Can You Really Make Wine For Free? Part 2 – Ingredients

In Part 1 of “Can You Really Make Wine For Free,” we discussed the basic equipment costs you will have to budget for when making wine and discovered that for about $35.00, you can get yourself ready to start fermenting juice. You can of course spend much more than that on other equipment and chemicals, but you don’t need to.

The next consideration in making your first batch as inexpensively as possible are the ingredients. As we discussed, there are some who claim that you can make wine for “free.” We’ve already discovered that indeed, you could make it for “free” assuming you have a vessel that you can squeeze backyard fruit juice into, and simply allow wild yeast to inoculate that. You’ll have wine, but likely not something you’ll be pleased with.

Recently, I saw an article that suggested that you could get “free” fruit by making a deal with the manager of your local grocery store. Apparently, grocery stores throw out fruit that no one will buy – the stuff that has ripened in the produce stands to the degree that any longer, it will soon begin to rot. It was suggested that you could have a conversation with the grocery manager and arrange to pick up this fruit and take it off his hands instead of having it thrown out.

While it is true that fruit that are at their peak of ripening contain more sugar than unripened fruit, I’m not sure I’d be wanting to drive the car over to the grocery store to pick up produce that is almost at the point of going bad and getting the leftovers. For one thing, it takes close to 100 pounds of grapes to make five gallons of wine. Granted, you don’t need to purchase one hundred pounds of blueberries to make 5 gallons of blueberry wine, and I suppose you could get enough of the stuff that is too ripe to sell to make a gallon or two.

But is it really free? You’re driving to the grocery store. You’re burning gas. That’s not free. On top of that, with most non-grape wines, you are going to need sugar. Sometimes, quite a bit of it. So even if you were able to score enough parsnips to make a few gallons of parsnip wine, you will need to have spent some money on that sugar, unless you’ve got beets growing in your backyard and know how to extract sugar from them.

For many fruit and vegetable wines, you are also going to need enzymes. Fruit contains pectin in varying amounts (some are high in pectin while others are lower in pectin) and if you want to make a decent fruit wine, you may need to add pectic enzyme to break it down. If you are going to make something from vegetables, you’ll need to be aware that many vegetables contain high amounts of starch so the addition of a starch enzyme may be required. But don’t worry – both pectic and amylase enzyme are inexpensive. Four dollars worth of each will be enough to do several batches made from fruits or vegetables.

To improve your results even more, you may want to add some grape tannin or leave a teabag while the fermentation is occurring. Without tannin, some wines will taste flat and have little “mouth feel.” Again, grape tannin or teabags are not expensive, but they are not “free.”

The best fruit to use is the best quality fruit you can get your hands on, picked at its peak. Not sitting on the grocery store produce stand for several days, after being harvested up to a week or more before it reached its prime. If you have loads of fruit in your backyard, then you’re in a great position to make some excellent fruit wines very inexpensively! But not for free, as at the very least, you’ll need to purchase sugar and perhaps the other additives mentioned above.

Learning how to make wine can be fun – and learning to use the various ingredients that are required to improve our wines is also fun. As much as it sounds intriguing to make it for free, don’t forget that this is an art as well as a science – and why not use the best ingredients you can afford?

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