What Wine Recipes Amount To
A recipe is basically a set of instructions to be followed under normal circumstances. There are good recipes and there are useless ones. But good or useless, a very great deal depends on the method used. A good recipe will make poor wine if it is used with an unsuitable method, while a poor recipe will make poor wine no matter what sort of method is used. Obviously, then, we want a good recipe with the most reliable and suitable method if we are to expect good results.
Wine-making, as I have said before, is rather like driving a car or, for that matter, doing anything that calls for a bit of commonsense. When learning to drive, you use someone else’s recipe for driving. But when you have passed your test, you set about driving in your own way, bearing in mind what the instructor has instilled into you. If he was a good instructor, you will never forget the main essentials of driving because they will be instilled into you in the way that discipline is drilled into army recruits by a sergeant major.
And so it is with wine-making. You learn by the recipes of others and by your own mistakes. But what you learn on the way are the hard lessons that have to be learnt in anything that is worth doing well. And if there has ever been a subject worth learning it is wine-making, both for the results themselves and for the fascinating hobby that goes with them. If you learn about the technical background and understand the basic principles, you will be a far better wine-or beer-maker than if you follow recipes blindly without really understanding the whys and wherefores.
As you will see, a great deal goes on behind the scenes. There are a great many types and varieties of wines and beers, and it is for you to choose which one you want to make. To look at wine- and beer-making in a different light. You will be able to vary recipes or dispense with them altogether and forge ahead confidently. Background knowledge of the subject will enable you to do this quite easily; without it, you would be completely stumped.
There is no need to alter or to try to balance any of the recipes on this site when using them for the first time, because they have been balanced already, so far as they can be. Also you do not have to use any equipment other than normal utensils for making wines or beers. My recipes make wines and beers as I like them and as a lot of other people like them. I am sure that you will like them too. But if you want a slight variation, wait until you have read and understood the technical details and made wines or beers with the recipes, then you will know what to do.
A balanced recipe contains a list of all the ingredients necessary for a fully flavoured and, as far as is possible, a chemically balanced wine. It is imperative that the must we prepare contains all the essential elements for successful fermentation. In preparing a must we simulate, so far as we can, the chemical composition of grape juice. We do this because grape juice contains all the essential elements in the right proportions or near-right proportions for successful fermentation.
This is why we add acid and tannin to musts prepared from ingredients that do not contain them, such as roots, flowers and certain dried fruits. If we do not make up these deficiencies, fermentation would be unsatisfactory in many ways, and the wine would not be worth tasting, let alone drinking.
This is also why we use such small amounts of wild and garden fruits when we make wines with them. Usually they contain so much acid that, if we made wines with undiluted juice, we would not be able to drink them owing to the high acidity and in some cases astringency. SO we take the simple way out by using what we consider to be the amount of fruit that will put into the must the amount of tannin and acid needed both for a good fermentation and a reasonably well-balanced wine.
The amount of fruit used is usually between 1.5 and 2.5kg (about 3-6 lb) depending on the type of wine — light, heavy, dry, sweet — required. But this is where a recipe can mislead.
During a normal to good season when fruits ripen well, the acidity is lessened and sugar content increased, and a good recipe will turn out good wines. But in a poor season when there has been a lot of rain and very little sunshine, the sugar content of the fruit will be very low and the acid content will be high. The wine produced will be totally different, apart from basic flavour, from the wine made in a good season, even though the same fruit and recipe are used. It is in such cases that background knowledge is so important for it enables you to make allowances for the differences in sugar and acid contents from season to season.
Other factors must also be taken into consideration, for example, soil conditions. Sand, clay and chalk all make a difference to the fruits in one way or another. Recipes cannot allow for this sort of thing. If you gather fruits from the same area every season there should be more consistency in their chemical balance than if they are gathered from widely differing places where each has been grown on different soils. There should be very little inconsistency in well-cultivated fruits from the same garden. But even here, you must allow for the unreliability of our climate. Anybody liking a particular type of wine made from wild or garden fruits would do well to cultivate these fruits in sufficient quantities for wine-making purposes.
You will now understand why you have been disappointed at odd times when using the same fruits with the same recipes.