Wine Making Course

Cropped image of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes fro...

Image via Wikipedia

Here is a simple outline for making wine at home:

  1. Decide on Must, Kits or grapes first. Grapes need to be crushed and typically are more expensive. They do add flavor from the skins. Kits are just dehydrated Must. Add water to kits as per their instructions (typically produces 6 gallons of wine or about 30 bottles). Kits and sometimes Must can be bought at Wine & Beer making suppliers. All three can be bought at some specialty stores and over the internet.
  2. Select the varietals you like. There are a large number of wines (from kits, Must or grapes) available. Typically Must and grapes come from California, Italy and Chile. Kits can come from all over the world.
  3. Logging should be kept of each Must including (purchase date, place, price, pickup date, varietal, vintage and a list by date of what you did in each of these steps.
  4. Primary Fermentation is usually done in 6 gallon plastic buckets. If you buy Must you will get it in one of these buckets. For grapes after the crush you will have 6 gallons of Must. Kits after adding water will produce 6 gallons of Must. Place plastic bucket with lid on loosely (prevents bugs from getting in). Allow Must to reach a temperature og 65 degrees F to 75 degrees F. Mix yeast with warm water as per instructions on bag. Add yeast to Must and DO NOT Stir! Maintain 65 – 75 degrees F throughout fermentation. After 2 days you will see active fermentation and be able to smell the yeast (a very nice smell like a winery). After 7 days check the specific gravity of the Must with a hydrometer. If it is under 1.0100, move to secondary fermentation. If it is higher than 1.0100, check each additional day until it goes below 1.0100. Place the name of the wine on a piece of tape and keep it with the wine throughout the process until you bottle.
  5. Secondary Fermentation is usually done in 6 – 6.5 gallon carboys or demijohns. If you are making a lot of one type of wine, you can use larger containers but they will be very heavy to move. Have you primary fermenting bucket with the Must on a desk so it is higher than the carboy or demijohn you will siphon into. Siphon wine from primary to secondary. Wine siphons have a lip at the bottom to leave a small amount of Must and sediment behind. Sediment is not a concern at this early stage. The Must will be full of small particles of grape skin. Do Not Stir again at this point. DO NOT ADD ANY Sulfites (this would kill the fermentation process and leave you with undrinkable semi alcoholic beverage). After another 5 to 10 days you will start the clarification process.
  6. Clarification Process is to clear the wine of suspended particles. All wine has very small particles which give it the flavor and color but you don’t want to be able to see these particles. This process will get rid of the larger particles in wine. Check the specific gravity with a hydrometer again. This time it should be under .990 for 2 days in a row. If it is above .990 wait a day and recheck.
  7. Racking is the process of siphoning the wine from the glass fermenting container back to the original bucket. You then clean the fermenting glass container and siphon the wine from the plastic bucket back to the glass container. If you have extra carboys or demijohns you can avoid a double siphon. Add XX tablespoon of sulfite per 6 gallons to stabilize the wine. White wines may need more racking to provide a clear wine. There is no right or wrong answer on how many times you should rack the wine. I look at amount of sediment each time (the first will usually have a lot). If is it very small I stop racking. Each time you rack add sulfites until the last time when you are bottling. DO NOT ADD ANY AT THIS TIME. Each time you rack run a drill with a special wine sitter to get rid of any gas. BE VERY CAREFUL DURING INITIAL RACKINGS, the wine can foam up and overflow onto your floor.
  8. Move to Cool Storage – Once the hydrometer reads below .990 the fermentation is about over. It does continue slightly but for all practical purposes the process is complete. It is now time to allow your new wine to age a bit and become wine. Storage should be 55 degrees F for long term storage or under 65 degrees for short-term. During this period rack as needed each month and taste your wine. It should be developing nicely. Oak chips can be added in secondary or during cool storage to add an oaky flavor to your wines.
  9. To Bottle or not to Bottle You can leave the wine in the 6 gallon storage for up to 2 years like a commercial winery would do or bottle it and age it in the bottles.
  10. Bottling Rack to a plastic bucket before bottling to illuminate any final sediment. Stir with drill to ensure gas is gone. NEVER BOTTLE IF YOU HAVE EXCESSIVE GAS OR IS NOT CLEAR. This will cause your wines to be like Champaign. You can also blend different wines together before bottling. Maybe 50% Merlot and 50% Cabernet Sauvignon. Use a bottler for best results. Boil corks in a pan of water for a few minutes and strain them. Use a corker to place cork in bottle. If you have a label, place it on the bottle. Put bottles in a box standing upright for several days. After this time cap your wine by placing caps over top of bottle and very briefly dipping them upside down into a pot of boiling water (hold cap with one finger). Cap will shrink tight onto wine bottle. You can now store them upside down in wine boxes or horizontally on a shelf. Your wine is complete.
  11. Enjoy your wine with family and friends.

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