Overview of How To Make Wine

Wine and fermented drinks have been a staple of the human diet since pre-historic times.  Truly, since the early man began capturing the juice of fruit which naturally fermented into wine.  From this early time, the science and precision around creating great Wines has become a passion for many and a way of life for others.   Often laypeople, and even the well informed believe that you can only get a great wine from an established winery.  However, thousands of people find Wine Making a rewarding hobby that results in phenomenal wine.

{wine grapes} Overview of How To Make Wine

Another aspect of Making Wine that can be fully exploited by the amateur vintner is the opportunity to use fruits, plants and compounds outside of the traditional grape.  Where a traditional winery focuses on commercial product and therefore only produces from grapes, those that Make Wine At Home have the option to explore other fruits, spices, and exotic ingredients.  In fact, anything that naturally contains sugar or some form of carbohydrate can be used as a component of an interesting boutique wine.

Truly creating small batches of Homemade Wine may not just be a hobby.  Outside of the United States, it is well accepted that boutique wineries and home-fermented country wines are often the best available.  By having the opportunity to operate outside of the constraints of creating commercially viable product, small country enthusiasts can choose from the best, most unique ingredients.  Often this results in the most exotic flavors.

Creating wine at home is a great hobby that can be extremely fulfilling.  Unfortunately because of the work involved, it can also be extremely frustrating.  This is especially true while you are learning the craft.  When getting started in this hobby, spend some time learning the fundamentals, what each tool does, and the historic and chemical purpose for each step.  After learning the process, begin simple with your first few batches.  Use each vintage to improve your skills and build on your success.

Keep a venting log to document each step in every batch so that you will have a record of what worked and what didn’t.  Refer to this log every time you make a successive batch so that you continually improve over time and are able to avoid the mistakes that were made in previous trials.  Strive to continually improve your product and continue to have fun.  Enjoy not only the process, but the 8000 years of venting history that went into developing the techniques that you now employ.


Steps To Make Wine

With a basic history out of the way, what are the actual steps to ferment your first batch of wine?  Well, if you want to start at the beginning, buy the fruit that will eventually become your final product.

Sourcing wine grapes does not need to be complicated.  In fact, these days you can even do it over the internet.    Unless you want to just get the basics in place, don’t turn to grapes or fruit from the local grocer, but instead find a regional source of wine grapes that will ship directly to you.

Once you have your fruit supply, the initial step is simply to mash the fruit and create an extraction.  Depending on the grape, wine can be made from the straight juice without additional liquid or sugar added.    However, often additional sugars, fruit juices and water will need to be added to create the desired concentration of fruit flavor before fermentation.  The end product of this first step is known as a must.  During subsequent steps yeast will be added to the must to ferment the juice.

After creating the must, the next step is the primary fermentation.    In this step, yeast that is added to the juice consumes the sugars within the must.  As the yeast eats the sugar it creates alcohol as a byproduct of its metabolism.  By controlling a number of variables that impact the yeast’s life cycle, its access to food and the overall duration of the fermentation process, the Winemaker can control the overall flavor, texture and sweetness of the wine.

The fermentation process occurs in two basic step.  In the first step the yeast builds up colonies in and aerobic condition.  This simply means that the juice is exposed to air during this primary fermentation.  During this process, the juice along with the pulp is fermented primarily in a fermentation bucket.   The amount of time that the must goes through primary fermentation is recipe specific and will vary depending on the type of wine that is being created.

Once the must has gone through the primary fermentation, it will need to be filtered and transferred into a closed container for secondary fermentation.  This filtering process, known as raking, removes the pulp and solids that have formed during the primary fermentation.  After filtering the wine is poured into a demijohn which is a specific closed container designed to keep air out.

Within the closed container, the yeast will begin their secondary fermentation where the bulk of the alcohol will be created.  During this time, bubbles of carbon dioxide will bubble off of the liquid while the sugars are transformed by the yeast into alcohol.    This secondary fermentation is slower than the initial fermentation step, but once again varies depending on numerous factors.    Once again, the recipe for the type of wine you are making should be your guide.

As the secondary fermentation progresses, you will see that the wine will begin to clear and a layer of sediment will fall to the bottom.  This layer is simply yeast that has gone through its life cycle and died.  As the alcohol content of the liquid increases, more and more yeast will die off as the alcohol creates a toxic environment for the yeast.  Rarely will a vintner allow the fermentation process to go this far when making a good wine, but this approach can be used for a much more potent spirit.

After the secondary fermentation, rake the wine again and siphon it off into a container to age.  Depending on the resources that you have available, you may be able to siphon the liquid into a half or full oak barrel.  Once again you can purchase used barrels from spirit manufacturers and vintners online, or by calling wineries and distilleries directly.   If you don’t have a barrel available for aging, you may also choose to siphon the wine off into a clear glass bottle for aging.

Aging and Bottling Homemade Wine

Once you have bottled or barreled your creation, it must be aged.  Generally new wine does not taste great but can become much more complex and mellow with age.  To age your wine, store it in a cool dry place, preferably at a constant temperature of around 53 degrees F.  Let is age for at least a few months, and preferably the better part of a year.  Of course you can sample it every once in a while to see how it changes over time.


Equipment For Making Wine At Home

Although there are may Home Brewing Kits available, fundamentally you can make wine effectively using basic tools found at any good hardware store.  The tools that you will need to make wine at home include:

  • A two gallon bucket with a lid that fits securely on top.
  • A spoon for stirring
  • A pan that can be used to boil the ingredients
  • A fine mesh strainer
  • A fermenting vessel with a rubber bung and airlock
  • A funnel
  • Bottles and corks
  • Tubes for siphoning
  • Brushes and bottle brushes to maintain the equipment
  • Wine making instrumentation including a hydrometer.


Generally all of this equipment can be found at any wine making specialty store or from a number of online suppliers.

Sterilization of Wine Making Equipment

Finally, as part of the wine making process, sterilization is critical.  Sterilizing your equipment before beginning the Wine Making Process not only ensures that only yeast will consume your must, but also ensures that no pathogens invade your wine to destroy the juice or make you sick.

In general, heat sterilization can be accomplished by boiling equipment in water, and pouring boiling water into vessels and bottles that will eventually contain the must, juice or wine.    Compounds that are used for sterilizing other food containers such as baby bottles are actually very well suited to sterilize Wine Making Equipment.

Video that provides an overview of how to make wine
HOW TO MAKE PLUM WINE FROM SCRATCH – using 5 gallon demijohns

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