Book Review – Techniques in Home Winemaking By Daniel Pambianchi

Up until a few weeks ago, I thought I knew quite a bit about home winemaking. I’ve been making a variety of wines for years – both from kits and from “scratch.” I’ve discussed winemaking with others who have plenty of experience, learned from them and learned quite a bit on my own. Indeed, I find that there is always something to learn!

What happened three weeks ago? Daniel Pambianchi’s book, Techniques in Home Winemaking: The Comprehensive Guide to Making Chateau-Style Wines arrived at my door. When I opened it up in the evening, I began reading and didn’t stop until about 2AM. I devoured the first 149 pages before fatigue set in and even though I wanted to keep reading, I needed to sleep.

Over the course of the next couple of weeks, I picked up Pambianchi’s book and read every day. And every day, I learned something new and useful. Techniques in Home Winemaking is complete with information about every aspect of home winemaking and is suitable for anyone who makes wine, whether their winemaking begins with grapes, juices, kits, or other fruit. Although it focusses primarily on grape wines, the knowledge inside can be applied to any type of winemaking. Of course, those who primarily make chateau-style wines will especially benefit from this work.

The book opens with an introduction that covers the basics of winemaking, grape identification, and winemaking terminology. From there, it gets into much greater detail with chapters on equipment used in winemaking, sanitation methods, analyzing musts and wines and the many different techniques that can be used in making wine. Many of these techniques may not be suitable for all home winemakers, but knowing about them can be very helpful in crafting wines.

There is much detail about various equipment and testing tools that are available to the winemaker and how they should be used and interpreted. Pambianchi has provided easy to understand scientific equations where necessary so that the winemaker can make better-informed decisions about wines they are making. The book makes it quite clear that winemaking uses both science and art in producing good wine. While some of this equipment is not necessarily needed for the winemaker that makes one or two batches of wine from kits per year, it can be helpful to better understand the process and what might improve their wines.

Many home winemakers experience problems with the clarification process, and Chapter 5 has over 25 pages which discuss clarification and filtering methods and includes a very helpful description of the various clarification additives that can be used, the pros and cons of each, and what they actually do.

Thinking about purchasing some oak barrels to age your wine? Turn to Chapter 8 where you will find a comprehensive guide on barrels, types of oak, storage and maintenance of barrels, and much more! Presently, I don’t have the space to consider oak barrels, but someday when I do, I will be re-reading and studying this chapter in detail.

One very helpful chapter is on diagnosing problems with wine, and goes through a number of common complaints and possible solutions to rectify or fix the problem.

The author has provided many useful charts on a variety of subjects, including listing major grape varieties from California, and their characteristics, and his own quality ratings. The diagrams and images throughout the book are helpful in explaining the various subjects that the author is discussing.

As well as full coverage of the winemaking process, there are individual chapters devoted to making Pinot Noir, Sparkling Wine and Ice Wine. For those who enjoy making these types of wines, these chapters are a must read.

In short, this book is the definitive guide to home winemaking for both the novice and experienced winemaker. It should be on the desk of every person that has a passion for turning juice into the wonderful beverage of wine. I know that I will be referring to my copy many many times!

The author, Daniel Pambianchi who is both a home and professional winemaker for years and is the Technical Editor for Winemaker Magazine has written an excellent book that I would recommend to anyone interested in this craft.

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