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How to Make Wine from Grape Juice

Updated on March 16, 2016
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!

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    • profile image

      yazzzz 13 hours ago

      dear dave , thank you very very much , u made our survival in here more entertaining,

      a feed back on the re-using of the left over yeast.

      it worked perfectly and i dont need yeast no more, i did a research on it and apparently the more you keep re-using ur yeast the better the results. as it adapts to ur environment. and makes the best out of it.even the fermentation looks more active and bubbly. good luck to all its worth the try and its fun.

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 13 days ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Garrett - I wouldn't worry about it. Fermenting wine is full of carbon dioxide and suspended yeast which mask the emerging wine flavours. Just keep following the steps to the end. The very lively fermentation rarely lasts more than a week.

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 13 days ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Hi yazzzz - from now on, keep the cap tight but occasionally open it briefly in case there is a pressure build up from final fermantation.

    • profile image

      Garrett 13 days ago

      Hey Dave! Awesome article, and I'm glad I stumbled across it.

      However, I'm a little discouraged. My fermentation really started slowin down at around day 7 or 8, so I figured the "day 10 or so" step was just happening a little early. Out of curiosity, before I topped it off with the last bottle of grape juice, I took a sterile eye dropper and sampled some of the must from the topmost layer. It didn't taste much like wine! More like a hard liquor! Not much grape flavor and a high-alcohol taste. The wine's color and everything looks ok.

      Where did I go wrong? I was very excited about this batch. Can it be saved? Is the must even supposed to taste good? I have campden tabs and an oak spiral that may correct it a little, but wanted your input.

      Thanks!

    • profile image

      yazzzz 2 weeks ago

      Final stage , 3rd week is due today, shall I put them in the fridge with the cap tightened up or loose??? The smell is very promising , kdd looks richer and darker than Rauch.

      Regards,

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 4 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Yazzz - If you pour carefully getting a friend to move the funnel from bottle to bottle, you should get 4 full clear litres. The 5th one, keep pouring until the sediment starts to come across, then stop. This last bottle will be about half full. It is your immediate reward for early sampling. The 4 full ones, try to keep them a bit longer to improve. Pour away the muddy wine that's left behind, then use about a teaspoonful of the thickest mud to start another batch. If you don't want to start one immediately, keep it in a small capped bottle in the fridge.

    • profile image

      YALM 4 weeks ago

      hi dave

      you said below if we want to use 1 sachet of yeast for 2 batches we shall allow a day at the start, when exactly? shall i leave it with the cap tightened for 2 days as day 1 the cap has to be tightened. or?

      thanks for the great article.

    • profile image

      yazzzz 4 weeks ago

      1- how much shall i leave in the original 5 l bottle when bottling my wine?

      id like more details on how can i re-use the sediment after the batch is done? u said a tea spoon would do but wouldn it be a liquid mix of sediment and wine? do i empty it into another small container or bowl before taking a teaspoon out?

      regards

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 5 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Completely normal. It is just yeast.

    • profile image

      yazzzz 5 weeks ago

      Day 9

      Residues started to form on the top part of the bottles , is it normal?

      Regards

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 6 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland

      yazzzz, it sounds as though both are doing fine. The cap just needs to be loose enough to let the gas escape without a pressure building up in the vessel.

    • profile image

      yazzzz 6 weeks ago

      Dear Dave

      Guess I freaked out for no reason , the minute I added the juice for day 3 in KDD batch the yeast became very active and expanded like how the rauch was doing. Now another question after tighten the cap and loosen it half turn , it feels very loose like the cap can be moved around freely with a little touch. Is it ok ?

      P.S. sorry for asking too many questions , it's my 1st experiment ever. Thank you for your patience

    • profile image

      yazzzz 6 weeks ago

      I used one sachet of yeast for 2 batches , one with Rauch and one with KDD , I split the sachet by sight, on day 2 the rauch batch was ready with a nice foam on top so I added the remaining juice, for the KDD it was not ready as the foam formed is very light as u can still see the juice through some parts, but there was a dioxide gas releasing so I decided to leave for another day, today day 3 and the KDD is improving veeeeery slow and still not as good as rauch, is it because of the juice is different or the yeast was less in the KDD. Please advise ?

      regards

    • Paraglider profile image
      Author

      Dave McClure 6 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland

      The fermentation has started. The cap now has to be always slightly loose to let the CO2 escape.

    • profile image

      yazzzz 6 weeks ago

      Is it normal to hear the air coming of the cap on day 2 . Even though I locked it tight

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 6 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Yazzzz. No problem at all

    • profile image

      yazzzz 6 weeks ago

      Day 1

      After shaking to buggery some bits of the yeast sticked to the water bottle upper part

      Is that ok !?

      Regards

    • Paraglider profile image
      Author

      Dave McClure 8 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland

      yazzz - Wine yeast comes in sachets or in small drums. In either case, one teaspoonful is all you need. Exact quantities of yeast don't matter as it grows to equilibrium anyway. You'll be making the sugar syrup the day before you use it. Just keep it in the coke bottle with the cap closed, at room temperature.

    • profile image

      yazzzz 8 weeks ago

      Hey Dave,

      Starting soon but I have a couple of questions

      U mentioned that we need 1 sachet of wine yeast but in the recipe u said to use a tea spoon !?

      After dissolving the sugar , where shall I keep it ? and under what condition -tighten cap ?

      Regards

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 8 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Allan - another variant is to replace some or all of the sugar with honey. That usually gives a more complex flavour and extra body. Good luck.

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      Allan Jennings 8 weeks ago

      Thanks will certainly try that - and of course let you know the result.

