Majestic staff love talking about wine, and doing all things wine related. Marcus from Majestic Wine Taunton has gone one step further and tried his hand at some homegrown winemaking. Have a look at what he’s been up to…
This story begins two years ago with the planting of four vitis vinifera “Black Regent” grape vines on a small plot in Patchway, just outside Bristol. I’ve sold (and criticised!) wines for the best part of a decade, and thought I’d try my hand at a bit of winemaking. The variety I’ve chosen, Black Regent, is grown commercially in the UK by such prestigious wineries as Chapel Down, Camel Valley, and Sharpham Estate. The vines have been growing like crazy since they were planted, and this year, 2011, will be my first vintage of wine from these vines.
The vines started fruiting in early June after the flowering had finished, but the fruit was not ready to harvest until the end of September. The berries themselves are medium sized and a very dark purple, almost black. The harvest this year should yield around 5 or 6 bottles, not a vast amount, but more than enough for me to get my teeth into!
The first part of the winemaking process is to inspect the fruit, removing any rotten berries and vineyard debris such as insects or mud. I’ve chosen to de-stem my grapes before crushing them as I don’t want too much tannin in my wine, and grape stems are very tannic indeed.
The next stage is to crush the fruit. As I’m not an industrial winery, I’m crushing my grapes by hand rather than using a press. The most important thing at this stage is to ensure all the equipment is spotless and sterilised. Having crushed the grapes in my fermenting bucket I then added a teaspoon of Sodium Metabisulphite, also known as Campden powder. This is a common chemical used in winemaking and kills off any microbes in the must as well as helping to preserve the wine. I’ve chosen to use a specialised red wine yeast, which was added at this stage. I then covered the bucket in cheesecloth and left it for a day. After 24 hours I checked to make sure fermentation had begun. As fermentation produces CO2 as well as alcohol, I put my ear near the wine and could actually hear the bubbling below the surface of the must. At this stage it is important to “punch down” the cap, the layer of grape skins on the surface, at least twice a day. This ensures that the maximum amount of colour is extracted from the grape skins.
When the wine had finished bubbling four days later, fermentation was nearly over. Again, the wine was left to settle for 24 hours. Following this, the wine was pressed to separate the fruit from the wine, and racked off into a demijohn, sealed with an airlock. The demijohn containing the first vintage of Chateau Marcus will sit under my stairs until the new year, when I’ll siphon the wine off its sediment into another clean demijohn. The second jar will spend another six months settling down before I bottle the wine in around June next year.
As to the taste and aroma of the finished product – watch this space!