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How to Make Wine from Grapes

Our Way to Make Wine from Grapes

In my early years of appreciating wine I often wondered what they did to make wine before the world had the giant vineyards and processing plants that we have today. How did the make and age wine without the use of modern processes and chemicals? Then I was introduced to the old fashioned way of making wine.

It is so simple and easy that anyone can make wine at home from scratch, that is, from grapes. Let me show you the step by step process that will teach you how to make wine at home from grapes. These instructions to make wine from scratch include wine videos, wine pictures and wine images.

In our process you use only additives...and no chemical preservatives. That way people who are "allergic to wine" will try this wine and have no allergic reaction. Seems to me that they may be allergic to the chemicals in commercial wine as opposed to being allergic the actual wine. If you wanted to take it to the next step you would need to source out a vineyard they grow grapes naturally or organically. We do not go that far but that does lead us to the first step in our wine making process.

Get the Wine Grapes

If you get good grapes you can make good wine. If you do not get good grapes, it does not matter what you do, you cannot make good wine. The simple rule for grapes is they must be grown in a place where the climate is hot enough for long enough for the sugars to form within the grapes. Then you will get the proper fermentation to get good wine. We buy grapes imported fresh from California. You will need to source out your local supply of grapes.

Choose the flavor of grape that will appeal to your palate. There are so many wonderful types of grape that it is a personal choice. Therefore there are even more wonderful types of wine. For making full tasting red wines there are Sangiovese grapes, Cabernet sauvignon or Zinfandel grapes. For lighter wines choices can include Merlot grapes, or Alicante. For a nice balance you can blend the grapes or you can blend the wines after the grapes have fermented. This technique can be used to find a middle ground in taste plus it offsets the acidity of the stronger flavored grapes. Blend can be a 50/50 blend or range to 80/20 depending on your preferences.

Prepare the Barrel
Wine Making Video 1

The first step in preparing your barrel is to clean it when you finish wine making the year before. You do this by rinsing and scrubbing out the inside of the barrel with some old wine. Make sure you use the cheap stuff as it is not drinkable when you are done.

The second step is that about a week before you are going to make wine for the year you must hose down your oak barrel to let the wood expand. Obviously if you use a metal barrel this is not necessary. If you do choose the wood, literally put it upside down and hose it down several times per day. Over the seasons the slats have shrunk by drying. Your wine will leak out through the small seams unless you hydrate the wood so it expands to fill the joints.

Then you need to clean it again when you are ready to make wine. You do this by rinsing and scrubbing out the inside of the barrel with some old wine. Make sure you use the cheap stuff as it is not drinkable when you are done. Yes I repeated myself because you must do this step just like you did when you put your barrel away for the off seasons.

Like all foods, wine requires you to be clean so that you do not contaminate your good new grapes with anything left over from previous endeavors. However, wine likes wine, so that you do not have to be a fastidious clean freak. Just use wine to clean your barrel. Water needs to be used on metal and plastic. Use only wine on the wood. One must be very sure things are clean or the fruit flies are everywhere. Some wine makers figure fruit flies are just part of the process. It is impossible not to attract some of them but cleanliness is always wise when dealing with anything you consume.

To keep seeds and other organic matter from block the spigot that you see in the third picture, get some cuttings from some fruit trees, bundle them together with string, feed the end out the spigot and then close the spigot to hold the bundle in place over the opening.

You may be asking, “Where do I buy a barrel with one end open and with a tap on the bottom?” The answer to that question is that you buy a normal barrel, take one end off. To put the tap in you must drill a hole to accommodate a 1 inch plastic pipe to which you can attach the tap. I strongly suggest you use plastic plumbing as metal may taint the taste of the wine. Use proper plumbing products to ensure a good seal and you are ready to make wine at home.

Crush the Grapes
Wine Making Video 2

In this this process you must crush everything into the barrel. That is, crush in the stems, the grapes and the seeds. There are two things that you must be meticulous about. You must not allow any leaves into the fermentation process and do not let any sour or rotten grapes into the process. Either one has the potential of ruining the whole batch.

Do not use any yeast or other fermentation agent. There is enough of whatever it takes to ferment in the grapes, the stems and the seeds. All you need is the heat of a fall day for the fermentation to start. One question about this process is whether you can taste the stems and seeds in the finished product? The answer is that it is minimal and as the wine settles and ages these tastes diminish and the true flavor of the grapes dominates more and more over time.

