With just a few simple ingredients and a bit of time, you can make your own homemade rice wine. It is very easy to do and it tastes delicious. All you need is glutinous rice and a special kind of yeast. The resulting wine is fruity and slightly sweet. It is nice to drink straight, and can also be used in cooking where you would use mirin or sake.
The key ingredient (apart from the rice, of course), and probably the hardest to find, is the yeast. Specifically designed for making rice wine, it come in little balls like this:
We got ours from the 99 Ranch Asian supermarket. They were sold in a package containing a few dozen individually wrapped pairs of yeast balls, and were labeled "Rice Cake".
The preferred rice to use is glutenous rice (also known as "sticky" or "sweet" rice). It gets prepared just as you would for eating - we used our rice cooker. For our 2 liter jar we started with about 650g (3 measuring cups, or 4 rice-cooker cups) of uncooked rice.
After the rice is cooked, spread it out on a sheet pan. Once it has cooled, it is time to put in a container to ferment.
Put a yeast ball in a bowl and smash it into a fine powder. Scoop a layer of rice an inch or two thick into the container and sprinkle some of the yeast powder on top. Repeat this process until the container is filled.
That's it! Now it is time to wait. After a day or so, you will begin to see signs of activity as the yeast get to work. Carbon-dioxide gas bubbles will be generated as the alcohol is produced, so don't seal it too tightly. As the yeast break down the rice, the liquid wine will begin to pool at the bottom of the container. Here is what ours looked like after two days:
Try a little taste of the wine every day or two as it progresses - it tastes good straight from the beginning and it definitely changes over time.
Here is our wine after four days - you can see how much more liquid has pooled at the bottom:
This is a taster we poured at the four day mark. The wine is fruity, slightly effervescent, and really enjoyable:
We let this batch go for a total of 14 days. At this point the wine had lost its effervescence, but remained fruity, slightly sweet and creamy, with a pleasant alcohol kick.
We poured it through a square of cheese cloth to remove the rice hulls, transferred the wine to a bottle, and refrigerated it for storing and serving. The resulting rice wine will be fairly cloudy at first, with fine rice particles mixed in. If you let it stand in the fridge, it will clarify and separate with a dense layer of white sediment at the bottom. You can pour the clarified wine off, but it isn't necessary to do so.
After our success with this first test batch, we did a much larger batch using a beer fermentation bucket. The process was the same - just with a larger volume of rice.