ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How To Make Your Own Wine

Updated on November 13, 2014

Making Your Own Wine From Grapes

Making your own homemade wine from grapes is not difficult, but getting it through the winemaking process and into the bottle can be fraught with little difficulties.

But 'no worries', as they would say in Australia, 'anyone can make wine'!

When I mention 'difficulties', what I mean is, that between picking and pressing your grapes, right through to bottling the wine, there are a number of critical processes. Get any of these wrong, and you could have trouble and end up with the following problems:

vinegar

French word 'vin aigre', meaning "sour wine."

oxidized wine

A wine that has absorbed too much oxygen. In extreme examples, the wine has started to turn brown.

Get it right, and you will have some wonderful nectar to consume, made all the better as you have made it yourself. Now, you can call yourself a real Home Winemaker!

Q How do winemakers not only make good wines, but also make consistent wines?

A Good hygiene, good grapes, good equipment and the best winemaking practices.

SO, LET'S MAKE WINE!

Image credit: Rob Hemphill

Testing Equipment - Useful Items

Get the right kit for the job!

HAND HELD REFRACTOMETER

You do not necessarily need one of these, but they make the job of testing grape ripeness so much easier.

A refractometer is an optical instrument that is used to determine the refractive index of a substance.

Most commonly, refractometers are used for measuring fluid concentrations such as the sugar content (Brix level, for example, in carbonated beverages, fruits, juices, honey and or vegetables, etc).

TRIPLE SCALE HYDROMETER

A hydrometer is an important bit of kit used to measure the specific gravity (or relative density) of liquids; i.e. the ratio of the density of the liquid to the density of water.

It is usually made of a cylindrical glass stem with a mercury weighted bulb at its lower end, which ensures it floats upright. The liquid to be analyzed is poured into a tall measuring cylinder or similar container. Next, the hydrometer is lowered gently into the liquid and given a slight spin enabling it to find its level easily. The exact point at which the liquid's surface comes into contact with the hydrometer is called the meniscus; this is where the reading is taken from. A paper scale inside the stem of the hydrometer enables easy reading of the graduated Specific Gravity figures.

This can be used for both wine and beer. Taking regular SG readings allows one to monitor the progress of a fermentation with great accuracy and so determine the product's alcohol content. By taking readings before and after fermentation allow you to calculate how much alcohol has been produced, and how much residual sugar remains. Also, it allows you to check when your batch is ready to be bottled. Shows Specific Gravity scale from .990 to 1.170, Balling degrees scale from -3 to +35 and Potential Alcohol scale -2 to +22%.

ACID TEST KIT (TITRATION KIT)

The same method as used by professional wineries to determine the acidity level of a must before fermentation, and again at bottling time. Measured amounts of reagent is added to a measured sample of juice or wine that has been prepared with indicator solution. When the sample changes colour, the acidity is determined by measuring the amount of reagent used to obtain the colour change. The kit includes: a test tube, measuring syringe, reagent, indicator solution and complete instructions.

How to Measure Acidity Using a Titration Kit

How to Measure pH in Wine

Where We Start - The Grapes

Important to have clean, disease free grapes

Whether the grapes come from a local vineyard or your own backyard, you can make impressive grape wines with remarkable flavour, body and character.

There are two important factors to take in to consideration before picking your grapes:

  1. The grapes must be fully ripe, and good to taste.

    We look for a good balance between the natural sugar content and the acidity level within the grape.

    Where there is an imbalance between sugar and acid, we may have to intervene by adding an acid ingredient. However, if the natural sugar level is found to be too low, by adding granulated sugar will only contribute to the overall total alcohol level, and not the sweetness.

    A refractometer is used to test the ripeness of the grapes. (see above)

  2. There must be no debris or disease in the grapes.

    Any stalks, leaves or other part of the vine mistakenly cut off will add unwanted bitterness to the sample which we don't want. While any diseased fruit will be detrimental to the clean, youthful flavour we are looking for in the must* prior to fermentation.

    CLEAN GRAPES MAKE CLEAN WINE

*must = grape juice before fermentation

Image credit: Rob Hemphill

Joy of Home Wine Making - paperback

The Joy of Home Wine Making
The Joy of Home Wine Making

"I tried to write a book which answered all the questions I had as a beginning winemaker and incorporated answers to all the questions people had ever asked me about making wine. The emphasis is on fruit wines, rather than grape wines, and on having fun."

 

Winemaking Kits To Get Started With - Wine in 4 weeks plus!

