A few weeks ago, I undertook a homegrown winemaking experience with a 64-ounce plastic bottle of Welch’s grape juice, a packet of yeast and two finger crossed that the outcome wouldn’t be completely offensive. Read the introduction first.
The full, sordid story:
Day 1: It’s bubbling over into the airlock and there’s definite activity going on in the juice. No explosion yet.
Day 2: The blurb on the box says wine in 48 hours. Uh… no. After 48 hours (almost to the dot), it tastes like sweet fizzy grape juice with a dribble of alcohol. More tomorrow after the yeasts continue their quest for sugar.
Day 3, 8:51 pm: Essence of grape juice spritzer with still way too much sugar for me.
Day 4, 11:01 pm: Slightly less sweet and beginning to border a wine-like grog.
Day 6, 7:05 pm: Really cloudy and bubbling away but starting to lose the grapey-ness. Actually beginning to taste OK.
Day 7, 10:53 p.m.: Definitely starting to be more wine-like and gaining some tartness. Still distinctly Welch’s, but a departure from its super sweetness. Pretty nasty aftertaste developing, like spoiled grape juice. A slight fizziness still there but waning.
Day 9, 9:02 p.m.: High acidity piques the tongue which dulls the fruit. Grapey but not very tasty. The nasty spoiled fruit finish remains. Losing more sugar. Yeasts still really active.
Day 11, 11:01 p.m.: Vastly improved in flavor (couldn’t handle it so I let it ferment for a few days before tasting again). Doesn’t have the ass-like aftertaste anymore. Acids still prevalent as is some effervescence. Grapey but also some cherry flavors entering the picture. A bit like a super tart Beaujolais Nouveau.
Day 12, 11:34 p.m.: No longer cloudy and still smells like the juice from whence it came. Also still has the juice-like aftertaste. really tart with black cherry and, well, grape juice flavor. Kinda tastes like cheap, bad red wine at this point but that’s a long way from where we started.
Day 14, final day. It’s finished doing its fermentation thing and I took it to work to have our winemaker, Natalie, calculate the alcohol. After laughing about my whacked out experiment, she and our assistant winemaker, Dennis, both tried it and declared it tasted like fermented Concord grapes. 9.1% alcohol. Lower than other wine because grapes for juice aren’t as ripe as fruit destined for wine.
The final judgment. It’s looks like light red wine and it will get you drunk. It’s fine for spritzers, sangria (some recipes) or a mixer for crappy sparkling wine. Just don’t expect much or pull it out for uppity wine geek friends.
Now I’m going to try it on cranberry juice, which is what Natalie suggested.