Introduction: How to Make Your Own Wine From Grapes at Home
We are lucky enough to have a beautiful grape vine which gifts us with kilos of grapes every year. I love making my own wine from grapes at home with them; it feels like magic turning the fruit into a delicious wine. It's hard work but is also a labour of love. Homemade wine makes a wonderful gift, particularly if it tastes surprisingly good! Friends I have gifted the wine to have told me it tastes excellent.
I used the wonderful Hedgerow Wine Kit from Better Brew which contains everything you need, ready measured out (apart from the fruit and sugar!). It's all sealed in individual packets so you don't need to worry about it going off. You can get it here on Amazon; https://amzn.to/2ZuMitm. I will list the alternative ingredients in case you don't have one of these. I am using grapes but the kit gives you recipes for other fruit as well.
All the bottles and homebrew kit have been reused for this Instructable, and will be reused again. Using home-grown grapes gives homemade wine a much better environmental profile and carbon footprint than drinking wine which has been imported.
This recipe made 26 bottles as you can see from the pictures it came out a beautiful rosé.
Preparation time; 9 hours. (3 hours preparing grapes, 3 hours processing, 3 hours preparing bottles and bottling.)
- 10kg (22lbs) of grapes
- 4.5kg sugar
- Hedgerow Wine Kit or 1g pectolase, 1 sachet/5g yeast, 5 tsps citric acid, 2 tsps bentonite, one and a half teaspoons of potassium sorbate, isinglass 28g (one ounce).
- Campden tablets
- 25 litre brewers bucket
- 6 deimjohns or another bucket
- Long handled stirrer
- Airlock (or 6 if you are using demijohns)
- 26 bottles + corks/screwcaps
- Wine bottle corker
Step 1: How to Tell When the Grapes Are Ready to Make Wine
The grapes are ready to make your own wine at home when they are ripe, but not too sweet. If they taste bitter they aren't ready yet. You can go by taste but I tend to check the sugar level by measuring the density using a hydrometer (covered later in the Instructable). You want the starting starting specific gravity (SG) between 1.070 and 1.100 so the grapes need to be somewhere near this. When you add the sugar the SG will increase. Mine was 1.062. Water has an SG of 1.000; the measurements are relative to this. Sugar is denser than water, alcohol is lighter. This means you can calculate the alcohol content by measuring the density at the beginning, after the addition of sugar, and at the end of fermentation. The density at the end was 0.990. There are various online calculators you can use (Google 'wine alcohol calculator'), I calculated the alcohol content of my wine to be 9.8. I am happy with this as it tastes excellent; you can get a higher alcohol content if you want by adding more sugar.
There is a lot written on the internet about how to check when grapes are ready, all of them say something different! I would suggest reading around it and doing what feels right for you.
Wash your hands thoroughly, twice, up to your elbows before handling any of the grapes or equipment which will come into contact with them. Wash them again if you touch anything else; door handles/kettle/dog etc. (I end up washing my hands about 20 times a day when I follow this process.)
Step 2: Sterilise the Bucket
My bucket had been sitting in the shed since last year so it needed a good scrub with hot soapy water. Even if it is new I would wash and rinse it well in case it has factory or transit residue on it. Campden tablets are great for sterilisation as they are flavourless and odourless so won't affect the quality of the wine. Follow the instructions on your tablets to get the strength right; it is usually 16 tablets per gallon/4.5l.
Crush/dissolve the tablets in a gallon of water and put the mixture in the bucket. Fit the lid and shake for 30 seconds and leave for 20 minutes. Drain, there is no need to rinse.
Step 3: Processing the Grapes
The difference between a good wine and cheap wine is partly down to the way in which the grapes are processed. Vineyards producing cheap wine strip the vines and throw the lot in. Moudly grapes, stems, spiders and all. This can lead to bitter wine. To get a clean finish it is worth sorting the grapes, removing the mouldy ones and washing them before crushing them and putting them in the bucket.
Fill a large pan with tap water and put the grapes in. Pull the grapes from the stalks, inspecting them as you go. 10kg of grapes is about 2000 grapes so this stage can be time consuming; don't worry about getting every rotten one out, it doesn't matter that much. I found that when stripping the grapes off I could feel from the texture whether they were squishy; this was much quicker and more reliable than a visual inspection.
Weigh the grapes to make sure you have close to 10kg. Don't worry if it is a bit under or over.
Crush the grapes in your hand over the barrel so the juice goes in, the drop the squished grapes in. I find that as long as the grapes are burst they impart their colour and flavour to the wine without having to be fully juiced. Put the skins in too, these add a lot of colour and flavour.
Step 4: Add Boiling Water
Bring 10 litres of water to the boil and add to the grapes. This kills germs and also seems to cook them slightly which will help to release the colour and flavour. I also added 5 campden tablets dissolved in some of the boiling water; this can help kill any germs that are left on the grapes. This isn't essential but minimises the risk of spoilage.
Step 5: Sterilise Your Stirrer and Stir
Boil both ends of your stirrer then stir your mixture. Wash your hands before handling stirrer. You can leave the stirrer in the bucket but I tend to remove and resterilise.
Step 6: Add the Sugar
The recipe says to add 4.5kg of sugar. This sounded like a lot and I didn't want to risk a sweet wine so I only added 4.1kg. Adding the full amount would likely have increased the alcohol content. Stir again until dissolved.
Step 7: Add Pectolase
If you are using the Hedgerow Wine Kit add sachet 1e. If not, add 1g pectolase. Stir, put lid on.
