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Wine making tips one and two.

You can try for years and home made wine will never taste as good as a real wine from a Mediterranean country, or more recently the wines of the Southern hemisphere. OK, occasionally there is an exception, but the abundance of chemicals used in making wine at home frequently taints it.

My grandfather who was otherwise a pretty sane chap and fountain of knowledge, having spent a lot of time in India, started making his own wine when he retired. My first taste of homemade wine was when I was about 7 when I was allowed a few sips of his "vintage" blackberry wine. Even at that tender age I could tell that it was immensely alcoholic but tasted awful. He belonged to a wine making "Circle" who used to give out wine making tips to other keen winemakers. Because all the members used the same chemicals they did not notice them at their 'tastings'. Anyone used to real wine would rather have a G&T or a Scotch.

I must admit that later in life I dabbled in winemaking myself. I should have known better, I know, but living in the English countryside with often more produce than I needed I decided to do something with the gluts of apples, pears and other fruits in the garden, as well as picking blackberries and elderberries from the local hedgerows.

I invested in a load of gear, bottles, books, corks, demi-johns and tried to make wine without chemicals, having remembered the times I had been forced to try various friends' unpalatable brews, "Oh you must try my carrot wine, it tastes just like Frascati". (It was more like battery acid and bore no resemblance to that fine wine).

So I read loads of books, most of which told me to use lots of chemicals without which one could not make wine, and gave it a go. A few gallons of apple vinegar (which was great for cooking), several gallons of funny tasting water and a year or two later I finally made a small batch of very drinkable elderberry wine using a port yeast. It was rather like a half-decent chianti. So having invested in all the equipment, spent many, many hours picking fruit, washing it, bottling-up, siphoning-off and all the other numerous tasks necessary in home-made wine making, I ended up with some very good vinegar (around 10 years worth) and 7 bottles of drinkable wine.

Nowadays I'm very happy to go to the local shop and get a decent bottle of the real thing. One of the main problems with homemade wine is its unknown strength. Yes I know there are various gadgets for measuring that sort of thing, but that is rather throwing good money after bad, and if it doesn't really taste very nice anyway why bother?

Sitting here with a glass of chilled Frascati and a smoked salmon sandwich I really wish I had taken the two most important wine making tips before I even started. It would have saved me a lot of aggravation.

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