Some Basic Background
I made my first fruit wine in 1992 and have been making wine from kits and from scratch ever since. As a rough estimate I have made close to 20,000 x 23 liter batches since then.
There are hundreds of different ways to make wine and they are all the right way IF it makes a wine you like. If it is not as good as you want then change something to make it better.
My hope is to give you some basic tools and techniques to help you make a better wine. It is not hard to make wine but it does take some care. We are only going to scratch the surface of wine making, but it should make those who try your wine sit up and take notice.
Brewers make coffee and beer, not wine
Vintners make wine.
Wine is fermented not brewed.
We are not making home brew we are making wine.
Ok got that off my chest. Let's make wine.
Step 1: Equipment
There is equipment you need and there is equipment that makes wine making fun and easy so you will want to keep making more. If you try you can always find an exception to the rule.
I am going to base this on making a 23 liter batch of blackberry wine but you can make wine from most fruit by following these guidelines. I will use liters because they are the same no mater which border you cross.
5 imp. gallon = 23 liters
5 US gallon = 19 liters
You will need.
4kg or 10 LB white sugar (more if you need to increase potential alcohol)
9-27kg /20 - 60 LB of fruit. Details later
23 liter glass carboy with airlock and bung x2 you should always have one more than the number of batches you will make.
30 liter or larger food grade bucket / primary fermenter with lid
Long spoon ( In the picture, the end closest to the funnel is the handle. Most people get it wrong until they try to fit it in a carboy.)
Triple scale hydrometer and test jar
Racking tube and siphon hose
Potassium metabisulphite (KMS)
Yeast (Lalvin EC-1118 )
Step 2: Clean and Sanitized
Sani brew or diversol is a cleaner for removing dirt, mold and wine residue, some scrubbing required. It will sanitize with 20 min contact time.
Potassium Metabisulphite (KMS) is a sanitizer (not for beer). All equipment should be sprayed with a sulphite solution before use, to neutralize any Sani Brew residue and to sanitize. Do not rinse unless using filtered water and you feel the need.
Step 3: Fruit
Most fruit is best frozen. Freezing breaks open the cells and you get more juice. Don't be afraid to mix and match, if you think it would make a good jam, jelly or pie, chances are it will make a nice wine too. Some of the best wines have been Mustgo wine, everything in the freezer that must go.
Raspberry - powerful, a little goes a long way
Plum - pitted if using a bladder press
Rhubarb - diced. Great with pineapple
Cherry - sour cherry is better
Apples, pears, grapes I like to juice fresh, not frozen.
Step 4: Choosing the Style of Wine
So how much fruit do you have? How much do you need?
If you are not sure what you like then 30 LB of fruit is a good place to start. If you go too much over that you can end up having to make a sweet wine whether you like one or not. More on that later.
What % of alcohol do you want?
In case you don't know, yeast eats sugar, pees alcohol and farts CO2 ( carbon dioxide ).
The more sugar you give it the more alcohol it produces, to a point. Some yeast will die at 6% and others can handle up to 20%
To qualify as a wine we want between 8-14% and Lalvin EC-1118 will do that with ease.
For a lighter flavour wine you can use as little as 20 LB but I would not go less than that for most fruit. If you want a rich, sweet, dessert style you could use up to 65 LB.
Step 5: Thawing the Fruit
Sanitize primary fermentor.
Place frozen fruit into primary to thaw and put the lid on. Leave at room temperature (18-20 Celsius ) for 24 hours
BEWARE THE FRUIT FLY. HE WILL TURN YOUR WINE TO VINEGAR.
When the fruit is no longer frozen
Add 1/2 tsp Potassium Metabisulphite to kill wild yeast.
2 tsp pectic enzyme to remove pectin.
2 tsp yeast nutrient
2 Tbsp acid blend
Mix in well and then wait 24 hours with the lid on. This gives the potassium Metabisulphite time to evaporate.
After the 24 hours, sprinkle the yeast (lalvin EC-1118) over the fruit and let sit 20 minuets then mix in.
