Wine Making on a Small Scale: An Article first published in 1866

A guide to making wine in small batches for home consumption or for testing winemaking for commercial production. The author cheerfully offers what information he possesses.

On February 15, 1868, the Pioneer published a piece titled “Wine Making on a Small Scale.” The article details how someone in possession of grapes could convert them into wine. It emphasizes the sugar levels of the grapes as it affects the fermentation and the overall outcome of the wine.  If the amount of sugar is low, then the resulting product is vinegar. But if “the grape juice. . . is naturally rich in sugar, so much alcohol is produced that the liquid. . . remains as wine.”

Along with having a good sugar content, the “first requisite is good grapes.” The fruit must be picked at the peak of ripeness to ensure the level of sugar content. The following  steps “will depend upon the character of the wine desired.” The article includes advice on how to press the grapes and the fermentation process.  The richness of the grape will determine how long the fermentation process will be, from “ten days to several weeks.” The process is complete when the “liquid becomes quiet”, followed by another fermentation in another container.

The article is the first references to winemaking in the Pioneer. It begins by addressing the editor of the Pioneer. The feature is answering an “offer to publishing anything of interest or advantage. . .  of how to make wine in small quantities.” The ensuing response was “cheerfully” offered to the editor, with no indication of who wrote into the Pioneer.  With settlers like Pierre Dallidet and Andrew York acquiring vines, an expose on how to make wine would be of much interest, which may be a reason why an offer to publish about making wine was solicited.

The actual content of the article about winemaking is originally from a 1866 publication of the American Agriculturist. On page 369 of the Vol 25, No 1, a word for word article appears, matching the one in the Pioneer.  There was not an efficient way in the late 1800s to enforce copyright law, especially in a case of a small town newspaper. The editorial shows that there was an agricultural community in the county that was keeping up to date with the new information in the field.

The American Agriculturist was a magazine that catered to the farming communities across the nation, printing the first issue in 1842. It featured articles on all aspects of farming with intricate illustrations. A modern version of the magazine exists today; a website with the same name provides agricultural information for today’s farmers.

By Hayley Goodwein