How to Make Wine from Grape Juice

my house red, reflecting
my house red, reflecting | Source

Welcome to the home winery!

In this hub, I'm going to walk you through a safe, reliable method of making fresh wholesome wine from supermarket grape juice, using no special equipment and strictly no chemicals or artificial additives.

Why bother?

Now that wine is a supermarket commodity, what's the point in making your own? You will have your own reasons, but here are a few of mine:

  • It's good fun, feels creative and fills the kitchen with summery smells.
  • It's very cheap, wholesome, and surprisingly good.
  • I live in an Islamic country where wine is not a supermarket commodity!

Will it be any good?

I'll be honest - it will taste like a decent vin ordinaire, and be none the worse for that. It will be on a par with the staple drink of millions of everyday folk throughout Europe. Because that's what we're making - everyday wine.

It is, of course, possible to make truly fine wine, but to do this you will need to follow a slightly more involved procedure:

  • Buy a hillside with ideal aspect, soil and climate
  • Terrace it and plant your vines
  • Protect them from frosts, hailstorms, insects, neighbours
  • Oh, and start about thirty years ago . . .

So, being realistic, our goal is a steady supply of wholesome and pleasant red, white and (if you really must) rose table wine.

Wholesome?

Guaranteed! This wine will contain no chemical additives or artficial preservatives. That is a promise you will not find many commercial winemakers making. Your wine is made from pure fruit juice and, drunk in moderation, will do you nothing but good.

What do I need to get started?

The good news is, you hardly need any equipment at all. You will need:

  • One 5 litre (or 1 gallon) plastic drinking water container. (Not 5 separate bottles)
  • One plastic pouring funnel
  • Four 1 litre (2 pint) cartons of red or white grape juice with no preservatives
  • 500 grams (18 ounces) of ordinary granulated white sugar
  • One sachet of general purpose wine yeast

Wine Yeast?

This is important. Please do not try using baking yeast. It will ferment, but it is likely to stop too soon, leaving you with an oversweet, understrength concoction, often with a bready smell. Much the same is true of brewer's yeast, except it will smell beery. What a surprise!

If you are lucky enough to have a winemaker's supplier nearby, that's where to get your wine yeast. Don't be intimidated by the expert salesman - one sachet of general purpose wine yeast is all you need. If he offers you Campden tablets, vitamin B6, a hydrometer, a thermometer, a fermentation trap and a snake of plastic tubing, just smile sweetly and say no.

If you have no local supplier, there are plenty of on-line sources available, listed under "winemaking supplies". Or you get it direct from Amazon:

Lalvin Dried Wine Yeast EC #1118 (Pack of 10)
Lalvin Dried Wine Yeast EC #1118 (Pack of 10)

Paraglider's recommendation: this is all the wine yeast you'll ever need. It is a quick starter and a good fermenter with a wide temperature tolerance. Originally a Champagne yeast, it clears and settles well. Best of all - it's very cheap!

 

Paraglider's Promise

If you do try making wine by this method and run into any problem, describe it in a comment and I'll do my best to help, or at least explain what's gone wrong.

If you have a go and it works out well (which is most likely) share your success to encourage others to join the winemaking community.

I'm also happy to answer queries about home winemaking. Although my starter method is simple, it is based on sound principles. Advanced winemaking involves more equipment and processes. If the interest is there, I'll base a few more hubs around the finer points.

Why not ask!

coming along nicely
coming along nicely | Source

Let's get started

Your grape juice should be kept at room temperature, not in the fridge. If it's in the fridge, take it out now and do something else till tomorrow.

Drink the 5 litres of water. Most people prefer to do this over a few days. When the bottle is empty, don't rinse it out. It's clean. It was full of drinking water, remember?

Day One:

Pour about half of one of your cartons of juice into the big bottle.

Add one teaspoonful of wine yeast, put the top on the bottle and shake it to buggery. (This is the correct technical term for this process as used by winemakers the world over, though a small handful still refer to aeration).

