When most people think of fine wine they think; Italy, France, Napa Valley and so on.
Me? I think of southeastern Wisconsin, Mecca baby.
Nineteen days ago I set out to learn yet another of the great Serbian traditions. Wine making. Along with my Kum I went to learn at the hands of the master. I went to learn from the guy that has taught me already how to make sausage, Mr. Slobi.
First day I went up there to start this I had all kinds of things running through my head; this is going to be complicated, this is going to be hard work; this is going to take forever; I hope I don’t make an ass of myself. I got there and saw 10 boxes of grapes waiting and ready to go. Eight were purple grapes and two were green grapes. Mr. Slobi said that the green grapes were juicier and sweeter so it was necessary to have a small mix for the flavor. We stood in garage pounding beers for a while waiting on Kum. He is a big believer in the grand Serbian tradition of tardiness and he always disappoints. When he did finally show we got to work.
The prep work consisted of getting out a huge 55 gallon plastic barrel. It looks eerily similar to the barrels that they were pulling out of Jeffery Dahmers apartment and that former Bolingbrook police officer Drew Peterson is suspected of burying. I didn’t ask too many questions about the barrel. Letting sleeping dogs lie and all. Then Mr. Slobi placed an old wooden grinder/hopper with a long handle on top of the barrel. His son and I started dumping in grapes while he cranked away on the grapes. When we finished all ten crates, Kum showed up. Just in time. I would have been mad at him but he was looking so cute in his crocks and capri pants, “they are the future kume!”, he always tells me. Dork.
But that was it. That was all we had to do. We crushed the grapes into a huge barrel, drank beer and rakija then ate a huge meal made by Mrs. Slobi. Sweet.
So, the next step was to let the grapes sit for ten days so they could ferment and become delicious.
Ten days later I was back at Mr. Slobi’s and you know who was late again. He caught a ration of shit from me because he wasn’t wearing capris. Evidently it was too chilly for his Euro skin.
Now I was thinking, “this is where the work begins, now I really learn the process and what it’s all about”. I was wrong again. This day consisted of more beer drinking (natch) and very little actual work. After we fought off all the fruit flies we shoved a siphoning hose in the barrel, started sucking and let it fill the 5 gallon bucket on the floor while we drank beer. Once the bucket filled we dumped it into a ginormous glass bottle that holds roughly 20 gallons. This thing looks like it should have a huge candle shoved in it while sitting on a table in an Italian restaurant. This process was long-ish, but only because we stopped to drink beer quite a bit and there was some spillage due to the beer drinking. The clean-up part of the night was the longest. And that was it. Transfer contents from one receptacle to another and let it sit for another month. Mr. Slobi said that if you drank too much of the wine now that it would give you diarrhea, kind of like a Euro-Montezuma’s revenge.
From where I’m sitting the trick to making wine is making sure you have enough barrels and bottles that are big enough to accommodate it, and find a place to buy a lot of grapes. I feel stupid for not having done it before, there’s nothing to it.
We dumped the wine into the 5 gallon water bottle so Mr. Slobi could keep track of how much yield there was from the grapes. It came in somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 gallons.