Contrary to popular perception, white wines are made from regular black wine grapes and not from the white table grapes. Take a black currant and peel its skin off. Inside we will see a white pulpy ball. Industrial juicers have the ability to remove the skin (or minimize skin contact) so that white grape juice can be prepared from regular grapes.
For a home-wine maker, this could be a bit of a challenge as peeling every grape manually is a chore. There are two hacks around this:
- Using table grapes: Ripe green grapes, which don’t have the red pigments. This way we can use the regular wine recipe and make a delicious wine without any change in process. Some additional sugar and some acid blend needs to be added to compensate for the switch.
- Using regular wine grapes: We clean and destem all the grapes and keep it overnight (with campden solution) submerged in water. By morning the pulp softens and pressing the grape between the fingers will cause the skin to separate out. So after a few hours of deskinning, we are left with skinless grape core which can be juiced and fermented.
Please note that, red wines clear naturally because of the pectin enzyme in the skin. To make white wines from deskinned grapes, we need to add a bit more pectin enzyme.
No discussion about white winemaking is complete without the mention of the word Champagne. Unfortunately, we can only mimic the flavor notes and never make a true Champagne at home. Reasons:
- A geographical indication (GI mark): A true Champagne has to be produced in Burgundy, France and needs to adhere to strict rules of Le Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC). All other wines can be called only sparkling wines.
- The wire cage on the cork and the bulb type cork, which makes its signature pop sound when opened is difficult to seal at home. The equipment needed for this style is only found industrially.
- The Champagne needs to be bottled & aged at 4-6psi, while most commercial beer glass bottles hold a mere 2-4psi pressure. Cold drink (carbonated beverage) bottles are stronger but they are not pretty. Hence, I prefer to use crown caps in soda bottles and re-used PET bottles (soda) which can withstand higher pressures.
Barring these three technicalities, one can make a decent sparkling wine at home. It might not pop open but it will definitely have those beautiful bubbles that can make your evening special. All we need to do is make a >14% alcohol dry white wine, add about 0.5-1 teaspoon of glucose sugar (DMH) per pint and seal. The yeast will ferment out the glucose to produce CO2. We age it for about 6 days in the refrigerator so that the yeast settles down and serve. Cold temperature increases the solubility of CO2 bubbles. Glucose is the simplest sugar that is easily metabolized without producing too many stressed yeast off-flavors.
A word of warning: Excessive pressure build-up inside a weak glass bottle can create bottle bombs. Hence please use adequate safety during storage and handling.