How To Make WineWe are regularly asked this simple question by lots of people, by friends that have tried our homebrew, by brewers of beer, by people wanting to start brewing their own wine at home but don't know where to start.
Some people want to make their own wine as they have a grape vine growing in their back garden, some people have heard that it's cheaper to make your own wine rather than buy it, and some are just interested in the wine making process.
Whatever your reason for wanting to know how to make wine, I thought I'd write this guide on How To Make Wine.
Now, the answer to this seemingly simple question can be quite simple, but it can also get very complicated the further and further you delve into the subject, but for now, let's keep to the simple process.
It's easy to make wine at home. You need some basic ingredients, like yeast, and some basic brewing equipment, like a bucket and a demi-john, but these are pretty cheap and will last years giving you lots of batches of your own wine.
Remember, making your own wine at home, no matter what method you use to make it, is so much cheaper than buying it from a shop and so much more rewarding when friends realise you have actually made this bottle of wine yourself - and it tastes delicious!
For this blog on How To Make Wine, I'm going to concentrate on making wine from grapes. Now I hear you ask, "What else can you make wine from if it's not just grapes?" We'll pretty much anything eddible is the short answer and I'll touch on that a bit later and I'll create a blog just for that subject. But for now, I'll just stick to making wine from grapes and I'll to try to keep it simple!
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Equipment Needed To Make Wine At Home
The good news about homebrew equipment is that it can be used many many times as long as you keep it clean, so once you have bought the basic equipment that's it. You can make wine with it time and time again for years to come.
You may have to buy some yeast and some steriliser from time to time, and if you are following a recipe, there may be some other ingredients needed, but you can cross that bridge when you get there.
Just be prepared. Get all your ingredients and equipment together before you start brewing. There aren't many homebrew shops left, so if you have forgotten something, it's not like you can just pop around the corner to get something. It could take a few days to arrive in the post.
Brewing Bucket - The start of any fermentation.
Demi-John - A special glass bottle used after the bucket stage.
Syphon - A tube for moving your wine from one brewing vessel to the next and into bottles.
Stainless Steel Spoon - I'm sure you have a serving spoon at home - DO NOT USE WOOD
Thermometer - Brewing at the right temperature is key to a good wine.
Hydrometer - This nifty peice of kit measures the sugar in your juice and wine and tells you the ABV, and if it's finished fermenting.
Bottles - I'm sure you can hunt out some used wine bottles - Screw caps are able to be reused more than a couple of times.
Straining Bag - Used to seperate the juice from the fruit pulp.
Airlock - Allows the gas created by the yeast to escape but stops bacteria getting in.
This is all the equipment you need to make wine. It might seem a lot of equipment, but this set will allow you to make amazing tasting wine at home!
You will need some of the ingredients you need to make wine that form the basics of the homebrewers larder:
Sterilising Powder - This cleans and kills unwanted bacteria
Yeast - Usually you choose a yeast to match the style of wine your are brewing.
Yeast Nutrient - Think of this as a multi vitamin especially for yeast.
Campden Tablets - These stop oxidisation of the wine and help subdue the natural yeasts
Pectoalse - Fruits contain pectin which stop the wine from clearing. This breaks pectin down into sugars and helps make a clear wine.
Fermentation Stopper - This kills any yeast remaining at the end of the fermentation
Finings - This helps speed up the process of clearing the wine before bottling.
Brewing Sugar - Useful to increase the sugar content so you end up with the desired alcohol content.
Acid Blend - A blend of acids that mimic those found in fruits to help give some extra bite to the wine.
Brewing ingredients last for years and having these basic ingredinets in your brewing cupboard will make it easy to just grab them when the recipe calls for it.
Another important tool for the wine maker is a book. Write down your recipe, quantities, readings from your hydrometer, dates you started, bottled, etc and more importantly, leave space for your tasting notes, when you try the finished wine, so you can make changes to your recipe for the next time you make it.
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How To Make Wine - From Grapes
Traditionally wine has been made from grapes for thousands of years. Surprisingly, the equipment has changed little, the hygiene levels have improved, but the basic method is still nearly exactly the same.
We can split grapes into red and green varieties. Both red (black) and white grapes can be turned into wine.
We can make white wine from both the red grapes and green grapes, but we can only make red wine from red grapes.
