I started making wine at the very beginning of covid lockdowns in Melbourne. On Good Friday 2020, in a transaction illegal under the newly implemented social distancing laws, I picked up four boxes of grapes from the back of a Hilux at a servo on the side of a highway. I spent the drive there mostly wondering what I would say to any cops who stopped me.
The grapes were Cabernet Sauvignon from Kangaroo Ground on Melbourne’s outskirts. Late harvest, small berries, low pH. I spent several days destemming by hand, watching movies, listening to the Pynchon in Public podcast. Many thanks to Bo and Co for keeping me company for a few of those many hours.
When they were all finally destemmed, I crushed them by foot. Some were left to ferment wild, some under CO2 pressure, some treated with sulphites and inoculated. A bit of it ended up bottled that November, the rest January 2021.
And it tasted good! I was hooked. I made a white vintage in 2021, and am just now sampling the first of the 2022 vintage, back on Cab Sav. I’ve certainly had more early luck than I did with making beer, although eventually I got there with beer too.
Homemade wine comes up repeatedly in Pynchon. It’s a nice anarchist DIY way to get your booze I suppose. Or not so nice. V. pours some homemade wine through a rather desolate daydream of Stencils:
…leprous pointillism of orris root, weak jaws and bloodshot eyes, tongues and backs of teeth stained purple by this morning’s homemade wine, lipstick which it seemed could be peeled off intact, tossed to the earth to join a trail of similar jetsam…V., p. 296.
In Vineland, the wine appears a little more salubriously:
The wedding today was costing Ralph more than he’d paid for the house. After a full-scale nuptial Mass, the reception feast here would feature lobster, caviar, and tournedos Rossini, along with more down-home fare such as baked ziti and a complicated wedding soup only his sister-in-law Lolli, among her many virtues, knew how to make. The wine would run a full range from homemade red through Cristal champagne, and hundreds of dolled- and duded-up friends, relatives, and business acquaintances would populate the hillside, most of them in a mood to celebrate.Vineland, p. 94.
That really is quite the range. I know we cracked some Dom Pérignon not so long ago, but Cristal has thus far proved a budgetary bridge too far.
Homemade wine makes another appearance in a sales pitch for life in the Jesuits delivered by a member of that company during Mason & Dixon:
Why if Authority and Battle by your Meat, lad, our Out-Fit can supply as much as you like. The Wine ration’s home-made but all for free,— the Uniform’s not to everyone’s taste, yet it does attract the Attention of the ladies, and you’ll learn to work all the Machines,—Mason & Dixon, p. 224.
Jesuitical life turns out to be rather unappealing to Dixon in certain other key respects, but that free homemade wine ration certainly has something going for it.