There is a long way from the grape to the bottle. After drinking and appreciating wine for many years, it seemed appropriate to sign up for a wine making class to learn a thing or two about the process, close-up. Wine & Whey in Denver’s RiNo Art District offers such an opportunity in their Beginner Wine Class.
Recently a group of wine lovers with diverse tastes – from Sweet Riesling to Cabernet Sauvignon – gathered to try their hands at the wine making process. After sampling some of Wine & Whey’s earlier vintages of Chardonnay, Sparkling Chardonnay, Palisade Peach, and Cabernet Sauvignon wines, instructor Katrina Cegledi led us in making Malbec.
We worked from a kit that contained grape juice concentrate, grape skins, toasted French Oak chips, and French Oak cubes to be added later in the wine making process. Wine kits can be purchased for use at home and make 23-30 bottles of wine. However, the advantages of making wine in a space devoted to such endeavors are many, starting with containing the potential mess! In addition, Wine & Whey was set up to have the appropriate sterilization of wine making equipment. Something that would be hard to do in, say, a basement bathroom at home. (Hence the term “bathtub wine.”)
A little bit of teamwork and we poured the grape juice into what was essentially a drywall mud bucket, diluted with tap water. Next came a muslin bag that contained the grape skins, followed by bentonite, a clay that acts as a clearing agent, and EC-1118 yeast to promote high alcohol levels and potentially stubborn fermentation. We checked the specific gravity of the mixture, which was 1.084, right at target. An airtight lid with a hole in it followed next. Katrina placed a blow-off tube in the hole, which allowed oxygen and bubbles to escape while keeping the wine environment air-tight. That was it for Day 1.
Bags of grape juice concentrate, grape skins, yeast, and fining and stabilizing agents.
Katrina described the next step, or Secondary Rack, as occurring on March 18, when she would remove the muslin bag filled with grape skins and transfer the young wine to a plastic carboy for its next fermentation. On Day 21 of fermentation, April 1, she will add the French oak cubes, chitosan as a fining agent, and potassium metabisulfite as a clearing and stabilizing agent to help protect against oxidation.
Katrina asked the class to send art work for our wine bottle labels, three bottles per person. She recommended dating the labels to encourage cellaring (or, in our case, closeting) the wine, which will improve with time. For example, noting on each label when to drink the wine — 6 months, 1 year, 2 years.
The class agreed on Sunday, April 27, for our bottling party. Stay tuned to hear how our Malbec turns out!
Wine & Whey offers a number of wine and cheese making classes. Some of their students have been engaged couples who are making wine for their upcoming weddings, as well as bridal showers, gourmet clubs, and groups of wine-loving friends. This fall Wine & Whey plans to offer an advanced wine making class where students work with a shipment of real grapes and can participate in the wine making process several steps before what comes packaged in a kit.
Until our next adventure in wine and food…
Wine & Whey
3559 Larimer Street, between 35th Street & Downing
Denver, Colorado 80205
Neighborhood: River North Art District