How to Make Wine from Grape Juice
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.
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.
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
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:
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!
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!
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?
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.
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.
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!
Paraglider's more advanced winemaking hubs:
- The Theory of Winemaking
This hub explains home winemaking. When you understand the processes, you will be able to design your own 'recipes', (though, as we'll see, 'recipe' isn't really a word that applies to winemaking).
- Aging Home Made Wine - How to Mature Home Made Wine
Aging home made wine is important. But unless wine is aged in the right way, it might spoil. This article explains how to age home made or commercial wine for best results.
- The Winemaker's FAQ
The winemaker's FAQ, where you'll find answers to most of your questions about the theory and practice of winemaking. If your question's not included, just ask!