Sharing the art of winemaking
The origins of wine predate any written records, however the oldest evidence of wine consumption were found on sites in Iran, Greece and Armenia.
The altered state produced from consuming wine has been considered religious since its origin. The Greeks use to worship Dionysus, the god of wine; however, modern archaeologists are still uncertain about the first cultivation of wild grapevines.
The oldest known winery was discovered in Armenia, which dated back to 4100 BC. Archeologists discovered the site which contained a wine press, fermentation vats, jars and cups as well as grape seeds and vines.
In Europe, during the Middle Ages, wine was the common drink of all social classes wherever grapes were cultivated. European grape varieties were first brought to what is now Mexico by the first Spanish conquistadors and planted at Spanish missions.
Most of the wine production in the Americas is based on Old World grape varieties that were brought here from Europe. Until the latter half of the 20th century, American wine was generally viewed as inferior to European wine.
In 1976, a wine competition was organized in Paris by Steven Spurrier, a British wine merchant, in which French judges carried out blind tastings of wines produced in both France and California. A Californian wine rated best in each category, which was shocking due to the fact that France was generally regarded as the producer of the world's best wines.
The hobby of making beer, wine, mead and cider at home has become increasingly popular over the last 20 years.
Paul Dove, a Park Rapids resident, and Mary Adams, a resident of Nevis, began their friendship by bonding over the art of winemaking.
Paul began making wine in the 1970s after taking a trip to England, where his friends were making wine. He bought a recipe book complete with instructions. His wife bought him a kit and that was how it all started for him.
His first batch of wine was made with the kit his wife purchased, which is not the cheapest option, so he started making wine with elderberries and any other berries he could obtain free of charge.
At the time, Paul lived in southern Indiana and the berries of choice were elderberries that grew along the railroad tracks.
"In three to four hours, I could pick enough elderberries to make 30 gallons of wine," he said.
"I didn't know Paul very well and one day we were politicking in Bemidji and a bunch of us were jammed in the car coming back to Park Rapids. We started to talk about making wine," Mary said in reference to how Paul got her started making wine. "I had fiddled around with a few things but I never really did it and he said let's make some wine together, so we started to make rhubarb wine together. Paul was my guru."
According to Mary, after they bottled the wine, she went home with 73 bottles of rhubarb wine.
To begin making wine, Paul and Mary said to ensure that equipment is thoroughly sterilized and then rinsed clean. This step is crucial. It's best to clean and rinse everything immediately before using it.
Select your grapes or fruit, wash them thoroughly and toss out anything rotten or peculiar-looking.
When making wine, especially for the first time, it is best to have a recipe to follow. This will ensure the correct amount of sugar, yeast and water is added and is well balanced.
Everything is then added to a primary fermentation bucket, where the fruit will need to ferment for seven to 10 days. At that point, about 98 percent of the alcohol will have formed. During the first stage of fermentation a froth will develop on top and sediment will fall to the bottom.
At the end of the primary fermentation, the specific gravity is checked with a hydrometer. At this stage, sugar may need to be added depending on what the recipe says and the type of wine being made.
Then the wine is strained and siphoned into a glass carboy that is fit with an airlock on top to keep out any oxygen and left for two to three weeks for the secondary fermentation.
All of the yeast will settle to the bottom and after the secondary fermentation there will be another layer of sediment.
The wine is then siphoned again into another clean glass carboy to once again separate the wine from the sediment that forms as the wine ferments. This process can be repeated for two to three months or until the wine runs clear.
Then the wine can be bottled and corked. The wine needs to be stored upright for the first three days, then the wine should be stored on its side in a cool, dry place. For red wine, it needs to age for at least one year, white wine can be ready to drink after only six months.
"The longer you wait, it develops a flavor. If you rush it, you will know that it's not ready. I'm very patient, I could wait forever," Mary said. "The difference is like day and night if you start too early. It's sharp and it doesn't have the profundity it should have."
"You really don't want to drink a wine until it's at least a year old. Wine is drinkable after four months and with time it will get better and better," Paul said before adding, "If it stays there."
"Well, where could it possibly go?" Mary asked, teasing Paul.
Paul recommends anyone wanting to start making wine needs to get a recipe book that takes them through the whole process.
"You keep learning and I'm still learning," he said. "One thing I've learned is that you don't want to become your own best customer."
Years back, Mary made a batch of dandelion wine that was never quite drinkable. She had picked dandelions along the hiking trail and decided to turn them into wine but said she screwed up the recipe.
"I wasn't successful. Now if I were to do it again I would do it differently because I know more about technique and cleanliness and water quality," she said. "Follow the directions, be very clean, use good water and let it set for a long time."