This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
Tis winter, and the snow lies cold and white on the leafless vines. Not a single grape is found in all the vineyard, and the snow-birds chirp mournfully among the waving canes. The vital principle appears dead or dormant, and the bud, enwrapped in its waxen sheet, shows to the unpracticed eye no sign of life. Yet, but a few months will revolve, and vernal winds will fan the dry branches of the vineyard, and the life-giving principle will arise and fill the fibres of the vine; the bud will burst its cerements, and the young leaf will spread its green folds to the sun, and the dew and the summer's rain will cause it to bloom and blossom, until the tender clusters become full of the melting, invigorating juice, which cheereth the heart of God and man.
How beautifully prophetic is the emblematic vine of the destiny of man. Death comes with his snowy mantle, and enwraps us in his cold embraces; the grave entombs us from the eye of friendship, and a deep silence reigns all around. But soon, ah, soon, the voice of spring is heard among the dry bones, and the vital forces resume their action; bone flies to its fellow, and the brain, warmed into life, awakes the heart from its long sleep, and sends the vital current through every artery and every vein. The eye assumes its light, and the cheek its roseate covering, and life immortal invites the once lonely sleeper to its pure abode. No one can follow horticulture for any length of time, without feeling how wholly dependent he is to some superior Power, no matter what his teachings heretofore may have been ; for as soon as he becomes the student of this beautiful science, the beauties of nature attend his steps and surround him on every side, so that he naturally leans to the side of virtue, and becomes a purer and better man.
But I am moralizing instead of naturalizing, as many of your readers will say; hence, for the present, I will throw aside the mantle of the moralist, and talk with nature in one of her stormiest moods.
January 16, 1862. On surveying the vineyard, I found the snow covering the frozen ground for some inches; the thermometer had fallen to 6° under zero, and the weather in general was uncomfortably cold. Several of the grape-vines broke brittle as a pipe-stem: the tips of the canes of the Catawba, Union Village, Anna, Clara, E1 Passo, and Bland, were all injured. My Delawares were younger than the above-named grape-vines, and showed signs even worse than them. The Concord, Hartford Prolific, and White Fox, all looked hale and hearty. Icicles hung as mock diamonds from the frozen branches of the Peach, Plum, Cherry, and Apple; every thing seemed to wear the* appearance of sad-ness; so that, feeling rather uncomfortable myself, I left the vineyard, and sought refuge and recreation in the wine-cellar.
From my former article you will perceive that I am not a professional vintner, only growing my own grape-vine, and making my own wine; and as you appear to have got into the channel of the Rhine, and seem anxious to know how wine is made from the pure juice of the grape, I for one will add my mite to the general stock of information, and perhaps may afford some benefit to those who are as ignorant as myself.
The best wine grape which we have in the West for general purposes, is the Catawba, although it is said that the Delaware yields a finer wine. The grape ought to be thoroughly ripe before pulling; not dead ripe, as some would call it, otherwise it loses much of its vinous spirit, and does not yield in quantity so much as when pulled at the proper time. The press used by me is a portable eider press, one which contains about two bushels of grapes; and in pressing, such power is used as will force a juice having a density and sweetness of not less than 75° in the wine scale. This weight of must will yield about 7 1/2 per cent. of alcohol, and with less than this the wine will not keep. In pressing, the juice is strained through a wire sieve or fine small basket, to keep back skins, bruised grapes, etc., yet allowing enough of the albumen and mucilage to pass into the barrel. The barrel should not be less than 40 gallons, and over this, up to 1,000 gallons, the better.
The must, when ready for fermenting, should be taken into a warm cellar, not Jess than 60° Fahr., and fermented under water; by this I mean, that a siphon should be run into the bung-hole, large enough at one end to close the hole, while the other end is plunged into a cup of water, so that during the process of fermentation the aroma will be retained, and nothing but the gas be allowed to escape. This process occupies from ten to twenty days, according to the richness of the must; and the practiced ear will know when to stop the fermentation, by listening to the modulations of the action of the wine. It is then filled up, bung full, with other wine, and allowed to stand on the lees until spring, when it is racked off, and placed away in a cool cellar for maturing and fining all of its impurities. Wine, until it is one year old, ought not to be bottled, but frequently racked during the first and second year.
At the end of the first year, if the must has been good, and the manipulations well attended to, the wine is fit for use; but it will taste rough on the tongue, and somewhat sour to the palate; hence many pronounce pure wine no better than hard cider. A chemical analysis of pure wine places tartaric acid, grape sugar, and water, as the ingredient component parts; and the more of this acid, with an excess of sugar, makes the richer and better wine, the sugar overcoming the acidity of the tartar. Some grapes, instead of having an excess of tartaric acid, have almost none, and their excess is either citric or malic acid; hence the wine is sour, and will not mature or keep. The Isabella, Concord, and some of the wild grapes, contain citric acid instead of tartaric, while the apple and some other fruits have the malic acid in excess; consequently hard cider is the result. In bottling, I never bottle under one year old, and then I cork and seal, and lay away in sand in a temperate cellar of about 50°, placing the bottles on their sides.
When the wine is fully ripe and ready for use, I need not inform you how to drink it, although there is more art in this than in all the rest.
Perhaps you may remember of the wager, once laid in Paris, as to the proper mode and manner of drinking wine, and how it was decided. If you do not, believing you to be a scholar and a gentleman, I refer you to the litterati of that famous city, and to the Grand Monarch, who now wields the sceptre of France. So much for wine !
In my next communication, I will give you a synopsis of the mode and manner of making composite wine in the West By composite wine I mean, that which is not pure, but such as is made from grapes not fully ripe, where either sugar or brandy is necessary, to give it strength, in order to keep. In the meantime, let me say, that cleanliness is an all-important adjunct in wine-making. The press, funnels, barrels, every thing should be clean. The cellar pure in air, and cooling in its nature. The' casks, fumigated with sulphur matches, and sweetened with juniper berries; and the must drawn off in the spring, when the weather is mild, clear, and dry. For every bushel of ripe Catawba grapes the yield in must should not be less than three gallons; and for every gallon of must there should be a return of 90 per cent. of pure wine. Every acre of grapes, when in full bearing, should yield 250 gallons of must; if more than this, the wine is deficient in strength and quality, and an injury to the next year's crop.
Although a mere amateur in the culture of the grape, and far from being an expert in the manufacture of wine, my neighbors think that my wine is hard to beat; and as a sample of some I now have on hand, in order that you may test its quality, I send you by express two bottles, one of my red-cork, and one of my green, so that you may report on them at some of your horticultural conver-sazone, when you and your friends meet.
[We are very glad of the pleasure of spending another " Hour in the Vineyard" with you, and trust the pleasure may be oft-repeated. Your mode of making wine is a good one, and is explained in such a plain, practical manner as to make it of much value to our readers. Such directions, faithfully carried out, will result in the production of a good pure, wine, and we very much doubt the propriety of making any other. The two bottles were received, for which we thank you. We hope we shall not disappoint you in pronouncing the "green cork" below the mark. The "red cork" is the nearest approach to Mr. Mottier's wine of any that we have received, and that is the highest compliment we can pay it. If it is ever our good fortune to come and see you, we hope you will have in the cellar a good supply of the "red." - Ed].