The delicate art of winemaking dates back 6,000 years. In all those years since, much has changed about the process, but the basics of how to make wine from grapes remain the same.
Whether you take pride in calling yourself an oenophile or simply cannot resist a good vintage, the winemaking practice interests many.
If you also fancy making your own wine and enjoying it with your friends and family, you’ve come to the right place! In this guide, I’ve put together all you need to know about the ancient craft of winemaking.
Got the grapes ready? Let’s get to it and begin with the equipment you’ll need.
To ensure a smooth wine-making process, make sure you have the right equipment ready. This will help you get it right the first time and avoid errors later. We’ve provided helpful links to help you buy some of the equipment and ingredients for winemaking.
- One primary fermenting container or plastic bucket with lid
- Three secondary fermenting containers or glass demijohns (one-gallon size each)
- Five wine bottles per gallon of wine
- Pre-sanitized corks (number nine-size)
- Wine hydrometer (to measure sugar levels)
- Meter to measure the pH levels
- Six feet of clear plastic tubing for siphoning
- Food-grade straining bag
- Three airlocks for fermentation traps
- Hand corker (you can buy one or just rent it)
- Muslin cloth (one square meter) or a large straining bag of nylon mesh
- Labels for the wine bottles
- Potato masher or fruit squeezer
- Shrink-wrap capsules
Before you start, here’s a general tip: sterilize all the equipment before use. You can do this using the Campden tablets and some water. Or you can use an oven or dishwasher (in the steam setting) to use heat to kill any microorganisms that may be on your winemaking equipment.
When all your tools and equipment are ready and sanitized, you can begin the wine-making process.
One way to practice and ensure that you will not waste too many resources is to try making a small batch of wine first. Once you become more familiar with the process, you can start to make bigger batches.
Harvesting the Yield
The first step is harvesting the star of the craft: fresh grapes.
This step involves harvesting the grapes and removing them from the grape bunches. You can use your hands or a specialized machine for this. If you’re buying grapes from the store, this step is much easier.
Once you have the number of grapes you want (note: you will need about 3.3 pounds of ripe grapes to make a bottle of wine), wash them carefully and thoroughly in warm water.
The overall wine-making processes will differ slightly depending on the grapes you choose. This guide covers the minor differences in the instructions for white and red wine.
If you want to try growing your own grapes to make your own wine, check out this guide on growing grapes in your backyard!
Overall, the wine-making process is quite easy. However, it takes a lot of time and patience to go through all the steps and ensure that you get everything right.
If you’re a novice, try not to be discouraged by the amount of time and effort you need to make one bottle of wine; hopefully, you will find that it’s all worth it!
Pressing the Fruits
After your grapes are clean, you can press them. But first, prepare a clean and dry ceramic or glass jar where you can put the crushed grapes.
If your grapes have seeds, you must decide if you want to remove them. They give the juice a bitter taste, so your choice will depend on your flavor preferences.
Start by pressing the grapes using your hands or a handheld fruit squeezer. Once the pressing is complete, store the juice with the skin and other bits in a dry jar or bucket for brewing.
Check the pH of the mix-it should be between 3.1 to 3.4. If your batch is off the mark, add a bit of citric acid for more acidity or precipitated chalk to bring down the acidity level.
Add one crushed Campden tablet per gallon of wine to the brewing bucket. The tablet should kill all the harmful bacteria on the grape skins. Cover the brewing bucket and leave it for twenty-four hours.
Fermenting the Juice
The fermentation process uses one main ingredient: yeast. Without yeast, your mixture is just grape juice. The bacteria in yeast will help turn the sugars in the fruit into alcohol.
An important consideration is the type of yeast to use. Your choice depends on many factors, such as the sugar levels, temperature, and type of wine you want to make. Fortunately, you can find all of this information on the yeast pack.
Other than yeast, you must also consider sugar. The amount of sugar you add to the juice depends on how alcoholic you want the wine to be. This will require you to measure the specific gravity of the mixture-more on this later.
Take some yeast and add it to the brewing bucket mix. The instructions on the yeast packet will tell you how much to add.
Measure the Specific Gravity
Measuring the specific gravity will give you the sugar content of the mixture. This will help you understand how much sugar the solution needs to increase its sweetness and alcohol content.
The number also helps calculate the wine’s ABV (alcohol by volume). Simply subtract the original specific gravity of the juice from the final specific gravity at the end of fermentation and multiply the number by 131.25.
To measure the specific gravity, pour some of the mixture through a sieve and into another flask. Then use a funnel to pour the clear juice into a testing jar and put a hydrometer in it. Stir the solution using the hydrometer to release air bubbles. Wait for the meter to settle, then check the reading.