Leave it in a warmish place and take the rest of the day off. (Yeast is a living organism. Its comfort zone is much like ours. Think shirt-sleeves temperatures. You don't need to keep it in the dark, but direct sunlight will spoil it.

Day Two:

You'll notice it will have started bubbling. Add the other half carton of juice and one full carton, so the bottle is now a little under half full. Tighten the bottle cap then back it off half a turn. This is very important. Fermentation produces a lot of carbon dioxide gas which must be allowed to escape.

Take a 2 litre coke bottle and do whatever you want with the contents. I'm told it goes well with a Big Mac, whatever that is. We need it empty, that's all.

Pour 500 grams (18 ounces) of sugar into the coke bottle. A plastic funnel makes this a lot easier. Pour boiled tap water or drinking water onto the sugar until the bottle is about half full (1 litre or 2 pints). Shake it until all the sugar is dissolved. Don't add it to the wine yet.

Day Four or Five:

By now, the wine should be fermenting well. Add one more carton of grape juice and all of the sugar syrup. The level should still be below the shoulder of the bottle. Swirl the bottle to mix in the sugar syrup. Tighten the bottle cap then back it off half a turn, as before. That's it for today. You should still have one unopened carton of grape juice.

Day Ten or so:

The liveliest fermentation should have eased off by now, so it's safe to add the last carton of juice. The bottle should be filled to the bottom of the neck. Usual drill with the bottle cap. Now you just have to wait. Check the bottle cap every day, and watch for the bubbling showing signs of stopping, typically after another two or three weeks.

Finally:

When the bubbling has stopped, or at least slowed right down to the occasional bubble, place the bottle in the fridge (not the freezer!) and leave it for about three days. The cold will halt the fermentation and will also help the yeast to settle to the bottom of the bottle.

Line up enough empty coke or water bottles to hold the wine. Very, very carefully, so as not to disturb the sediment, pour the wine into the bottles using the funnel. Get a friend to help by holding the bottles and moving the funnel from bottle to bottle. Fill all the bottles in a single pass, without untipping the fermenting bottle. This way, you won't disturb the sediment.

The wine can be drunk straight away, but it will improve in the bottle for several months. But don't even consider 'laying it down' or any such nonsense. It's not that sort of wine.

Cheers! You're now a winemaker.

Comments are welcome...

but before asking a question, why not read through the comments below as I have already answered most possible questions. You may find the answer is already there!

Comments, newest on top 752 comments

Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 46 hours ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Deana, thanks for that, and the vote of confidence :) I do have a sparkling with method, but I have reservations about putting it on the Web. If misapplied, it can be quite dangerous or at least very messy!

Karl - that shows that the earlier slow down was the original sugar being exhausted. Back on track again!


Karl p 47 hours ago

Hi again, update, as soon as I added the Sugar syrup and more juice it was hopping mad within two hours, it's slowing down now, great idea adding in stages in such a small container, will the wine clear itself? I plan on racking at least once to get rid of most of the sediment, great thread very informative for a novice like me.


Deana 2 days ago

If I may, I'd like to tell Elite77 that I too live in Saudi and routinely bring over in my luggage or ship yeast via USPS priority mail. Order it on eBay and have a friend send it over. Have them throw in some other things to add weight. I wish there was a way to give you my email without broadcasting it to the authorities. Btw Mr. Paraglider your process is wonderful. Any for sparkling wine?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 2 days ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Karl - it can slow down for many reasons, drop in temperature, most of the sugar used up, etc. Also after adding more juice and sugar, it can take a little while for the signs of fermentation to pick up. Stick with it and it will probably be fine.


Karl p 5 days ago

Hi I started a batch on 21 September 4 days ago and Last night was fermenting really well, got up this morning and it's nearly stopped so I added 3rd carton and sugar syrup, followed your recipe to the letter, does it normally slow down on the 4th day? I'm using Youngs super wine yeast.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 2 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Elite77 - My hub method calls for 500g/5l additional sugar, i.e. additional to what is already provided by the grape juice. In my corresponence I was saying 250g/l total sugar is a maximum, total being the sum of the grape juice sugar and the added sugar. You see the difference?