Let ferment for 3 days. Longer than 3 days on the seeds can make the wine bitter.
-60 LB blueberries.
-45 LB blackberries and Saskatoon berries
Saskatoons give almost an earthy flavour.
Step 6: Pressing the Fruit
Sanitize all equipment to be used. (KMS)
This is a good time to hydrate the bentonite.
Use 2 cups hot water and mix as you slowly pour in 1Tbsp bentonite , keep mixing till there are no lumps, let sit for 20 minuets for best effects. ( I use a blender designated to bentonite. Much easier).
A fruit press is one of those things that is nice to have but you can make do without. You get more juice with a press so you may want to use a little more fruit if you don't have one.
If you don't have a press you can use a cheese cloth bag or a fine mesh "nylon bag" even Grannies old socks if you want that special home made flavour.
2 pictures of what is left of the blueberries after pressing and one of mixed berries.
Step 7: Making Your Style
Here is where we create the wine.
Sanitize all equipment that will be used. (KMS)
I like to pour the juice through a cheese cloth into the carboy so any extra pulp that may have come through the press is removed.
For a dry style of wine I want a minimum of 25% juice maximum 50% juice.
For a sweet style of wine I want a minimum of 25% juice and a maximum of 100% juice ( don't put it all in yet).
If you have less than 50% juice a 4 kg (10lb) bag of sugar should give you a potential of 10-12% alcohol.
If you use more than 50% juice you could get closer to 14% potential.
2 cups of sugar will raise potential alcohol by about 1% in a 23liter carboy.
Pour sugar (4kg) into carboy. If you think you might want to add some more sugar to boost alcohol, then leave 2cm (1") space below 23liter line when you top up the carboy with water. Stir until all sugar is dissolved, then stir some more.
Step 8: Check Specific Gravity (S.G.)
Test and record
Here is where we use the wine thief, hydrometer and test jar.
Fill test jar until hydrometer floats freely.
Spin hydrometer to remove air bubbles that can affect readings.
Some hydrometers read from the top of the meniscus some at the bottom. Know your hydrometer.
In the pictures you can see that the S.G. Is 1.102 (mine reads at the top)
The other scale gives potential alcohol and you can see that it is just over 14%.
Write the S.G. Down and the date it was taken. I have made spread sheets that I tape to the carboy and record everything that I do to the wine.
If the S.G. Is higher than this you run the risk that it won't be able to use all the sugar and you will be stuck with a sweet wine.
Make any adjustments if you left space to add sugar then top up to 23 liter mark. Stir and stir again.
Go ahead and pour your self a sample to taste before you pour the test jar back into the carboy.
Add bentonite. This is going to bring the level in the carboy dangerously close to the top.
It is not necessary but I usually add another packet of yeast at this time.
Place on a high shelf 1-2 meters high (3-6'), to make racking easier later.
Put a blow tube on the carboy instead of an airlock. (Tube with bung )
Because the carboy is so full you need to take some precautions so you don't end up with a big mess.
Keep room temperature between 18-20 Celsius to keep the fermentation from going too fast. Use a blow tube for the first week or two. See photos
Step 9: Wait 3 Weeks
Not much to do but watch the bubbles and make sure there is no mess.
If bubbles and pulp are in the blow tube it is a good idea to rinse it out 1-2 times a day as needed to keep clear.
At the end of 3 weeks rack (siphon leaving the sediment behind) into a clean carboy and check the S.G.
The fermentation is finished when the S.G. is somewhere below 1.000 usually about 0.993 but each wine is a little different and you may need to give it another week or so to get there.
You can see if it has enough alcohol for you by taking the starting potential and subtracting the potential now.
If you like a sweet wine and it has the alcohol % that you want you can stabilize it even if it is not finished fermenting.
You can see in the following picture that there is a good heavy layer of sediment on the bottom and the wine is starting to clear, time to rack and stabilize.