Would You Make Your Own Wine?

Would you like to make your own wine?

See results

Processing The Grapes

Destemming and pressing

When it comes to the actual processing of the grapes, red grapes are handled differently to white grapes.

White grapes

With white grapes, the stems are left on and pressed immediately after picking. The skin and pulp do not become a part of the fermentation as with red grapes, and by leaving the stalks on they act as a good filter system during the pressing cycle.

Red Grapes

However, red grapes are de-stemmed several days before pressing. The reason for removing the stalks is that as the grapes are fermented on their skins, this enables the red color to be extracted in to the juice.

THE RED COLOR OF WINE COMES FROM SKIN CONTACT ONLY.

WHITE WINE CAN BE MADE FROM RED GRAPES.

The stalks contain tannin, and if left on would be extracted into the wine causing a bitter taste. With red wines, we are looking to make a style that will soften with age.

Grape Crusher

Weston Apple and Fruit Crusher
Weston Apple and Fruit Crusher

The manual Apple & Fruit Crusher is a great addition to the Weston Fruit & Wine Press, it simply crushes many types of fruit such as, apples, pears or other hard fruits, preparing them for pressing.

* Easy to turn handle makes crushing large quantities of fruit quick an easy

* Horizontal table mount or vertical corner wall mount options available

* Heavy-duty cast iron construction

* Stainless Steel chute and hardware

* Includes wood mounting base (10 inch x 17.5 inch x 1 inch)

 
Crusher/De-stemmer
Crusher/De-stemmer

De-stemming & Crushing

Not all grapes need have their stalks and stems removed, it really depends on the color of wine to be produced. For white wine production, the grapes can be left on the stalks as the time they are in contact with each other is minimal. However, with red wines it is different. By leaving the stems and stalks on would result in excess tannin extraction during the contact period - which is required to extract the color from the skins. Therefore, de-stemming prior to crushing is vital.

When making wine from grapes, whether you have a small quantity i.e. 60 to 80 pounds and aiming to end up with 5 gallons of wine, or a larger amount of say 600 to 1600 pounds hoping for 50 to 100 gallons, you will definitely need some mechanical assistance. The smaller quantities can easily be de-stemmed and crushed by hand.

A bespoke machine such as this crusher/de-stemmer combination is worth its weight in grapes!

Wine Press

Weston Fruit and Wine Press
Weston Fruit and Wine Press

Make the whole job of pressing your grapes, apples or other fruits fun and easy with this custom built press.

* Heavy-duty, coated, cast iron, double ratcheting head to press with greater pressure and ease

* Easy pour bottom spout

* Enameled steel base and hardwood construction

* 16 quart cage capacity

N.B. Use the Weston Apple and Fruit Crusher before pressing to get the best results.

 

Grape Pressing

Red and white grapes go through a slightly different pressing action, red grapes are pressed after they have been fermenting for a certain length of time (depending on how much color is to be extracted). White grapes, on the other hand, are pressed before they go into fermentation. The size of press you aim to buy is determined by the amount of grapes to be processed.

A small press is ideal for handling 50 to 100 pounds of grapes. It can press about 15 pounds at each press load. For larger quantities, a great press is the E.C. Kraus R-25 Double Ratchet Fruit Press.

Collection of the juice

While the grapes are being pressed, the 'must' (juice) is moved into a container as soon as possible. In commercial setups, a wine pump is used. It is important to get the 'must' out of air contact immediately if no sulphites have previously been added to the grapes.

Use sulphites by direction pre-fermentation, as what we want is to kill off any wild yeasts before we add our known yeast culture. Add too much and the fermentation will be slow to start; add too little, and it starts too soon from the natural yeasts.

BE PRECISE WITH MEASUREMENTS AND CALCULATIONS

Useful Winemaking Materials & Equipment

Preparing For The Fermentation

Once the grapes have been pressed, and the acidity and sugar levels have been checked and adjusted as necessary, it is time to prepare the must for fermentation.