Method and quantities don't change for bread yeast. The final result will be lower in quality, but still perfectly wholesome.

If you are in Saudi, you should be able to find KDD grape juice. It is the best I've found. Just follow the method in the hub and make sure it has stopped fermenting before refrigerating it, for max strength and dryness.

You'll appreciate that I'm not about to advise on how to circumvent Saudi import laws. That's up to you. But if you search the comments you'll find a third alternative, developing a culture from fresh Muscat grapes.


Elite77 2 weeks ago

Hello Paraglider

Curious, in one of your recent responses you mentioned 250g/l of sugar but your receipe calls for 500g/5l..

Two, I can't get my hands on Wine Yeast, are there any adjustments to the original recepie if I am using bread yeast?

3rd, I like a full flavored red wine, dry..any specific grape juice or sugar volumes or fermentation time factor I should consider?

Do you think it's wise to order wine yeast via courier into Saudi? Knowing they won't deliver directly, I can use a shop and ship account..

Cheers


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 3 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Since the yeast seems to have a good hold, I'd suggest 1 litre grape and 1 litre water. Let it ferment as long as it wants, and you might end up with a strong dry 14% or a sweetish 12%, or something in between. And tell your friends how I saved your brew ;)


Jam31279 3 weeks ago

Dear Paraglider,

I got only 2 litres of cranberry juice(ocean spray) at a store near me,so i added 2 litres of water as well , do you suggest i should add 2 more liters of grape juice or i will look out for cranberry, or water in the worst case? today is day 6,it is still bubbling.


Jam31279 3 weeks ago

Thanks Paraglider, will do, and thanks for sharing the link


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 3 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Jasper - you have already added far too much sugar. Assuming you haven't also added water, your sugar content is now approx 350 g/l. 250 g/l is a maximum, even for a wine yeast to cope with. It will probably stop soon and be far too sweet. To salvage it, add about 5 litres of a low sugar juice like cranberry or just dilute it with about 4 litres of water. You need to read this: https://delishably.com/beverages/How-Strong-is-my-...


Jam31279 3 weeks ago

Hi Paraglider,

I started a batch with 12 liters of Al Rabie 100% grape juice, 3 kgs white sugar and bread yeast(couldnt get wine yeast), the fermentation has started day2, should i be adding more sugar, or this is enough. The juice has around 14gm sugar per 100 ml as per label.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Sherry - It is certainly possible to mix it all together, add the yeast and wait. But the reasons for my method are:

Adding all the yeast to a half carton of juice almost guarantees a good strong start. Then adding juice gradually ensures that the good start continues, so that when the sugar syrup goes in, there is a huge active yeast population waiting for it, so very little risk of it sticking. Holding back the final carton is to reduce the risk of bubbling over the top of the jar. I don't want to be accused of ruining someone's expensive carpet!


Sherry 7 weeks ago

Hello Paraglider, I'm interested in how your wine making method runs. For example, which is the reason for adding the juice and the sugar in a step-by-step way. Why don't mix everything in the beginning and just leave it working after fermentation is completed?

Regards


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 4 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Megabert - you can't go wrong if you increase all quantities in proportion but don't change the durations.

Jamie - the exact quantity of yeast doesn't matter. Half a teaspoonful is a guide, or half a 5g sachet.

Ade - that will certainly work ok, but it will be lighter in flavour, colour, alcohol and body with only 40% of the total volume coming from the grape juice. The important thing is to make what you enjoy drinking!


Ade 4 months ago

My recipe is similar but a little easier as all done in one day and makes a great wine. Two 1ltr cartons of grape juice in a 5lts container. 1.5 to 2 ltrs of boiling water disolve 500g sugar and then pour in to the grape juice. Top up to 5ltr with cold water and add 1/2 teaspoon of wine yeast and stir. Lid on and leave for 6 weeks....I syphon out when ready being careful not to disturb sediment.


