The Toast: Adventures in Winemaking

My first real attempt at winemaking all started with crabapples. Earlier this fall, I got a hot tip about a crabapple tree that was overloaded with fruit, so I went searching. Sure enough, the tree, in the backyard of some anonymous doublewide, was literally collapsing under the weight of its bounty. Branches the size of my calves had snapped and the boughs were bowing to the ground. I picked a bucketful of fruit and went home not quite sure what to do with them.

If you've never had them, you should know crabapples are much too bitter to eat out of your hand. However, with the right amount of sugar, you can make them into a pretty good jelly. But I'm not a jelly maker. Nor was I wine maker. But I am now. After turning that first batch of crabapples into a bottle of tasty crabapple schnapps, I went back for another haul when some research turned up a recipe for crabapple wine.

That batch of wine is now bottled and aging. Before that batch was out of the primary, I had bought a winemaking kit and started a five-gallon batch of EdWort's Apfelwein, the recipe for which is hugely popular (as in 1.5 million views) over on the Home Brew Talk Forums. That, too, is bottled and aging.

This past weekend, I picked up a can of blackberry puree, which I started in the one-gallon fermenter today. I also bought the makings for a six-gallon batch of Spanish Tempranillo and I'm this close to splurging on an oak barrel to age it in. This winemaking is like an addiction, I tell you.

So, before I get in over my head (too late), I thought I better seek the advice of my knowledgeable readers. Any tips for a newbie winemaker, particularly one who had a hard time passing chemistry in college?