The introduction to this series is here, me rambling about sulphite use is here. I go into a basic (And probably boring to most) explanation of yeast, here. I go into how it all comes together in the last post, here.
One of the search terms I saw pop up on my dash board was apparently, people ask about making wine without yeast.
We do in fact, have a name for wine with out yeast. It’s a pretty technical term, so commit this to memory- the name for wine without yeast is….
This is because there’s no such thing. When the fruit- whatever type you’re using ferments, it will use whatever yeast happens to be there, already. Which has interesting and not always wonderous results.
However, yes, it can be done. I call this “chaos wine” or “Oh, crap, I left this bottle of juice way back in the cupboard and somehow, the lid came off” or “WHO LEFT THE GRAPES IN THIS BOWL UNDER HERE? PHEW!”
(OK, that’s a lie. It was plums. But oh, yes, it has happened. To this day, no one knows how the bowl of plums ended up on the pantry shelf. Much like the time the remote ended up in the ‘fridge, or the bacon got left on the coffee pot. Oh, man. It was probably me.)
What you do when you make wine with no added yeast is to allow the existing yeast strains to do their business. And they will. Interestingly enough, in areas where wine is a part of the history and they’ve been doing it for ages- the yeasts they’ve cultivated will end up in pretty much everything.
The basic method behind this is similar to the other methods of at home winemaking, sure- you just omit the yeast, and pay attention in the first 48 hours for signs of fermentation- but also understand that bubbling isn’t a great sign as it can also indicate certain bacteria. (Believe me, get a big ol’ snoot full, sniffing it and you’ll know which one it is.) Add sugar routinely, and keep an eye on your hydrometer to measure the alcohol.
Anyhoo- there are quite a few issues with attempting to do it this way- predictability is the big one. You just can’t. This creates a risk- because the fermentation process itself helps prevent spoilage, and if the yeast that’s just there isn’t doing its business: you’ve got a prime place for the rot to hit.
So, be very careful and don’t sue me for saying you can, because I’m saying: sure, you can, but I wouldn’t.
In order to attempt it, the best things you can do would be to leave it at a higher temperature, with more sugar. Also, remember my rant about sulphites? While I wouldn’t attempt to make chaos wine at all, I’d especially not attempt it with no sulphites, because the truth of the matter is, even just a little bit of sulphite use can help prevent the bacteria (And other things) from going crazy.
You ready for a really gross recipe with an anecdote that’s probably a bit telling?
Okay, here we go. When I was in Boys and Girls Town, in the group home…there was wine made. Actually, it was more like hot grape flavored pee. However, when you’re a teenage degenerate, booze is booze and here’s a hootch recipe that you can try. I am not responsible for the results of said hootch recipe, because, quite frankly, it’s disgusting. This DOES include yeast, but, since I’m talking about gross wines, I thought I’d toss this one out there for you. I was 15 or so, and even then, I was tinkering around with different types of juice. Let me just say this: you honestly cannot make this taste that great.
You need 3 cans of juice. Yep, the frozen juice in a can. Bleargh, a gallon milk jug, about a half cup of sugar, a balloon, water, and yeast. We used Red Star bread yeast.
You want the juice to be strong, so you use one less can than the package indicates. Mix it in the jug. I would later on in life learn I was kinda instinctively playing with must. (You aerate must and well, shake a jug o juice and water- and it gets pretty aerated.) Put the sugar in, and shake it like crazy again. We put the yeast into some warm water, because that’s what we knew to do from making bread and we let that sit for a few minutes. We then put a couple of teaspoons of sugar in, let that sit, too, til it got a little foamy. After that, you put the yeast in the milk jug and you shake it- again, like crazy.
You put a few holes in the balloon- tiny little holes for air to get out, then you put the balloon over the mouth of the milk jug. We stuck this concoction underneath a bed. We picked a room-mate we didn’t particularly like, just in case, and still sweated it for weeks. After a day, we’d checked it and made boner jokes about the balloon because, YAY, it was sticking up.
Once the balloon had gone down, we put the actual cap back on and I hid it in the back of my closet behind my shoes. I forgot about it. When we finally decided to drink it, I learned a valuable lesson: that crap at the bottom?
Don’t drink that. Don’t leave it in your wine, no matter how hillbilly you’re going with making it.
Because it’s GROSS.
And, there you have it. Making wine without yeast isn’t a spectacular idea. Making wine with bread yeast and canned juice, while not much more spectacular- will yield better results.