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Requested Recipe:


"My uncle used to make a wine called 'Dago Red,' but never
told anyone how he made it before he died. I'd like to
try reviving the family tradition. Do you have a recipe?"
Steve Marchetti, location unknown

"Dago Red"

I will begin this discussion with an apology to anyone who is offended by the name of this wine, but I didn't name it, don't mean to offend you and have no intention of changing the name because someone is "sensitive" to the word "Dago." I do not intend it as an ethnic slur and have nothing but the highest regards for most people with Italian heritage. If I posted a recipe for sauerkraut, I would not expect anyone to conclude I intended an ethnic slur against Germans -- it is just the name of the dish, and "Dago Red" is just the name of a wine. If you cannot accept that in the spirit it was offered, then you have a problem. I am not going to change a name I did not originate to placate your hyper-sensitivity. As The Eagles sang in 1994, "Get over it...."

There isn't any specific wine or recipe for "Dago Red." The name simply refers to any red wine made in an Italian style outside Italy. It is probably the most requested recipe asked of me, usually after the death of an older family member who didn't teach anyone how to make his wine -- or, no one was interested in helping and learning at the time. I usually tell the person asking that they really need to know where the deceased got his grapes, as the wine they are referring to can only be made similarly if they use the same grapes. Since this is usually information not available, simply making a red wine is the usual alternative.

"Dago Red" should be made with an Italian variety of grape, but any darkly pigmented red (read "black") grape will do. I was given 80 pounds of an unknown black grape and made a red wine from them. Since "Unknown Grape" looked odd on the label, I called it "Dago Red." In three competitions, it has won a 1st, 2nd and 3rd Place. I've adjusted the recipe to yield 5 gallons.

Dago Red (recipe makes 5 gallons

Wash and crush grapes, then move then into primary. Adjust acidity to 6.5 grams per liter and sweeten if necessary to bring specific gravity to 1.088 if necessary. Sprinkle 1/4 teaspoon potassium metabisulfite on grapes and stir in well. Cover primary and let sit 12 hours. Sprinkle pectic enzyme on grapes and stir in well. Recover primary and let sit another 12 hours. Add yeast nutrient, stir well, and add activated yeast. Cover the primary again and set aside. Punch down the cap daily, stirring juice as you do so. When vigorous fermentation subsides and specific gravity is below 1.020, press and transfer juice to secondary. Fit airlock and ferment to dryness. Rack, adding 1/4 teaspoon potassium metabisulfite stirred in well. Top up and refit airlock. After wine clears, wait 30-45 days and then rack again, top up and refit airlock. Wait additional three months, stabilize, sweeten to taste, wait ten days, and rack into bottles. Age three months before tasting. May require additional aging. [Author's own recipe]

My thanks to Steve Marchetti, location unknown, for this request.

This page was posted October 22nd, 2002 and updated August 4th, 2007

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