It has been said that wine is nothing more than grapes that have been left to rest. Perhaps that was true thousands of years ago when wine was first discovered. But, nowadays we have a better understanding of the science taking place during this ancient process of fermentation (yeast, bacterial succession, mold, acid, etc.) and we’ve developed better ways to control the wine fermentation process and the desired outcome.
Natural wine makers are purists. They leave the wine to do its thing, relying solely on the yeasts found naturally occurring on the grapes themselves and in the winery to carry out the fermentation to completion. They encourage these “wild yeasts” to impart flavors and aromas to the wine that can be sometimes unpredictable, sometimes undesirable and sometimes spectacular, wildly delicious and categorically unique to those grapes and that winemaker.
Traditional commercial wineries use commercial yeasts and yeast nutrients to ferment their grapes (as well as other additions to control for taste, color and mouthfeel). This results in more consistently predictable wine. Critics argue using commercial yeast wipes out the “wild yeasts” in early stages of fermentation, robbing the wine of the unique flavor complexity and characteristics that the wild yeasts could have imparted on the final product. You end up with a more homogenized, yet consistent product.
How you decide to make your wine at home is your business. If you want to keep it au naturel with no additions besides grapes and time, be my guest. If you want to use commercial yeasts and yeast nutrients for more consistent results, go for it. There is no real wrong way to make wine. Note: Except when fermenting your grape must with lots of oxygen. Oxygen will turn your wine into vinegar!
How to Make Wine at HomeCourse: Fermented DrinksCuisine: AmericanDifficulty: Medium
Making wine at home is not hard if you start with high quality ingredients and trust in the ancient process of fermentation.
90 pounds of fresh organic winemaking grapes
Filtered water (non-chlorinated)
Lalvin BM 4×4 yeast (optional)
Fermaid K (optional)
Citric acid or tartaric acid
1 bottle of cheap vodka (optional)
- Bottle and Bottling
5 gallon carboys
Wine bottle corker
Wine bottles and corks
Funnel and tubes
Food grade buckets
All in One Wine Pump (optional)
- Sanitize Equipment. Make cleaning solution with 3 tsp. potassium metabisulfite + 3 tsp. citric acid or tartaric acid for every 1 gallon of water. Use solution to sanitize all equipment. Alternatively, you can clean and sanitize equipment using a cheap bottle of vodka.
- Source Grapes. If you grow your own grapes, great! Otherwise, you’ll need to source fresh organic winemaking grapes.
- Crush and De-stem Grapes. In small batches, begin de-stemming the grapes either by hand or by grinding the grapes through the bottom of a milk crate container, while leaving the stems behind. Be sure to crush and de-stem grapes into a sanitized food grade container. Note: If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also stomp on the grapes with your feet at this time. This process is known as grape-treading or grape-stomping, and it’s really fun!
- Cold Soak. Add 1/4 tsp. potassium metabisulfite for every 5 gallons of must (optional). Place frozen water jugs directly inside the container with must to keep temperature down. Change out frozen water jugs a few times a day to keep things at a constant temperature of around 35-45℉ for two days.
- ‼️TEST MUST WITH HYDROMETER FOR ALCOHOL LEVEL NOW‼️ If you skip this step now, you will not be able to calculate your final alcohol content at the end of fermentation.
- Primary Fermentation. On the third day, bring the temperature of the must up to 70-75℉ by adding hot water buckets. Add GoFerm + Fermaid K (optional). Add Lalvin BM 4×4 yeast (around 1 package per 8 gallons). DO NOT STIR – you want to have the yeast close together at this stage.
- Conduct punch downs 3x a day (morning, dinner and prior to bed time) for ~5 days or until hydrometer reads close to 1. Hissing noises should stop.
- Press and Transfer Must to Carboys. Use your wine press to extract the juices into a food grade container or carboy to settle a bit. After about 24 hours, the lees will settle to the bottom of the vessel. Rack the must into a new carboy or fermenting vessel, being careful to leave the lees behind. Place the water airlock on the carboy and wait. Note: If you do not have a wine press, you can press the wine by hand using a muslin bag.
- Racking and Re-Racking. Rack every three months to a new container. Be careful when you are transferring liquid and do not disturb the lees on the bottom of the container. The All in One Wine Pump is a great tool for home winemakers looking to rack with relative ease. But, if you don’t have one you can use good old fashioned tubes and gravity to transfer the must from one carboy to a new carboy.
Every time you rack, taste your wine! Re-rack until the wine is as clear as you’d like and tastes just right (about a year).
- Filtering (optional). Again, the All in One Wine Pump is a great tool to help home winemakers filter their wines in a quick and efficient manner. But, you could also filter the wine by pouring it through a coffee filter or fine mesh strainer.
- Bottling. The All in One Wine Pump also helps you bottle your wines. But, if you don’t have one you can use tubes and gravity to pull the wine from the carboy into your wine bottles. You’ll need to cork the bottle, which can be done with a hand wine bottle corker like this one.
- Slap a label on your finished product. And enjoy your homemade wine!
Related Video: “Grape Stomping” or “Grape Treading”
- Location: Purity Wine / The Study Wine Bar in Richmond, California.
- Don’t forget to take pictures and please share your creations with us @beniciafermentory