How Do You Make Wine


There are seven steps in home wine-making:

1.    Selection and preparation of fruit or vegetables.

2.    Extraction of juice.

3.    Addition of sugar, yeast and nutrient.

4.    Fermentation.

5.    Racking off into jars.

6.    Clearing as necessary.

7.    Bottling and storing.


Fruit should be really ripe, sound and clean. Good wine cannot be made from decayed, diseased or bad fruit. Vegetables should be mature. Long-stored potatoes, parsnips and beet make excellent wine. Turnips, on the other hand, should be young.


Fruit. Break up soft fruit, such as black-berries, between the fingers; cut medium stiff fruits, such as plums, into 4-in. pieces, after removing the stones; and cut stiff fruits, such as apples, into 1/2-in. pieces. It is not necessary to strig currants or to peel and core apples. As much fruit juice as possible should be extracted, but it is usually difficult to do this when the fruit is fresh, because of the thickening effect of the pectin in the fruit cells. It is therefore wiser and easier to soak the fruit in water. The fruit enzymes will act on the pectin in the presence of water and will thus produce much more juice more quickly.

Place the broken fruit in a polythene, glass, or earthenware bung jar with a mouth about 3 in. wide and add hot water (140 to 160° F. or 60 to 70° C.) according to the recipe. Stir thoroughly.

Fit a polythene cover or a cork bung, into which is inserted a fermentation lock, used in accordance with the supplier’s directions. Stand the jar in a fairly warm position (50 to 60° F. or 10 to 16° C.) for three days. Stir well at least once a day. At the end of this period, pass the pulp and juice through a coarse and then a fine nylon sieve. The juice is then ready for the addition of sugar, yeast and nutrients in the fermenting jar.

Vegetables. Scrub the vegetables clean, remove any diseased parts, cut into 1/2 in. slices or cubes, and boil slowly until tender but not mashed. Use the amount of water given in the recipe. Leave the lid off the saucepan, but replace water lost in boiling. Strain first through a coarse and then through a fine sieve to provide the liquid vegetable extract for fermenting.


Adding Sugar. White castor sugar, either refined beet or cane, is the most suitable for wine-making, as it dissolves readily. Granulated sugar or the same quantity of honey may also be used. Demerara or brown sugar will give a good brown or golden colour, but should not be used with delicately flavoured juices. Invert sugar speeds fermentation, but 1-½ lb. should be used in place of 1 lb. ordinary sugar.

Add the sugar gradually and stir until thoroughly dissolved. When making sweet, heavy wines, add the sugar in three parts, with an interval of three days between each. The usual quantity is 2 lb. Sugar to each gallon of fruit or vegetable juice for a dry wine; 2-1/2 lb. for a medium wine; and 3-1/2 to 4 lb. for a sweet wine.

Adding yeast. Although there may be natural yeast on the fruit, it is always best to add a specified quantity to the extract.

If brewers’ or bakers’ compressed yeast is used, mix 3/4 oz. yeast to a cream in a cupful of juice for each gallon of must, and stir in thoroughly. Far more satisfactory, however, are the proper wine yeasts, for the home-made wines then carry a better bouquet, a higher percentage of alcohol, are quick to clear, have a stiffer sediment or lees, and store better.

The most popular varieties of yeast are burgundy, champagne, claret, graves, hock, madeira, port, sauterne, sherry and all-purpose. Choose the yeast most suited to the fruit or vegetable (see section on Varieties and Recipes). For a limited quantity of wine, use all-purpose or neutral yeast.

Some special yeasts available in liquid or dry form have to be made active by growing them in fresh fruit juice before adding them to the must. Follow the directions provided with the bottle or tube, and reserve -18 hours for the preparation of the mixture. If fresh fruit juice is not available, make a special yeast feeding mixture by dissolving 1 tablespoonful pure malt extract in 1/2 pint water; stir in 1 tablespoonful granulated sugar until dissolved, and the juice of 1 lemon, or 1/4 teaspoonful citric acid powder. Bring this mixture to the boil, allow to cool and add the yeast for fermentation. If the yeast is properly developed, it can then be used for four weeks or more.

It is very important to heat the must to between 65 and 75° F. (18 to 21° C.) before stirring in yeast of any sort; otherwise fermentation may not take place properly. Test the temperature with a thermometer (liquid).

Adding yeast nutrient and acid. A yeast nutrient is a chemical food, which also provides the necessary acid. While usually essential for root extracts, it helps to make all wine free from cloudiness and undesirable by-products, and assists vigorous yeast growth. It can be bought quite cheaply in a ready-made form containing citric acid, from suppliers of wine-making equipment. Use in accordance with the directions on the packet.


This is one of the most important phases of wine-making.

Pour the mixture into an absolutely clean glass, stoneware or plastic jar large enough to hold from 1 to 5 gallon, until it reaches the shoulder of the jar, or until the jar is four-fifths full. A 1 gallon, glass jar is particularly recommended, as this makes it possible to watch the fermentation process. Seal the top with a holed bung, plastic cap or other airtight cover, into which can be fitted a glass or plastic fermentation lock half-filled with cooled boiled water. This lock is extremely important, for it enables the carbon dioxide that bubbles out of the fermenting liquid to escape, but prevents air with its wild yeast and germs from entering. If this should happen, the wine may well turn sour and become vinegary.

