Wine has grown in popularity in the United States, and hand in hand with that has been an interest in winemaking. Making wine at home is actually fairly straightforward. In Europe, there are many people who own vineyards of one acre or smaller and make their own table wine in the cellar of their homes. Although making fine wine requires expertise and good grapes, passable table wine can be made by just about anyone.
Things You'll Need
Take the grapes, remove the stems and wash them prior to crushing. All of this will need to be done as soon as possible after harvesting, and absolutely on the same day as harvesting. De-stemming need not be perfect, but be sure to get the big, woody central stem out.
Crush the grapes. If you do not have enough of a grape harvest to merit owning a grape crusher, you can do this the old fashioned way by stomping the grapes barefoot in a plastic vat.
Pour the mass of grape juice, grape skins and tiny bits of stem into plastic vats for primary fermentation. This mass of material is now known as “must.”
Test the must with the winemaker’s testing kit to determine its pH level and Brix.
Add sugar to the must as dictated by Brix results. Must with a Brix result of below 20 will require at least some sugar to be added. For making simple homemade table wine, a good rule to follow is to add a pound of sugar for every gallon of must and for every two points below 20 the Brix score is. If you have 6 gallons of wine and a Brix score of 17, add 12 pounds of sugar.
Add campden tablets as dictated by the pH results. For example, a must with a pH of 3.0 will require half a tablet per gallon, while a pH of 3.3 needs a full tablet per gallon. The sulfur in the tablet kills unwanted bacteria.
Stir the must and cover it with a lid or tarp for 24 hours.
Return the next day and add yeast to the must. Winemaking yeast will come in prepackaged containers with directions for that particular strain, so follow them in regards to how much to use per gallon.
Return twice a day during primary fermentation, which will last for a week. Every time you return to the must, stir it to push down the “cap” of grape skins and foam that forms on the top.
Pour the must out through a strainer to remove the solid debris.
Test the must again for acidity. The acidity must be lowered to 7 parts per thousand (ppt) tartaric or less. Adding either spring water, calcium carbonate or potassium bicarbonate will do this, but keep in mind that either of the carbonates are better than simply adding water. For homemade table wine, just add material and retest until the acidity is below 7 ppt tartaric.
Pour what is now “new wine” into carboys for secondary fermentation. A handful of oak chips in the bottom of the carboy will help simulate the effect of an oak barrel, but this is optional. Stop the carboy with winemaking airlocks.
Let the wine sit for three weeks.
Return to top off the wine. Secondary fermentation will have caused some settling in the containers. Choose one carboy (preferably the least full) and, using a siphon hose, redistribute the wine so that your other carboys are full again. Every carboy opened will require a small spoon of sulfur to kill any bacteria that gets in from the open air. Put the airlocks back in.
Let the wine sit in the carboys for three to six months. How long you choose to age it depends on how “oaky” you want it to be, but three months is a minimum and more than six months is risks spoilage in home winemaking.
Use the siphon hose to bottle the wine as desired.