Anybody who enjoys a good beer probably knows about the home brewing scene. Particularly popular in the UK and USA, home brewing sees people foregoing the professionally made beers that they’ve consumed for so long so that they can make their own.
It’s a pretty complex process and many a homebrewer has ended up with beers that nobody really wants to drink. But the people who pull it off manage to produce something that genuinely feels like their own creation.
What you may not know is that there’s a similar trend occurring in the world of wine. Instead of buying great Italian wines, an increasing number of people have decided to take a shot at making wines at home.
We’ll point out some of the more obvious issues that this presents. Making great wines takes a lot of time, effort, and knowledge. The best producers have all poured their hearts and souls into their wines, which means their products are true reflections of the land that they came from.
That may not be something that Bob in his garage can achieve.
Quality issues aside, there’s another problem with home-made wine.
It may not be safe.
In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at some of the concerns that people have about the safety of home-made wine and whether or not they’re actually valid.
Concern #1 – Bacteria Growth
This is something that’s actually a myth that we can bust.
A lot of people think that home-made wine presents the same sorts of problems as moonshine. For those who aren’t aware, moonshine is a type of alcohol that people brew at home. It was particularly popular during the prohibition era, but it was also dangerous.
A bad batch of moonshine could cause serious illness and could even lead to people going blind. After all, these were alcohols produced in unsanitary conditions that promoted the growth of bad bacteria.
That’s not the case with wine production. The act of making wine actually requires you to use a process that limits bacterial growth, which means the effects that bad bacteria can have on the wine are limited.
That means you’re likely not going to get sick and you almost certainly won’t go blind from drinking home-made wine. That’s a bit of an old wives’ tale that comes from the moonshine days.
Of course, that all assumes that you use the right equipment and carry out the process properly. As we’ll see in a moment, it’s still possible to contaminate your wine with bacteria and other materials if you’re not doing it right.
Concern #2 – The Headaches
Our second concern is a much more serious one as it’s something that’s actually affecting a lot of people who produce wine at home right now.
There’s a common complaint that making wine at home causes headaches. And there’s an actual reason for this.
It all comes down to a combination of the histamines and tannins that are in the wine. Getting the balance of these wrong leads to them escaping into the air. The producer breathes the fumes in and ends up feeling woozy. Of course, this is particularly common with red wine given its high tannin content.
Achieving the right balance requires experience and expertise that a lot of home-based producers simply don’t have. Of course, there’s also the issue of ventilation. Making wine in a confined space is sure to intensify the sorts of fumes and vapours that can negatively affect somebody.
These headaches are a definite safety concern. After all, just imagine a headache overwhelming somebody to the point that they collapse and hurt themselves.
Concern #3 – Contamination
Bacterial growth may not be much of a concern when making wine at home. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t make mistakes that could lead to the wine being potentially lethal.
After all, just think of the sheer amount of equipment that you need to make wine. Every inch of that equipment needs to be cleaned and sterilised before and after every use. Failure to do so could lead to contaminants getting into the wine.
This can occur even though the winemaking process naturally dissuades the growth of bacteria.
At best, these contaminated bacteria just lead to the wine going off. You’ll end up with something that tastes like vinegar, which means you’ve spent a lot of time and effort to produce something that nobody wants to drink.
Then, there’s the more extreme end of the scale. If you’re not using food-safe containers, there’s a possibility that you might poison yourself due to contaminating the wine.
Copper, iron, and all sorts of other nasty things could get into your wine. There’s even one case of a man given himself intense lead poisoning because he failed to use sterilised equipment when making his own wine.
If there’s one thing to take away from this, it’s that you need to keep things clean if you’re going to make wine at home.
Here’s the Good News
That all sounds really scary, but there is some good news.
As long as you’re not trying to go it alone, there’s plenty of help out there if you want to make your own wine. In fact, you can easily buy kits that provide you with all of the instructions that you need to make a wine safely.
Just make sure that you buy from reputable distributors and that you follow the instructions they provide. Do all of that and you’ll ensure you produce a wine that’s safe to drink, even if it’s not necessarily something that tastes amazing.
And that’s where we may not be able to sign off on the idea of drinking home-made wine just yet. Part of the joy of Italian wine, at least for us, comes in learning more about the stories of the people who made the wine. We want to know about the efforts they’ve put in and the effects their land and production techniques have on their wine.
You don’t get that sense of depth and history from home-made wine. So, for now at least, we’re going to stick to the stuff that the professionals make. If you do decided to do it on your own, just make sure you get good advice so that you stay safe.