Making wine at home can be a deliciously fun hobby!
With some inexpensive equipment and a myriad of recipes and ingredients, the amateur winemaker can follow simple steps to create a satisfying home-brewed product. Winemaking supplies are readily available through local stores that cater to wine hobbyists or online outlets that offer catalogs of items for sale. Homemade wine can be a delicious and unique addition to your entertaining menu and will allow you to express your own creativity and unique tastes.
To begin with, some simple equipment is needed for successful winemaking. This is a basic list, with explanations for each item. As with most specialized activities, it’s best to use equipment and pieces that are specifically designed for winemaking, especially as a beginner. In general, glass or plastic equipment and containers are preferred, and if the plastic is used, be sure that it is white plastic of the proper grade. Polypropylene is best because other types of plastics may be too porous and colored plastics can leach chemicals into your wine as it ferments, which may spoil it.
You will need an airlock, which is an s-shaped tube that fits through a cork or stopper. You will put 1% metabisulphite solution in the bend to keep air out of your wine as it goes through its first fermentation phase. The carbon dioxide that is produced can bubble out through the metabisulphite solution, but air and impurities will not be able to pass through this liquid.
Some recommend putting a few drops of food coloring in the metabisulphite solution so that the bubbles produced by rapid fermentation are easier to see. You’ll need to keep an eye on your airlock to ensure that the liquid doesn’t evaporate during fermentation. It’s important to keep the airlock sealed with the solution to keep rogue bacteria and yeast out of your wine.
A plastic funnel and siphon tube are also needed. You will find that a six to eight foot tube will allow you to transfer the wine between containers without pouring. If you try to pour the wine between containers, it’s easy to accidentally pour sediment into your bottles, and this can spoil your wine.
You will need a one or five-gallon fermentation container made of glass or polypropylene. This container is where your wine will begin the fermentation process, and it must have a lid that can be fitted with the airlock. The entire container must be airtight. Filters or filter paper are sometimes needed, as well, to strain small bits from your wine before bottling it.
To store your wine for the final fermentation and aging process, you will want wine bottles made of glass. These need to be the kind of bottles that use a cork seal, and they must have no nicks or rough edges around the top of the neck. Corks or stoppers are used to close the wine bottles, so you’ll need to have a supply of the proper size. Some find it helpful to moisten the corks to lubricate them before closing the bottles. Green bottles are traditionally used for red and rose wines, and may help protect your wine’s quality from deterioration due to exposure to light.
ALL equipment, measuring equipment, containers, cooking and mixing equipment and surface areas must be sterilized. It is very important that your wine does not come in contact with rogue yeasts or bacteria that can spoil its taste or even make it unsafe to drink. Once you sterilize a piece of equipment, seal it up to prevent contamination. There are several methods to effectively sterilize your items, and the choice of method will depend on which thing you are sterilizing and its size.
Heat can sterilize some items. You can heat items in an oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit (150 degrees Celsius) for one hour. Glass can be heated in this way, but can crack if heated suddenly. Some plastics cannot withstand this heat. Cool these items slowly, without opening the oven door. Boiling water also can sterilize equipment. Immerse each item for twenty minutes in the boiling water. Finally, a pressure cooker can be used to sterilize items with heat. Cook them for twenty minutes at fifteen psi.
You can also sterilize equipment chemically using sodium metabisulphite, also known as Campden tablets. Mix two and a half ounces with each gallon of water and immerse your equipment for one hour. Be aware, however, that use of these chemical sterilizing agents can trigger sulfite allergies in sensitive persons. Rinse everything well with sterile water. Avoid using tap water for rinsing, as it can re-contaminate your sterilized items.
Now you will need to choose a recipe to make your wine. Wine can be made of nearly any fruit and many other things, such as dandelions or honey or even fruit juice or canned fruits with no preservatives. Recipes are plentiful on the internet and at your local library or bookstore. Your recipe will give you directions for preparing the fruit or other food for fermentation, but in general, you can count on needing juice, sugar, and yeast.
The yeast should be special winemakers’ yeast and not the kind that we generally use for baking. Avoid brewers’ yeast, as well, as this is for making beer rather than wine. Many recipes also call for other spices or ingredients, so read carefully!
