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Hygeine Essentials For Wine Making

May 23, 2008
Certain activities are the same in the making of every kind of wine. They include such matters as hygiene, the keeping of records, checking the acid and sugar contents, racking, fining and filtering.

Hygiene

The greatest care should be taken to ensure that all the equipment and ingredients used are clean and free from spoilage organisms of whatever kind. Much of the equipment used, such as casks, jars, bins, buckets, funnels, wooden spoons, corks, bungs, and so on, afford hiding places for fungi or bacteria. Indeed, put away damp in a dark place and there is soon a visible mould growth upon them. Unless sterilised, such equipment could rapidly spoil a new wine.

It is most important then, that all winemaking equipment be put away clean and dry after each using, and that it be freshly sterilised before each subsequent use. This applies especially to bottles, pressing cloths or bags and corks.

The most common spoilage organism is mycoderma aceti, sometimes called 'aceto-bacter'. This is the vinegar bug which causes wine to smell and taste of acetic acid - the main constituent of vinegar. The bacteria is frequently carried by the little fruit fly - drosophilamelanogaster. It alights on ingredients and equipment, leaving behind enough bacteria to begin a colony.

But there are many similar organisms, including wild and unwanted yeasts and the large family of lactic acid bacteria, all of which cause an unpleasant smell in the bouquet and a bad flavour in the wine. These organisms like access to oxygen and dislike sulphur.

Sulphur has long been known for its purifying qualities. Before simpler ways were known, a sulphur candle was burned inside a cask to purify it. It took many years of research before sulphur could be prepared in such a way as to be safe for use in the human body but eventually the answer was found in sulphonamide. Amateur winemakers have a safe access to the anti-toxic qualities of sulphur in the crystals of sodium or potassium metabisulphite, both of which are equally suitable. Winemakers refer to them simply as sulphite.

They are available as loose white crystals or in tablet form marketed under the name of Campden tablets. One tablet dissolved in a gallon of water releases 50 parts per million of the gas sulphur dioxide which is the anti-toxic element. If crystals are bought loose, 450 grams (1 lb) dissolved in 4.5 litres (1 gallon) produces a solution of which two 5 ml spoonsful are equivalent to 1 tablet.

This is, of course, the cheapest way of buying and using sulphite. For most people 100 grams of sulphite dissolved in 1 litre of water is an ample quantity. If kept well-stoppered and stored in a cool place it will keep for several months. The effect of sulphite is enhanced in an acid solution. Always add, therefore, 10 grams of citric acid cystals per 100 grams sulphite crystals.

Normally 50 parts per million is sufficient sulphur dioxide to purify clean equipment or a clean must. Dirtier equipment or some damaged fruit need double this quantity, ie two tablets or four 5 ml spoonsful of standard solution. Before using any equipment it should be rinsed in this solution. Corks should be soaked for half an hour in it, larger equipment should be washed over in it. Bottles when washed and ready for use should be sterilised by pouring a sulphite solution from one bottle to another and leaving them to drain. Do not subsequently wet them again.
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Gordon Warre writes about cheap homes in bulgaria read more at cycling crazy and low fat foods.
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