About a month ago I read a recipe for home-made rice wine and couldn’t wait to try it. Not only is rice-wine a relatively easy drink to make, it employs an unusual fermentation method and results in a surprisingly high alcohol/volume ratio ranging from 15% to the mid-high 20s.
The method at its most basic is almost absurdly simple: cook some glutinous rice, let it cool, then mix it in a large jar or fermenter with a ground up jiuqu or Chinese wine yeast ball. The jiuqu contains not only yeast but also mold, which facilitates a process of ‘parallel fermentation’ or ‘mash fermentation’ whereby the solid mass of rice is simultaneously broken down into sugars by the mold and the sugar converted into alcohol by the yeast.
I used 13 cups of Japanese rice (dry) and cooked it in a 1:1.25 ration of rice to water. I’ve read online that a lower ratio of water yields sweeter, lower alcohol wines while a higher ratio yields dryer, high alcohol ones.
After 21 days this yielded me more than 2.4 litres of rice wine, though a fair bit of straining was required to salvage this much from the significant quantity of lees.
The plan is to reuse the remaining lees in the next batch, for which I am trying a different method of first soaking and then steaming the rice. I’ve never steamed rice before, but it is apparently a more gentle way to cook the rice, though I’m not sure how this effects the fermentation of the wine.
It is possible that steaming maintains greater integrity of the individual grains, which would influence the rate at which the starch is converted to sugar.
Either way, so far the wine I’ve produced is like a sweet dry white grape wine, with a unique flavour that I think comes from the wine yeast. It’s quite pleasant, though it may be a somewhat acquired taste. I don’t yet have a way to measure the alcohol content, but it seems high to the taste, and a small amount left in the freezer for a few hours failed to freeze.
I’ve read that the wine will go sour if left unrefrigerated, so I might try to pasteurise the two smaller bottles and see how they turn out!