This year we made 110 litres of wine from our vinyard at our permaculture farm. The process was surprisingly easy and after borrowing the first fermentation tank from a friend our only investment was a 100 litre oak barrel for storage during the second fermentation.
We realised during the process, that we could make wine sustainably, and using a closed loop system. We can create 7 outputs, thats 7 consumable products just from the vines, as well as compost.
The product outputs are…
- Grapes for eating
- Grape juice
- Jeropiga (grape juice mixed with last years grappa to make a sweet spirit)
- Aguardente (50% proof clear spirit)
- The list actually goes on including preserves etc…
Here is how we did it…
First you will need to collect your grapes. The unripe ones can make your wine sour so pick the ripest and sweetest. Leave out the completely dry grapes. Everyone has different preferences here…and for a lot of the process actually, so everything is open to interpretation.
Keep the grapes you have picked in a shady spot during the day before you take them to the place you are going to press them.
Once you have all your grapes together, you are ready to press. Your press location should keep a relatively stable temperature throughout the day.
In the picture below we are using a crushing machine which strips the grapes off the stalks, and presses them. The crushed grapes, juice and seeds drop into the first fermentation tank below. You do not need to do it this way though. You can put your grapes directly into a big tank, tub or anything that can hold them for a week or so, and stomp on them till they are all crushed. You now have your grape juice which you can drink or use to make Jorpiga
The stalks are then fed to the sheep, or composted, as our the left over seeds after the wine has fermented
For the next week you will need to mix the wine on a daily basis. We mixed ours in the morning and evening. Our friends mix theirs at lunch as well. Make sure to push all the dry grapes on top through to the bottom and mix well.
If you are using a wooden barrel make sure to soak it a few days before. Fill it with water so the wood becomes saturated and stops leaking.
Now you need to pump the juice from the tank. Here is the final bit of our juice being squeezed from the grape pulp. You will need a plastic pipe with lots of small holes drilled in it, this acts as a filter for the solids. Place a clear tube inside this, suck and drain fermented grape juice into the barrel you plan to keep it in for the second ferment (or the following year if you don’t want to bottle it)
We had to transport our wine from a friends press so we had to decant into the black 50L beer kegs, and then into our 100L wine barrel at home. Over the next six weeks or so, the wine will undergo the second fermentation, and it will sound like it is fizzing, this is normal. just plug the top of the barrel with a tissue of something similar to allow air to escape but not allow bugs in. Once the fizzing stops the barrel can be plugged, or you can decant your wine into bottles for storage.
If you want to make some hard spirits, make sure to take the rest of the grape pulp to the distillery. Our distillery allowed us to take the leftovers of previous customers grapes after the distillation process so you can even close the loop and bring home compost after the whole process is done. Add your compost around the vines and you have created a closed loop system. If you bring home more compost than you arrived with you are going to be creating a system with higher inputs than outputs so it could become more productive each year..
And finally, when it comes to winter, if you wish to prune your vines to keep them growing in a tidy formation, you can leave the cuttings to dry and use them for next year’s kindling