Barring a few Catholic households in Kerala, alcohol is taboo. But when it comes to wine, it's not. Though wine-making has now become a rarity, some traditional Christian families still make their own wine during Easter and Christmas.
Walk into the home of any traditional Christian family today, and the wine barrel is spotted in the drawing room as an antique piece.
With the disintegration of the joint family concept, the old concept of making wine in barrels has also gone. Over the years, many families opt to buy wine from the shelf. Even for those who prefer to make it, they do so in ceramic jars.
But gone are the days when the drink was made out of grapes alone.
Today, specialists in making wine look for variety and make the drink from fruits like pineapple, small plantain, mulberry, rose apple ("champanga" in local parlance), beet root, passion fruit, gooseberry and a local variety of cranberry (known as "lovlelolika").
The basic difference between homemade wine and that which is available in liquor shops is taste. The ones made at homes are sweet, while the one bought from shops is sour.
Homemadewine makers say their wines do not give the "kick".
"The 'kick' effect is generally not there in homemade wines. But things have changed, and I get orders from people with a request to get a slight kick from the wine," said Susan Jacob, a homemaker from Kottayam who at times makes wine for close friends and relatives.
"And to honour such requests, I mix around 100 ml of good quality rum into the normal quantity of two litres of water," she said.
The common ingredients that go into the making of wine are two litres of boiled and then cooled water, two kg sugar, two teaspoons yeast, about 50 to 100 grams cleaned, washed and dried wheat.
The optional ingredients include cloves and cinnamon sticks.
Another homemaker Jessy Thomas, who makes wine for her family, said that people make wine in different ways.
"The generally accepted norm is that after putting all the ingredients into the jar, use a wooden ladle and stir it in one direction only for a few minutes. Then close the jar with a cloth and tie it up with a string."
Traditional wine makers say that for 22 days, the wooden ladle should be used to stir the contents only in one direction at the same time every evening, and then sieve the contents.
If one needs to make the wine red in colour, sugar caramel made of half a kilogram of sugar should be added, the jar closed and kept for another 22 days.
After that period, the wine is ready. It can be then poured into glass bottles and is ready for use.
Some say people who do not have patience can consume the wine after the first three-week period.
"The second 22-day period is optional. The longer one keeps the jar closed after 22 days, the stronger the wine becomes. The rum is poured after 22 days and so is the caramel sugar.
"Anyone can make this, and practice make one perfect. As people become experienced, the quality and taste of the wine also improves," said Jolly Mathew, a new generation wine maker.
(Sanu George can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)
--IANS (Posted on 21-12-2013)