Saving grapes: how to make homemade wine

July 29, 2015

Making your own wine is a true labour of love, one that will allow you to relish the fruits of your labour. Here's an easy guide.

Saving grapes: how to make homemade wine

Basic chemistry

  • Wine, like beer, is made by adding yeast to a sugar-rich solution. As the yeast cells grow, they convert the sugar into alcohol.
  • A wine's particular flavour comes from the complex chemistry that gradually transforms the pulpy fruit and yeast concoction into a clear liquid. The real magic of winemaking takes place after fermentation.
  • In a process that can take as long as a year, dead yeast cells gradually fall to the bottom of the fermentation vat.
  • When these accumulate, the wine is carefully racked off (siphoned) into a clean container.Maximize flavour
  • Many experts believe that the longer the wine is aged and the more often it is racked, the better it will taste.
  • Wine is ready for bottling when it has become so clear that you can see the edge of a candle flame through it.
  • Once your wine is in the bottle, stopper it with a new cork and seal the cork with paraffin wax.
  • After several days, put the bottles on their sides in a cool, dark place to age, a process that will take at least six months but can continue for up to a year for wines made from high-quality grapes.

How to make wine

  1. Remove 30 kilograms (66 pounds) of unwashed wine grapes from the stems and crush with a crusher or potato masher. Do not break the seeds. Three-quarters fill a 25 litre (6 1/2 gallon) bucket with the juice and crushed grapes. Alternatively, use purchased grape juice.
  2. Dissolve crushed Campden tablets in a small quantity of juice (one tablet for every five litres/five quarts). Add to bucket and stir. After four hours, add about two millilitres (1/2 teaspoon), each of yeast and yeast energizer. To make a rich white wine, and when using purchased juice, add 125 millilitres (1/2 cup) of strong tea per 4.5 litres (one gallon) of juice.
  3. Cover bucket and place in an area where the temperature is 18 to 21°C (64 to 70°F) to allow the wine to ferment. Stir several times daily to mix skins with juice. When fermentation has almost ceased (three to seven days), strain the juice from the bucket through a nylon mesh bag.
  4. Siphon the juice into a 20 litre (five gallon) demijohn, filling the container to within two to three centimetres (one to 1 1/2 inches) of the stopper. Fill a smaller bottle with the remaining juice. Seal both of the bottles with fermentation locks so that carbon dioxide can escape but contaminants cannot get in.
  5. When bubbling ceases, use a hydrometer to check that fermentation has stopped (a reading of about 1005). Rack the wine into a clean 20 litre (five gallon) demijohn. Do not disturb the lees (particles). Keep the siphon outlet near the bottom of the demijohn to avoid splashing and overoxidizing.
  6. Dissolve 2 1/2 Campden tablets in some wine, add to the demijohn, then fill to within two to three centimetres (one to 1 1/2 inches) of the stopper with reserved juice or previously made wine. Insert a fermentation lock and set the demijohn in an area where the temperature is 18 to 21°C (64 to 70°F) for two to three months.
  7. Rack the wine into a clean 20 litre (five gallon) demijohn whenever the lees accumulate. When the wine is clear (which should be after two more rackings), refrigerate it for two days to stabilize. Allow the wine to return to room temperature, and then siphon into bottles, cork and label.


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