The barrel has a volume of 200 liters. There are 10 to 12 of the 35 pound boxes of grapes crushed into this barrel. You can see that we have left some room at the top. As you will see the fermentation will expand to push the fermented grapes right to the top of the barrel. Should you have too many grapes you can crush a case or a case and a half into one of your plastic containers and that mini batch will ferment on its own until the cap on the main batch subsides. Then you can mix the mini batch in with the main batch in the barrel.

As you can see, in this batch we had both white and red grapes. This is from an old “blend” recipe that included 4 different kinds of grapes including some white French Columbarde grapes. Since the barrel was used for red grapes we can only use it for making red wine or a rose or red/white blend in the future.

Ferment the Grapes
Wine Making Video 3

Once in the barrel the grapes take 2 or 3 days to start “cooking”. When they do get going, they sound like water in a rolling boil. Bubbles rise to the top of the crushed grapes.

The fermenting grapes get lighter as the sugar in them turns to wine and alcohol. If you do not keep these wet, they will sour and ruin the taste of the rest of the batch. One has to have a pronged instrument of some kind to turn the grapes over. This has to be done morning and evening every day.

Then all of a sudden about day 6, the boiling sound stops. At that point you do not turn the cap over any more so that the fermented grapes can separate from the wine. The nuts and other heavy sediments head to the bottom. The wine forms a layer in the middle and the spent stems and grapes form the cap on the top. The wine is still cooking very slowly. You can still turn the cap over for a few more days if you want a more potent wine as in one with more alcohol per volume. However, we find a week in the barrel produces a nice balance of taste and effect for most wine. Some grapes such as the cabernet sauvignon seem to take longer to start and longer to finish. It can take 10 to 12 days to go through the process for that particular wine. The lesson is that this is a process. Go through all the steps one by one and go through each step fully.

Once the contents of the barrel have settled and separated for a 36 to 48 hours, it is time to put the wine into settling containers and press the grapes to get the last 20% of wine from them. Drain the wine that has separated from the grapes. To do this, you just open the spigot and let the wine drain into a plastic container. You may have to “prime” the channel as seeds may have settled around the dam that is over the drain. This is best done by pushing a small length of clean wire up the pipe to make a hole in the sludge for the wine to come through. Once you have it flowing into the container it can be transferred into the waiting demijohn (54 liters) or the carboy (11.5 or 23 liters) by using a saucepan to put the wine into the funnel to fill up whichever glass container you choose.

Press the Grapes
Wine Making Video 4

Assemble the press and set the barrel on its side so that the grapes can be scooped into a plastic container and dumped into the waiting press.

Put the block package together and start cranking the press down. The wine pours off into the waiting plastic container and is scooped up and funneled into the glass container for settling and storage.

Now you carry the full and heavy carboy and demijohns to your storage area.

Store the Wine

The ability of a wine to age is influenced by many factors including grape variety, vintage, viticultural practices, wine region and winemaking style. The condition that the wine is kept in after bottling can also influence how well a wine ages and may require significant time and financial investment..

As you can see the vessels need to be filled to the neck and sealed so that air cannot get to the wine and turn it into vinegar. This can be done with plastic sealer and rubber bands. Also, you can see the settling in some of the containers. Transferring the wine by siphoning it into another vessel leaves the sediment in the first vessel and this is rinsed out as waste. First transfer should be 6 weeks from fermentation and then it should be longer between transfers after that. Bottling can happen anytime but the longer the wine settles in these containers the better it is in the bottle.

Wine matures nicely over time....on its own. It just needs the right conditions. They are very simple conditions. It needs to be dark...And it needs to be cool, about 7 to 10 degrees Celsius below outside temperature. If wines made this way are left in 30 degree Celsius heat they start to ferment again. They pop their tops and make a smelly and wet mess everywhere.

You Can do it too!

I accept that everyone does not have the resources to make wine at home from scratch this way. You may not have the room or the tools or the time. You still do not have to settle for buying over processed wine with too many chemicals in it. Innovations have been made that can allow apartment dwellers to make wine from scratch. Wine coolers allow you to keep your wine made from grapes at the proper temperatures to allow them to age gently. You can take a few shortcuts on the process just laid out by making your wine from grape juice. Check out the wine related products that we show throughout the site to find a way so that you to can make your wine at home with grapes.

If you have any questions please contact the Wine Vintner.

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