Step 10: Stabilization and Fining Agents
* Racking/Siphoning Tip- Fill siphon hose with water as shown in picture ( I used wine so you could see it.) and hold with one hand. Carefully put the racking tube in the carboy so as to disturb the sediment as little as possible. Quickly bring the open end of the siphon hose down in to the clean carboy. Siphon is started. NO SUCKING ON THE HOSE (There is a time and a place for that but this is not it)
Fermentation is over and we need to make sure it won't start up again later if we add any sugar.
Stabilizing for a dry wine can be done anytime the S.G. reaches 1.000 or less.
Mix in 1/2 tsp KMS and 1 Tbsp potassium sorbate.
The wine should be stirred vigorously to knock out any gas bubbles still stuck in the wine, this can be done over an hour or even days if needed, stir, wait , stir , wait ( there are drill attachments to help with this but be careful not to create a vortex that will suck air into your wine. Use full power on the drill and reverse direction before the vortex forms.).
When the wine has been degassed you can add fining agents. At this time I am using a 2 part clearing agent kiesosol & chitosan. You can use any fining agents you like, some years one works better than another so don't be afraid to change. Let the wine sit on high shelf to clear for 2-3 weeks.
Step 11: Clearing and Filtering
There is no set time for the clearing the take place in. Some fruit typically clear faster or slower than others. A little sediment is not going to really effect the flavour but the presentation will suffer along with your reputation. Blackberry is notorious for dropping sediment 6 months to a year even after being filtered.
When the wine is looking clear, hold a narrow beam flashlight behind it and if you can see a light saber you know the wine could still drop sediment. As long as it is not a strong light saber then you could try filtering with a wine filter if you are so inclined.
After filtering into a clean carboy , let it sit for two weeks to see if anything drops out before you bottle.
If you are not going to filter the wine then rack the wine into a clean carboy and let it sit until clear. As long as it is only a thin layer of sediment you don't need to rack it again until you are almost ready to bottle.
Rack into a clean carboy and let sit for two weeks to make sure you didn't transfer any sediment, if it is clear you are ready to bottle.
Step 12: Adjusting the Wine to Taste
So the wine is ready? Well let's have a taste!
This is where you will decide if you want to add sugar, acid blend, tannin or other things as you advance your wine making skills.
You will want
a 50 ml syringe or something to make accurate dosages with.
5 same wine glasses (Important)
Acid Blend (Malic, Citric, Tartaric)
Grape tannin ? Gives body and astringency, more for red wine styles, Cherry can usually use some.
Mix some wine conditioner ( maybe 10-20ml) into 100ml of the wine to make a very sweet mix.
Put a measured amount of wine into each of the 5 glasses (50ml or so)
Using the syringe put 2ml sweet mix in the first glass and as you go down the line add 2 ml more than the last one.
It is important to do this until the wine is definitely sweeter than you want. I have lost count of the customers who have said they don't want any sugar because they like a dry wine. I then force them to try a little in a glass to see how it changes and they go "WOW, I think we will add some sugar, but just a little." So make sure you take it past the point you like it best at.
Save the glass of the one you like best.
Try adding a very small pinch of acid blend to a glass and see what that does. Do you like the direction that it takes it?
I find that adding sugar in 250ml increments to a 23 liter carboy is a safe amount to not over do it. This is where I use the 2 Liter pitcher to dissolve the sugar in some wine before adding it back into the carboy
Add 250 ml sugar and taste it. Is it close to your test glass or do you need to add more?
Acid blend you can start with 1/2 Tbsp, maybe 1, I seldom add more than 2 Tbsp to a wine at this stage.
Remember that the wine will generally smooth out and the acid will mellow with time.
Step 13: Ageing the Wine
There are a lot of different factors that will have an effect on the aging. Assuming you have half decent storage, the same temperature year round day in day out (cool is better but constant is most important),
wines that can take or need more aging will have a combination of higher levels of :
The trick is to find the balance that suits your tastes and cellar time. On average I find that most fruit wines are worth waiting 1 year for.
Life is too short to drink bad wine.
Those with patience are rewarded.
If i missed anything or there are questions please leave a comment and I will try to answer.