Most wine lovers romance the notion of creating their own wine. Intimidated by the mystery surrounding the process or believing it must be difficult, many will never try. Others, living in the flat ranching land of south Texas, know that the native wild mustang grape creates a delicious wine. It’s a tradition that dates back to Spanish missionaries who arrived in the wilds of Texas in the 1600s, and one you can continue today.
Things You'll Need
Pick mustang grapes in the early morning once they are ripe, which typically is from mid-June to early August, depending on the region. Pick 1 gallon of grapes for each gallon of wine you want. You may want to wear gloves while handling the grapes, which are highly acidic. Place the grapes in a wood, plastic or other natural material container instead of metal.
Sort through the mustang grapes, picking out insects, twigs, leaves and other debris. Look for rotting or damaged grapes and discard. Pull the grapes off the stem as you work. While some recipes call for the grapes to remain on the stem during the initial stages, stems, seeds and skins contain the acid tannin. While wine needs a small amount of tannin, too much creates a bitter, dry wine.
Wash the mustang grapes in cool water. Transfer clean grapes to a 10-gallon stone, plastic, glass or wood container. A large cooler with a drain plug at the bottom works very well.
Crush the mustang grapes, using a wooden board or a tool of your choice. The crushed grapes and juice is called the must.
Add a package of wine yeast, stirring it into the must with a wooden spoon. One package of yeast makes 1 to 5 gallons wine. Mark the side of the container with a pencil to show the beginning level of the must. As it ferments, the level will rise, and you will need a mark to compare heights.
Cover the top of the must container with a clean cloth, secured to prevent insects accessing the must. Place the container someplace warm, such as a garage, porch, barn or shed.
Check the must daily, without stirring or disturbing the contents. Watch for signs of fermentation, appearing as hissing bubbles of carbon dioxide. The mustang grape hulls will begin to float to the surface as the tannin and a pink blush color remains in the must. Continue marking the level, watching for the must to begin dropping again, ending the primary fermentation.
Drain the raw wine out of the cooler, or use a strainer and pour the liquid into a fresh jug. A carboy, which is a glass jug that looks much like a commercial water bottle, is designed specifically for the secondary fermentation stage. Use 2 1/2 gallons of mustang grape juice per carboy.
Boil 1/2 gallon of water for each gallon of wine. Add 2 lbs. sugar and stir to dissolve. Cool the mixture to room temperature, then pour into the carboy with the mustang grape juice, and fill the container to the very top lip.
Place the container on a large plastic garbage bag, cover the top with an upside down Styrofoam cup, and wait. After about 12 hours the liquid will reach a violent ferment, bubbling up and over the container mouth. Add water as the liquid overflows to keep the liquid boiling out. During this process, impurities in the wine will flow over and out as well.
Fill a “bubbler” – an airlock – with vodka and cap the carboy after filling it completely again. This is referred to as racking the wine. If you don’t have an airlock, punch a hole through a cork and insert a plastic hose. Pour water into a 2-l bottle and drop the free end of the tubing in the water. Both the commercial and homemade bubbler allow gas to exit the wine bottle while keeping the wine sanitary and pure.
Store the carboy, capped with the airlock, for a month, then rack it again, draining off the liquid through a siphon hose. This prevents the sediment from traveling to the new carboy. Top it off with water, as needed, and apply the airlock again. Repeat monthly for approximately six months. The wine should get clearer and sweeter as the racks progress.
Siphon the wine into individual bottles, and seal with a cork to complete. Store for at least three years before consuming for optimal flavor.
Store freshly corked bottles upright for about a week, then turn them on their side and store in a cool, dark location (about 55 degrees F) for at least one year before sampling. Each year that passes, the better the wine will be.
More complex recipes and methods exist. There are additives and variations that may take years for the wine lover to learn when it comes to wine making. A basic recipe such as this one will allow you to venture into learning more.
References and ResourcesRichard Moore Outdoors: Wild Mustang Grapes...A Tasty Treat for Man and Wildlife
The Winemaking Home Page; Mustang Grape Wines; Jack Keller
Easy-Wine.net: How to Make Homemade Wine - Step by Step
Texas Co-op Power; Bottling the Wild Mustang; Christopher Cook and Herbert Kollatschny; January 2000
The Winemaking Home Page; Requested Recipe; Jack Keller
The Winemaking Home Page; The Basic Steps; Jack Keller
ResourcesEssex County Amateur Wine Makers; Wild Grape Wine; Jim Garnier
E. C. Kraus: Homemade Wine Recipes
E. C. Kraus: Grape Presses
E. C. Kraus: Wine Flaws
Heinsohn's Country Store: Make Homemade Wine