Life is too short to drink homemade wine; at least according to my lovely wife, who told me this when I suggested that we finally sample the 5 gallon jug of cabernet that has been percolating in my basement for the past several years.
For the record, I am not a novice winemaker. During my single years my brother and I spent a great deal of time manufacturing homemade hooch. It all started, as these things usually do, over a refreshing beverage. We were poor young students, so the discussion inevitably turned to how we could continue getting the necessary supply of alcohol required to complete our college degrees.
By the next morning my initial suggestion of robbing liquor stores didn’t seem as brilliant an idea as it had the night before, so we decided instead to purchase a beer making kit at the local grocery.
There are several steps involved in good beer production, all of which unfortunately require time, effort and cleanliness, the sworn enemies of the thirsty student. Our initial results ran the gamut from skunky odor to exploding bottles, but with time and experience we finally managed to manufacture a passable beer. If your standards aren’t particularly high.
This experience didn’t really help me develop a refined palate, but it certainly taught me to control my gag reflex. Eventually we came to the conclusion that there had to be a better, and by that I mean easier, way to make alcohol in one’s home. Ideally without going blind.
We soon discovered the glory of homemade wine. We simply poured juice into a bucket, tossed in some yeast and stuck on the lid. A couple of weeks later we poured it into bottles. A few more weeks of aging and we had an excellent product, at least in comparison to our beer. When anyone asked its vintage I would proudly respond, “Tuesday.”
The inherent problem was that it took over a month to manufacture. Clearly if you’re consuming say, a few bottles every day (which I believe is the recommended quantity for schoolchildren in France) you have to keep well ahead of schedule in order to ensure a steady supply. We set up a regular timetable to make sure we always had wine available, a process that involved using our entire kitchen and basement. When it came to assembly line manufacturing, the Ford plant had nothing on our house.
For some reason not everyone shared our love of this fine vintage. Admittedly, most of our wine did seem to taste the same, which is to say not particularly good. No matter the variety of grape, it all shared a certain pronounced flavor and bouquet which refused to dissipate regardless of the amount of time we let it “breath,” or as some more accurately put it, “air out.”
On the positive side after the first few sips your tongue usually turned pretty numb, making the rest of the bottle quite passable and subsequent bottles even better.
Sadly my career as a vintner came to a crashing halt when I met my wife. Although she enjoys wine, she was terribly biased against anything that wasn’t made – how shall I put this – hygienically. I tried the Biblical approach (even Jesus made wine at someone’s house) but to no avail; she simply couldn’t overcome her irrational suspicion of booze made in a bucket in my basement.
I begrudgingly returned to the far more fiscally painful method of actually paying for alcohol, and we still haven’t got around to tasting my 5 gallons of well-aged “cellar sauvignon.”
Life probably is too short to drink homemade wine, but I have a sneaking suspicion that if I drank what’s in that jug, it might be even shorter.