There are normally several steps involved in making a great homemade wine. The recipe given here
uses grapes but you can also use blueberries, raspberries or any other berries of your choice. If you choose to use berries instead of grapes, just the same directions, adjusting the sugar to taste. You will need more sugar for fruits other than grapes as they are much lower in sugar content.
1. The first step in making wine from grapes (or any other fruit of your
choice) is to pick grapes at the peak of their flavor. Under-ripe or green grapes and fruit will make your wine very acidic and sour which is undesirable. Some of the best grapes for making wine include Merlot, Concord, Niagara and Catawba. These are but a few of the many varieties of grapes available for making wine.
To test whether your fruits are ripe enough mash up a good double handful, strain the juice and then measure the sugar level with a hydrometer. A hydrometer is a device that is used to accurately measure sugar levels and they are available from any winemaking supply shop near you. You should aim for a sugar density around 22° Brix - this equals 1.0982 specific gravity or 11 percent potential alcohol - and the fruit should have a sweet, ripe and slightly tart flavour.
You will have to make sure that the grapes are clean and free of insects and other debris. Get rid of any grapes that look rotten or not usable. You also need to make sure that all the stems are removed before mashing the grapes otherwise it will give your wine a bitter taste.
2. Rinse the grapes under running water to thoroughly cleanse them. Next you will need to crush and press the grapes to separate the pulp and juice from the skins. A good way to do this is to place the fruit in a mesh or nylon bag and press the juices out by hand, or, if you are making a large batch, stomping on them with your feet using clean Wellington or gum boots.
3. If you prefer a sweeter wine, you can also add purchased juice or juice concentrates to your mixture. These juices are available online or from your local wine making shop.
4. Next, add sugar, acid nutrients and yeast to achieve your desired ratio.
Here is a basic white wine recipe:
1 gallon of the fruit of your choice (crushed)
5 pounds of sugar
1 gallon of water
1/8 teaspoon of wine yeast (can be purchased from a winemaking supply
store or ordered online)
Let the yeast dissolve in a cup of warm water. Use a container of 2-gallon or larger to combine the remainder of the ingredients in. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Next, add the yeast and stir until mixed in properly. You can add more sugar at this stage if you prefer a sweeter wine.
5. Next you should add some ingredients to help you control the process and improve the flavor of your wine. At this stage you should ad a crushed Campden tablet to your must; this is a sulfur tablet which helps control the growth of natural yeast by slowing it down .
6. You can buy a special acidity testing kit to test the acidity of your wine if you desire. Following the instructions that come with the kit, check the titratable acidity (not the pH) and adjust with tartaric acid if necessary. You should aim for around 8 to 10g/L.
For the purpose of good winemaking it is also recommended that you purchase a hydrometer to check the sugar levels. This is used to check the SG (specific gravity level) gravity level on the hydrometer.
Normal table wine has a specific gravity reading of 1.090. Desert wines will have a higher reading, and dry wines, lower. The hydrometer is also used to measure alcohol levels.
Consult the instructions that comes with the hydrometer for doing proper readings. Both the acidity testing kit and the hydrometer can be purchased from a winemaking supply store near your or you can order it online.
You should also use small taste tests throughout the winemaking process to determine if your wine is developing without problems.
7. Ensure that all containers and utensils you use have been cleaned thoroughly and sterilized. Unsterilized and dirty equipment will result in fermenting bad bacteria with your wine which will give it an off taste.
The usual container used for fermenting wine is called a carboy or demijohn. These come in glass or can also be purchased in plastic. Just make sure that if you elect to buy the plastic one that the plastic is food graded. Using any other plastic may cause chemicals to leach into your wine that will make you sick as well as change the flavor of your wine.
8. Cover the container loosely and allow the must to ferment 7 to 10 days at room temperature (around 70 degrees Fahrenheit or a little above). The container should be glass, ceramic or food grade plastic. Metal containers should be avoided could cause a negative chemical reaction due to the acids in the wine. Stir the must at least once a day.
9. Once the primary fermentation stage is complete, strain the liquid and place in a jug filling the jug nearly to the top to ferment. You will need to put an airlock on the mouth of the jug to allow the gases caused by the fermentation process to escape. (An airlock is a device made specifically for winemaking and can be purchased from any winemaking supply store. This airlock allows carbon dioxide to freely escape the wine while preventing oxygen from entering) Place the jug in a warm place to allow fermentation to continue. During this process, bubbles will rise out of the must mixture for six weeks or longer. When the bubbles have ceased, the sugar is all gone or the yeast have finally expired.
10. At this stage you can take a taste of your wine if you are curious about the taste, but do not drink a whole glassful. The wine is still fermenting and will probably result in an upset stomach! It is OK to taste little bits of wine as you go, but not drink too much of it the whole process is complete and the wine has had a chance to age.
11. At this stage, you can now rack the wine into a container for aging. Racking is the term used for siphoning the fermented wine into another container with the use of a siphoning hose. You can use fine mesh or cheesecloth to siphon the wine through. Let the wine sit until it clears.
12. When the liquid is clear and and no longer bubbling, this means that the fermentation is complete and you can now bottle your wine and cork it.
13. You can create your own labels and identify your wine with the year and your family name or you can give your wine a special brand name. You can handwrite the labels or create them in a word program and print them.
14. For the first several weeks, you should store your wine on its side - this will prevent the corks from drying out. Your wine should be stored in a clean place that is preferably cool and not subject to temperature fluctuations.
15. To develop the wine to best flavor, store it for at least 6 months to a year before drinking. Most wines improve in flavor if aged longer.
16. Now it is time to practice patience. Winemaking is not a hobby for people who are impatient. Wine can take anything from several months to several years to reach its full potential and flavour and you will be fully rewarded for waiting!
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