We had the privilege and pleasure of being invited to visit friends in Karlsruhe on Saturday during a family wine making day. We weren’t really sure what we were getting ourselves into but when we arrived, we found out it was us along with 3 generations of one family and 2 generations of another…with enough food to feed two armies! In our opinion, since this is something that is generally an all day affair anyway, why not use it as an excuse to get together and celebrate!

if you’ve ever tried to learn about wine making, you’ve probably only come across sites that give you recipes with specific grapes or fruits to use, sugar to be added and a few chemicals. But as you might imagine, wine can be made without all these extras, just using the fruit itself and natural fermentation. This is exactly what we learned how to do…and of course we got to sample everything along the way too!

It started with two HUGE buckets of grapes; one white and one red. They had already been picked and seem to have been sitting for a few weeks in a covered bucket (the big white one on the ground to the right of the press.) A smaller bucket was used to scoop the grapes and juices into the press, where another small bucket waited in front of the press’ spout to collect the pure juice. It was a sweet, hearty tasting grape juice – not anything like you might find in stores although you can buy apple juice with a similar consistency (the cloudy stuff with the heartiness still in it.) All the grapes were grown in the garden where we were partying and there were tons more to be processed. The ripe red grapes off the vine tasted exactly like Welch’s grape juice tastes or a grape-flavored Popsicle. I’ve never in my life tasted a grape like that but man were they good!

Once all the grapes had been poured into the press, blocks of wood were stacked inside the press until the ribbed part of the metal stand was reached so the screwing mechanism could be fastened on top. This press is homemade and therefore a bit larger than many might be able to find. We took some extra photos in hopes of making our own sometime soon (if the small one in our attic doesn’t work for some reason or is too small) so that next year we can do this ourselves with our own grapes! And if we succeed in making one, we will of course share all our knowledge.

Once everything was screwed in place, metal bars were added which allowed you to turn the top piece, therefore pushing down on everything below it. This forced out any remaining juice from the grapes and the pulp can then be used for compost or other creative things.

Once pressed, the juice was put into 10-20 liter plastic jugs where it will be stored until it has fermented. One can also put the juice immediately into bottles; you’ll just have a lot more containers to open every day until the process is finished a few months down the road. There is no exact time frame to make wine this way but I will try to share a little video clip of some of the finished bottles that we brought with us. When you open the bottle, you will hear pressurized air escaping and see sedimentation on the bottom of the bottle begin to rise up and mix with the juice, much like the yeast does when making real wine.

The red wine has a light rose’ color when finished and tastes like grape juice infused with alcohol. Stefan actually didn’t notice at first that there was alcohol in it…which shows that this can be a very dangerous thing to drink in the summer! After we had our last burst of summer weather here in Germany last week, Saturday turned out to be miserable and it rained a good portion of the day with temps in the 50’s…but we were covered and well protected in their garden hut and settled for sunshine in a bottle instead.

This experience helped us to see that we absolutely have to get those miserable vines off our storage buildings across from the main house so we can plant lots of grape vines there. We are also playing with the idea of making a covered area with trellises back near the barn which we could use during not so perfect days to sit outside and have some protection…as well as grow lots and lots of grapes on!