A Very Ancient Craft
Every household possesses the fundamental equipment to make wine, and even in the smallest flat a little space can usually be found to make and store a few gallons of wine if you have the desire to do so. Whilst elaborate equipment can be bought and will be found helpful in use, it remains a fact that very good wine can be made in the utensils already to your hand in the home.
The basic need is a vessel large enough to contain the fruit, vegetables, flowers or grain base and some water. The ideal in use today is a plastic dustbin, which can be bought in most Woolworth's for 12s. 6d. it holds about five gallons of must and has a splendid tight-fitting lid. When empty it has almost no weight, it is impervious to acid or alkali, it can be cleaned quite simply and is in every way perfect for the purpose. A bread crock glazed on the inside is also eminently suitable, but very heavy in use. A wooden tub with a lid is also excellent, can be easily scrubbed clean and is not likely to suffer any damage in use. It is, however, very heavy and quite expensive to buy, A plastic bucket, which holds one, or two gallons can also be used with complete success and safety.
There is just one important point to remember. Never use a metal container. The natural and necessary acidity of the fruit starts a chemical action with the metal and makes a most unwholesome brew, which could indeed prove poisonous. Wine should never be left in any metal container other than good-quality stainless steel. Ancient earthenware crocks should not be used either. In days gone by lead was used for the glazing and the action of fruit acid on lead causes poisonous in the must or wine.
In addition to this mashing vessel, a fermentation vessel is required. This can take the form of an earthenware jar, such as was once used for ginger beer, and is sometimes used in schools for ink, or a glass jar with a small neck such as is used for orange juice and the like. Several stores and suppliers sell these one-gallon-sized jars quite cheaply.
It is helpful but not essential to have a few more jars of this kind which can be used for maturing the wine, but if these are not available at least some bottles are essential. These should be proper wine bottles with a punt in the bottom and good-quality corks should always be used with them. Most hotels and licensed restaurants are glad to give you their empty wine bottles.
In an emergency the wine could in fact be fermented quite successfully in the bottles themselves, but is obviously less troublesome in one container than in six bottles; and all experienced winemakers agree that wine fermented in bulk is superior to that fermented and matured in small quantities.
Occasionally you will need a wooden spoon, perhaps some scales, a funnel, a sieve and a piece of clean cloth, preferably of linen or the like. The cloth is used for straining e wine from the fruit and deeds therefore fairly strong. Muslin is not really suitable and nylon is not porous enough. It is
worth while keeping in stock some labels and some record cards to attach to each brew. It is especially valuable for the beginner to be able to recall exactly what he put into a wine, and it is always interesting to describe the ingredients and method to visitors when they are enjoying the finished product. Three or four feet of rubber tubing for siphoning is worth having too.
There are a few small items of consumable equipment that you should always try to keep in stock. Campden tablets for sterilising the must can be bought in small quantities for a few coppers. Pectozyme, which costs only 1s. 6d. an ounce, helps to break down the pectin in fruit and so prevents a hazy wine. It also greatly assists in extracting the flavour and juice and so improves the quality of a must. Nutrient tablets should always be available. One added to a gallon of must helps to feed the yeast so that it can the more efficiently do its work of fermenting the sugar into alcohol. Many recipes call for a small quantity of acid, usually in the form of citric acid, and if you always have some fresh lemons in stock then you need not worry. On the other hand, an ounce packet or two of citric acid, which costs only a few coppers from Boots the Chemists, are always a good reserve. Finally, it is worth while keeping a few tablets of yeast in different variety, so that if you unexpectedly come by some fruit at a time when you cannot obtain some yeast then you are not inconvenienced or prevented from making your wine. These yeast tablets cost only 6d. each and keep excellently in a dry cupboard.
Many winemakers in the past have had difficulty in obtaining the necessary equipment, yeasts and so on, but nowadays there are many excellent suppliers who will gladly send you their catalogue on request, and no matter where you live your supplier is no further away than your nearest post-box. A list of well-known suppliers is given as an appendix to this book and you may write to any of them with confidence.