EducateHow to Make Your Own Wine

How to Make Your Own Wine

Making wine is a fascinating process that combines art and science. So, grab a glass of your favorite wine, and I’ll tell you how I made my own! As a wine content writer with a deep passion for everything wine-related, I couldn’t resist. Learning to make decent wine is almost simple when you have the right tools. However, the application and skill it takes to create this art form is something I ultimately decided to leave up to the more experienced viticulturists and winemakers. Though I’m no expert, I created some drinkable wine and had a ton of fun doing it! 

The Background Story: 

When I was a child, my backyard was covered in grape vines. I grew up on an old farm with crops popping up randomly everywhere. My Dad is an artsy carpenter with sporadic bouts of inspiration. One day, he decided to go into the backyard, untangle the vines in the woods, and make trellises to hang them on. 

The grapes were part of our natural landscape in Connecticut. I remember laying in the grass underneath the vines and looking up at the sunlight glistening through the big beautiful leaves. I checked the grapes every day to see if they were ripe. We had two different kinds growing: the small, sour, blueberry-like grapes and the big, bitter black grapes. I’ve now identified these grapes as the Baco-Noir and Chambourcin varieties. Chambourcin grapes are bitter with high acidity.  While Baco-Noir grapes are typically small, seedy, and kind of taste like sour blackberries before they are turned into wine. 

Starting the Process:

It wasn’t until I was older that the idea came to me to make wine. Choosing the grapes was the easy part since we already had them growing in our backyard. The more difficult part was figuring out how to make wine and what equipment we needed. I started a Google search and learned how to make wine from this recipe

Tools You’ll Need: 

  • One 4-gallon plastic bucket and lid for the primary fermentation vat
  • Three 1-gallon glass jugs for the secondary fermentation containers
  • A funnel that fits into the glass bottle mouths
  • Three airlocks (aka fermentation traps)
  • A rubber cork (or bung) that snugly fits into the secondary fermentation container
  • A large mesh straining bag for effective filtration
  • Approximately 6 feet of clear, half-inch plastic tubing for siphoning
  • 20 wine bottles (plan for five bottles per gallon of wine) 
  • Corks (Number 9 pre-sanitized)
  • Buy or rent a handcorker 
  • Hydrometer for measuring sugar levels

Ingredient Checklist:

  • A ton of wine grapes
  • Granulated sugar
  • Filtered water 
  • Wine yeast 

Making the Wine: Step by Step 

Part 1: Getting Started With Harvesting and Crushing

In the early fall, I headed to my backyard to harvest the vines. The scent of ripe grapes hanging heavy on the vines was nothing short of exhilarating. While you should use pruning shears and a basket, I ended up using my Dad’s hedge clippers and carefully put the grapes into a construction bin we had sanitized. I think I collected about 10-15 of these buckets from our vines. Next came crushing. Crushing the grapes was a bit like a grape-stomping scene from a classic movie. It’s messy. However, the oozing grapes in between your toes really pulls you into the process. I loved it!

The Simple Step-by-Step:

  • Make sure all your equipment is clean 
  • Choose your grapes wisely, discarding any that look off
  • Give the grapes a good wash and remove the stems
  • Time to get hands-on: crush the grapes to let that sweet juice (aka “must”) flow. You can use your hands or feet to channel your inner grape stomper. If it’s a big batch, you could rent a fruit press, but I think using your feet is more fun! 
  • Transfer to fermentation bins
  • Introduce wine yeast into the mix
  • Pop in a hydrometer; if it reads less than 1.010, think about adding some sugar. Dissolve it in filtered water and give the must a good stir
  • Cover your primary fermentation bucket with a cloth and let the magic happen for a week or 10 days. You’ll notice a bit of foam on the top…this is just the sediment is just doing its thing

Part 2: Secondary Fermentation 

After waiting 10 days for your wine to ferment, you need to start the second fermentation process. At this point in the process, I was excited, but it was settling in that I would have to wait a very long time to see results and be able to taste my wine. 

The Simple Step-by-Step:

  • Carefully strain out the liquid and remove the froth and sediment
  • Use a funnel to pour the juice into your secondary fermentation sanitized glass containers, fill to the top, and leave minimal air space
  • Put airlocks on the containers
  • Let the juice ferment for several weeks
  • After these weeks, use the plastic tubes to siphon the wine into clean glass secondary fermentation containers to separate the wine from sediments 
  • Keep siphoning periodically (aka “racking”) for a couple of months until your wine looks clear

The Final Push: Aging & Labeling

After weeks of anticipation, the day arrived to bottle my creation. As I filled each bottle with my homemade Baco-Noir and Chambourcin blend, I couldn’t help but burst with excitement. Personally, I didn’t label my bottles, but you can if it brings you joy! 

The Simple Step-by-Step:

  • Run the wine into bottles using a cleaned plastic tube, leave room for the cork and a little extra
  • Seal the deal with corks using the hand corker 
  • Stand the bottles upright for the first three days
  • After 3 days, switch to a cool 55 degrees F, lying on their sides.
  •  Red wine needs a minimum of a year to age gracefully, while white wine can be ready in six months

The Waiting & The Result: 

Finally, after 1 year, it was time to crack open a bottle of the wine I had created with my bare hands. While I was bursting with excitement, I tried to remind myself that this wouldn’t be the best bottle I ever tasted. The wine came out a little unusual. It was a mix between two different grape varieties that I wasn’t even sure could be blended. The result was a tart wine that tasted like blackberries, blueberries, a hint of chocolate, and odd herbalism like fresh-cut grass or hay. It had a hint of spice to it as well. Overall, I was impressed with the flavors and that it actually tasted like wine. 

Next time I make wine, I would love to add in some other elements and experiment with the complex flavors of these wines.  Making wine is an art form that brings joy, satisfaction, and a deep connection to the world of winemaking. It’s a journey that allows you to appreciate wine on a whole new level. It also helps you understand the dedication and skill that goes into every bottle you enjoy. So, if you’re a wine enthusiast like me, try to make your own wine. It’s a beautiful, educational, and deeply rewarding adventure that I’ll treasure forever.

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