Remember that the fruit used to make wine should be sterilized, as well, either by boiling or rinsing with a sulfite solution. The juice will need to be extracted from crushed or chopped fruit. Most fruit recipes will call for sugar at this point. Cane sugar (as opposed to beet sugar) is usually best for making wine. Mix and cook the ingredients that the recipe calls for in sterile containers, and add wine yeast when the directions say to.
The liquid form is often easiest for beginners to work with, but it does come in a powdered form that needs to be mixed, as well. Some recipes may also call for a yeast nutrient to help the yeast grow properly and ferment the wine.
This mixture is called â€śmust,â€ť and you put it into your primary glass or white plastic fermentation container. Remember that all equipment, storage, and measuring utensils must be sterile! Put on the lid and attach the airlock. Fill the airlock with the metabisulphite solution. Put the container in a warm place (65 to 75 degrees Fahrenheit) to ferment, but keep it out of direct sunlight.
The must will ferment rapidly and you will see bubbles of carbon dioxide escaping through the airlock. Your recipe will provide directions for this phase, but generally, this fast fermentation will take place in about one to two weeks. Some recipes advise shaking daily. The bubbles will gradually slow and then stop, indicating that the first phase of fermentation is completed.
Racking is the process of siphoning your wine from the fermentation container into the bottles where it will age and be stored. You will want to do this promptly because the wine will have sediment that has settled to the bottom of the container that can impart a bad taste if the wine is left on it for a long time. Be sure that your siphoning equipment and the wine bottles and corks are fully sterilized.
If there is a large amount of sediment or if your wine is inordinately cloudy, you may wish to filter it at this stage. Fill the bottles to about one centimeter or half an inch below the cork. Labels can be glued on with water-soluble glue. And finally, the wine must age. Your recipe may give you an idea of how long this process should be, but expect it to be several months to a year before your wine is finally ready to enjoy.
Easy Homemade Wine
13 32 ounce bottles of white grape juice
1 and Â˝ gallons of filtered water
7 and Â˝ cups of sugar
1 package yeast
Put grape juice into sterile five-gallon container. Boil water and sugar until sugar is all dissolved. Allow to cool, then add to grape juice. Add one package of yeast. Close with airlock stopper and allow to ferment for three weeks. Wait one more week, then rack and bottle.
4 lbs. blackberries (fresh or frozen)
4 and Â˝ cups sugar
One package yeast
1 tsp. acid blend
1 tsp. pectic enzymes
1 campden tablet
Crush the fruit in the primary fermentation container. Add all additives and sugar. Stir well and add up to one gallon of hot, distilled water. Let sit until cool and campden tablet is completely dissolved (about 24 hours). Add the yeast and allow to ferment. When rapid fermentation ceases, rack and bottle.
2 lbs. blueberries (any kind)
7 pints of distilled water
1 and Âľ lbs. of cane sugar
Â˝ tsp. pectic enzyme
1 crushed campden tablet
Â˝ pint of red grape concentrate
1 package of wine yeast
Crush and boil berries, then strain to get the juice. Put the juice in the primary fermentation container. Stir in all other ingredients except the yeast. Cover and allow to sit for twenty-four hours. Add yeast and cover. Shake or stir daily for several days. Strain juice into fermentation container and cover with lid and airlock. When fermentation stops, siphon into clean fermentation container and cover with airlock. Repeat as desired to get desired alcohol content, then rack and bottle.
4 lbs. strawberries
2 lbs. cane sugar
1 gallon of distilled water
Â˝ tsp. pectic enzyme
Â˝ tsp. acid blend
ÂĽ tsp. grape tannin
ÂĽ tsp. potassium sorbate
1 tsp. bentonite
1 pkg. wine yeast
Heat water to a boil, add berries, and crush. Cool the mixture and add all other ingredients. Place in fermentation container with air lock for one week, shaking daily. Rack and bottle.
8 pints of dandelion flowers (no green)
2 gallons distilled water
6 ounces of raisins
4 tablespoons of wine yeast
7 lbs. cane sugar
Boil flowers, fruit peels, sugar and water together for one hour. Cool, then strain and add yeast and juice from fruits. Cover and let stand, stirring and skimming off foam each day. Siphon into fermentation container and ferment for one month. Siphon into another fermentation container and allow to ferment for two more weeks. Repeat until liquid is clear. Age for at least six months after bottling.