Sparkling wine is easy to make but is better left for those who have winemaking experience. This type of wine requires two stages. The first stage allows the liquid to ferment while keeping an eye on the alcohol content. Sparkling wine in the first stage needs to have an alcohol level of 8 percent to 10 percent by volume. If the alcohol level is higher, the bottles run a risk of exploding.
The second stage occurs in the champagne bottles themselves. When the champagne yeast is added and the liquid is bottled, bubbles of carbon dioxide are produced and create the wine’s sparkle.
Before jumping into the process, clean and sterilize all equipment. This includes one food-grade pail with lid, plastic tubing _ inch in diameter, 2 one-gallon glass jugs, fermentation lock and bung, potato masher, and champagne bottles.
The process for sparkling wine begins with making a white wine must. Place the white grapes in a nylon straining bag, add a campden tablet, and mash in a food grade pail with a potato masher. Cover the pail with cheesecloth and let sit for 24 hours.
After the 24 hours has passed, remove nylon straining bag from pail and squeeze all the juice out. If you do not have any white grapes or do not want to use fresh grapes, one can use champagne grape concentrate.
Additional flavors can also be added by crushing these fruits or flowers along with the white grapes. This includes elderflowers, and gooseberries.
Once the grape juice has been created, add sugar, citric acid and grape tannin. Check the must temperature at this point. It needs to be between 55 to 65 F degrees. Adjust the temperature accordingly. Add one packet of plain or wine yeast and mix. Cover the pail with the lid and leave to ferment for three days. During this fermenting time period, stir the must twice a day.
After the liquid has fermented for three days, it is time to rack the liquid. This is a process where the sediment and the liquid are separated. The easiest way of doing this is to place the pail above the one-gallon jug that the liquid will be siphoned. Place one end of the _ inch diameter tubing into the pail and the other end into the jug. Siphon the liquid away from the sediment. Once the liquid has been separated from the solids, top the jug with a sanitized bung and fermentation lock.
Let the jug sit for 10 days and them repeat the racking process into another one-gallon jug. Let this liquid sit for three months.
Once this time period has passed, it is time to add the champagne yeast. To do this, take one-fifth of a pint of water and mix in a pinch of sugar. To this mixture add one packet of champagne yeast. Let this sit for six hours and then add to this mixture an equal amount of wine. Cover and let sit for six hours. Repeat this process by doubling the amount of wine added to the original liquid.
After the all the wine has been added and mixed with the champagne yeast and sugar mixture, it is time to bottle it up. Gather the sterilized champagne bottles and siphon the liquid into each bottle making sure to leave a 2-inch air space. Cap each bottle off with a white plastic dome-shaped stopper and tie down with a wire loop or muselet.
Once all the bottles have been corked, the bottles will need to be stored at room temperature for the first week. This will allow the fermentation to begin. After the week has passed, move the bottles to an area that is kept at a constant 60 F degrees. This will allow the wine to mature. During this maturation period, the wine will need to be slowly rotated from a horizontal position to an upside down position. This rotation will allow the yeast to slide down into the stopper.
Before you use your sparkling wine it must be turned. It is better to plan a month in advance and give each bottle a quick twist every two days. This simple technique will encourage the yeast to settle.
After the above process has occurred, chill the wine to 50 F degrees. While the wine is chilling, mix a solution of salt and crushed ice. Once the wine is chilled, wrap the bottom half of the bottle in a towel and stick the neck of the bottle in the salt and crushed ice mixture. This step will cause the wine in the neck of the bottle to freeze and encapsulate the sediment. After the wine has frozen in the neck, upright the bottle and remove the wire loop or muselet. Remove the plastic stopper and allow the frozen wine to shoot out of the bottle. Place a new stopper into the bottle and secure with a wire loop or muselet. Store until ready to use.
Sparkling wine can be a challenge to make but the effort is well worth it. Just keep in mind that once you taste your first bottle of homemade sparkling wine, you will forget the time involved and be counting down the days until the next grape harvest.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.