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 8 weeks ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Hi Allan - it will improve in bottle for up to 3 months. Next batch, instead of dissolving the sugar in water, you can dissolve it in cranberry juice. That will slightly increase the acidity and add to the 'profile'.

    • profile image

      Allan Jennings 2 months ago

      Using Al Marai red grape jucice - nice texture, nice colour and nice strength but no taste - what can I add to give a distinctive flavour

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 2 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      yazzzz - KDD is my favourite juice to use. Rauch is also very good but more expensive. Having said that, the Rauch bottles are useful. You won't find wine yeast in Saudi (unless from another enthusiast). I think hand carrying it is a safer bet than mail order. Smell - pleasant but not strong and only noticeable close to the fermenting vessel. Brewing beer is a much smellier process than wine-making. Total time, about 4 weeks but it is better to leave it a bit longer if you can.

    • profile image

      yazzzz 2 months ago

      1st id like to thank you for your effort , noting that you were in saudi,

      what is your recommended grape juice brand ?

      did you manage to find the yeast in here or shall i roder it online or bring it along when im back from the holidays?

      what is the average total days of this whole procedure? will there be any noticeable smell in the house when making it?

      thanks and regards

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 3 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Travis - after the three days refrigeration, transfer the wine to a new 5 litre container and add your oak spiral, but only half of one. Top up with cooled boiled water and let it rest for 3 months, at cool room temperature.

    • profile image

      Travis 3 months ago

      Love this page and have gotten some good miles out of it. Thanks! I recently bought a couple oak spirals to try and add some extra flavor to my "juice". When would you recommend adding the spiral, and for how long? I can't tell whether I should add it up front, put it in after primary fermentation is complete and delay putting in the fridge for a few weeks, or transfer to a new bulk container after knocking out the yeast in the fridge. Leaning towards the last option. The spiral says it's best to soak for up to 6 weeks, but I think I'll probably sample some in between and see what I like best. Anyway, your advice/thoughts are appreciated!

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 4 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      FLYSCO is also me, Paraglider. I just answered from the wrong account!

    • FLYSCO profile image

      FLYSCO 4 months ago from Kings Cross, London

      kmtt - yes, no problem at all. Allow an extra day at the start for the yeast to grow, then follow the procedure.

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      Kmtt 4 months ago

      I have one yeast sachet and wondered if I can make two separate batches with it?

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 4 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Hobel - well asked, and maybe I wasn't concentrating! Anyway, my method is for 5 litres total, even though only 4 litres of juice are used. Remember the litre of sugar syrup. But yes, with KDD juice, 500 g is too much.

      4 x 181 = 724 + 376 = 1,100 / 5 = 220 g/l i.e. for KDD juice (which is unusually sweet) total sugar addition should be 376 grams.

    • profile image

      Hobel 4 months ago

      Thank u for sharing ur information all this years.

      I noticed someone asked you about KDD juice in same recipe, and u told him u need 500 g of sugar.( sugar content in 1 L of KDD grape juice = 181 g ) , and u said before sugar should not exceed 220 g in 1 L .

      So I get confused now , should I put sugar (500 g) in 4 L KDD which already has 181 g per L .

      Thank u again

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 5 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Brad - check again, under Day four or five. I wrote "Add one more carton of grape juice and all of the sugar syrup."

    • profile image

      Bradd 5 months ago

      Hey

      On your steps you didn't mention clearly when to add the sugar syrup?

      Thanks

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 6 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Hi Kay - not really enough information to be able to say. If it is still fermenting it will probably be OK, but if it has stuck there could be more of a problem.

    • profile image

      Kay 6 months ago

      Hi Dave,

      I have made red and white wine using your recipe and both have turned out really well. Thank you for sharing your recipe and method.

      Recently I started making another batch. This time I put 2 cartons of grape juice and 200g sugar into the container and almost 3 weeks later the wine is still murky. My question is, will it clear, can it be saved ?

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 7 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Phil - yes, but dissolve it some juice rather than just adding it as crystals.

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      Phil c 7 months ago

      Hi Paraglider, as I already have some Brewing sugar which dissolves easily, would I still need the water in the mix or could I just put it in the grape juice with the correct sugar adjustment?

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      Dave McClure 8 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Jamie - yes, it works well. Best is to start a new batch immediately after pouring off the finished wine from the sediment. Use about a teaspoonful of the sediment to start the next batch. Procedure is exactly the same. If you want to store some sediment to use later, transfer it to a small bottle and keep it in the fridge.

    • profile image

      Jamie 8 months ago

      I have been making your wine for months! It is so good and easy. I have recently read something that eluded to the fact that I could reuse my yeasty sediment in the bottom of my container to start a new batch without using more yeast. This would certainly be more cost effective. If this is true... how would I go about doing it.

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 8 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Frank - if it is not sweet but also not strong in alcohol, most likely the grape juice you are using is low in fermentable sugar. If the flavour is OK, on your next batch increase the sugar addition from 500g to 650g.

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      Frank 8 months ago

      Hi,

      I followed the same process and proportion as stated with the only difference of 10 Lt jar. The taste is good however it lack the power. What could have gone wrong.

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 8 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      Glad I could help and it worked out in the end.

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      Jam31279 8 months ago

      Hi Dave, thanks for your tip , the wine turned out fine.As predicted, the wine is a bit sweet, so might be a 12% strong sweet wine as you said,since i added way too much sugar.Anyways next batch gonna be careful with the sugar, and will possible try some white grape juice. Even also the KDD brand.

    • Paraglider profile image
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      Dave McClure 8 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      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!

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      Karl p 8 months 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.

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      Deana 8 months 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
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      Dave McClure 8 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      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.

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      Karl p 9 months 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
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      Dave McClure 9 months ago from Kyle, Scotland

      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.

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