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How to Make Wine

Have you ever tried making your own wine at home before? Making wine is not as complicated as you may think. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll be making wine every year.

fancy wine bottles

How to make wine at home:

1. The quality of the wine grapes determines the quality of the wine. You’ll need 60-70 pounds of grapes, and they can get pretty expensive so just start with the best quality grapes that are within your budget. You can visit a local vineyard and buy your supplies from there, which might be the easiest option. You will want to thoroughly wash your grapes and remove the stems before moving onto the next step.

2. Add your grapes to a large clean and sanitized bucket and you can begin the crushing step. You can try stomping them with your feet (just make sure they are clean), or you can buy a fruit press from a wine supply store, which may be useful if you plan on making wine often.

3. For white wine you want to only ferment the juice of the grapes, and remove the skins. However, for red wine you want to ferment the skins and the juice all together.

  • White wine fermentation: You’ll need at least 5.25 gallons of white grape juice, which will then make about 5 gallons of wine. Start by pouring the juice into a large container, this is to make sure that if the wine starts to foam it won’t overflow. Use an airlock to keep oxygen out and allow the carbon dioxide produced by fermentation to escape. Add wine yeast, and follow the instructions on the package, and make sure to keep the juice at a stable room temperature. It should begin to emit a light foam of carbon dioxide within a day or two, which signals the start of fermentation. Once a day you will want to stir the juice to make sure nothing settles at the bottom and the juice ferments evenly.

  • Red wine fermentation: Red wine does not need to be sealed tightly using an airlock, like white wine does. You can just put the juice in a large open container with a towel overtop to keep bugs out. Add the wine yeast, and make sure to stir it well. You may notice it starts to ferment within the first 12 -24 hours. Red wine needs to be stirred at least twice per day once the fermentation really gets going. You’ll see the skins floating to the top and you will need to mix them back into the juice to keep the skins wet. This allows the juice to extract the key color and flavor from the skins. For red wines you will want to keep it at a temperature of 80°F or more during fermentation to help with this extraction.

wine grapes

4. Use a hydrometer in a graduated cylinder to test the sugar levels of the juice as it is fermenting every so often. It’s measured in degrees Brix, which equals sugar percentage. The juice should start out at around 18-26 degrees Brix, and as the fermenting process continues you should notice it reduces to minus 2 Brix once the fermentation completes.
For white wine the fermentation usually lasts several days to several weeks, and the temperature can play a factor on how long it takes to ferment. The cooler the room, the longer it takes. Red wine on the other hand, that reaches a good warm temperature during fermentation should be done within a week or two.

Once the fermentation is complete, pour the wine into a 5 gallon carboy to mature. For white wine use tubing to separate the juice from the lees behind to dump out. Elevate the fermentation container at least two feet above the carboy in which you will age it. For a red wine, transfer the juice to a carboy and then press the skins to squeeze out any remaining juice. Add this to the carboy as well and top it with an airlock.

5. It is important to protect the wine from air and oxidation. Keep the carboy topped up all the way and minimize the number of times you open it.

6. Store the carboy in a cool place out of direct sunlight. Check it regularly for a loose stopper or a dry airlock. Stir the lees of white wine every week or two. When the wine tastes like something you’d drink, it is time to bottle.

Most white wines should mature after four to nine months in a carboy. Reds take from six months to a year. During maturation, it’s good to rack red wines once or twice before you bottle them. Make sure to stop any stirring or racking far enough in advance for any sediment to settle and the wine to clear before bottling.

7. Now it is time to bottle up the wine, and make sure you cork the bottles as you go. You can also create your own fun labels to add to your new homemade wine.

wine fermentation

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