I never thought I’d be making my own wine. Originally, I wasn’t interested until I started learning more about fermentation. Then one thing lead to another and, before I knew it, I was purchasing everything I needed to make my first batch. But, I didn’t just make one, I made two and they both turned out beautifully. Thanks to the information on the web, wine making websites, blogs other people uploading video tutorials, I felt confident enough to try. And, now, I’m teaching you.
Making a Wine Must
The first thing you need to understand about making wine is that everything you use must be sanitized with a food grade sanitizer; buckets, bottles, spoons etc.. The biggest rookie mistake is skipping this step only to put months of work into a wine that turns into vinegar because something wasn’t cleaned and sanitized. You don’t have to wear a doctors mask or anything. Just be sure to rinse, wash and spray anything and everything that the wine comes into contact with a sanitizer.
The wine Must is easy to make. Just determine how much wine you want to make, what kind of fruit you want to use, add 3 to 5 lbs of that fruit, per gallon, to a food grade bucket, add the proper amount of water, sugar, yeast, a few other ingredients to ensure a successful fermentation and you’ll be well on your way to making your first batch of homemade wine.
Wine in the Primary stage
The first week of making wine is called the Primary Stage. Approximately 80% of the fermentation of the wine is done during this time and it takes 5 to 6 days to complete.
The first day is just a good long soak of the smashed fruit mixed with water and a crushed Campden tablet, which is a metabisulflite. Sulfites are used to sterilize and preserve the wine. It also pulls the color from the peals of the grapes and colors the wine. You should also take a gravity reading with a hydrometer so that you you’ll be able to accurately calculate the ABV(Alvohol By Volume) percentage. Homemade wine should be at least 12% to prevent spoilage. My wine usually hits 13%.
The second day is when you pitch the yeast but not before first adding the Acid Blend, Pectic Enzyme and a Yeast Nutrient. Then you can add the yeast.
This whole process should be done in either a food grade bucket with a rubber gasket sealing lid or a glass carboy with a plug and an air lock. An unsealed container will allow oxygen in and that can ruin the fermentation process. Fermentation creates Co2 gas and it’s important that it’s released. So, understand the Primary stage of making wine, is in fact one of the most important stages during the months it takes to make Wine. The airlock will keep the oxygen out of your container and allow the Co2 that is being creating in the wine, to escape.
Each day after, for the next 3 to 4 days, the container needs to be opened and stirred. The fruit is usually at the top so, just a quick stir of the fruit or pomace will quickly release the Co2 build up in the Must and promote a healthy, even fermentation in the wine. Then, you simply seal the container back up and wait another 24 hours.
By the 5th or 6th day, the majority of the fermenting should be complete and should be ready to move into a secondary container. This is important because this separates the wine from the bulk of the fruit. I mentioned that 80% of the fermentation process is done in the Primary Stage, the other 20% is done in the secondary. I’ll show you how to rack and transfer the wine into a secondary in the next video and post. It is in this stage that you’ll only need to check the wine weekly. It’s important to note that during both the primary and secondary stages, the wine should be kept in a cool dark place with temperatures no lower or higher than 68° to 72° Fahrenheit. Each time you “rack”(transfer) the wine into another carboy or container, the wine will become more and more clear.
You’ll want to keep notes about each batch you make with dates, times and ingredients. I’m going to post my notes about this Primary Stage, down below, so you get a clear idea about what I’m talking about.
Check out my Peach Sangria Recipe. It’s made with a mix of Red Wine, Brandy and a few other fun ingredients that make this drink sensational.
Secondary Stage of Wine Making
20% percent of the wine fermentation is done in the secondary stage so, although it slows down considerably, it’s not any less important than the Primary stage. Maybe more so, in fact, because this is the part that takes the longest. It’s less work but you have to have more patience and trust that you’re turning out wine instead of vinegar and the only way to be sure of that is to take every necessary precaution along the way. Sanitation being among the most important. Proper and functional containers like carboys and air locks, rubber gaskets, stoppers and grommets to make sure everything is sealing right is a priority as well. Oxygen getting in the container is going to ruin the wine and Co2 not getting out is going to carbonate your wine and turn it into champagne. So, take care of your equipment and be absolutely sure that everything you use is in top notch condition.
Now, understand that the secondary process is just simply removing the wine from the primary stage and transferring it into a secondary container like a carboy or fermenter. This removes the bulk of the fruit and most of the yeast settlement you’ll see on the bottom of your bucket. The settlement will return again, however, in the secondary stage but it’s a good thing. Each time the settlement returns you’ll notice the wine it’s self will be getting clearer and more refined. The last thing you want to do at this point is stir or shake your wine. Even if you have to pick up your carboy and move it, do so ever so gently. Siphoning and racking back into another secondary container is your best option at that point, then sealing it back up and waiting another week or so for the wine to settle again.
