When you're looking for wine making instructions, some of it can get a little bit overwhelming. The best way to approach wine making, especially for beginners, is to keep it simple and focus on making a nice tasting foundation wine. Learning how to incorporate the flavor nuances will come as your wine making skills grow.
After you harvest the grapes, place them in a vat or bucket and crush them. You can do this by machine, hand or a la I Love Lucy, with your feet if you vat is big enough.
Sugar in your wine is not only a matter of taste, but alcohol content. After crushing, test the sugar level in you grapes with a saccharometer. To get an idea of the alcohol percentage of the final product, halve the saccharometer reading. So, if the reading is ten percent, the estimated alcohol level is around five percent. Add about five teaspoons of sugar to the crushed grapes for every alcohol percentage point increase. The average wine has around 11 to 14 percent alcohol.
Once you get the sugar level right, you need to adjust the acidity level. Many wine making kits come with an acid test kit to test the acidity and an acid blend to increase it if necessary. If the acid level is too high, add cooled boiled water and if it's too low, add the acid blend in the amounts given with your wine making kit.
Fermentation vessels range from glass jugs, collapsible containers to small steel vats.
- Sanitize fermentation vessel
- Add about a half gallon of the crushed grapes
- Add Campden tablets – To prevent over-fermentation.
- Wait at least four hours
- Add the yeast and yeast energizer
- Slowly stir until completely mixed
- Pour in the rest of the crushed grapes
Allow the grapes to ferment in a 65 to 70 degree room for at least seven days.
After one week, you have to separate the lees from the wine.
- Get a sanitized container.
- Secure a mesh screen or cheese cloth on top.
- Slowly pour the wine through the mesh or cheesecloth screen.
Transfer to Carboys
After separating the lees, it's time to transfer the wine to carboys:
- Using a siphon, transfer the wine into sanitized carboys.
- Cap with an airlock – The airlock allows the gasses from the wine to escape while preventing air from getting into the carboy.
Now the wine has to complete the fermentation process, which will take two to three more weeks.
First and Second Racking
For this, you need a sanitized container big enough to hold the amount of wine you have fermenting in the carboy. Here's how you complete a first racking:
- Siphon the wine from the original carboy into the second container.
- Pour the wine from the second container back into the original carboy.
- Seal with an airlock.
Let the wine settle for six to eight weeks. At this time, perform a second racking by repeating the above described steps.
Third Racking and Bottling
After 12 to 16 weeks, the wine is ready for its third racking. Repeat the same steps as you did in the first and second rackings and place the container in a cool dark place, preferably a refrigerator for two days. Bring the container out and allow it to warm up to room temperature. After that time, your wine is ready to bottle.
After the third racking, siphon off the wine into individual bottles and cork. Store in a cool dark place like a basement or cellar.
Get Started Making Wine!
All the supplies in the above wine making instructions slideshow are available at wine making supply stores. If this is your first foray into winemaking, consider purchasing an all-in-one kit, giving you everything you need in one box.