Ask Wine Wizard

Covert Winemaking


Hamid — via email asks,

I live in a country that doesn’t have access to brewing and winemaking ingredients such as yeast or yeast nutrient (it’s forbidden, so i would rather not say where I live) and I can’t buy winemaking ingredients online either. Can I make some of them at home and how? I have found some recipes to grow wine yeast on the Internet but I’m not sure if they work. Or am I better off using bread yeast?

I give you credit for being so dogged in your desire to try fermenting! The great news about yeast is that, as I’ve often said in these columns, yeast live everywhere around us. They are naturally present on the skins of many fruits and vegetables and even in the air you’re breathing right now. The trick is to trap and encourage the right kinds of yeast that will do the kind of work you want them to do. Bread yeast will indeed turn sugar into alcohol but only to a point. They are bred (no pun intended) to ferment only to low (think well under 10%) alcohol levels and will naturally peter out due to alcohol toxicity at higher levels. Because of this, bread yeast aren’t very well suited to fruit winemaking, where an alcohol level of at least 11% is desired. I checked out some of the online “grow your own yeast” tutorials and some of them seem to have the right idea — to the extent that it will work. Most tutorials seem to me to be like
Response by Alison Crowe.