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Barracks - Do it yourself: Make bottles of sparkling wine

CheeseBall - Jul 19, 2006 - 09:44 PM
Post subject: Do it yourself: Make bottles of sparkling wine
Champagne producers make it sound so complicated.

They call the process methode champenoise. They use temperature-controlled underground caves to stow the goods. They give the finished products fancy names.

Why spend $50 on one of these bottles - or take a French course to pronounce them?

Just whip up some sparkling wine of your own.

Down A Pint

Sparkling wine is simply the name for wine that's carbonated. Champagne is sparkling wine made in that French region, Prosecco is the Italian version and Cava the Spanish version.

But homemade sparkling wines are easy to make because they're created with an age-old basic principle: Start with a white wine, add yeast and sugar, then cork it back up so that the carbon dioxide builds up to the point that the bubbles get forced back into the wine.

We asked wine and spirits guru Lynn Hoffman, author of "The New Short Course in Wine" (Prentice Hall, 144 pages, $16.80), to show us the process from beginning to end.

With a little planning, a few packets of yeast and a few bottles, you can produce summer's perfect drink in no time.

"We're not making Champagne here," Hoffman says. "What we're making is an absolutely simple sparkling wine. It's perfect for summer, and it's so easy it's ridiculous.

"People might ask, why not just go get a carbonating machine? It doesn't taste the same. Making it yourself gives it such a rich flavor. The yeast is crucial to carbonation."

Here is Hoffman's step-by-step method for making a batch of sparkling wine:

Step 1: Get your supplies together. You will need a bottle of Pinot Grigio or other acidic white wine, a packet of home-brew-grade yeast, a pinch of powdered citric acid or the juice of one lemon and 1 teaspoon of home-brew-grade dextrose sugar or regular granulated sugar.

For bottling, you need a sanitized Champagne bottle or two beer bottles. Simply pouring your wine into a bottle and sticking a cork in won't work. Hoffman suggests buying "swing cap" bottles, which have a cork attached to a metal rod. The cork is inserted and the metal rod is locked into place to seal and pressurize the contents. The bottles are available in home brew stores and online (www.homebrewit.com, www.ebottles.com).

Step 2: Get sour. The idea is to bring the wine to about 1 percent total acidity before mixing in the sugar and yeast. Acidity makes bubbly wine crisper and more flavorful. Open the bottle of wine, and measure 25 ounces into a glass pitcher. Add the citric acid or lemon juice; stir well.

Step 3: Add the sugar and yeast, which are necessary to produce carbon dioxide (carbonation).

For every 25 ounces of wine, use a measuring spoon to add 1 teaspoon sugar. You must be exact when adding the sugar; too much can produce too much carbonation - which can lead to exploding bottles.

Once the sugar has been added, sprinkle about 1/4 teaspoon yeast into the wine. Mix well with a large spoon to combine the yeast and sugar. The carbonation process has begun.

Step 4: Bottle it up. Pour the wine into the bottles, leaving about 2 inches at the top, or neck, of the bottle to allow sufficient pressure to build while the carbonation process takes place. Place in a cool, dry place for one to two weeks. Once it's ready to drink, chill the wine before serving.

Cheers Cheese
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