How to make wine
Updated: Aug 16, 2022
If you are appreciative of wine, or have a surplus of fruit, wine is an excellent way to use up a lot of it. You can make wine out of pretty much anything that has sugar content. -However, just because you can doesn't mean you should. Fruit doesn't always carry the same note of sweetness once it has fermented. I think the experimenting with it is fun. Worst case scenario, if it's absolutely undrinkable, use it as a cooking wine.
This is a general guide on how to make wine. Feel free to play around with it. I highly recommend getting a book or guide to assist you. (More than anything just to understand which additives you may need for different combinations)
Don't let it overwhelm you - If you can make soup, you can make wine. You essentially make a fruit soup, and let it sit, pull out the clearest part, and put it in a bottle.
Things you will need to brew. The start up cost for a home brewer can be expensive, but once you have it you can continue to re-use it.
Wine yeast (This is what turns your "soup" from juice to wine)
A fermentation bag (to separate the fruit chunks from the liquid)
If you prefer to use the fruit juice, rather than the chunks of fruit you will need a Fruit press.
A large crock, gallon jug, or glass jug for the primary fermentation (to have the "soup" sit in)
Large carboy or glass containers for the secondary fermentations (similar size to the first fermentation container) (to move the clear "soup" into leaving the sediment behind)
An airlock (this keeps the mixture under pressure with a vent)
A siphon tube (this helps you suck all the clear portions of the mixture into the new container)
Clean wine bottles with corks or caps to bottle your finished product. If you opt for corks, you may need a corker
A winemaker’s hydrometer, while not necessary, will make your life a lot easier: it allows you to measure the sugar content, and thus the alcohol level, of your base mixture.
Blends of tartaric, citric, and malic acids can also be purchased in addition to the yeast nutrient to further refine the balance and quality of the end result, but they’re optional. - Personally, I always use yeast nutrient, but not always the others - it depends on what I'm brewing
Notebook - take notes on what you did, what worked and what didn't. Its frustrating when you make something incredible, and have no idea how you did it, and can't replicate it.
Ingredients are going to depend on what recipe you use, and how big of a batch you are looking to brew. The recipe below is for a 1-gallon batch.
1 pound sugar or honey
1-gallon boiled water (equal to the amount of wine you’re making, i.e. 1 gallons)
2 drops liquid pectic enzyme, to extract color and flavor
2 pounds fresh, ripe fruit, cleaned and cut as needed
1 packet wine yeast, like Montrachet or champagne yest. (Different yeast strains will give wine different characteristics)
The main thing to remember is the ratio—which is best worked out through trial and error and personal preference, so stay flexible and open to experimentation. To make 5 gallons of wine, the corresponding amount of fruit is typically around 10 to 15 pounds, depending on the strength of the flavor you’re looking to distill.
The amount of added sugar should be about half. (So, if you’re making a smaller batch, with 4 pounds of fruit, you’d likely use a scant 2 pounds of sugar. Or for the 5 gallons as mentioned above you would use 5-8 lbs. of sugar / honey.)
Yeast packet is 1 pack per batch, even if it's a 5-gallon batch.
To be exact, use a hydrometer on your starting juice and scale up from there.
Getting started. (Making the "Soup")
Combine the sugar, water, and pectic enzyme in your (first container) primary fermentation vessel (ideally a large, clean bucket or jar) and stir well to combine.
Place the fruit pulp and pieces into a fermentation bag. Submerge the bag completely into the liquid. (Or pressed juice, if you chose that method, directly into the "soup")
Add the yeast.
Cover fermenter providing a way for gases to escape, such as using an airlock or covering the container securely with several folds of cheesecloth or a clean towel. (Fill the airlock with water up to the line - this keeps pressure in and contaminants out)
Allow to ferment for 5– 6 days, squishing the bag of fruit once every day with clean hands. By day 5, the sugar level should be dropping as the yeast converts it to alcohol. You will see the air lock bubble steadily. As it speeds up fermentation is active. Once it slows down, fermentation has slowed.
After a week, when the fruit is well and truly gooey, lift it out of the container and let drain. Don’t squeeze it! Discard the fermented pulp, and give the wine a few more days to rest, covered.
Now that your wine has been fermenting for some time, you may have noticed that it has a nice clear look on the top, but a cloudy sediment has settled to the bottom. This sediment is mostly dead yeast. It doesn't hurt to ingest it at all, it's just not pretty. Which brings us to the next step in our process, filtering. We are going to filter out the clear desirable looking wine into a new carboy and leave the dead yeast and sediment behind. We can do this as many times as we find suitable for out particular brew, until we're satisfied with how it looks, or you can choose to skip this step altogether. I usually filter twice.
Time to siphon into the carboy. Without jiggling the wine (that mixes the sediment back up with the clear portion), siphon the clear part into a clean glass bottle that can be fitted with an airlock. Allow about 4 inches of space between the top of the liquid and the bottom of the airlock. If needed, top off the wine with boiled, cooled water to bring the liquid to this level. Install the airlock.
Store wine in a cool, dark place where it won’t rise above 70ºF. (If needed, use an old T-shirt to cover the carboy to keep light off of it)
After about a month, siphon it again into a clean carboy. Repeat after 3 months
After about 6 months, when no more bubbles are moving through the airlock, and the yeast has finished fermenting, the alcohol has developed and the wine has been filtered, it's time to get it into a bottle. The same way you siphoned the old carboy with the sediment into a new carboy, you are going to siphon this finished product into wine bottles. Once it is in the bottle, it can be capped or corked.
Aging & Enjoying
Alcohol is funny. Some is great young but becomes bitter as it ages. Others are absolutely awful young, but age delightfully. I had a cider I made once that was completely undrinkable when it was young. I let it sit for 5 years, and it was the most amazing cider I ever had, and I don't know if I can re-create it. Personally, I recommend trying it young. If it's no good, cook with it. (Or have a few other drinks and try it again) Leave the rest to age. If it's fantastic young, use it for drinking now, and save a bottle or 2 for aging to see if it gets better.