Step 8: Add Airlock, Top Up With Cold Water
Boil the airlock for a couple of minutes, getting some of the boiling water to run through the lock. Remove with tongs or a spoon, leave a small amount of boiled water in it and stick in the hole in your bucket, leave for 3 hours then top up to 23 litres with cold water.
The instructions with the bucket said to leave the edge of the bucket lid lifted to let the CO2 out instead of using an airlock but I was worried about backflow and contamination so I drilled a hole and added a rubber gasket so I could use an airlock. My friend Mike said that his elferflower brew used to ferment so violently it would blow all the water out of the airlock but I haven't had this happen with grape wine.
Step 9: Clear Up Some Mess
There will be a lot of mess if you haven't cleared up yet. This is a great time to do some tidying up.
Step 10: Add Yeast, Citric Acid and Bentonite, Leave to Ferment
If you have a Hedgerow Wine Kit add sachets 1, 1c and 1d when the temperature has dropped to at least 30 degrees centigrade. If you don't have one, add 1 sachet/5g yeast (turns the sugar to alcohol), 5 tsps citric acid (increases bright fruit acid flavour) and 2 tsps bentonite (clarification, stabilisation). Reseal lid and make sure airlock is sealed well and half full with water.
Leave to ferment for about two weeks at room temperature or slightly above, or until it almost stops bubbling. Stir with a sterilised stirrer and leave until it stops bubbling again.
Step 11: Strain the Fruit Off
Previously I have used demijohns but they are hard to clean so I thought I would try using another bucket this time and it worked really well. Use a sterilised jug to pour the mixture through a sterilised fruit net into a washed and sterilised bucket, according to the previous method. Press the net against the side of the bucket to squeeze all the juice from the solids, you don't want to waste any of the precious liquid!
Step 12: Add Sachet 2, Stabiliser
Add sachet number two or one and a half teaspoons of potassium sorbate and stir with your sterilised stirrer. Some methods say to stir or shake the CO2 out of the wine at this stage, others say you don't need to do this, particularly if you are planning to allow the wine to mature for some time. CO2 is added to the wine when it is fermented by the yeast. It increases the acidity as it is dissolved as carbonic acid in water. It easily leaves the solution into the air when stirred or shaken. However, if you remove all of it you can end up with a flat tasting wine. I decided to leave mine to stand so the CO2 left left slowly of it's own volition.
Step 13: Add Finings
Add sachet number 3, finings, or isinglass, 28g (one ounce). If you use different finings, follow the instructions supplied. Mix well and leave for one day.
Step 14: Add Sachet 4
Add sachet 4, finings B and stir carefully for 15 seconds.
Step 15: Leave to Mature in Bucket
I left to stand for three weeks at this point before bottling. You could leave it longer if you wanted. It is worth tasting the wine at several points in the process to check all is well. Remove a small amount of wine with a sterilised spoon or cup. Mine tasted too acidic to start with so I left it to stand so the CO2 could leave.
You can see the wine has cleared and there is a layer of sediment in the bottom.
Step 16: Test the Specific Density
At some point when fermentation has finished use the hydrometer to check your wine is not too high in sugar and if you want to calculate the alcohol content. The SG should be 1000 or below. Mine is reading 0.990. You can do this by taste if you don't have a hydrometer; check it is dry and not too sweet.
Step 17: The Bottles
Preparing the bottles is almost as much work as preparing the grapes, particularly if you remove the labels. Some bottles are easier to get the labels off than others so it's worth saving up more than you need in case you can't get them off some of them. You might not bother to remove the labels if you are keeping the bottles yourself.
Soak them in hot soapy water and scrape the labels off. Some will peel, other are better scraped off with a knife. You can get the glue off with a plastic pan scourer. Wash out with hot soapy water and rinse with running clean water until you are sure no soap is left. I rinsed each 3 times with clean water. You might need to use a bottle brush if there is residue dried inside the bottle.
Make up a mix of water and Campen tablets as previously mentioned. Top each bottle up to the very top using a jug and leave to stand for 15 minutes. This will sterilise them. Afterwards tip it out, there is no need to rinse.
Step 18: The Lids and Tubing
People bottle their wine at different times. The most important thing is that fermentation has finished. The simplest sign of this is that the bubbling has stopped. You can bottle your wine soon after this if you wish or leave to mature in the bucket or demijohn. Make sure you don't need to make any adjustments to the acidity, sweetness or anything else before bottling. Mine was quite acidic so I left it to stand so the CO2 could leave.
When you are ready to bottle your wine boil or otherwise sterilise the lids for the bottles which have them. Check none of them are damaged. You will need corks for the others.
You will need some sort of tubing to siphon the wine into the bottles. You can use plain tubing but I invested a few pounds in a brewer's tube which has a filter on one end to help leave the sediment behind and a bulb on the other to start the wine flowing. Give it a good boil for a few minutes.
Step 19: Siphon Into the Bottles
Position the bucket so it is higher than the bottles. Don't move it unless you have to as this will disturb the sediment. If you do move it, leave it to settle again.
I taped the tube to the inside of the bucket so the end didn't move around and disturb the sediment, also so the tube didn't come out of the bucket.
Siphon the wine into the bottles. Pinch or bend the tube to stop the wine flowing between bottles. Make sure you leave an air gap at the top and space for a cork if it needs one.
Step 20: Cork the Bottles
Screw the caps on tight, being careful not to damage the thread. Bring a pan of water to the boil, turn it off and put the corks on the top, with a lid on, and leave for a few minutes to soften.
Use a bottle corker to push the corks into the bottles. The corker will come with instructions. For this one you put the cork inside it, put the handle in and then push the handle down, pushing the cork into the bottle.
You are done!
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