If the reading is lower than 1.010, you should add sugar syrup to the mix. Take two cups of sugar and dissolve it in one cup of hot water. Let the solution cool down, then add it to the fermenting mixture.
Mix the solution, then cover it and leave it alone for seven to 10 days at room temperature. Open up the solution and stir it once a day.
Once the fermenting period is complete, get a second bucket and sterilize it using a Campden tablet and some water. Then, push the muslin cloth into the solution to sterilize it. Empty the bucket and place the clean cloth over a sieve.
Pour the fermented mix through the sieve and cloth. Squeeze thoroughly to get all the juice out.
Measure the specific gravity of the mixture. You may need to increase the sugar content once again using sugar syrup. Remember to let the sugar mixture cool down before adding it to the juice.
Sterilize your demijohn using a Campden tablet and some water. Then, use the siphoning tube to move the juice from the bucket into the demijohn. Place the tube as far down as possible into the wine bottle and make sure the opening remains below the liquid level. This will ensure that no bubbles or air will enter the wine, thus preventing bacterial spoilage.
Fit the airlock and leave the solution to ferment. The airlock should also keep any bacteria from getting into the wine.
This stage of fermentation will take several months to a year. Since there is no pulp in this mix, there is no need to open it up and stir it.
It’s best to leave the juice to ferment for at least 3 months, or until the liquid is running clear before moving to the next stage.
The racking process involves siphoning the wine into a separate container while leaving as many sediments as possible behind. At this stage, you will be racking the mix to add flavor, sweetness, or make the wine drier. Adding sugar will make the wine sweeter and more alcoholic while adding tannin powder will make it more acidic and drier. Adding cinnamon and cloves will give it a pleasant aroma and flavor.
Dry wine needs racking for at least 16 weeks. This gives the sugars enough time to ferment and increases the alcohol level. You can add a stabilizer to halt the brewing and make the wine less dry and sweeter.
If the final specific gravity is still too high, allow the fermentation to continue for a few more days to let the excess sugars convert into alcohol. The ideal ABV for wine is between 12% and 15%.
Once you’re satisfied with the wine, its sweetness, and alcohol content, you can bottle it up.
Bottling the Juice
Finally! All your hard work has finally come to its fruitful conclusion. The bottling is all that remains between you and a glass of good homemade wine.
You can ask a friend or family member for help with the bottling process as it can be quite tedious.
To begin, start your last siphoning of the wine into sterilized bottles. This removes the minor sediments. Then, cork all the bottles of wine using a hand corker.
You can choose to label the wine bottles to date them or leave them as they are. Store the bottles upright for the first three days, then store them on their side at about 55 degrees.
You can extend the aging process for as long as you want. But once you’ve opened a bottle, use it up within a few days as wine aerates and spoils quickly.
I suggest you let the wine sit for at least two months. All that waiting is more than worth it as wine only becomes more delicious with age.
The only step remaining is enjoying your wine!
Two Types of Wine
Dry Red Table Wine
- Red grapes
- Filtered water
- Granulated sugar
- Campden tablets
- Tannin powder
For most of the part, making red wine follows the process mentioned above. The only differences are the sediments, fermentation, residual sugar, and maturation period.
Pressing grapes for red wine involves the skin and seeds as they impart a deep red hue, tannin content, and flavor to the end product. As the wine is dry, it will need to be completely fermented, leaving little or no residual sugars.
Red wine fermentation takes place in oak barrels that give wine additional tannins by increasing the oxidation process. Winemakers at home can also use tannin powder.
Red wine needs at least twelve months to mature.
White Table Wine
- White grapes
- Filtered water
- Campden tablets
The wine-making process for white wine involves all the steps mentioned in the guide above. It only differs in the immediacy of pressing, sediment, fermentation, and maturation period.
The grape pressing begins right away to prevent prolonged contact of the fruit with the skin and seeds. This ensures the wine retains its white color.
Unlike red wine, fermentation for whites takes place in stainless steel tanks to limit oxidation and retain fruity aromas and freshness. You can use glass containers at home.
White wine also requires less time to mature-it is ready for consumption within six months.
Wrapping Up the Winemaking Process
I hope this guide has answered all your questions on how to make wine from grapes.
Making wine is a surprisingly easy task. And with the right tools, ingredients, and focus on the step-by-step process, anyone can get it right. Use this wine recipe to get started and keep practicing to better understand the art.
To make the most out of your painstakingly created product, you can learn about the best food pairings that work with homemade wine to make yours a smash at the next family dinner.
Check out this guide to the 12 best grapes for winemaking (red and white wine) to learn which grapes to choose.
Excited for more grape content? Next, check out my grape vine page for more growing tips, care guides, recipes, and more!