Crushing the Joy Out of Winemaking

I know it’s what I signed up for, but I never expected it to be the most soulless wine making experience of my life.

Oh sure I knew when we bought the Groupon that we’d be going to a DIY wine store where most of their customers were looking Rosso Bravissimofor little to no involvement in the actual process of making the wine beyond the legal requirement for them to sprinkle on the yeast.

I knew we’d be making a kit wine, but there are some excellent kits out there these days. And we’ve had success making kit wines in the past. But I’ve avoided the DIY wine making stores for years because I love being hands on when I make wine – my version of “hands on” not theirs.

However, when Gerry told me we had to book an 1/2 hour appointment I figured we would at least get the option of participating in the process. Especially when they started off by asking about our wine making experience, what varieties of wine we had made and we started discussing equipment changes since we’d last been involved.

Gerry & I started making wine and homebrew almost 20 years ago.  We’ve gone from basic el cheapo kits which produced wine just barely good enough for Sangria, to small batch county dessert wines.  Bag of Oak CubesWe’ve poured, mixed, measured, tested, bottled and corked. We’ve rushed home nightly to talk to our little yeasties peeing booze and burping carbon dioxide. Dutifully recording the daily hydrometer measurements in our wine book and comparing to past batches. After the first 3 batches we stopped using precipitates, and we never had to filter to get jewel-like clear wines.

We’ve made wine that vinegared. We’ve encountered Malolactic fermentations, first unintentionally and later with intention. We’ve had full carboys of wine ruined by Flowers of Wine.  We tapped carboys and watched as they shattered gushing 23l of wine all over the floor.  There is no 2 second rule with wine. Skins & Oak In A Bag

We’ve used concentrate, juice, blends, grapes, berries, cherries, even produced one amazing small batch of honey tangerine wine that I would KILL to be able to recreate. We’ve washed, scrubbed, sterilized, soaked, rinsed and boiled equipment, tubes, carboys and primaries. 

So we stood there aghast, offering to lift, pour, mix. Offering to scrape, fill and hold.  We were rejected. 

“Sometimes it’s easier without help.”  the woman running the show said.

Yup, we get that… but we’re PAYING to MAKE this wine. Not to stand around and chat while someone else makes it. Juice In A Bucket

Then she ripped open the yeast package, held it out and said “now who wants to make the wine”.  Seriously?!?!?!? 

Where was our afternoon, or even 15 minutes, of immersing ourselves in the smell of grape juice, the excitement of using skins to create a richer wine, stirring and choosing the level of oak to add.  Hell, where was the bonding time with our yeasties.

We were reassured that the decanting, clearing and filtering (FILTERING!?!?) process would be done with care. (though not by or with us). We were even reassured they wouldn’t add water after filtering to top up to 23l.  (Yes she said “add water” even though she was saying she wouldn’t do it… holy crap!!!)

When I demurred, with what I’m sure was a slightly caustic “there’s no point”, Gerry took the yeast and sprinkled it on, and she turned to me and asked “Did I ruin your experience?”


Alexa Clark

Alexa is a digital marketer and author with over 20 years in digital & interactive communications in the food and tech industries. Alexa's CheapEats Restaurant Guides, for both Toronto & Ottawa, were Canadian best sellers. She is a recognized authority on social media and has been named one of Canada's 20 Leading Women in Social Media.

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