Wine Making in 1965

February 12, 2010

I reserved a book from my local library called The Secrets of Making Wine from Fruits and Berries by Leslie G Slater. When I got it, I realized it was written in 1965. It has some interesting stuff in it. Please note, Slater did not use commas for prepositional phrases, and since I am quoting, I did not add them in.

First off, Slater claims that part of the reason grape wine did not really take off in the Americas was because the native grapes were immune to a disease that the Old World grapes had never been exposed to, so they could not get the vineyards established for over 300 years, “forcing our forefathers to turn to other beverages.” In fact, the very last page of the book is about how to make a grape wine, but the book is dismissive about the topic. “Although grapes are almost exclusively used by commercial wineries for producing all their various types of wine, they from one of the most difficult of all fruits to establish a recipe that would be satisfactory for home wine makers living in different sections of the country.” It goes on to describe the acid, tannin, and sugar content of grapes, but talks about the extremes possible in these three categories. In the end, Slater says, “For making a white wine follow the directions as given for making an Apple wine… For making a colored wine follow the directions given for making a Blackberry wine…”

Another interesting topic Slater talks about is how legal it is to make wine at home. The law sounds about the same as it is today as far as quantity and use goes, but Slater says that “The law requires that before we start to make wine in our homes we must first obtain a permit. There is no charge and the procedure is simple.” I didn’t realize that one had to permit for personal use quantities, which federal legislation did away with in 1979. I wonder if this was a clog in the system, or if they found people ignored getting the permit. I would be curious as to why home wine making on a small personal scale is not required to be permitted anymore. However, just like today, distilling was illegal. Slater claims, “As many types of wines and especially those made from grains, cereals and roots contain minute quantities of the highly poisonous Fusel oil. In natural wine the quantity is so small as to be harmless, however, when concentrated by distillation it can be extremely dangerous.”

Slater later has some good advice when it comes to stretching a particular kind of wine or blending with other wines. While everyone loves strong flavored wines made from blackberries, loganberries, and elderberries, not everyone likes picking these berries. Slater suggests making a mild flavored apple wine that can be blended with the stronger flavored wines to increase the quantity without really compromising the flavor as long as the blend does not have too much apple wine added. Slater also suggests adding dry apple wine to another wine if it is too sweet to cut down on the sugar.

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