In white wines, the juice is pressed from the grape skins and pulp, but with red wines, the skins and pulp are fermented in with the juice. The colour leaches out the skins and is imparted to the wine, making it red. The redness of your red wine depends on the grape variety, how dark the skins are, and then on how long you leave the skins in the fermentation. A Rose wine, is just a red wine that was only left with its skins for a day or two.
Grapes - First you need to grow your grapes and know when to pick them. Pretty much any grape can be turned into wine, but most wine grape varieties are not the same as those that you would find on the supermarket shelves!
Grapes for wine need to have both a high level of sugar and a high level of acidity. Grapes in the supermarket usually have the sugar content, but not the acid. But that shouldn't stop you making wine from them. We can add more sugar and more acid during the fermentation stage.
If you are growing your own grapes, try and leave them on the vine for as long as possible, removing some leaves from around the bunches so they get lots of sunlight in the month before harvest.
If you find the grapes on your vine are ripening at different times, you can simply pick the ripe bunches and pop them in a bag in the freezer and keep doing this till you have all your grapes.
We need to strip the grapes from the stalks and put them in a bucket. The stalks are bitter, so we don't want them!
Now the fun begins - Take your shoes and socks off and go and give your feet a good wash. Get your feet in there and tread the grapes.
There is nothing like the feeling of grapes popping under your feet and the skins bursting up through your toes. Seriously though, this is one of the best ways to crush your grapes. It bursts the grapes without breaking the pips inside. Guess what, those pips are very bitter if they get split open and can make a wine taste horrible. OK, so if you dont fancy getting your feet in there, get in there with your hands or a potato masher. Do not use a food processor!
Once you have squished all your grapes you need to put them in your sterilised brewing bucket.
White Wine - If you are making a white wine, put your straining bag over your brewing bucket and pour your grape mush into the straining bag so all the liquid grape juice runs through and into the bucket. Close up and squeeze the bag to get out all the juice out of the grape pulp.
Red Wine - If you are making a red wine, pour all the mushed grapes straight into your brewing bucket - we'll remove the skins in a few days.
Take a sample of your grape juice and use your hydrometer to check the Specific Gravity - this next bit is as about as complicated as basic wine brewing gets!
We are looking for a reading around:
White Wine - 1.070 = 190g of sugar per litre - which will give a final abv around 11.5%
Red Wine - 1.080 = 215g of sugar per litre - which will give a final abv around 13%
Your grape juice is likely to be lower than this, so this is where the sugar comes in. You'll need to add more sugar to your grape juice so the yeast can eat it and help get your wine to the desired ABV.
How much sugar to add will depend on your hydrometer reading.
You can watch our YouTube Video on How To Use A Hydrometer to help you work out how much to add. Or you can use a simple calculation based on your reading and the desired reading to work out how much more sugar to add. Or you can add a little (50g) at a time, stir till dissolved and take a new hydrometer reading. Oh for red wines, remember that in your bucket is juice and fruit pulp. If you started with 9kg of fruit, you'll have approx 5 litres of juice left when you remove all the fruit pulp.
Once you have your grape juice at the desired sugar levels, then you need to crush and add 1 campden tablet per 4.5 litres of grape juice. This will subdue the natural yeasts, not kill them. It will also prevent the grape juice oxidising.
Add in your pectolase. This does 2 things, it helps break down any pectin into sugars so you'll end up with a lush clear wine. And it helps break down the fruits cell walls, so allowing lots of that lovelly juice and colour to seep into the wine from the skins.
Put the airlock in the lid, put the lid on the bucket, put a little water in the airlock (no more than 1 bubble full) and leave it in a warm place between 18-22°C for 24 hours to let the campden tablet and pectolase do their thing.
Pop off the lid, and see whats happening. The skins and fruit pulp may have floated to the top. No worries.
Taste your juice. It will be really sweet, but it should also have and acid kick. Now we aren't talking sucking on lemons sour, but more the acidity you get in a big ripe orange or a crisp green apple. Sweet but with an acidic bite. This will make your wine mouth watering! If you think it needs a bit of an extra acid kick then add a teaspoon of acid blend.
Open your sachet of wine yeast (red for red, white for white) and sprinkle on the top of your grape juice, along with the yeast nutrient and then stir it all in. Remember to use a sterilised spoon! Don't want to introduce any nasties into your wine.
Pop the lid back on and leave it in its warm place for 7 days.
