I have had the good fortune to live and work in different parts of the world. Wherever I went it was my cardinal principle that I should enjoy the local culture including local foods and drinks rather than stick to the habits from back home. I was introduced to good wine as a doctoral student in Canada during the department Christmas party at UBC and still enjoy it on occasions. If you are a wine lover too then you may enjoy some simple facts about wine and wine making that have been gathered through my travels and experiments that most books don’t tell.
First of all as regards alcohol uphold the principle enshrined by King Solomon the wise some thousands of years ago as recorded in the Old Testament of the holy Bible
“Give wine to a person heavy of heart but give strong drink to a person who wishes to destroy himself”
There is really much wisdom in this statement that I have personally experienced. Many persons consume an alcoholic drink once in a while. At times that drink happens to be a strong one like whiskey rather than a lighter one like wine or beer. Some beers and wines have an alcohol content of over ten per cent and these too should be regarded in the category of strong drink. Life for most humans goes through ups and down where we may experience stress or even distress. This stress or distress reduces the moment an alcoholic drink is consumed. If the drink is a strong one and if it is consumed regularly over a prolonged period of time then there is a good chance that one will become dependent on the drink. One will require it then just to function normally even in times when there is no distress. It might or might not become a drain on one's finances but it will surely become a drain on one’s health. The uninhibited behavior that alcohol produced will land the person in trouble from time to time and in the worst of cases alcohol will produce a degeneration of the liver or psychological complications like psychosis. Alcoholic psychosis is relieved quickly when one gives up drinking but then a person who has become dependent on it finds it difficult to give up the drink. He is soon led to destruction as King Solomon said thousand of years ago. I too faced that situation several years ago when after a period of distress I began to consume strong alcoholic drinks regularly and nearly became dependent on it. Fortunately good wisdom prevailed in time and I gave up the drink before too much damage was done. Now several years later, I can enjoy an alcoholic drink on rare occasions without any problems.
Does this mean that one should shun alcohol completely? That depends on the individual. Besides its adverse effects, there are benefits of alcohol consumption too can not be disputed. Much that is fine in human culture has been produced by those who have consumed moderate amounts of light alcohol sensibly.
Often a person after suffering trauma or distress can be saved from becoming dependent on a more serious addiction of a medical anti-depressant or debilitating psychiatric drug by merely consuming a few drinks at the right time. Perhaps King Solomon the wise had that in mind when he said give wine to a man (that includes women) with a heavy heart. This takes me to a tragic case of a highly talented young girl in our family (name and relationship withheld). At a young age, a temporary stint with uncaring relatives traumatized this young girl so severely that she began to weep and sob uncontrollably for days together upon return to her home. At the time I was unaware of the situation or I would have recommended a good cup of tea laced with a dose of brandy, followed by sleep, sunshine, green surroundings, fresh air and gentle care. I have no doubt that she would have bounced back in weeks if not days and the temporary trauma would have been a learning experience that would have strengthened this sweet young lady. However that did not happen. Her mother became nervous and rushed her to a psychiatric hospital where she stayed for some weeks and came out with a daily prescription of medicines that are not only addictive but can also cause seizures if just given up. One can only give these up under supervision in a controlled matter. She did do it once briefly but then because of a suspected relapse her mother took her to a facility once again and back to similar drugs. Now several years later she needs those medicines just to function normally if one can call it that. The side effects of the medicine have compromised her physically and psychologically so that she cannot function normally or work. When I talked to the doctor he said that she needs the medicine because she does not work -catch 22. Modern medicine is a blessing but in some cases it can also be a curse. A nature loving person who believes and trusts in the healing powers of Nature must give nature a chance whenever possible and much medicine lies in fresh air, sunshine, appropriate food and drink all tempered with love.
My advice to friends and family now is that if you do take a drink sometimes, stick to beer or wine from a reputed manufacturer and seller that is of moderate strength (under ten percent alcohol). Wine is far better than beer especially if one is even slightly overweight and you may wish to stick to white wine rather than a red that can at times cause serious allergies in spite of the reported health benefits of red wine. My suspicion is that the good health of red wine drinking regions has less to do with red wine and more to do with the consumption of olive oil in the same areas.
I presently live in India and although beer, whiskey, rum etc. is available widely here good wine at reasonable rates is not. However, once one learns how to make one’s own wine one may make small amounts very easily at a cost that is less than the cost of tea provided the prevalent regulations in your country permit you to do it. However, one would not be able to learn this from books on the topic. There are big commercial interests to prevent that. Over the years, I have learn't to reject most of the expert suggestions of expert authors on wine making. I have discovered that in order to make fairly good wine one does not need brewers yeast, pressure sensors, special containers, filtering through several layers of muslin, clarifying agents like egg whites and ising glass, or yeast killing ones like potassium permanganate, controlled temperatures, caves and cellars etc. Let me explain.
If used properly bakers yeast will produce great wine provided it is alive and kicking. One can check by adding some, about a heaping tea spoon, to a half full glass of sweetened warm water. If after a few hours it is bubbling and frothing the yeast is fine, if there is no activity it may be dead and you need a new packet.
Filtering through several layers of cloth and adding clarifying agents will not help to clarify a wine as long as the yeast is active. But once the process is complete the yeast waste will settle down in a bottle or jar on its own, leaving a clear liquid behind. It can be decanted out carefully to a fresh bottle because shaking will cause the yeast waste at the bottom to mix and muddy the wine again.
One need not use pressure equipment. Just cap the jar or bottle lightly so that some carbon dioxide can escape as the process is on and one need not have controlled chambers of temperature. In fact summer heat will hasten the process so that one can have a jar of wine ready to drink in less than a week. Yes, aging at a moderate temperature and chilling before drinking does help a white wine improve considerably but it is not bad even when young.
And finally all you need to make a good white wine besides the yeast is a bunch of grapes, some pure drinking water, some cups of sugar and if available a few almonds. The required equipment is just a large pot, a large serving spoon and a glass jar or bottles to prepare and store the wine. A few almonds add a nice touch to white wine and some commercial manufacturers add almond essence to white wine for that. There is an older post on the almond tree in this blog. It was described as a heavenly tree. Grape vines are heavenly wines that shade building in summer with edible leaves and shed them in winter to warm up the building. The genes for both may have arrived on Earth from heavenly planets if one subscribes to the current theory of Panspermia.
Unfortunately though, I feel constrained not to give the detailed steps for making good wine easily and simply at home but there are enough hints in this post for you to follow in case you wish to try. If you do and find that any white or black growth has developed in the liquid throw it away. It has got polluted and before consuming a whole bottle, drink just a bit, wait for a day, if you feel wonderful then call your friends to a party where you can consume the whole thing along with spaghetti in mushroom sauce dressed with sliced boiled eggs and a green salad followed by a chocolate cake and tea, all to the company of fine melodious music.