31 August, 2011

Wine Making at Home, Part 1

There's nothing more satisfying than enjoying the fruits of your own labor. From spinning wool and sewing clothes to gardens and  home-smoked meats, to beer and wine... eat, drink, and be merry. The best part about these things, I think, is knowing exactly where your food and drink came from and what went into bringing it to the table.

Wine Bottles
(click photo to see more of Wine Traveler's photos on Flickr)

This spring, we decided to make our own wine. My husband, Witold (that's Vee-told, in case you're unfamiliar) is doing a guest post to explain the process. All of our product links go to Homebrew.ie and we couldn't recommend them highly enough. Their customer service is wonderful - and if you happen to be in Ireland, they're the perfect supplier for all your homebrew needs.
Now, without further ado - Here is Witold:

Recently, I decided to start a new hobby - winemaking. So far it has been successful, and we are very proud of our product! I'd like to share with you today the methods I used and introduce you to the process of winemaking.

Necessary to start:


You can go more fancy on any part of the equipment, but we're trying to stay on the budget here. This list contains stuff without which I wouldn't start making my own wine. Also, the stuff in this list is exactly what we used.

Not necessary but recommended (also very helpful):

  • a thermometer - brewing one would be the best, or one that sticks to the side of the fermenting bucket. If it's not glass and you are going to put into your wine (or juice, which is technically called "must") make sure it is safe to use with food, and if it's metal it has to be stainless steel. 
  • a funnel
  • a measuring jug 
if you are thinking about wine making a bit more seriously than just following our recipe below, I would definitely get a hydrometer (pictured in use, below)

For storing wine:

After the wine is ready it needs to be stored - either in bottles or in a vinotainer - http://www.homebrew.ie/10-litre-vinotainer.html - (which is basically a collapsible bag in a box) - good option to if you want to have wine on tap, but a bit hard to put in the fridge. 

(source: Homebrew.ie)

The cheapest option is to save your wine bottles (and ask your friends to help you, if need be). One important thing to remember here is to rinse the bottle as soon as the wine is gone (or the next morning ;)

You can also buy bottles if you wish: (http://www.homebrew.ie/wine-bottles-green-75cl-15.html - €11.95 for 15).

For this batch of wine you will need about 40 standard (0.75l) wine bottles. 

If you are going to bottle your wine you'll need:

You can also add a profesional touch to your wine by putting using shrink caps and putting on labels, too. We went used shrink caps, but skipped labels.


  • 26 litres if red grape juice (26x€1=€26)
  • 5kg os sugar (5x€0.84=€4.2)
  • "Young's all purpose red" wine yeast - €1.45 

Before we start - one super impotart rule of wine making: Keep everything spotlessly clean. I don't use underlines or bold text very often, but I feel it totally justified in this case.


The process of making wine is called fermentation - it is then the wine yeast convert sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. They produce a whole lot of different substances, too, which add to wine's bouquet of flavour.

Day one...

If you are keeping the juice in the fridge/cold room/outside bring it in and let it warm up to room temperature. The yeast like temperatures in the range of 18-25(C) the best. 

Wash your fermenter. In a big pot (5l is good) heat up 3l of water and dissolve 1kg of sugar in it. Bring it to boil, then switch off.

Pour all but 2 glasses of grape juice into the fermenter, then pour in the water with dissolved sugar. Stir.

In the 2 glasses of juice you've got left dissolve 7 tablespoons of Young's yeast nutrient. The juice might change colour to a much darker shade. Don't worry about it. Pour that into the fermenter, too. Stir for a while. Stirring aerates the must, which will help the yeast later on.

Check the temperature of the mixture (which can be now called "must") if you have a thermometer. If you are following along the temperature should be around 20 degrees Celsius (depending on your room temperature).

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the must. Put the lid on (make sure it is tight). Move the fermenting bucket to a place where it won't be called and can sit undisturbed for some time. In our house the dry press was the perfect place for it. Even the shelves in it were the right hight for comfortable access. I would recommend putting the bucket in a flattened bin bag or a plastic tray of some sort just in case. Definitely don't keep your white bed on a shelf under fermentation bucket ;)  

Fill the airlock with boiled (and cooled) water to the mark (usually about half way) and insert it into the grommet on the lid. Put it in so it is tight, but make sure the bottom end of the airlock doesn't touch or go below the surface of the must in the bucket.

That was a lot of work. Well done.

As much as you are tempted to do not disturb the wine-in-making. The yeast are rapidly reproducing now and should start fermenting rapidly after about 24-48 hours. You will know by the bubbles coming out of the airlock. The more bubbles coming out, the faster the fermentation. 


This is the end of part one in our two-part series on winemaking. Please be sure to check out part two, here!


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