General winemaking tips from HIC
Batches of wine take lots of time and care to produce and they can be spoilt from the beginning if the bottles and equipment you use is dirty. It may look clean, but it has to be sterile to make sure that mould spores aren't lurking to spoil the wine. Many micro-organisms live happily on wine dregs and are airborne and invisible. So always clean all utensils thoroughly before and after use. Cleaning out an old dirty demijohn is not much fun, so if you clean up as you go, the next batch won't be a chore.
There are many ways of sterilising your bottles and tools, but one of the simplest is by using a baby bottle sterilising solution, like Milton. It is a chlorine based bleach so use cautiously, but it is less problematic than Sodium Metabisulphate crystals (or crushed Camden tablet). Sodium Metabisulphate crystals can build up a gas inside the packet or tub and this is released when you open it - it can cause an instant mini-asthma attack if you are prone to them and damage your lungs. Care should always be taken with Camden tablets too for the same reason (though not quite as likely). So if you do use them then always open packets and tubs in a well ventilated room and be careful.
Using the Milton solution allows for all utensils to be evenly soaked and vital things - like stirring spoons, extra bungs etc., can be left in a standing solution in a container so they are always sterile when you need them. This cuts down on the chances of you introducing an unknown spore into your wine.
Corks and caps
Corks are the traditional way of stoppering off your wine bottles - but do consider using plastic caps. They can be sterilised easily and don't need soaking. They are easy to use - just thump them in with a small hammer! They don't break up or cause infection in the wine (corked wine is caused by mould spores growing in the cork).
You can re-stopper the bottle better than with a cork too in the unlikely event that you don't drink the lot at one go! They are even re-useable if sterilised.
Do check out the prices in pet shops of tubing used for fish tank pumps. Its often cheaper than going to a brewers supplier and buying syphon tube and its basically the same stuff!
Using dried fruit and flowers.
You can't always rely on getting supplies of fresh flowers or fruits for your winemaking so then you can use dried. Just remember that the dried product is more flavour intense and the following quantities are a rough guide to how much to use.
|Dried Elderberries||500g per gallon|
|Dried Elderflowers||25g per gallon|
|Dried Rose Petals||50g per gallon|
|Dried Parsley||50g per gallon|
|Dried Sloes||500g per gallon|