While making your own wine might make you think of hooch or moonshine, homebrewing has risen in popularity and become accessible to anyone with the patience. Making your own wine at home can be an easy and rewarding process. You only need a few simple tools and ingredients to get started, and with a little practice, you can be your own winemaker.
What do you need to make wine at home? You’ll need a fermenter, an airlock, food grade sanitizer, and your ingredients, such as grapes and yeast.
We’ll explain a little bit about each piece of equipment and the ingredients so that you can start making wine at home!
Equipment for Wine Making
The first piece of equipment you need is called a fermenter. Your fermenter is a vessel where you will put your grape juice to ferment into wine. There are many different types of fermenters out there. Traditionally, wine has been fermented in casks. At home you may choose a fermenter that is specially made and sold for homebrewing or you may fashion one out of any other food grade vessel. The best fermentors have a wide enough mouth that you can easily clean inside of the vessel, but have a cap or gasketed opening where you can insert an airlock securely.
One of the most important pieces of equipment you need is an airlock. During the fermentation process yeast eats sugar to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. The carbon dioxide needs to be relieved from the fermenter to avoid the vessel from exploding. Your airlock keeps outside or from getting into your fermenter and spoiling the wine as it’s fermenting. It also allows gases that build up inside the fermenter to be released.
Throughout the winemaking process you need to ensure that all of your equipment is sterilized. Any bacteria or other contaminants that are in your hands or on the equipment can cause mold or other bacteria to build up inside of your fermenter. Food grade sanitizer can be by as a concentrate or in a ready to use form. Many homebrewers like the brand Star San. They will either fill up a bucket with the mixed sanitizer or a spray bottle. Equipment can be submerged in the bucket for a specific amount of time recommended by the manufacturer or you can use the spray bottle to spray down larger pieces of equipment.
Some homebrewers sell kits that you can buy that include all of your equipment and ingredients to start your own first batch of wine. These kids make it very easy to get started but often come with a premium over purchasing your own or reusing your own equipment.
Ingredients For Making Wine At Home
The foundation of any wine are the grapes that you use. The type of wine that you’re making is dependent on what type of grape you buy. However, the form the grapes come in can vary wildly.
You may want to purchase your own whole grapes that you can then crush yourself as a part of the wine making experience. You could purchase them from a local vineyard, or a local farmer or farmers market. If you even want to start even simpler, you could purchase grapes at your local grocery store, though in general that’s not advisable.
Grape concentrate can also be purchased. This can be found as liquid concentrate or in dry concentrate. For example during the prohibition bricks of dehydrated grapes were sold with instructions as to what not to do to make wine. The benefits of buying your own concentrate make it easier to get started. You don’t have to try to crush the grapes yourself to extract the most juice. However some may argue that fresher grapes are better for making wine.
You’ll need to be careful about selecting the proper used to use for fermentation. Different strains have different characteristics including alcohol tolerance, temperature tolerance, flocculation, efficiency and flavor. For example if you’re trying to make a mild and low alcohol content wine you would want to pick a used strain that’s appropriate. Yeast comes in both active dry and liquid form. Don’t just pick out a foil packet of yeast from the grocery store. Make sure you purchase one specifically made for homebrewing for the style of wine you were trying to make. Where are you strains for big bold reds, sweet whites, champagne and more.
You may need to make a starter for your yeast. A starter is where you add the use to warm water and sometimes a yeast nutrient or sugar prior to adding it to your grape juice. This allows the yeast to wake up and become active so that when you introduce it to the must it doesn’t die. When you make a starter you should make sure that the water you use is sterile such as bottle distilled water and that all of the equipment in containers you use are also sterile.
Once you have your grape concentrate and start or you can add it to the fermenter. Then you’ll want to insert the airlock to make sure that it is snug in the mouth or in the opening. It may take a day or two before you start seeing any bubbles come out of the airlock but you should see signs of fermentation pretty soon. After that all you have to do to wait until fermentation is complete or until your desired alcohol content has been reached.
Finishing Your Wine
Once fermentation has been completed you’ll need to transfer the wine from the fermenter into either bottles or into a vessel for a secondary fermentation or to age the wine. You can use a food grade hose in a manual siphon to transfer the wine off of the yeast cake into the second vessel. Auto siphons can be purchased from home brewing stores to help make the process easier.
Sometimes you may need to treat the wine after primary and secondary fermentations are complete. This could include filtration or finding agents or even additives to stop fermentation. For example the additive called bentonite helps the yeast flocculate together so that it drops out of suspension, thereby clearing the wine.
Stabilizers, such as Potassium Sorbate can also prevent the yeast from fermenting any further, leaving residual sugar in the wine. This may be useful in sweet wines to make sure that they stay as sweet as you want.
Finally, after the wine has fermented and been treated, you can bottle it. To bottle wine, you’ll need sterilized bottles and corks, as well as a corker. Warm the corks in a pot of water on a stove. Fill the bottles with the wine using your siphon. Then, use the corker to force the cork into the bottle. Depending on the style of wine, you might be able to age the wine, but always store the wine laying down to allow the cork to stay wet. Keep your bottles out of sunlight and at the recommended storage temperature for the style of wine.
While making wine might seem very daunting with a few simple pieces of equipment and ingredients anyone can make their own batch of wine at home. There are many options, techniques, and variations on how to make wine, so after you have gotten down the basics, you can start to experiment with more advanced recipes. With a little time and patience, you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.