Last December we mapped out some places to discover in the Caledonia Towns neighbourhood. Macedo Wine made the list and we recently spoke with the founder’s daughter Daisy Macedo to learn about what’s involved in making wine at home.
Macedo Wine includes three family owned and operated locations and three different business streams. One is importing grapes for people who make wine in their own homes (more on that later). Another is what’s called ferment on premise, where customers choose from a list of grapes that are turned into wine at one of the shops where the process is supervised by an expert wine maker. Essentially, it’s made to order wine. After the five to six week fermentation, customers can pick up the wine in pails and bottle it at home, or the bottling can be done on site where they have an automatic corker. The most recent venture is their own brand of bottles wines from Portugal, Italy, Argentina and Ontario.
David Macedo has been in the wine industry for about 30 years. When he immigrated from Portugal, he and his brothers openend a supermarket. Because making wine was such an important family tradition, they started importing grapes and never looked back. The demand from Toronto’s Italian and Portuguese population was huge. About five years ago Daisy and her sisters and cousin came on board. Other family members pitch in from time to time as well.
The scope of the family business changed again about two years ago when they got a winery license. Daisy explained that a winery license is completely different from a fermenting license. The winery license allowed the Macedos to import wine and package and sell it under their own brand name, Evolution Wines. But you won’t find it at the LCBO. The wines are only available from their boutique on Dufferin just north of Dupont.
Joining the roster shortly is a red wine from the Beira interior in Portugal. It’s produced on granitic soils in the Cova da Beira on the slopes of the Serra Da Estrela mountain range.
Importing wines is a great way for the Macedos to share their passion. They also offer wine tasting seminars. Evolution wines are available in bottles, as well as 4, 8 or 16 litre boxes.
But we were most interested in learning about what is involved in making wine at home. Macedo Wine imports grapes from California in September and October. Customers pick them up in crates at the Caledonia Park Rd. location and destem and press them either on site or at home. As with ferment on premise, the wine is ready after five to six weeks, but it’s recommended to wait another three to six months before drinking it.
Like with beer production, yeast is needed for the fermentation process, but there is naturally occurring yeast on the grape so you don’t usually have to add it. The first stage of fermentaion is about a week, and the second stage is three to four weeks. After that you have the option of adding clarifiers and stabilizers.
Clarifiers are used to help clear sediment and debris out of the wine. Clay-based bentonite is a common one, but you can also use gelatin, or even egg yolk. Instead of adding something to the wine, you can do what is called racking, where the wine is transferred to a new container every couple of weeks, leaving the sediment behind. Stabilizers like potassium sorbate prevent bacteria from developing in the wine after fermentation.
That’s about all there is to basic wine making. You can can take it further by testing the acidity and other characteristics and making adjustments, but typical home wine makers don’t usually go there because you need specialized equipment.
The process is very simple on the one hand and time consuming and nuanced on the other. The vast majority of Macedo Wine customers who take the full DIY route tend to be from Portuguese or Italian families who have been making their own wine for generations. Increasingly, the Canadian-born offspring of European immigrants are opting to ferment on premise because the process takes so much time, equipment and care.
But at the same time, there are Canadians who are trying their hand at wine making for the first time. We chalk it up to an overarching trend in all things DIY.
We were also curious about the reputation homemade wines have for being less good than what you get at the store. Daisy explained that homemade wine can be really mediocre, but it can also be very good. People have their recipes that they’ve been following for years and they’re convinced that’s how it should be done. When you’re making wine at home, you don’t have the equipment to test its characteristics and make minor adjustments accordingly.
Whether or not your wine is objectively good, when you make it yourself it’s the best wine in the world. The end result might be a little rough around the edges, but it’s full of love.
A big thank you goes out to Daisy Macedo for helping us out with this post!
Visit Daisy or one of the other Macedos at 50 Caledonia Park Road, 1381 Dufferin Street or 30 Ossington Avenue and call 416 535 0416 to arrange a tasting.