts of juice to match the temperature of your tank or barrel full of Chardonnay juice
- After the second six hours, adjust the acidity and sugar if required and add the yeast to the large tank or barrel of Chardonnay. This is when the fermentation is started.
Following the above process the fermenting should be done by placing the stainless steel tank or barrel in a cool space at 65 degrees F.
On 6th day of vigorous fermentation, add the malo-lactic culture.
Leave it to ferment for 6 weeks and then rack (siphon the must from one container to another to get rid of sediment) the wine and close the barrel/tank. Repeat racking every 6 weeks until the wine clears, perform fining (a technique that is used to remove unwanted juice/wine components that affect clarification, astringency, colour, bitterness, and aroma) after 3rd racking if necessary. Keep the wine cool for 2 weeks after it clears or 4 weeks if fined. Filter it if deemed necessary. Sweeten if required and rack into bottles. Leave the wine in the bottles for some three months before tasting.
Higher quality Chardonnay
The way to make a higher quality Chardonnay is to keep the tank or barrel of fermenting Chardonnay in a climate controlled room, in which temperature stays around 50 to 55 degrees. This will cause the fermentation to go slowly and more of the good flavours will stay in the wine.
You could also purchase a hand held instrument called a refract meter that can be used to monitor the sugar level in the Chardonnay juice as it is fermenting. If you keep track of the sugar levels as they drop each day you can monitor the yeasts sugar eating activities and as the sugar level is dropping the alcohol level is going up and up (as sugar will transform into alcohol during fermenting).
Making Chardonnay at home is a truly enjoyable experience and with a few simple pieces of equipment you can make a high quality Chardonnay that equals the great Chardonnays of the Old and New world.
The recipe above is just one of many. This is because the grape will respond to many different techniques, and consequently I encourage you to experiment a bit in order to extract from it its many possible nuances and who knows what evolves!
Therefore and if you follow the general guidance lines above, you could be making your own Chardonnay at home, which might differ from all others and sharing it with friends and family.
In the meantime, I would like to give you access to some excellent Chardonnay wines plus reviews by clicking the three images to the right (for mobile users just under this text) under the heading World best Chardonnays for delivery to the USA, UK or Australia and pick your region to find a summary of my reviews and ratings.
I do hope that you will enjoy your own wine making activities and if you have any questions and/or remarks, please feel free to share them in the comment box and I will make sure to respond within 24 hours.