So, I’m thinking of making wine. The backpacking thing seems to be going well enough, and I haven’t really made any new discoveries in it, other than I’m still kind of an out-of-shape slob that needs to exercise. But hiking is pretty much finding time and places to go at this point, and putting one foot in front of the other. I haven’t been experimenting much with it lately, as that might encourage me to spend money on more stuff, which I don’t need.
So I’m thinking of spending money on something bad for me.
See, In South Carolina you can make up to 200 gallons of wine for your personal use, every year. That sounds like a LOT of wine to me. Funny thing is, if you try to take the water out and turn it into brandy, that’s illegal. But that’s also another post.
Not far up the road used to be a vineyard and winery, but it closed down years ago, trees have overtaken the vineyard, and the last I saw, the old winery was an auto repair shop. But the grapes were good to pick. I had a small vine in my back yard, of the same variety.
Unfortunately I knew nothing about grape at the time, other than if you pick them and eat them, they taste pretty damn good. I encouraged my grape vines to grow, and they did. I added to their trellis wires, and they took advantage, growing to immense proportions. They now constitute a HEDGE of about 120 feet long, and eight feet high in places. While it effectively blocks out the neighbors, this particular arrangement sucks for grape growing. Sure, I have vines, but I hardly have any grapes.
So I bought a book and did research. I’m growing varieties of Muscadines, which is a hardy southern grape, native to this country’s east coast. There are hundreds of different varieties. Mine, I think, are Carlos, but I’m not sure. I bought some a few years ago and planted them, and they have taken off like crazy as well. Last year I had a huge crop of grapes. This year doesn’t look so promising. Why?
I discovered in the book I am reading that there is more to growing a shitload of grapes than just growing a shitload of vines. There’s an art to pruning and fertilizing and such that makes viticulture sort of like work.
When I was young, my mother would find wild vines, spread a sheet on the ground, and we would shake the tree and vines and the grapes would fall. Then she would make jelly out of it. Several years back I wanted to replicate this delicious childhood treat, and picked grapes and bought a pack of Certo, which included a recipe. I was successful, and was able to relive my childhood eating that delicious grapeness. If you never had home made muscadine jelly, you truly don’t know what good jelly is. I can’t even eat that store bought crap any more. Sure, concord grapes are good, but all the jelly companies cheap out and use High Fructose Corn Syrup, instead of real sugar. That stuff sucks, and should be banned from jelly use. Anyhow, you’ll never see mass marketed muscadine jelly. Vitis Rotundifolia is much too picky for that, and commercially much more viable in a drinkable form.
So partly because I just wanted to go, and partly for research purposes, I went to a vineyard last weekend, and spoke to the owner. I learned a lot about grapes, and after seeing a real wine vineyard in production, got a good handle on the basics of what my vines should look like in pruned form, and loaded with grapes.
So I came home and decided a few things. First, making wine at home sounds like fun. I have 10 gallons of previous year’s muscadines in my freezer that I haven’t even turned into juice. I have at least six batches of juice set side for jelly, and I have about twenty-five jelly jars under the counter full of the stuff. So I have ample grapes to experiment with for now. Second, I really have to prune my grapes, which I can do after this year’s harvest. You prune grapes when they are asleep for the winter, so I have to wait.
Third, I need more vines. It seems backwards, but I do. I have two LONG vines and a few short ones. The long ones need to be cut back to shorter versions of themselves and pruned correctly, and new vines need to be added where the empty space will be. Today I started propagating my vines. Funny thing about grape vines is they will grow roots if covered in dirt, so I decided to make 4 copies of my current vines. By doing this, I can make cuttings in the fall and plant the dormant ones. I’ve done it before with good results.
The other funny thing is you can copyright a plant. I had no idea… The same web site that showed my how best to root my plants listed several grape varieties that are copyrighted. You have to buy vines from the nursery, and they can actually PROSECUTE you for rooting your own from the parent vine. What the actual F**K is that about? At least mine aren’t that variety. Mine are regular old muscadines, common and uncopyrighted, available in the woods everywhere.
So, if I get some supplies, I can make wine this fall. After fermenting and aging and bottling, I should have drinkable wine maybe by next Christmas. Wait, what? This wine thing is starting to sound hard. But there is an upside. If I plant grapes in the back yard, the neighbors will probably resent living next to a vineyard.
Which will make me happy…