How To Make Wine At Home

Learn Some Tips And Tricks Of How To Make Wine At Home

If you’re going to be making wine from grapes, here are some important factors to to take into consideration:

  1. Good wine only comes from clean, ripe grapes
  2. All diseased and damaged fruit should be rejected
  3. High quality winemaking equipment should be used
  4. Accurate measurements of ingredients is vital
  5. Attention to detail during the winemaking process
  6. Control the fermentation temperature where possible
  7. Taste regularly so that you are aware of changes in quality
  8. Ensure minimal air contact when filtering and bottling the wine
  9. Use good glass bottles with high quality corks or screwcaps
  10. Store bottled wine in a refigerated or temperature controlled dry cellar

BEFORE YOU START

Ensure that all the grapes are fully ripe, clean and free from fungal diseases. The riper the grapes, the better the resultant wine will be.

  • White grapes require an adequate amount of natural acidity, so it is important to bear this in mind before picking them. As the grapes ripen they also reduce in acid content, you must get this balance right in order to produce a really good wine.
  • Red grapes can be ripened much more than white grapes. A higher natural sugar content will help increase the actual alcohol content, while the tannins in the grapes will assist in acting as an anti-oxidant.

At the end of the article is a resource called ‘Winemaking’. If you would like all the information below and a great resource on everything you need to know to start making your own homemade wine Click Here!

WHAT EQUIPMENT YOU WILL NEED

(Get the best you can afford – it is so much easier to make good wines with good easy-to-clean, hygienic equipment)

The food grade quality equipment required to make your batch of wine is as follows:

  • Fermentation vessels – glass demi-johns or (stainless steel tanks for larger production)
  • these will do for the primary and secondary fermentations
  • 4-gallon food grade quality heavy plastic or stainless steel container with lid
  • Airlock fitted into a rubber bung. This must fit tightly into the fermentation vessel.
  • Large nylon mesh straining bag
  • 6 feet of clear plastic ½” tubing
  • 5 wine bottles for one gallon of wine
  • Corks (size #9 fits standard wine bottles)
  • Hand corker
  • Hydrometer (measures sugar content)
  • Other items that are useful but not essential are:
  • Thermometer
  • Acid titration kit (measures acid level)
  • Grape press (essential if you are making wine from fresh grapes)

All of these items can be found at a winemaking supply store. While shopping for equipment, make sure to pick up the following specific ingredients that you will need to add to your wine:

  • Campden tablets – (tablets of sodium bisulphite used for sterilization of bottles and other containers and in the preservation of foods)
  • Wine yeast
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Pectic enzyme – (helps break down pectin present in the fruit being fermented)
  • Acid blend

