Tuesday, October 01, 2019

101 Things #7 - Wine making

Inevitably, whilst creating this list of 101 Things I Refuse To Do Before I Die, a certain amount of research was done to see what sort of things other people regard as desirable. Lifeline24 thinks that:

Making Your Own Wine
is a jolly good idea and something you will look back gladly upon as time well spent as the ambulance drives you away to your final destination.

Well, unless you happen to own your vineyard (in which case you are already doing it), it really isn't. Oh yes, it sounds so romantic, wandering amongst the vines, caressing the growing fruit, waving away the odd invading insect and then at the end of summer pulling out those trusty old scissors to snip away at the ripe bunches of grapes, inhaling the heady smell of the juice as the mound builds up in the barrels before friends and neighbours arrive from all over to crush them barefoot whilst having a party, and then the months of wandering through your cellar where the miracle of fermentation is hard at work before at last you open a tap, draw a small glass, inhale deeply and start planning your speech at the awards ceremony.

The reality is that you agonise about irrigation, about late frosts, about disease and infestations. When you finally get the harvest in it has to be crushed and liquidised and pasteurised and stuck in huge metal kegs for a few months before going off for testing and blending at an industrial bottling site, and then you get to taste it and it is sour, thin and acidic and then begins the long tedious process of trying to shift a few bottles of the stuff before it all goes vinegary, the bank calls in its mortgage and when you finally sign on at the Job Centre and tell them your last job was as a winemaker you get a hollow laugh and asked if you are any good at working in a call centre.

Even a small  producer needs
 at least this size vineyard.
Pic: mine
This is the stuff you need
to make wine.
 Pic: mine

It's actually hard work to make a decent wine. Mrs. Commuter and I have had a number of holidays recently in the great wine regions of France and Italy hearing about it at first hand. Small producers live on the edge of ruin - one bad harvest and it can all be over. And obviously, if this is something on your bucket list, then, by definition, you must be an amazingly small producer.

Of course, if your ambition is to make just one measly bottle of alcoholic grape juice on which you can proudly stick a hand-lettered label so that you can produce it at Christmas to impress your parents, ("Very nice, dear" says your mother loyally "But I think I'd rather have some of your lovely chlorinated tap water, if you don't mind") then go ahead, plant a few vines in the back garden and have the pleasure of watching them wither. In any case it takes several years before a vine is capable of bearing decent fruit. By then you'll be so fed up of the endless watering and weeding, and always worrying about an overnight frost, that the first taste of your wine will stick like rancid cola in your gullet. "I spent all that effort for this? For this??" you will say incredulously and your partner will nod solemnly and sigh, you know that sigh, the one that means "The penny has finally dropped, we could have had some decent roses by now like I always wanted".

I am not going to make my own wine or any other form of drink. There's loads of the stuff in the shops at very reasonable prices and I don't get to knacker my knees.

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