Opinions vary about how often you should rack back and forth. Some people will rack from Primary to Secondary, like I showed you how to do, in the first 5 or 6 days, then wait a month or two before they touch it again. Others will rack once a week. I’ve done it both ways but found that racking 3 to 4 times makes the wine more clear weather you wait months or weeks, makes no difference with appearance. Flavor, on the other hand, can be reasonably and arguably effected but I recently made a Rosè and Chardonnay, from start to finish, in exactly 35 days. I racked 4 times, once a week and even took it a step further with fining(filtering) the wine before I bottled it. My wife and I both agreed that they both tasted great and we can’t wait to try them in a year, once they’ve aged.
Noir Wine for 3 Gallons:
Day 1 Sep 26, 2019
7 lbs Black Seedless Noir Grapes
5 lbs Green Grapes
4 Mandarin Oranges
2 gal Water
1 Campden pill, crushed
Stirred, covered with lid
Resting 24 hrs
Added Sugar, raised Gravity to 1.90
1 1/2 tsp Pectic Enzyme
1 tbsp 1 tsp Acid Blend
3 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1 pkg Yeast, 1/4 cup Hot Water, 1 tsp sugar
Stirred, covered with lid and air lock
Resting 24 hrs
Day 6 October 1st
Racked to Secondaries.
1 gallon of wine in a glass carboy
8 liters of wine in fermenter
Day 26 October 21st
Racked only the carboy into another secondary
Removed the Union on the Fermenter, dumped 1/2 yeast, then stirred to remove the 2nd half later.
The yeast settlement in the Fermenter was stuck to the bottom of the sides.
Mixed 1 tsp Bentonite with 1/2 cup Hot water.
Added 2 tbsp Bentonite slurry to the carboy and stirred.
Waiting a few days.
Day 31 October 26th
Racked to Secondary, Gravity: 0.99
1st Gravity: 1.090 2nd 0.99 = 13.12% ABV
Added 1 crushed Campden Tablet
1/4 cup of Simple Syrup
Ready for Fining/filtering
Racked Fermenter to 2 Secondaries but the Settlement came with it. Waiting on those 2 for 1 more week before clarifying.
I Bought a $55 dollar Starter Kit that includes everything you need to make several gallons of wine. 1 gallon of wine makes an average of 5 bottles of wine, each being 750 ml. so, you do the math. For the purpose of the Secondary Stage, I decided to buy a $45 dollar Fast Fermenter and I demonstrate the perks of using one in the “Secondary Stage” video.
You can keep dumping money into a project like this, if you really want to get into making a professional product, but if you’re only wanting to toy with it a few times, the starter kit is all you’ll ever need. For me it’s fun and easy to do. Plus the quality of the wine is shockingly good and I think you’ll understand that by the time I’m done with this whole Wine Making series. There’s is a few more steps to take so, expect a few more videos about it and some interesting pointers to help you decide whether you want to try wine making your self or not.
How to Clarify your Wine
Clarifying the wine is actually quite simple but there are a few steps to consider. The first is to continually rack the wine. This means transferring the wine from one bottle, or carboy, to another. I do it once a week and no more than 4 times before I consider fining or filtering the wine.
The second clarifying technique is adding bentonite. Bentonite is a grey clay that sends an electromagnetic charge through the wine that sticks and bonds to the molecules floating in the wine and pulls them down to the bottom. I usually add this after the 3rd racking of the wine and the 4th rack is to siphon off the bentonite. After that’s done, a Campden pill should be crushed and added to the wine, as well as potassium sorbate to sterilize and preserve the wine. This also puts the yeast in a dormant state so it doesn’t reactivate or restart the fermenting process, when back sweetening.
What is Back Sweetening?
Back Sweetening is a simple process of sweetening the wine after the whole fermentation process is complete. It’s usually done by making simple syrup, a 2 to 1 ratio of sugar and water. I add the recommended amount of potassium sorbate to the simple syrup before I add it to the wine. Then I stir in a 1/4 cup of the mixture at a time until I achieve my desired sweetness, after stirring. At this point, technically, the wine is complete and it can now be either filtered and refined(fining) and/or bottled and corked.
Bottling and Storing Wine
If you’d like to learn how to Bottle and Store your wine, Click Here for the 4th installment to this “How to make Wine” video and blog post tutorial.