Making red wines - the longer you leave the skins in the juice, the redder, darker and richer the finished wine will be. You can do this part earlier on a red wine if you want a lighter red. Put your straining bag over a second brewing bucket and pour your grape mush wine into the straining bag so all the wine runs through and into the second bucket. Close up and squeeze the bag to get out all the wine out of the grape pulp.
Transfer your wine using the syphon from your brewing bucket into your demi-john, and put in the bung and airlock and put back in your warm place for another 2 weeks to allow the fermentation to completely finish.
Sometimes you may think your wine has finished fermenting as no air bubbles are passing through the airlock and want to move on the the next stage early - DON'T - wine takes time. There are other processes now taking place, so just be patient.
Take a sample of the wine and with your hydrometer, check the specific gravity. It should now be around 0.996. This means all the sugars have been eaten by the yeast. If it has not reached this level yet, put the airlock back in and put back in your warm cupboard for 1 more week. Then test again.
Once the fermentation has completed and no more air bubbles are passing through the airlock, syphon the wine off the sediment (known as the lees) into your clean, sterilised fermenting bucket, being careful not to disturb the sediment a the bottom of the demi-john but try to get as much wine out by tilting the demi-john as the wine nears the bottom.
Add the Fermentation stopper and 1 crushed campden tablet per 4.5 litres of wine and gently stir. We don't want to introduce air into the wine.
You may see your wine start to fizz. This isnt the fermentation starting again, it's simply carbon dioxide (CO2) thats dissolved in your wine escaping. Think Mentos in a bottle of Diet Coke.
Once it's all stirred in, put the lid on, put the airlock in (with some water in it like earlier) and now put it on a counter top where it wont be disturbed for a couple of days.
You'll need to gently stir it a couple of times over the next 48 hours and you'll notice more fizz bubbling out. We really want to get rid of this fizz as it can stop the wine clearing in the next step.
Once 48 hours have passed you can add your finings. Follow the instruction on the finings you have chosen as they can all have slightly different instructions depending what they are made from.
Put your wine somewhere it will not be disturbed for 2 weeks. This will allow the wine to completely clear.
Very carefully, syphon your wine back into your demi-john being careful not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of the bucket.
Take the final hydrometer reading. Compare this to the original reading and use an online calculator to tell you the proof of your finished wine.
Now, sterilise your bottles, caps and syphon. Now syphon your wine into your bottles and cap them or cork them if you are feeling more traditional.
Put them somewhere cool for at least a month, ideally 6 months, before thinking of drinking it. During that time, chemical processes will take place in the bottle. Acids will combine, tannins will mellow, acids will combine with newly formed acids and so on. Wine will continue to age.
Homebrew white wines are best drank when they are between 6 months and 2 years old. Where as red wines seem to be at their best between 1 year and 4 years old. So if you are making a batch of red, hide a couple in the back of a cupboard and forget about them.
I've found red wines that are 10 years old and are amazing to drink.
Making wine from grapes is easy, fun, extremely rewarding and even better when you know it's your own grapes you have grown, harvested, trod and brewed into a delicious wine - red or white.
So that's the first way of making wine - Using grapes. But as I mentioned earlier, grapes aren't the only thing you can make wine from. Ever seen the cheap bottles of Lambrusco in the supermarket. It looks like wine, but its so cheap. That's because it is a wine, but made from pears.
You can make wine out of pretty much any edible fruit, vegetables and even sweets. My parsnip wine is up there with the top chardonnay wines. Carrot wine has amazing toffee undertones. Blackberry wine is one of my favourites, and sloe wine is the most decadent wine on planet earth!
But if you want to learn how to make wine from fruits and vegetables, you'll have to keep an eye out for my other blogs.
For now, enjoy making wine from grapes. A really easy, rewarding hobby that in time could see you planting your own vines and improving your equipment so you can make even more bottles of delicious home made wine!
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But what if you don't have any grapes
Well, this is where our wine kits come in very handy. The wine kit makers have done all the hard work of picking, plucking, pressing and extracting the juice from the grapes. They then concentrate the juice to make it easier to transport, so all you have to do is add water and ferment the juice. It's amazingly easy to make wine from a wine kit and just as rewarding.
You also get to choose from a large range of grape varieties and wine styles that are popular across the world.
I'll write another article shortly on how to make wine from a wine kit, but it's amazingly simple!
If you have any questions or comments, then feel free to use the comments box below and I happily answer any questions you may have.
For now, thanks for reading, cheers and happy brewing!