THE PROCESSES FROM PRESSING TO BOTTLING

  1. Choose your grapes and recipe
    For your first attempt at winemaking, it is usually best to stick to a simple, straightforward recipe for grape wine. Remember to inspect your fruit carefully – clean grapes make clean wines. Crush a couple of grapes between your fingers and taste the juice. If you have purchased a hydrometer, use it to measure the grapes’ sugar content, this is important especially if you wish to chaptalize*. It should be between 22 and 24 brix, which means that the alcohol content of the wine will be approximately 11 percent.
    *[the addition of sugar to increase the alcohol level] 
  2. Prepare your equipment
    Hygiene is the key. It is essential that you start out with a clean environment. Thoroughly sterilize the equipment before starting the process of wine making . This is where Campden tablets are used, they contain sulphur dioxide which is our sterilant. Steam treatment can also be used. Where poor hygiene is undertaken, wild yeasts can propate quickly given half a chance, and they will ultimately turn your young wine into vinegar. If any other chemicals have been used in the cleaning process, ensure that the equipment is thoroughly rinsed before use.
  3. Pressing the grapes
    Ensure that debris of any sort, insects and diseased grapes are discarded before pressing. You can remove the stems from the grapes, but if the grapes are not going to be pressed for too long leave the stems on. A misconception is that the wine will taste bitter if pressed with the skins on, this will only happen if you press the sample far too hard for too long. Remember the sweetest and best juice will be extracted first, so don’t press for too long or else you will extract the harsher, more acidic juice. A typical hand press is ideal for small batches.Depending on the recipe that you are following, you will need to damage the grapes so that the juice can be extracted. This is done by placing the grapes into the nylon mesh straining bag or directly into the press itself. We can now begin the actual pressing ensuring that the juice, which we now call “must” is safely collected in a large container. Move the must from the collection container into a fermentation vessel as soon as you can, and seal with an airlock. After 24 hours, with the length of hose rack* the must into another vessel so that you now have a clean, sediment-free sample.Ensure you follow the recipe’s instructions carefully as you can make or break the quality of the wine at this early stage.
    *[extract clear liquid off sediment] 
  4. Addition of ingredients
    It is now that we calculate how much sugar is required for the desired alcohol level, and whether we have to chaptalize or not. Other checks are made with regard to acid levels. After all additions are made and mixed in, finally the yeast is added. Always leave enough space at the top of your fermentation vessel for the yeast activity to take place.One additive that is called for in almost every wine recipe is the Campden tablet. This is actually a sulfite that prevents oxidation and growth of wild yeast while promoting the growth of cultured yeast.Pectic enzyme is another common additive used in fruit wines, but not always necessary with grapes. It helps to enhance flavour and aroma, as well as aiding the extraction of acid from the fruit. Tannin is also frequently needed to add bite to white wines. And, of course, sugar and yeast are necessary to produce a wine’s alcohol. Granulated sugar is the best sugar for making wine, do not use brown sugar or castor sugar. Also, the yeast used in winemaking is different to that in bread. Your home winemaking retailer will advise you which variety is required for the type of wine that you are making.
  5. The fermentation
    Once the additives have been blended into the fermentation vessel, put in the airlock and within a day or two the wine will begin to ferment. This process usually should last for several weeks. If you can keep the vessel cool*, the fermentation will last longer which will result in a wine with more depth of character. Conversely, if the wine finishes it’s ferment in a few days by getting too hot, much of the flavour will be ejected out with the carbon dioxide.
    *[do not over chill the vessel as you may stop the fermentation altogether – called a stuck ferment] 
  6. Rack Wine
    When the fermentation process has ended, it is important to rack the wine off the lees* to avoid picking up off-flavours, such as H2S (hydrogen sulphide or bad eggs!). The procedure of racking the wine is essential to winemaking. The process is undertaken by siphoning the wine off the sediments into a clean vessel. This can be done with a flexible plastic tube. Racking is usually done on a regular basis over several months until the wine is clear and ready to be placed in bottles. By keeping the wine in a cool place, this will also help in the clarification process.
    *[lees – the sediment of the dead yeast cells left behind after the fermentation has ended] 
  7. Bottling
    Finally, when the wine is sufficiently clear, it will be time to bottle your vintage. The easiest way to transfer the wine from the vessel into bottles is to siphon it again using the tubing that was used for racking. It is important not to overfill the bottles and to secure corks tightly. Newly bottled wine should be stored upright for the first three days. After that, it should be stored on its side at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. White wine should be aged for at least 6 months before sampling, and red wine should be aged for a minimum of 1 year.

Making Wine
If you are serious about learning how to make wine at home, and don’t want to make the mistakes I made, here’s a link to a book with a ton of homemade wine recipes. This book alone has helped me so much over the years. It’s a pretty good deal and also includes recipes for making Champagne, Sparking Wines and even Sherry.

If you’ve never before made wine but want to try it, or if you’ve been making it for years but simply want a solid recipe or reference work, Winemaking : Recipes, Equipment, and Techniques for Making Wine is a good place to start.

The Andersons have written a book anyone can use. The writing is not always straightforward and concise, but it is lay-oriented, and you won’t need a degree in chemistry to understand it. For the beginner, it is a good primer. For the advanced winemaker, it will be instantly understandable and useful.

As another reviewer pointed out, this is a book to be used. The spiral binding allows you to open the book to the recipe you want and lay it on the counter without using weights to hold it open. While some of the recipes may need adjustments to the amounts of the ingredients listed, as a recipe developer I can assure you this is unavoidable. Fruits, berries, grapes, and grape concentrates vary in the amounts of sugar, acidity, tannin, and pectin they contain. Still, the Andersons’ recipes are good places to start.(Reviewed by Jack Keller)


home winemaking step by step

Home Winemaking: Step by Step will teach you how to make wine like a professional, so you can create wine so good that it can be served at any occasion. No matter how important it is, no matter how “wined and dined” your guests are.

Using these techinques, you will be producing prize-winning wines time and time again – this is flat-out the best resource on the net for making homemade wine. Bar none!

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About Rob Hemphill

Rob has been a professional winemaker making wine for over 20 years, and has run a modern wine and winemaking business. If you are looking for information about making wine at home, you are sure to find a wealth of useful stuff here. He is also a passionate about landscape and travel photography.

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