Friday, 11 January 2013

Keeping It Clean

One of the most important principles of wine making is cleanliness. It is not enough to simply wash the equipment to be used – it must be sterilised. If this rule is not adhered to, your wine is likely to be contaminated by airborne yeast and other bacteria and may fail. I normally use VWP Cleaner Steriliser for all cleaning and sterilising purposes. I've also used sterilising tablets such as Milton or Boots own brand but, to ensure that bottles are scrupulously clean, I always feel more confident with VWP.

Preparing to make, rack or bottle wine made me very nervous at first as I fretted that somehow germiness would get into the finished product and spoil everything and all my effort would be wasted. I'm happy to say that I've now produced over 100 bottles of wine and none, so far, has spoiled through lack of hygiene. That's not to say there haven't been other problems but that is for another blog post.

So firstly, when preparing to sterilise I wash everything I intend to use in soapy water. I'll use a bottle brush for demijohns and bottles and I rinse thoroughly. Then I sterilise using VWP. When sanitisation is complete rinse in cold water. I am also careful to keep my hands very clean just as I would if I were cooking or baking.

If you are new to this you might find the cleaning routines rather daunting. I know I did when I began again. But routines soon become automatic and easier to deal with.

One thing does bother me and that is the pesky fruit fly. That is one of the reasons I love to make wine in the winter months. No fruit flies. If one of these pests gets into your wine you will end up with undrinkable vinegar. But, as I said, fruit flies are much less of an issue in the colder months.

Today Bert and I went to Nature's Way in Belfast. It was a snappy visit as there was a flag protest scheduled for the afternoon. The young lady who works in the shop was as helpful and pleasant as ever and I stocked up on VWP cleaner and other ingredients and bought two long handled plastic spoons for stirring. Long handled will be very useful as they can be sterilised and kept in the primary vessel when daily stirring is recommended.

I also bought dried elderflower as I'm dying to make elderflower wine but we have had precious little blossom on our trees these past few years. And what little there was I wanted to become elderberries. It did not happen. The berries got scoffed by birds but I do not begrudge them as birds cannot shop in Nature's Way.

Sliced apples in the primary vessel. The yeast and nutrient go in tonight and the sugar in six days time. I was a little worried when I opened the lid an hour ago. The mixture smelled faintly of methylated spirit. Will this be my first big disaster?

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