Jamie 4 months ago

I have started making my first batch of wine with your recipe. It seems simple enough, but I have a few questions. Is the 5 g yeast packet equal to 1 teaspoon. 5 g does equal a teaspoon in theory... But when I tried to measure my yeast with a teaspoon, the yeast acted strange and stuck to itself making it hard to measure. I just put the whole packet in. My other question is about not disturbing the sediment. Should I filter/ strain the wine when it is finished? Or how much sediment do I leave in the bottom without wasting my wine? Thanks for all your help!


Megabert profile image

Megabert 4 months ago

Just to confirm: also increase the yeast proportionately when doing larger quantities yes? Somehow I hear conflicting things about this. Thanks!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 4 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Yes - just scale up the quantities in proportion, but don't change the timescale. There's an old winemakers' saying- 5 gallons take the same time to make as one gallon, and they last nearly twice as long!


Megabert profile image

Megabert 4 months ago

Sounds great. How would you do this in an 8 liter container? Ideally with adding whole cartons at a time?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Hi Kate - at two weeks it still has a lot of residual sugar and will taste very much like the original juice. Don't add more yeast. Just be patient. By the 4th week it will be nearing completion.


Kate 5 months ago

So my wine has been fermenting for like two weeks but if i taste it it just tastes like grape juice. We put the 1 tsp of yeast in but is that enough? Or are we supposed to put the rest of the packet in? Thanks!!!


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Thanks Devin - there's a sister article "How to make cider from apple juice" which might also appeal. It's even simpler!


Devin 5 months ago

This is the best article I have found for teaching someone how to make 'everyman's wine'. Thank you, it's perfect for the first time vinter.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 5 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Aubrey - this wine is not designed for aging beyond about 3 months. Just keep it in the 5l jar with the cap tight, but once a week for he first 4 weeks, loosen the cap and retighten it.

Alex - double all the quantities but don't change the timescale.


Alex 5 months ago

I'm going to be using a 10l water bottle instead of 5. Do I just double the recipe, with the exception of the yeast?


Aubrey 6 months ago

How long can i age the wine and how should it be stored while aging?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Megan - you can just carry on with the bigger air space, but when it is finished don't leave it for long in the big jar. Chill it in the fridge for a couple of days then decant it into full smaller bottles.

Or- you can increase the quantity to fill up the air space, topping up with grape juice and sugar, dissolved in the juice at the rate of 100 grams per litre.


Megan 8 months ago

I apologize if this question was already asked, I've searched through some of them but not all of them: I am on day 4 and added my sugar water and another 2 pints of juice, but ran out of room in my container so I dumped it all in a larger container (2.5 gallon). There's a lot of empty space and I read in one of the responses that the taste won't be as good if there's empty space at the top: should I add more juice/water/sugar or should I just continue as the directions say. Also, did I disturb the fermentation process by switching it all out into a new container?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Sandy - it is probably still OK. Itis probably still fermenting but dissolving the CO2 because of the extra water. I would expect it to start bubbling, but more gently in a day or so, then carry on with the process.


SandySue 8 months ago

Sooo...I didn't know if you were still answering questions on this article and I panicked and added more yeast and more sugar water before I saw your answer. Basically doubling the recipe. Everything seemed fine until today (day 6 from starting the whole process) and bubbling has stopped. Did I kill it? Should I just throw it out, wait, or is there a way to salvage it? Can you tell it's my first time ever making wine? :)


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 8 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Sandy - no more yeast. The initial yeast starter grows all by itself. A second addition achieves nothing.


SandySue 8 months ago

I accidentally put too much juice in! My cartons were 1.89L so now I'm on day 4 with about 7.5L. Should I add more yeast?


Shadem 9 months ago

i live in kuwait, do you happen to know where can i get wine yeast ?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 10 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Dsellers - yes you can, but it's usually best if at least three quarters of the juice is grape, e.g. 3 Grape to 1 Cranberry works well. Increase the sugar by up to 100 grams if you do this as most juices (except mango) are less sweet than grape.


