Home made wines

a labour of love

Text and Pics:  Dr Kuheli Bharttacharya

My first taste of a Goan home made wine, was at my friends home in Quepem. For a person who was visiting Goa for the first time, the heady combination of visiting a place which starts with Q, and eating a dish which starts with X (it was my first taste of chicken xacuti as well) and a home made juice which starts with W, was enough to remain one of my most iconic memories of Goa. Since then I have made Goa my home, and have subsequently had the privilege of tasting some of the most delicious if not exotic combination of house wines in Goa, be it at weddings, birthdays, at Christmas or even christenings.

Just the way the women in Rajasthan make their papads, and the ladies in Punjab take pride in making their pickles, the ladies and gentlemen of Goa take pride in their home wines. They prepare them in small quantities, they store them like liquid gold, and share them sparingly with only the closest friends and family. 

And I am grateful for everyone who shared their experiences and excerpts in the celebration of this unique art of making wines, endemic to Goa. 

“I learnt that we can make wine at home when I walked into the Menezes family after my marriage. The recipe of grape wine was brought in the house by the eldest daughter in law. And the tradition of making it is still kept going by the youngest daughter in law that’s me.” Says Mrs Brenda Menezes of Quepem. “I learnt making wines from my friend in college, and then was interested enough to buy a book on making wines, and having being doing so for the past 40 years.” Says Roy Rebello of Navelim. 

Grapes are undoubtedly the most popular fruit which is fermented to make the wine. The best time to prepare this wine is of course the grapes season. You don’t require the best grapes.  In fact over ripe, loose ones which are sweet are preferred. Other interesting fruits used for making wines are apples, dates, sour bimli, even jackfruit. Jamun and ginger are also popular for their medicinal properties in the wines. “My sister even made wine of  pineapple peels but that gets rancid at once and has to be consumed within 3 days of the preparation. My nephew has made wine of watermelon too.” Shared Mrs Menezes.Anslem Mascarenhas, who sell their home made wines under the banner of Santanse wines, shared how he came to make mushroom wines, when a local producer of mushrooms came to him with a large quantity of mushrooms he feared would get spoiled of not preserved in someway. The mushroom wine maintains its earthiness, and you can taste the button mushrooms in the wine.

Wines take on the character of the person preparing, and every household has unique fermenting techniques. Mr Rebello shared that he uses the plastic buckets to crush his grapes in, and clay pots for maturation, with maturation times extending to 6 months or more. The wines get drier as they age, and are sweeter when they are young. One can add extra sugar if a wine is too dry, he added. 

Mrs Menezes shared her initial struggles in perfecting the wine recipe. “Initially to get a good effect I tried to crush the grapes in the mixie/blender on my own. But the effect was quite strenuous.  At the time of filtering the finished wine, lot of grape residue formed and it was quite laborious to filter it. And the work involved in mixer grinding also was time consuming.  So I learnt that the crushing was the best way. Actually as per the original recipe handed down to me, quarter of Goan palm Fenny was to be added to the finished brew for seasoning.  I would do it. But later I discontinued and found that, it equally tasted and remained good without it.”

Surely wine making is part of the unique Portuguese culture that Goa inherited through the years it was a Portuguese colony. Maybe that is why it is so special to this part of the country .The home wines are stored in glass containers called Garrafaos or wine carrafes. They are popularly used in many catholic homes to store vinegar, toddy or feni.They can be stored upto 3 years , but most often it finishes before the due date.

 Infact Port wines rival only the Cashews in their popularity as souvenirs for tourists. Port wine is commercially prepared and insiders share that it makes use of spirits and alcohols and added flavours and colourings. The homemade wines however are sans any addition of alcohol. Each and every person I spoke to about home wines, is adamant that wines made at home not be labelled alcohol. It is just the natural fermentation of the fruit by the yeast. They are fermented fruit juices, and retain all the properties of the fruit is what is the most prevalent belief. As a food blogger and one who follows international food trends, I can attest that fermented foods are the absolute trendiest, be it khombucha or khimchi. And fermentation especially the use of symbiotic bacteria has the added advantage of probiotics to our bodies. Whether Goan wines have medicinal properties or not, is yet to be discovered, but rest assured they can be consumed by vegetarians and tea totallers is what Mrs Menezes believes.

My own experiences with home made wines, led to the wine making becoming a pivotal point in a story about a double homicide based in a Goan village. The story went on to win a national story writing competition and the rest is history. The story also raised increased interest in the art of making home made wines, which in itself is a labour of love. 

A simple recipe of making home made wines 

1 kg seedless grapes 

2 kg sugar 

seven bottles of water (we use the standard 750 ml liquor bottle for the measure).

A tablespoon of wine yeast. Not the baking yeast. You get fine granulated yeast just like poppy seeds.

Method

Wash the grapes thoroughly.  If the grapes are not seedless then the seeds should be removed. Crush them and put in a glass jar. Add sugar, water, yeast and close the jar. Not too tightly. It should be kept for 21 days shake the container everyday.  On the 22nd day strain the same in a muslin cloth and allow to settle, before storing. If the white grapes are used then to give it colour, sugar should be charred and added to the wine. For this 100 gms sugar should be charred in a utensil and little wine poured into it.  Wait till the charred sugar dissolves and then add to the wine in the jar. The red grapes gives a lovely tempting shade to the wine. No need to use anything for colouring. For Apple wine- the measure is 12 over ripe apples and 2 kg sugar. 6 bottles of water. 1 tspoons of  wine yeast. Method is same as grape wine.

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