If you're a home brewer looking for a challenge beyond beer (and perhaps the chance to impress a special lady friend with the finer side of your tastes) the next step may be learning how to make sparkling wine at home. Sparkling wine, also known as Champagne (after the region in France), doesn't have to be much more difficult to make than beer, and is certainly safer than setting up a home distillery. Instead of using traditional "Methode Champenoise" process, consider using this simpler homebrew method, country Champagne, to make your sparkling wine.
Things you'll need:
- "Cellar Classic" or "Grand Cru" six-week premium wine kits
- 6 champagne bottles, and caps, per gallon
- Bottle capper
- Plastic funnel
- 1 champagne yeast culture
- Make your base wine. Follow the steps for making the type of white wine in your kit. A concentrate of Champagne grape, orange, plum, yellow apple, or gooseberry are recommended for a light, fruity, finished product. Make sure that your sugar content is no more than 1-pound-14-ounces per gallon, or else your alcohol content may prevent the yeast's fermentation later. Don't add any potassium sorbate, bentonite, or finings, or your batch will be useless.
- Let it clear. Siphon the wine into a bucket immediately at the end of fermentation. The wine should be a little cloudy at this point. Don't add chemical stabilizers or Campen tablets or you'll kill the fermentation.
- Add simple syrup. Simple syrup is made by dissolving two parts sugar to one part water by volume. You will need 2.25-ounces of sugar per gallon of wine, so use that to figure out how much water you'll need. Don't use more than 2.5-ounces of sugar per gallon or your bottle could explode! Bring the sugar water to boiling in a pot. It should have turned into a syrup upon reaching a boil. Mix this thoroughly with the wine and let it cool back to room temperature.
- Prepare and add yeast. Add champagne yeast to a fifth of a pint of lukewarm water, and a pinch of sugar and let sit for six hours. After the six hours, add an equal amount of wine and wait another six hours. Add more wine equal to the wine/yeast mixture. Repeat this process until all the wine is mixed in. Leave covered during this whole process, when not pouring/mixing.
- Pour into bottles. When all the wine is mixed, immediately pour into champagne bottles. Leave two-inches of air in the neck. Cap with crown caps and a wire muslet.
- Let ferment. Store at room temperature for the first week of fermentation. You can move the bottles to a cooler space, at around 60º(F), for longer storage and fermentation after this week. They should ferment for at least three months before consumption in an upright position. Also, give each bottle a quick twist every two days for a month before drinking. Don't shake them! When the liquid is crystal clear, your sparkling wine is ready to drink.
- Chill. The proper temperature to serve sparkling wine at 32º(F). This chilling process also helps crystals to form over the remaining sediment in the bottom of the bottle. Once properly chilled and crystallized, open away from your face and serve!
- Whatever wine you use, make sure it is a quality all-grape variety.
- Ordinary wine bottles will not do, and will burst under the pressure. Only use Champagne bottles!
- Make sure your bottles are sterile, dry and room temperature. If reusing old bottles, soak them in water overnight, standing up. Drain and place in oven preheated to 450º(F), laying on their side, for 30 minutes. Remove carefully from oven and let cool.