Dsellers 10 months ago

Can you add different juices like pomegranate or just stick to one types of juice?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 10 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

500 grams. KDD is a good fermenter and the wine will turn out around 12.5% ABV, a perfect strength for a table wine.


mo132 10 months ago

hi

How much sugar should I use with KDD grape juice?


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 10 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

ihuc - what you did was fine. I keep the cap closed for the first day unless there is obvious activity (bubbles, pressure), and from then on, it should always be backed off to let gas escape until the end of fermentation.

Deana - it will keep bubbling until all the sugar is used up, which depends on temperature, yeast, nutrients and how much sugar there was at the start. Anything from 3 to 5 weeks.


Deanagirlygirl profile image

Deanagirlygirl 10 months ago

Hello Dave. I'm on day 14 and all is progressing well. I know I have longer to go but what does it take before the carbonation is completely gone? It's not a deal breaker and I've sampled my batch and it tastes rather good. It's a red btw. Thanks so much for posting this simplistic method! I'm a US expat in a dry country and a girl has to have her wine!!!


lhuc 10 months ago

i have read some comments about the on day one to close the the bottle tightly, mine at first i closed it and when i notice the high pressure on the bottle, i open it half turn..do u think its fine? and now i closed tightly again.


lhuc 10 months ago

on day one do you need to close tightly the cap of the bottle or you need back half turn? thanks, im worried mine is kind of little bubbles..


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 10 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Felix - time in the fridge is the best clarifier, if you want to drink it young. If you are in no hurry, more time, not in the fridge, works just as well. Filtering and fining are all about appearance, not flavour or aroma.

Ivan - thanks, spread the word :)

Seanysjs - the secret to successful experimentation: keep notes, and only change one parameter per experiment, so you can track progress :)


Seanysjs 11 months ago

Hi Paraglider. Just thought I'd let you know the wine turned out fine as you said. I'm now looking forward to starting to experiment and try a few more. Thanks again!


Ivan 11 months ago

Hi, just wanted to say I made one gallon of white and one of red[rose] and both taste great. Now have more on the brew. Thanks very much for the recipe. I wont be buying wine from the supermarket any time soon.


Felix 11 months ago

I´ve made wine as per your recipe and it it great! Nw repeating with white, but it is a little bit turbid, it is any method to "clarify" the whities? Thanks Buddy


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 11 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

I wouldn't add more sugar so late in the fermentation as either, it will then take forever to finish, or, it will immediately stop and stick sweet. I would just leave it for a few more days then refrigerate it for a few days to clear it. It should be just fine.


seanysjs 11 months ago

Thanks Paraglider. Ive returned to my jar on day 13 after adding the last carton before i left and found just a couple of tiny bubbles on top (also it smells lovely!)

Ive managed to fit another carton on top which has left about 3inches air space. Would you say i need to add any more sugar due to the extra carton or just leave it at that?

If the fermentation is over before the 2week mark would you refrigerate it then or wait until 2weeks? Cheers


matthew koshy 11 months ago

Anyone in Jeddah has extra lalvin yeast packets or anyone traveling back can get some for me. I don't get to travel to US or UK. So please if anyone can help I would to love them from you. Thank you.


Paraglider profile image

Paraglider 11 months ago from Kyle, Scotland Author

Seanysjs - KDD is very fermentable juice, one of the best. Day 4, it had probably fermented out most of the natural sugar which is why the bubbles had disappeared. No problem. Since you are working with a 6 litre jar, you should add the last carton before you go to UK. When you come back, if it is still bubbling, you could top up the jar with more juice, rather than leave a big air space.

Wendy - it sounds like there are no preservatives or it would not have started fermenting, so just carry on, as per the method. It will probably turn out OK, but the flavour might be a bit strange for a wine, as it contains artificial flavourings. For the next batch - try to seek out some pure grape juice!


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