How to Make Homemade Wine - Step by StepAlmost everyone who has appreciated a good glass of wine has romanced the notion of creating his or her own vintage. However, for thousands of years, the production of the "nectar of the gods" has been shrouded in mystery. Yes, a few ambitious soles attempted to formulate their own wines utilizing more chemistry skills than winemaking know-how. The wines that they produced were interesting, but not always worthy of an award at a wine show. But, the vast majority of wine lovers simply left the process to the professionals.
Fortunately, with the increased interest in everything related to wine, home winemaking has become a very popular hobby. New stores and online retailers specializing in home winemaking and home brewing supplies are increasingly common, and there are many books, periodicals, and websites now available for aspiring winemakers.
The actual process of winemaking is fairly straightforward. Traditional grape wines can be easily created, as well as those from fruits and even vegetables and grains. It is important to note that winemaking is not a hobby for those who are impatient. Homemade wines require months and sometimes years to reach their full drinking potential.
Before you begin to make your first batch of homemade wine, you will need to purchase the right equipment.
You will need:
- Primary fermentation container
(4-gallon food grade quality heavy plastic container with lid)
- Secondary fermentation containers (2 or 3 1-gallon glass jugs)
(rubber cork for the airlock to fit in, should fit into secondary fermentation container)
- Large nylon mesh straining bag
- 6 feet of clear plastic ½" tubing
- 5 wine bottles for one gallon of wine
- Corks (size #9 fits standard wine bottles)
- Hand corker
- Hydrometer (measures sugar content)
- Acid titration kit (measures acid level)
- Grape press (essential if you are making wine from fresh grapes)
- Campden tablets
- Wine yeast
- Yeast nutrient
- Pectic enzyme
- Grape tannin
- Acid blend
Step One - Choose your recipe and fruit
For your first attempt at winemaking, it is usually best to stick to a simple, straightforward recipe for grape wine. You probably have familiarity as to what a grape wine should taste like, and it's usually easy to find suitable grapes or grape concentrate. Remember to inspect your fruit carefully. Crush a couple of grapes between your fingers and taste the juice. If you have purchased a hydrometer, use it to measure the grapes' sugar content. It should be between 22 and 24 brix, which means that the alcohol content of the wine will be approximately 11 percent. Next, thoroughly wash fruit, removing any debris or insects. Throw out any grapes that appear to be rotting. Make sure to remove the stems from the grapes. The stems can cause a wine to taste bitter.
Step Two - Wash your equipment
It is essential that you begin with a sanitary environment and absolutely clean equipment before starting the process of making wine. Used bottles, in particular, should be sterilized before being used again.
Step Three - Extract flavor
Depending on the recipe that you are following, you will need to extract the aroma and flavor of the fruit by crushing, chopping, soaking, pressing, or boiling. The extracted fruit is called "must." Make sure to follow the recipe's instructions carefully with this procedure. It can make or break the quality of the wine. Once extracted, the must will be placed in a primary fermentation container.
Step Four - Blend Additives
There is more to wine than just fruit, and these other ingredients are necessary to the flavor, quality, and shelf life of your vintage. Pay close attention to the order in which you blend in additives. Additives are generally blended with the must in the primary fermentation container. However, the yeast may not be added in until days after the other additives are blended.
One additive that is called for in almost every wine recipe is a Campden tablet. This is actually a sulfite that prevents oxidation and growth of wild yeast while promoting the growth of cultured yeast.
Pectic enzyme is another common additive used in fruit wines. It helps promote flavor, aroma, and acid extraction from the fruit. Tannin is also frequently needed to add bite to white wines. And, of course, sugar and yeast are necessary to produce a wine's alcohol. Granulated sugar is the best sugar for making wine. Avoid using brown or powdered sugar. Some recipes, however, do use honey instead of sugar. The yeast that is required for winemaking is different than bread yeast. Ask your winemaking retailer which variety is required for the type of wine that you are making.
Once the additives have been blended into the primary fermentation container, the wine will begin fermenting. This process usually lasts from 3 to 10 days during which time the container should be covered loosely with a piece of cloth and a rubber band around the opening.
Step Five - Transfer into the secondary fermentation container
Once the initial fermentation process has ceased, the wine will need to be placed into a glass jug that is sometimes referred to as a "carboy." To do this, you will first need to strain the pulp from the liquid and then pour the liquid through a funnel into the container. Once the wine has been poured, the container needs to be fitted with a fermentation trap, called an "airlock." The wine will need to ferment in this container for several weeks.
Step Six - Rack Wine
The procedure of racking the wine is essential to winemaking. Racking is the process of siphoning the wine off the sediments into a clean secondary fermentation container. This can be done with a flexible plastic tube. Racking is usually done on a regular basis over several months until the wine is clear and ready to be placed in bottles.
Step Seven - Bottling
Finally, when the wine is sufficiently clear and the fermentation process has ended, it will be time to bottle your vintage. The easiest way to transfer the wine from a secondary fermentation container into bottles is to siphon it using the tubing that you used for racking. It is important not to overfill the bottles and to secure corks tightly. Newly bottled wine should be stored upright for the first three days. After that, it should be stored on its side at 55 degrees Fahrenheit. White wine should be aged for at least 6 months before sampling, and red wine should be aged for a minimum of 1 year.
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