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Making Wine from your own Grapes

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Making Wine from Grapes

It is fairly straightforward to make wine from your own grapes and there are many online guides showing you how to do it. Unfortunately, many of them “over simplify” the process or take a “natural” approach, which is absolutely fine if you are prepared to gamble with the results, but not much use if you are hoping to produce consistent, repeatable, drinkable results.

In essence, many guides suggest that all you need to do is:

  • Pick your grapes.
  • Crush and press them to extract the juice.
  • Leave them to ferment using the natural yeast.
  • Leave to clear and then bottle when fermentation has finished.

Whilst this is more or less accurate, not all grapes are actually suitable for wine making straight from the vine, not all have sufficient levels of sugar or acidity and, depending when you pick the grapes, you may or not have any natural yeast present to undertake the fermentation. Using the method above gives you a 50/50 chance of obtaining fermentation and a less than 50% chance of obtaining anything that is either a) drinkable or b) repeatable.

Whilst requiring a bit more effort, you are more likely to obtain better results if you use the following method:

  • Pick your grapes - you will need around 6-7kgs per gallon.
  • Strip them off their stalks, wash them in clean water if necessary/desired and then crush and press them to extract the juice. For small quantities, this can be done with a potato masher. It will often be easier if you freeze them first and then allow them to defrost.
  • Check the sugar content with a hydrometer and add extra sugar, if required, to obtain a start gravity of 1080-1085. This will produce about 11-12% alcohol in your finished wine, depending upon your finishing gravity.
  • Check the acidity with a pH strip. You should aim for a pH level of 3.1-3.4, so you may need to add Citric Acid to increase the acidity or Precipitated Chalk to lower it.
  • Add 1 crushed Campden Tablet per gallon of juice and leave for 24 hours to kill off any natural yeast that may be present.
  • Add your preferred Wine Yeast (some people also add yeast nutrient to encourage a rapid ferment) and leave to ferment.
  • If you are making Red or Rose wine, you will generally need to leave the skins in contact with the juice for 4-10 days depending how dark a colour you want. Once the juice has become the colour you want, strain it into a clean demijohn or bucket and allow it to continue to ferment.
  • Once fermentation has finished, or you have reached your preferred finishing gravity, syphon the wine into a clean demijohn or bucket, add 1 crushed Campden Tablet per gallon and leave to clear.

Wine will normally take 2-6 weeks for the initial fermentation, depending upon the initial sugar content and the temperature in which it is fermented. It should then be stored and matured for 3-6 months to obtain the best results.

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  1. Liz

    Hello. Thanks for your site. Would you sterilise the first bin that you crush the grapes in please? ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hi Liz,

    I would always sanitise (clean, immediately before use, with your preferred cleaning solution and then rinse with clean water*) every piece of equipment that is going to be used during the process, in order to minimise the risk of any external contamination of the juice/must.

    Andy

    *There are "No Rinse" cleaners available that break down to leave only water and thus nominally don't need to be further rinsed, just emptied or left to drain from your equipment. Personally, I don't use them as I prefer to have the certainty that I have rinsed away any residue from the cleaning process.

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  2. Goodfellow

    Hi - you don't mention washing the grapes before crushing... ? Regards, Ned :) -------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hi Ned.

    The main problem with posting any form of "guideline/methodology" is that you have to make a few assumptions as to the common sense of your readers in order to tread a fine line between providing simplified, logical, reasonably easy to follow instructions without being overly patronising or attempting to "second guess" every possible combination of individual wine maker's circumstances.

    By and large, as long as the grapes being used aren't covered in bird droppings or industrial chemicals (in which case I would hope that common sense would kick in), washing isn't absolutely necessary and is more or less completely unnecessary if you've grown them in a greenhouse without chemicals or bought them from, or been given them by, a greengrocer. This is becasue the process described uses Campden Tablets to suppress any natural yeast, which is the only real benefit of washing them if they are already clean. I will, however amend them to clarify that it may be necessary to wash them in certain circumstances.

    Andy

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  3. Valerie

    If I don't produce enough juice from my white grapes can I top up with something else ? ------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hi Valerie,

    You can top up with anything you like, eg fruit juice, grape juice, grape concentrate, sugar solution etc, as long as it is preservative free (as the preservative will probably inhibit your yeast) and as long as you take account of the sugar content of whatever you have introduced in order to make sure that the start gravity remains where you want it to be as per the recipe you are using.

    Andy

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  4. Neil

    Many years ago i attempted my hand at Grape wine, didn't realise the effect of not checking with hydrometer ! Very messy. I stick to other fruit wines now, elderberry, gooseberry, damson, plum and raspberry....to name a few. ----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Hi Neil Like Cider Making from their own apples, people tend to think that making wine with their own grapes is easy and straightforward and it is really furstrating to see their enthusiasm sucked away because they tried to go down the "all natural route", rather than stack the odds in their favour by following a few simple(ish) steps to ensure success. I'm glad to hear that your setback didn't stop you from sticking with the hobby and finding success with alternative ingredients. Andy

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