The must should now be in a fermentation vessel of some type - but not filled right to the top. You will then want to add to the must the following ingredients:

  1. Yeast Nutrient: add at the rate of 1 teaspoon per gallon. This is not yeast, but an energy source for the yeast which will be added later.
  2. Pectic Enzyme: add at the rate of 1/8 teaspoon per gallon. This enzyme is used in fruit to help with the clarification of the wine. With red musts, it helps to break down the pulp matter enabling better flavor extraction.
  3. Potassium Metabisulfite: add 1/16 teaspoon per gallon or 1/4 teaspoon to every 4 gallons. This is one of the most important of products to anyone making wine and is used to sterilize the must. It kills off bacteria and any wild yeasts prevalent on fresh grapes. Over a 24 hour period, the metabisulfite will sterilize the must (juice) and then dissipate into the air.
  4. Yeast can then be added after waiting 24 hours. If the yeast is added before the metabisulfite has dissipated, the new yeast will also be killed. Just sprinkle the yeast onto the surface of the must at a rate of 1 package for every 5 gallons.

Once the fermentation gets under way, try to ensure that the temperature is cool and stable.

MONITOR FERMENTATION TEMPERATURE.

TOO HOT: YEAST MAY OVERHEAT, AND DIE QUICKLY.

TOO COLD: MAY END UP WITH A STUCK FERMENTATION.

Stuck Wine Fermentations and How to Restart Them

Troubleshoot a Stuck Fermentation

Racking The Wine

Racking = 'remove clear liquid off sediment'

Once the fermentation comes to an end, - this can be after as little as a few days or as much as several weeks, - the yeast cells have done their job and form a thick residue at the bottom of the vessel (the lees). It is now time to 'rack the wine' off the lees so that no nasty flavors are picked up.

This is where we transfer the clear wine into another vessel. Insert a clear, half-inch diameter plastic hose into the fermenting vessel and siphon the clear wine into another vessel. Then top it off and fit it with a sanitized bung and fermentation lock. This can be a delicate operation, and it's important to go slowly. You don't want to stir up the sediment, but you don't want to lose your siphon suction.

The wine is filled completely to the top of the vessel (to exclude any air) and left in a cool place for some time. This allows the wine to settle out all sediments, so the colder the better.

Once the wine is completely clear, and you have verified with a hydrometer that it is finished fermenting, it is time to bottle.

Bottling The Wine

A very rewarding stage of the process!

You might want to filter your wines before bottling them, this is advisable for a couple of reasons. Firstly, it removes any particles which could cause a problem later on (bacterial spoilage or secondary fermentation). And secondly, it cleans up the appearance of the wine, so it has that it is 'star bright', clear look.

Many home winemakers don't bother filtering their wines as they expect to be drinking them soon. I would advise that if you plan to lay a wine down for a year or more, then it's well worth making sure that the product is clean and stable through filtration beforehand. It's your peace of mind. Another method of clarification is cold stabilization. The wine is kept in a cold environment for some weeks to enable solids to settle, then the wine is racked off the sediment.

There are several different sorts and sizes of wine filters, and buy the right one depends on the volume of wine you have to filter. Bottling the wine is very straight forward, just a matter of siphoning the wine from vessel into bottles then corking them.

Equipment needed: wine bottles, corks and a hand corker, and perhaps bottle labels and neck capsules.

Share with us your winemaking experiences, problems or difficulties. If I can help, just ask a question and I'll do my best to answer it for you.

Have You Ever Made Wine Before? - From grapes or kits

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      soaringsis 3 years ago

      Very interesting lens. I would love to make my own wine.

    • profile image

      noblere1 3 years ago

      I would love to create my own wine, and this is so helpful and intriguing. I would like to share this on my new blog, thanks for sharing!

    • blestman lm profile image

      blestman lm 3 years ago

      I want to make my own wine. Just need to find someone who will give me hands on instruction I guess. Thanks for developing a great lens

    • profile image

      Monkeyss 4 years ago

      I also want to make homemade wine but I couldn't it:(

    • LaraineRoses profile image

      Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

      I have a sister-in-law who makes very tasty wine. My husband and I tried making wine from a wine kit. Yuck! I think we need lessons!

    • profile image

      Foodjackers 5 years ago

      Hi, it's a great lens! I'm new to squidoo and just wrote my first lens about wine and food pairing. Hope you'll like it too.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Wow! Nice tutorial. I love gape wine so much. Thanks so much for this fantastic lens.

    • WayneDave LM profile image

      WayneDave LM 5 years ago

      My grandfather used to make his own wine. It is something I may try one day. Thanks for sharing this, some great tips.

    • firstcookbooklady profile image

      Char Milbrett 6 years ago from Minnesota

      Rhubarb wine is what I can actually get to turn out... but, almost too sweet. I have plums, which I need to learn how to convert to wine... Nice, informative lens

    • profile image

      franksms 6 years ago

      Started winemaking in the 1970s when I did some work at the Villa Estada Cada winery. I have 12 acres of grapes and still play at my micro winery. No two batches are ever the same!

