Making wine takes not only time but also space. The right kind of space.
Finding The Best Wine Making Area
With all the sanitizing, racking, and testing you’ll be doing it’s easy to see how wine making can get messy. Without the proper area you’ll definitely be leaving your mark. Let’s look at what sort of area will work best for your wine making operation.
The most important factors are:
- A sturdy work surface.
- Temperature control.
- Exposure to sunlight.
- Being near a water source and drain.
- Having a washable floor.
- Having a well ventilated area.
Have a Sturdy Work Surface
Don’t trust wobbly tables or shelves to hold your carboys. A full 6 gallon glass carboy weighs around 50 lb when it’s topped up. If you’ve got two or three carboys make sure your table or shelves can take that kind of load.
Most store bought tables will have some sort of indication as to what sort of weight you can apply before getting into trouble. Stay away from tables made from particle board if you can.
Being able to control the temperature of your wine during fermentation is very important. If your winemaking area is too hot during fermentation your wine can take on a cooked taste. Too cold and fermentation will stop.
Fermenting wine generates its own heat. So even if your wine making area is at a reasonable temperature your wine can still overheat.
Prior to starting your wine making efforts take the time to log day and night time temperatures of your prospective areas. You might be surprised to find out that a certain area has wild temperature swings. The best area will have a more or less constant temperature day and night.
Minimal Exposure to Sunlight
Sunlight causes wine to age prematurely. Even if you bottled in dark green or brown bottles the light will still change your wine.
At the very minimum you need to avoid direct sunlight. Ideally, though, you should block all forms of light especially once you’re aging the wine. During the wine making process cover your carboy to block the light if the room isn’t totally dark.
I put an old jacket over my carboy to insulate and block the light. They do make insulating carboy covers that serve the same purpose.
After I bottled my wine I moved it under the stairs in the basement. Even with all the lights on you can’t see a thing back there.
Find a spot where you can produce your wine protected from sunlight but more importantly figure out where you’re going to store your wine for aging.
Be Near a Water Source and Drain
Having a water source and a drain of some kind close at hand is really helpful. Throughout every winemaking step, regardless of whether you are making wine from a kit, frozen must, or grapes, you’re going to need to sanitize and rinse equipment.
I made my Shiraz in a basement that met every one of the requirements listed here except this one. While I was successful it would have been much easier had I had a sink with a faucet.
Before getting started I carried pitchers of clean water down to the basement along with empty containers for pouring used rinse water. To clean my equipment I first had to lug it all up stairs into the kitchen and then back down again when I was done.
No, it’s not the end of the world but everything will go much quicker and easier with access to a utility sink. Also, you’ll be less tempted to cut corners with sanitation because you won’t be trying to avoid yet another trip back to the sink.
By this I mean someplace you can make a mess. You don’t want to be making wine in a room with white carpet for instance. Concrete works well, however, red wines can stain it so think about a drop cloth if that’s a concern.
Racking and bottling tend to be most messy steps. Stray drops will fall from the racking cane and bottle filler. It’s also quite easy to knock over a full bottle of wine during bottling. Make sure your winemaking space can survive such spills.
Sealed concrete, linoleum, or tile would work best. Just be careful with reds as they may stain tile grout as well.
During fermentation there is a lot of carbon dioxide produced. If you don’t have decent ventilation you and your family may wind up with some spectacular headaches. So be sure you’ve got at least one air vent that can pump some fresh air into your work area.
Also, fermentations are quire aromatic. At first they smell wonderful, however, by day three the wine starts to take on the smell of a damp towel. Being able to circulate the air will reduce the potency of these aromas.
Remember your pets well being too. If they live in the basement where your wine is fermenting be sure they’re getting fresh air too.
Places to Avoid
Keep your wine making operation away from sources of heat. Laundry rooms for instance are likely to get hot when the dryer is running.
A garage may or may not be a good place to make wine. Certainly a garage in Texas during the summer is going to be way too hot! However, during the winter a garage in Florida may be perfect. The only way to know for certain is to log day and night time temperatures.
Avoid high traffic areas. You don’t want anyone bumping into your carboys or fermenters. An out of the way corner of the basement or a largely unused closet would be just right for getting started.