With the move towards growing your own vegetables and fruit at home, DIY wine-making has experienced a surge in popularity. It may sound daunting, but peoples of all nations have been fermenting grapes to create wine for millennia. Making your own wine is incredibly easy and a great way to use up your excess produce. Here's how you can get in on the act:
How to make wine from grapes. Around 5000 years ago, some smart cookie shoved some grapes in a clay pot and sealed it underground. A while later they came back, opened the pot and discovered the first wine. It was probably a bit rough on the palate, but that's essentially how easy it is to make wine – except these days we prefer to use a more sanitised and refrigerated ritual.
To make 9 litres of your own grape-based wine at home is almost as easy. You’ll need:
- A 20L bucket with a lid, and another smaller bucket
- A fermentation lock and bund
- A strainer
- Some cheesecloth or muslin
- Plastic tubing or a hose
- Bottles with caps
- 14kg of fresh red wine grapes or 16kg of fresh white wine grapes
- Tartaric acid
- Commercial yeast
- Toasted oak chips (optional).
Start by sterilising all of your equipment thoroughly. Remove any rotten, broken or damaged grapes and wash these thoroughly too.
You then need to crush your grapes – try it the traditional way by putting them in the big bucket and stomping on them with your hands and feet (clean them first!). Use the second bucket and strainer to remove all the skins. Keep stomping until you’ve extracted all the juice or ‘must’ then discard the skins into the compost.
Test the must with a hydrometer – you should have a range between 11 and 13.5 Baume or a Specific Gravity of 1085 to 1100. Acidity should be between 6.5 and 7.5; if not you might need to add tartaric acid (use half a gram per litre to raise your wine’s acid profile by 0.5g/l).
For white wine, run the juice into the demijohn and plug in the fermentation lock and bung. It should start bubbling within 24-48 hours. If it's not making a peep, use yeast to boost the process (follow packet instructions). You can also add your oak chips now to give the wine an oaky taste if that's what you like.
For red wine, keep the must in the bucket, cover it with muslin and leave the lid off to kickstart the fermentation process.
Test your white or red must with a hydrometer every day. If there’s still sugar present, you might need to add commercial yeast again. If it smells strange, whisk the must to add air. This part of the process can take a week or months, but generally fast is better as it means less spoilage.
After your red wine stops fermenting, it’s time to decant it into the demijohns as for white wine. Red wine needs this second malolactic fermentation process for a few weeks to mature.
Once the wines have settled, lees will form on the bottom of your demijohns. Gently syphon the wine off the lees into a newly sterilised demijohn using the hose. Top with water and leave for 3-4 weeks without oxygen, until it’s clear. If your wine isn’t clearing, add a couple of teaspoons of bentonite mixed well in warm water. Add a teaspoon to the wine and stir. Let it settle again.
Now you can bottle your wine. Syphon into your bottles leaving a little headspace and cap, refrigerate and drink!