In a catastrophe, people will yearn for former comforts. If you can produce and bottle your own wine, you can give them a piece of what they miss. Psychologically, this can go a long way toward building alliances. Homemade wine is a tangible item and can be a great way to barter for supplies. At the very least, wine will be a welcome additional beverage for you and your family.
Plus, I don’t need to tell you it has a really, really long shelf life, do I? If you store it properly, homemade wine will last you at least 5 years.
Ready to make some wine? Great. Below is a list of the supplies you will need, the steps, and some tips to properly make a quality homemade bottle of wine.
The following list will give you the ability to make a gallon of wine (5 bottles) from fresh grapes. Any homebrew supply store will carry them. The home-brewer association website has a search tool to help find a quality establishment in your area:
- Cheese Cloth
- Acid Titration Kit
- Corks/hand corker
- 5 wine bottles (750 ml each)
- Nylon Straining Bag (large)
- Two one-gallon glass jugs
- Fermentation lock and bung
- Food-grade pale and lid (2-4 gallons)
- Clear, flexible half-inch diameter plastic tubing
#1. Inspect the Fruit
Make sure the grapes don’t have insect debris from the vineyard. Wash them thoroughly beforehand. If a grape looks low grade, just throw it out. One bad grape could affect the final product.
Make sure to remove stems. If kept in the batch, they will make the wine overly bitter and difficult to drink.
To make wine, the grapes have to be fully ripe. This can be hard to determine from simply looking, tasting, and feeling the fruit. The best way to check is to get about two handfuls full of grapes, strain their juice, and measure the sugar levels in the hydrometer mentioned above. The density should be around 22 degrees Brix, which you will see measured on the device.
#2. Crush the Fruit
If you don’t want to use your bare hands, you can buy a potato masher. Don’t be afraid to get messy. You should gather juice until you have a about 1 ½ inches of free space left in your crock- almost fill it all the way up.
If you don’t have enough juice, fill in some space with filtered water. Obviously, too much water will dilute the final product. When you’re at the correct volume, add a Campden tablet. This will add sulfur dioxide, ridding your liquid of yeast and bacteria.
#3. Add Any Extras
Now’s the best time to add some extra ingredients for flavor. Keep in mind that wine isn’t only made from grapes. There are other variations such as pineapple, dandelion, and cherry. If you don’t like typical grape wine, try those.
A typical addition to wine is honey. It adds a nice extra level of sweetness that fights the tartness of the final product. 2 cups will add to the flavor, and if you like especially sweet wine add more. If you’re adding honey to berry wine, put in more because the tartness could be overwhelming without it.
If you don’t want to use honey, sugars are also an option. These will actually cause the wine to become slightly more alcoholic because of the chemical reactions. Cane sugar, beat sugar, and brown sugar will create a final product with an alcohol level between 13% and 15%. Typical wine is 11.5%.
#4. Put in the Yeast
Now is the time to add the yeast- after you put in extra ingredients for flavor. Use a long handled spoon to slowly stir it into the mixture, which is now called a must. Over the next 24 hours, the yeast will begin to react with the liquid. Make sure to take a few glances to see if its causing bubbles, which means the proper carbon-monoxide reaction is occurring.
#5. Start Fermentation
Cover your pot. This will keep any contaminants out of the mixture and allow the chemistry to work properly. There are lids designed for this purpose, but in a pinch you can use a piece of cloth and a rubber band that fit tightly over the top.
Now, put the container in a slightly warm area over night. Ideally, the mixture should stay around 70 degrees Fahrenheit. A cold storage place won’t initiate the yeast to mix with liquid. If the crock is put in a hot area, the yeast will simply die. Balance is very important in this step.
Store your mixture in the temperate area for 3 to 4 days. After the first 24 hours, open the lid and stir. Do this every four hours on the first day. Check to make sure the proper reactions are occurring. Bubbles are good. Stillness is bad. After the first day, you can stir with less regularity but still about 3 times a day to keep the process rolling along.
#6. Siphon and Strain
After three days the bubbling should start to subside. This means it’s time to siphon and strain the liquid. This will remove the lumps and bumps to prepare the future wine for long-term storage.
Make sure to siphon into an air locked container unit like the carboy mentioned in the supply list above. The mechanism on the carboy allows you to release gas, while keeping air out. Letting gas out without letting air get into the container is crucial to making wine. Any oxygen in the container will stop the chemical reaction.
If you don’t have an airlock, place a small balloon upside down over the opening. This will allow gas to escape, while acting a seal to keep air out. Every few days just remove the used balloon and quickly attach a new one.
#7. Let the Wine Sit
Wine must sit for at least a month before you drink it. This will be a long process. If you can, let it sit for up 9 months. This will create a a true store quality glass of wine.
Watch for sludge build up at the bottom of your container. This is called “Lees” and is decayed yeast cells. Sludge is a good sign because the process that creates flavor also kills yeast cells. However, excess sludge at the bottom will ruin the flavor.
Make sure to transfer the wine safely to another container in a process called racking. Keep oxygen contact to minimum, while putting the liquid in another container. Then, wipe out any sludge and place the wine back in the original container to continue the fermentation process.
Also, if you added honey in the beginning let it sit longer than you normally would. If you drink the wine too soon, it will be overpoweringly sweet.
#8. Put the Wine in Bottles
This is the riskiest part. Often wine will turn to vinegar because people mishandle getting the wine from the container to a bottle. To fight this, add a Camden tablet right as you undo the airlock, and immediately siphon into clean bottles. Fill them close to overflowing and cork as soon as possible.
If you don’t drink it, the wine will actually continue to attain flavor over time. Be sure to check your batch after six months, though. If any air gets in the bottle the wine will have spoiled. It’s extremely discouraging to uncork a bottle of wine you’ve been aging for flavor only to discover it has been spoiled for months.
A quick way to check is looking at the cork. Wine that has turned will push the cork up and slightly out of the bottleneck. Check for this about every week.
An extra note on bottle usage is that red wine should always be kept in a dark bottle. This will help it keep its vibrant color.
Cleanliness is Very Important
This is not just a note on health. If bacteria invade the wine, it will become vinegar on the spot. If this does happen, keep calm. You can still use the product as a quality meat marinade. Often, the first attempt at making wine ends up with better than average quality vinegar.
Use your senses to discern if your wine has turned. If the smell resembles cardboard or vinegar, don’t drink it. Some spoiled wine can also have a raisin-like aroma. Also, if the taste of the wine has a fizz to it, do not swallow. This means a second fermentation has occurred inside the bottle.
If you add a four-inch piece of oak into the glass jug during the second stage of fermentation, it will give the wine a nice wood flavor. Even in the bottle, the wood flavor will continue to deepen.
Nothing Happening? Add Chalk.
An easy mistake to make is to create a must that is too acidic. Typically this will happen in berry wines. There won’t be any fermentation despite the situation being perfect. Just toss in a piece of chalk to balance the PH levels. It can solve the problem almost immediately.
Keep the Leftover Fruit
The remaining fruit from leftover wine is great for starting your next batch. You won’t need as many ingredients to get bold flavor. Plus, the fruits get stronger each time you do it. Throwing them out is a giant waste.
Follow these steps and you’ll be making your own wine in no time. It may take a few to get it just right. There are a lot of little problems that can pop up and ruin the batch. However, if you can get your own style going, making wine can really be an excellent creative outlet. Instead of relying on a store, you can do all the marketing and selling of the wine yourself and put some money in your pocket too.