Why Not Make Wine From Your Garden?
Home Wine Making? Why Not?
When confronted with a large amount of very nice plums from my aged plum tree, it seemed like a good idea to try to make wine with them. This was something I'd never done before, so it was a bit of an adventure!
Of course, I knew absolutely nothing about wine making, nor did I have any of the necessary equipment, but then, I always have to jump in at the deep end.....
Most photos are my own, and all rights are reserved.
Winemaking - Getting Started
The first thing to do was assemble the equipment. Here's a list of what is the absolute mimimum you'll need to make your own brew. By the way, it's not the cheapest of hobbies!
- A bucket with a lid
- A demijohn
- A syphon
- A long bottlebrush
- Some empty bottles
- Length of muslin
- A funnel
- Some bungs or stoppers
- A very large saucepan
- Wine yeast
- Yeast nutrient
- Campden tablets
- The fruit or vegetable you're using
There are other things which might be necessary, but it all depends on the recipe for the wine you are making. Sometimes you may need the saucepan to boil the main ingredient, or to boil water to pour over the fruit, sometimes not.
Getting The Gear - ....and Getting Started
Finding out how to make wine from my plums was the easy part; finding a shop which sold the things I'd need wasn't. There seemed to be a shortage of them in my area.
Eventually, I found one a few kilometres away, and purchased most of what I needed. The lidded bucket was a bit of a problem, but I found one in the baby section of a large department store.
Sterilising all the equipment is quite time consuming, but is very necessary if you want to keep your wine free of infections.
Equipment You'll Need
Pretty much everything you'll need to get started.
The Next Stage.....
Washing and chopping the plums was easy, and they were sliced up and put in the bucket. The sugar was put in also, and the water boiled, and poured over the plums. The bucket was then lidded, and the mix was left alone for a couple of days. This is the aerobic part of the procedure, as air is added when you open the bucket to stir the mix.
When it was time, the mixture was strained - another bucket comes in handy - and returned to the bucket. Time to add the yeast, and the yeast nutrient. There are other things you can add, such as citric or tannic acid, but I'm sticking to the very basics here.
For 5 litres of wine, I used 1 sachet of red wine yeast, and a small amount of yeast nutrient. Also added was 1 Campden tablet, to assist with sterilisation. The bucket was lidded again, for another few days, to start fermentation proper.
My kitchen was a huge mess - I can't work without getting wet, or spilling something. Note to self: Get an apron! This had better be worthwhile........
The Anaerobic Phase
After a few days fermenting, and being stirred occasionally, it was time to move the wine to the demijohn to start the anaerobic (no air in the container) phase of the wine making. Of course, once again, all the implements used had to be sterilised to prevent mould or any other infection getting into the wine.
This was another messy process - the mix had to be strained through muslin to remove any fruit pulp. Once this was done, the specific gravity was measured with the hydrometer, and the mixture was poured into the demijohn. In the picture, you can see the liquid is quite cloudy; this is normal for this stage.
A bunge is fitted into the neck of the demijohn and an airlock is placed into the bung. A small amount of sterilised water is in the airlock to prevent air and infection getting into the container. This is the phase where no air gets into the mix, and fermentation proper commences. Usually, I stash the demijohn in a quiet place where it won't be disturbed.
The picture is one of my latest wines just after being put into the demijohn.
Have you ever made your own wine or beer?
Racking The Wine
After a few weeks, it was time to rack the wine. This is when it is syphoned out of the demijohn, leaving behind the 'lees', or sludge at the bottom of the container. The container is then sterilised again.
It's useful to take the specific gravity again here, using the hydrometer. This measures the alcohol content of the wine. A good hydrometer will tell you when the wine is ready to bottle, and if it is sweet or dry. I tend to go for the sweet type.
If the wine is too dry, a small amount of liquid sugar, or glycerine may be added to the mix. I like to use glycerine, as it smooths the finished product. The wine is then returned to the demijohn for further fermentation.
Racking may be done several times over a few months. The best wine I ever made was when I actually forgot it, and didn't rack for about three or four months, so it was very well fermented when I finally got around to it.
If there are bubbles of gas coming through the water in the airlock, then fermentation is still taking place, and the wine remains in the demijohn until this stops.
Once you are satisfied that the wine has finished fermenting, it can be bottled, and put away to mature for as long as that particular wine needs. Some wines won't last.
You'll need one of these to test the alcohol level, or specific gravity, and to see when your brew is ready to bottle.
Bottling The Wine
Bottling the wine is my favourite part - it means the hard work is over, and the fun part is coming. Of course, sterilising the wine bottles, and getting the wine into them is another messy business for me.
I've actually tried corking the bottles, but found it quite difficult, so I prefer to use screw top bottles for my wines.
There is a danger of bottles exploding if fermentation continues in the bottles - that's why it's important to be sure that it's finished before bottling the wine. As an added safety measure, I use an old fridge, out in the garage, as a storage for my bottled product. To date, there hasn't been a problem.
The photo shows the current stock of home made wines.
The Finished Product!
The photo is my plum wine, not as crystal clear as I'd like, but very tasty all the same. Plum wine is notoriously difficult to get really clear, and I'm certainly no expert. It was very enjoyable to sit and watch TV with a glass of it to hand!
I used to give a lot of my wines away, but my partner says keep it for ourselves; He must like it. :-)
July, 2014: Have just opened a 2 litre bottle of 2010 vintage plum wine, and it is absolutely beautiful. Perfect with desert, or just to sit and enjoy a glass or two. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for the 2012 parsley variety, and that bottle has just gone down the kitchen sink - back to the drawing board for that one. I must have kept it too long.