Place the jar in a warm place such as near, but not on, a stove and keep the air temperature at 65 to 75° F. (18 to 25° C). Fermentation will be profuse and strong at first, but it will become less vigorous after about 5 days, when the air temperature should be reduced to 60 to 65°F. (16 to 18° C.). Be sure that the temperature does not fluctuate seriously, especially at night. The liquid may be kept up to its first level in the jar by adding either a little sugar and water syrup of the same strength as that originally used, or fermenting liquid from other jars.

Always replace the fermentation lock immediately.

Fermentation may continue for three to six weeks for dry or medium wines, and for seven to twelve weeks for sweet wines. Examine frequently to see when bubbling has almost ceased and the wine has started to clear at the top. To produce a sparkling wine, siphon off into bottles just before fermentation is completed, or when the wine is still bubbling very slightly. Be sure to wire down the corks.


The important operation of racking off means the removal of the new wine from the deposit of dead yeast and other solids, known as lees, in the lower part of the jar. This can be done by carefully pouring off the wine without disturbing the deposit, but it is more satisfactory to siphon off, using a 4 ft. length of rubber tubing of nearly 1/2 in. outside diameter.

Place one end of the tubing so that it reaches about half-way down the wine inside the jar, and fasten the tubing to the edge of the jar with a wooden clothes peg or thick rubber band. Place another clean, sterile jar below the level of the full wine jar, and suck at the free end of tubing until it is filled with wine; quickly wipe this end and place it in the second jar. The wine will then run through the tubing of its own accord into the jar. Lower the tubing in the first jar of wine as siphoning proceeds, otherwise the vacuum will be lost and it will be necessary to suck up the wine again. Take out the tubing immediately the wine is racked off, as it is very important not to get any lees into the newly racked-off wine.

The vessels used for the racked-off wine may be large jars of the same type as those used for fermentation. Do not use wine bottles.

Fill the jars to the bottom of the neck and again keep a fermentation lock in place.

Move the racked-off wine to the coolest part of the house to encourage clearing. When a further deposit has accumulated, in two to four weeks, rack off the wine again as previously described, and yet again after another three to five weeks. By this time the wine should be fairly clear, and there should be no bubbles rising through the fermentation lock. If a deposit is still forming, allow the wine to rest for a further four weeks and rack off once more.


If properly made, the wine will eventually become brilliantly clear. While some wines, such as black currant, elderberry and orange, usually clear in eight weeks, others, such as parsnip, mangold and wheat, may take as long as 26 weeks. Patience is needed before adopting a remedy.

First try to find the cause of the cloudiness, so that it can be avoided in future. Likely causes are: over-boiling of vegetables; lack of yeast nutrient; absence of fermentation lock; infection by wild yeasts; delayed, careless or insufficient racking off; incomplete fermentation at the time of bottling; or storage in a warm cupboard.

If the wine does not become brilliantly clear after eight months, it should be cleared by “fining”, or removing the minute suspended solids that cause the cloudiness. Add to the wine some cellulose pulp, which is available from suppliers of wine-making equipment or most chemists and which should be used in accordance with the directions supplied. Mix thoroughly, and pour the mixture through a large funnel plugged with non-absorbent cotton wool. The pulp with the solids will be caught by the cotton wool.

It is quite in order to taste the wine at any stage in its manufacture, and to make any adjustment thought necessary.


When the wine is quite clear, rack it off again, this time into ordinary 26 oz. wine bottles, taking care that no lees escapes into the bottles. Fill each bottle to within 3/4 in. of the bottom of the cork. The cork, which should be new, clean and sterile, and softened by soaking in sterile cold water, is driven right in, level with the top of the bottle.

Wipe the outside of each bottle dry, and affix a label giving date, variety and any other helpful particulars. Be sure that the label does not cover the seam of the bottle, since this will spoil the appearance.

Store the bottles on their sides in a cool, dark place at about 45 to 55° F. (7 to 13° C).


Never be in a hurry to drink home-made wines. A newly made wine is certainly drinkable, but it will not be mellow to the taste nor have a pleasant aroma unless given time to mature and develop. Store light, dry wines with a low alcohol content for at least nine months, and the heavier, sweeter types with higher alcohol content for 12 months.


Serve pale, white and yellow wines cold (45 to 50° F. or 7 to 10° C.) but do not add ice. Pale red, deep red, purple or tawny wines are best appreciated if served at room temperature (62 to 70° F. or 16 to 21° C.), but do not place the bottle in hot water.

Wipe the top of the bottle thoroughly before drawing the cork, and then carefully wipe the inside top of the bottle. Examine for any sediment and if found, decant the wine slowly and carefully. Taste the wine before serving.

Generally, the wines chosen to complement a meal progress from a light dry white wine at the beginning of a meal, through medium dry white or rose, light red and heavy red, to sweet white and sweet red at the end of the meal. But probably only one, or at most two, wines will be drunk.

Home-made wine may not be sold without a special licence.

11. March 2013 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Wine Making | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off on How Do You Make Wine


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