    Do You Drink Wine Regularly?

    How often do you drink wine?

    See results

    Traditional Home Winemaking - paperback

    Bottle Presentation - Labels and Capsules

    This is where you can have fun and design it all yourself

    In the wine industry, bottle presentation is a very important part of the entire winemaking process. If you wish to give away some of your bottles of wine to friends, wouldn't it be great to have a stunning label and capsule (the foil on top of the cork) to show your wine off?

    You can easily graphically design a label, and so long as your wine is for home consumption only, you don't have to worry about all the legal jargon that must be on all commercial wine labels. However, it is good practice to stick to the usual proper info such as:

    • wine name
    • vintage
    • bottle size
    • alcohol %
    • description of the wine
    • and any else you want to convey to your own consumers.

    Have a look at what one of the worlds top wine estates does with its label design. Over the years, Mouton Rothschild has come up with some amazingly different, artistic and colorful labels for its wines - and they certainly help to sell the bottles!

    See more Wine in Art

    Delicious Wine Making Made Easy

    This is a quality Wine Making System that focuses on helping turn someone who is new to Wine Making into a Wine Making star?

    Delicious Wine Making Made Easy was written by a seasoned wine making veteran and is

    the Winemaking System for you!

    Learn practical and helpful wine making tips including:

    • Wine filtering do's and don'ts
    • homemade wine making money saving ideas
    • and how to get the most out wine making.

    Home Winemaking Secrets

    Home Winemaking: Step by Step will teach you how to make wine like a professional, so you can create wine so good that it can be served at any occasion. No matter how important it is, no matter how "wined and dined" your guests are.

    Using these techniques, you will be producing prize-winning wines time and time again - this is flat-out the best resource on the net for making homemade wine. Bar none!

    *** No-Risk 56 Day Instant Money-Back Guarantee ***

    Making Wine is Fun - Drinking it is Better! - Here's to you all - cheers!

      0 of 8192 characters used
      Post Comment

      • bjj james profile image

        bjj james 4 years ago

        I think its time to try, no matter the outcome!

      • WriterJanis2 profile image

        WriterJanis2 4 years ago

        I would love to try making my own wine. :-)

      • Beadsnresin profile image

        Beadsnresin 4 years ago

        Nice lens.

      • profile image

        dream1983 5 years ago

        Very nice and useful lens, great job! Squidoo

      • LaraineRoses profile image

        Laraine Sims 5 years ago from Lake Country, B.C.

        I'll be coming back to this lens. We just inherited a small garden of grape vines. The grapes are green and very sweet when ripe. Thank you for the tips on wine making! It's nice to learn from a master!

      • Wealth-seekers LM profile image

        Wealth-seekers LM 5 years ago

        Wonderful Step by step wine instruction lens, Thanks!

      • profile image

        JoshK47 5 years ago

        Very interesting read - I may need to try to make my own wine sometime.

      • ajgodinho profile image

        Anthony Godinho 6 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        Nice work on putting this detailed lens together ~ my oldest sister enjoys makes wine every year and it turns out great. I will share this lens with her. **Blessed by a Squid-Angel**

      • norma-holt profile image

        norma-holt 7 years ago

        Have often wondered about the secrets to making wine but as I don't drink it and probably will never experiment with grapes to this extent it will remain beyond me to do it. *-*Blessed*-* and featured on Sprinkled with Stardust

      • profile image

        grapegrowerandmore 7 years ago

        Fantastic lens, so organized! I can't wait to make my own wine!

      • profile image

        julieannbrady 8 years ago

        My hubby would love to make his own wine! We were fortunate enough to see an award-winning winemaker's set-up in the Czech Republic a couple of years ago -- surprised to see the 'oldish' tanks along with lots of cobwebs.

      • profile image

        anonymous 8 years ago

        Wow this article could sure be of great help. thanks and great job! Sounds very refreshing. Want to know more about Grapes and grape growing? Do consider this link too: http://goinggrapes.com/

      • profile image

        kacy_waters 8 years ago

        Really nice lens, Great set up

        Kacy

      • Sniff It Out profile image

        Sniff It Out 8 years ago

        Nice lens... I have only made wine in kit form before but I have made Ginger Beer from scratch. 5*

      • Christene-S profile image

        Christene-S 8 years ago

        Blessed by a SquidAngel