The Wine Making Steps

Racking red wine (i.e., siphoning the liquid f...

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The art of home wine making is simply fermenting grape Must (juice). It also includes keeping correct temperatures, clean sterilized equipment and proper racking of wine (clarification).

Fermintation Must is allowed to reach room temperature (65-75 degrees F) and wine yeast is added. This causes the yeast to eat the sugars in the grape Must and give off a gas and alcohol. The gas escapes and alcohol turns the juice into wine. Fermentation has 2 phases:

  1. Phase 1 – Is when yeast is added to Must. It takes 6-10 days to complete when most of the gas has stopped.
  2. Phase 2 – Is when young wine is placed in a fermenting vessel like a 6 gallon glass jar with an air lock on it. The air lock allows gas to escape (you don’t want a wine explosion) and air to be kept out.

Temperatures The fermenting room should be between 65 and 75 degrees F for proper fermentation. I personally like a slower fermentation (temperature near the bottom end of the range). Once fermentation is completed (stage 2) the new wine can be moved to a cold storage. This storage should be around 65 degrees F for young wines that will not be kept very long. For aging, the temperature should be 55 degrees F.

Sterilization of Equipment – All equipment that touches the wine MUST be sterilized each time you use them. This includes siphon hoses, glass fermentation jars, buckets you siphon into, stirring sticks, meters you use to measure wine attributes. You sterilize with Potassium metabisulfite solution.

Racking Racking is the process of siphoning off the wine into another bucket leaving the residue (sediment) behind. The original container can be cleaned and wine re-siphoned back into it. This process clarifies the wine. All wines must be clarified (no one wants to drink wine with stuff floating in it) but whites can be seen easier and must be carefully racked. I rack 3-4 times before bottling depending on how much sediment was in last racking.

Sipones for racking

Bottling You can bottle by pouring wine from a jug into each bottle with a funnel. I find this to be messy and the ullage (space between bottom of cork and wine) is different in each bottle. There are wine bottlers for around $ 340 that will quickly fill a bottle and stop with the correct amount of ullage. After bottling you will need a corker machine (about $100) to put the corks into the bottles. Corks are prepared by boiling them in water for a few minutes. Finally I like a cap which is either plastic or foil and covers the top of the bottle and cork. These go onto bottle and you dip it briefly into boiling water. The cap shrinks onto bottle tightly. Last but not least is you label to show off your accomplishment. It should contain the Vintage (year grapes were picked which is year you bought the Must), Varietal (The type of grape e.g. Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chianti, etc.) and country the grapes were grown in.

Storage I like a long-term storage area at 55 degrees F to keep my wine. It is an investment especially if you have over 1,000 bottles from years ago. You can not replace the wine. Temperature, light and air are the three big enemies of wine.

Temperature Controlled Wine Storage Room


14 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Maria
    Oct 05, 2011 @ 19:43:39

    You talk about phase 1 and phase 2 then you mention stage 2. Is stage 2 the same as phase 2? Do you get the Must in buckets and have phase 1 completed in the bucket? Then move to phase 2 in the 6 gallon glass jar. Do you move it into cold storage in the 6 gallon glass jar or bottle it then move it to cold storage?


    • georgefebish
      Oct 06, 2011 @ 08:26:16

      Sorry Phases and Stages are the same. I get the juice (must) in 6 gallon plastic buckets and when temperature is between 65 and 75 F, I add the yeast. After a week I check Specific Gravity and if it’s below 1.000 I siphone the juice to a glass carboy or demijohn container with a water lock to prevent air from getting in but allowing gases to escape. Stage 1 fermintation is in the plastic container open to air and stage 2 is in the glass container closed from air with the air lock. After 10 days I recheck Specific Gravity. If it is below .9700 I rack the juice, add some water to bring it back to 6 gallons and move it to cold storage. In cold storage I rack as many times as need (3-6 weeks apart) to clarify wine and have as little residue on bottom of container as possible. The wine can sit in these containers for 6 months to 2 years. Then you bottle it. I hope this helps answer your question.


  2. Torrella
    Oct 17, 2011 @ 05:17:16

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  3. Anonymous
    Nov 06, 2011 @ 23:28:29

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  4. Jerry Mathews
    Sep 15, 2013 @ 02:01:08

    Dear Sir,
    I started fermenting dark grapes in a plastic container(a 5 litre mineral water bottle), i have used 1kg grapes,2 litres mineral water,around 1kg granulated sugar. I dint get wine yeast, so used instant yeast instead. Its been 9 days now, i am maintaining room temperature in the range of 18-23 deg C room temperature.
    Can you tell me if i am missing something?
    When is the right time to siphon of wine from the grapes? i collected information that after 21 days can separate the wine. What is your opinion? After i have separated wine, should i still maintain the 18-23 deg C or higher room temperature


    • georgefebish
      Sep 15, 2013 @ 08:34:42

      A few things I do: 1) I never add sugar since grapes have enough natural sugars in them, 2) I use wine yeast because it is purer and has less vinegar yeast than the yeast found on the skins of grapes (you do need yeast to do fermentation), finally 3) buy a hydrometer (they are not very expensive). When you take an initial reading (before adding yeast) it tells you total sugar content of juice (this equates to alcohol level also indicated on hydrometer). Then you take readings periodically and you should see sugar levels dropping. This is because yeast is eating sugar and producing alcohol ands CO2. Hope this helps.


  5. Jerry Mathews
    Sep 15, 2013 @ 10:34:09

    thankyou, but the grapes werent to sweet and without sugar, would i get good alcohol strength? Also after the primary fermentation should cooler temperatures still be maintained?


    • georgefebish
      Sep 16, 2013 @ 09:38:07

      I don’t go to a cooler storage until sugar levels are down low (fermintation done). Otherwise you suspend the yeast and when you move the bottle to room temperature the yeast reactivates and forms bubbles.


  6. Jerry Mathews
    Sep 16, 2013 @ 10:03:18

    ok noted. I had put 2 batches, 2 different types of grapes, one set started to bubble away in almost 2 hrs and was doing it for almost 3-4days…,and the other one was quite slow,started only the nxt day and also not so much fizzing as the other one, both i used same qty of ingredients. Possibly it could be the quality of grapes maybe, what do you think?


    • georgefebish
      Sep 16, 2013 @ 10:05:18

      It could be, quality is important but I really feel you should get a Hydrometer so you know what is really happening. You can get them on the internet.



      • Jerry Mathews
        Sep 16, 2013 @ 10:12:03

        yes, will get one, once i see the reading on the hydrometer is constant then that means the fermentation is done right?

      • georgefebish
        Sep 16, 2013 @ 10:24:29

        I ferment in a plastic pale with loose lid until Hydrometer reads 1.000000 or less. I then rack it to a glass container with an airlock bunge. I let it sit in this for months until I am ready to bottle. I rack it in and out to clarify the wine. Once bottled I move it to cold storage.


  7. charlie
    Jan 04, 2016 @ 17:05:49

    I have begun making wine from wild and hybrid muscadines. I haven’t been able to replicate the velvety textures of other wines I have purchased. Is it the grape, recipe, Process or ?



    • georgefebish
      Jan 05, 2016 @ 07:47:30

      Charlie, I am not sure of what texture you are speaking of. I have not done muscadines. Texture comes from the grape juice. I don’t see any way to change it in the process unless you filter it. That would make it less velvity.


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