Saturday was harvest day for my Norton (aka Cynthiana) grapes. After cleaning and sorting I had 16 lbs of fruit from three vines. I have a fourth vine but its on a different terrace level and I didn’t get a net over it. The birds harvested all it produced. They enjoy grapes well before the seeds turn brown which is an indication of readiness for wine.
The photo on the right is after washing and sorting. Quality fruit is a necessity for good wine and this is as good looking a harvest of red grapes as I have ever had. It is only the third year I’ve ever harvested this variety. The wine from previous years has not been remarkable. My daughter who worked at a local fine dining restaurant described it as palatable and something that could make a good sauce. Cooking wine quality is all I have produced from this variety so far. I’ve made better drinking wines from pears and figs.
I grew the grapes without any spraying or watering in what has been a dry summer for this area. Last year, I waited longer to harvest and I could smell the scent of spoilage as I gathered the fruit. I heated the fruit to pasteurization temperature of 170 F to kill the spoilage organisms. This year the look and smell of the fruit is better, so I didn’t pasteurize. And I’m going for a wine with no chemical additives, so I didn’t add sulfites which are used in most wines.
My method was to put all the fruit in a cotton T shirt tied to hold it. A pillowcase would also work, but that would produce a tie-dyed pillowcase. This improvised fruit bag will make it easy to remove the fruit in a day or two. In a food grade fermenting bucket I pressed the fruit with my fists. Then I added 2 an 1/2 gallons of water, 8 cups of cane sugar, and a packet of wine yeast. Its bubbling and I’ve been stirring it (punching down the cap) three times a day. Also, I have a towel tied over the bucket to keep flies out.
There is no doubt I’ll have alcohol. Whether I’ll have something that anyone cares to consume without additions to make it sangria or port style will be determined in some months.