Making Your Own Wine

by frankbeswick

Home wine making is a pleasant aspect of a self-reliant lifestyle.

Being able to give your guests a glass of your own home brew made in your own kitchen or cellar is a special pleasure. The wine can be made with your own home-grown ingredients or berries that you have foraged for yourself. True, you will have to purchase certain ingredients, such as wine yeast and yeast nutrient, and the equipment costs a little, though not much, but it is a peaceful and productive hobby.

Picture courtesy of Pixel12013, of Pixabay

Personal Experience

I have had successful and unsuccessful experiences when making wine, far more of the former than the latter. Some wines have been memorable. The children and I used to forage near the canal where we had a secret place, an aged elderberry tree whose berries we picked. Some were mixed into desserts, but once  I mixed them with blackberries and produced one of the best home wines I have ever tasted. Well worth remembering! Apple juice mixed with blackberries  makes a good wine. The blackberries are boiled down to get at the juice and mixed in with apple, Unlike cider, which requires cider apples, any apple will suffice. But press it if you have a  press or purchase some apple juice. Crab apples need pressing, as crab apple juice is hard to obtain. A quick tip, though: elderberry alone is quite tarty and some people can have a mild stomach pain with them. I, fortunately, am allergic to nothing.  Just like my father.

Any fruit will suffice. Hard fruits, such as apples and pears, need pressing, but soft fruits, I have found, are juicier when heated. Do not boil, as boiling destroys flavour. When I made a lovely gooseberry wine I chopped up the gooseberries then heated them to extract the juice.  Strawberry wine, I found from  experience, is delicious, but leaves a thick layer of seeds at the bottom of the fermentation vessel. Plums  and damsons make a good wine, nice and fruity, though I don't make it from my plum tree, as my wife likes plums too much for me to ferment them. Don't be too tempted by wine produced only from one fruit/vegetable, true country wines often were a mixture of fruits.

 Seeds and vegetables are sometimes used for wine. The trouble with seeds is that left unmalted they add  nothing to the wine, so if you want barley wine you would be advised to purchase the malt and proceed from there. Potato wine uses fermented potato, which is chopped and boiled and the water strained off for fermentation. It is similar to carrot wine and to the delicious parsnip wine, whose high sugar content makes for a strong wine. Rhubarb makes a popular wine [the stems that is.] Wine can also be made from some tree sap. Birch wine is a delicacy, and I imagine that maple will make a good wine ingredient.

Note that I have omitted mention of beer and spirits. I rarely drink beer and so have never made it. Spirits in most countries require a licence and there is good reason for this. Without the precautions taken by a trained distiller spirits can be toxic. I have never made them and never will. It is important to say that you must abide by all laws pertaining to home wine making in your state. In the UK I am allowed to make wine for home consumption, but am not allowed to sell it or give it as a raffle or tombola prize.

How to Make Wine.

I will work on an example, blackberry wine. You wlll need a demijohn [jar], fermentation lock, rubber bung with a hole for the lock and sodium sterilizing powder. Put a teaspoonful of the powder into the jr and wash it out with warm water. Make sure it is all washed out  

Get a pound of blackberries and place them in a pan, bringing them gently to heat, but not to boiling. Soon you will have a dark liquid. Pour the liquid through a plastic funnel into the demjohn. Then pour two pounds of white sugar into the jar.  When the temperature of the jar is about 25c you can add your yeast. Many wine makers make a yeast starter the day before brewing, which is a bottle containing yeast, yeast nutrient, sugar and warm water. The advantage of this is that it gets the fermentation off to a good start, but it is also possible to simply pour in the yeast and the yeast nutrient. Then top up the jar with warm  water, but do not overfill. Part fill the fermentation lock with water, stick it into the hole in the rubber bung, then seal the jar. Your ferment will start, at first slowly with a few bubbles, then it will quicken. 

Wine cannot be hurried. Leave your wine in a warm, dimly lit place, maybe for three weeks  until the ferment is over. Then to make sure drop a sterilizing tablet into the jar. Quickly reseal, as you do not want germs entering. You can get wines that are ready in three weeks, so the kit manufacturers tell you, but if you want quality you must be prepared to wait for the wine to mature. Some winemakers wait for  year.

Sometimes a wine will be cloudy. This is more the case with white wines. When this happens use wine finings, which is a  substance that clears the cloudiness, depositing it at the bottom of the jar.

Occasionally in the days after starting your wine the ferment goes crazy and bubbles up into the fermentation lock. Don't worry over this, simply clean out the lock and replace the water. To avoid contamination some winemakers have a spare lock ready.  

Winemakers rack their wines after fermentation is over. This involves siphoning off the wine into a clean demijohn. When doing this leave the cloudy bit at the bottom, it is waste. The new jar is sealed with a bung without a hole, as there should be no gas escaping. Then they wait a couple of weeks at least before siphoning off into bottles. Bottles should be corked rather than screw capped because if there is a residual ferment a screw-capped bottle could explode, whereas a cork just pops out. My mother told me a family story that one of her father's brothers once brewed beer, but bottled it before the ferment was complete. During the night the family heard  a series of loud pops, and came downstairs to find the kitchen covered in beer froth.

 

Going Further

I have given a basic recipe, but there is so much still to learn. Nothing beats experience, and there is no substitute for practice. You should get yourself a good book on winemaking. Each wine is unique. You can make wine out of sugar, water, yeast and nutrient and certain flower petals, such as rose petals. Take care that the petals are not poisonous. Dandelion is not poisonous [don't eat the stems] but two glasses of dandelion  wine make you want to urinate. Daffodils [Narcissi] are definitely poisonous. You can make tea wine. Ginger wine is lovely, I love it.

But going into competition is a very demanding process. I have never done it, for I stick to vegetable shows. I have sampled some of the competitors' wines and they are of the highest quality. They have flavour, body and crystal clarity.

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Updated: 03/31/2021, frankbeswick
 
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frankbeswick on 05/04/2021

Where I live in North West England grapes are hard to grow, so buying grape juice is necessary for wine makers.

WriterArtist on 05/03/2021

You make the wine making seem so simple. I always thought it was a complicated science of processing and harvesting grapes. Still, one needs to experiment and practice to reach some level of expertise. Till then, I think It would be safer for me to buy wine.

frankbeswick on 04/02/2021

I tried wheat wine, but it was not my greatest. I think that to succeed you need to malt the seeds. I have never tried pine sap, it is not big over here. I have never heard anyone argue that any potato variety is best for wine.

DerdriuMarriner on 04/01/2021

frankbeswick, Thank you for the practical information, pretty pictures and product lines.
I appreciate the caution against elderberries -- I love picking them around the vernal pool with all its bird, frog, toad and turtle year-rounders -- on their own.
Have you tried any seed wines? Would pine sap -- people in the pine wine forum on WineMakingTalk seem divided -- and seeds make tasty wines?
It's too bad about the seeds since wild strawberries enchant me with their petite redness and prolific numbers March through November here.
There's a sale on potatoes, probably for all those who want mashed potatoes with their turkey on Sunday. Would it make a difference what kind of potato is used for wine (probably not ready for Sunday, but perhaps Pentecost)?

frankbeswick on 03/31/2021

I like fruit wines, but also white wine. I have always liked white wine with turkey.

blackspanielgallery on 03/31/2021

One thing one must be resolved to is that the flavor one wishes weeks later might be different from the one one salavates over the day the process is started. Today, strawberries might be the desire, yet it might be blackberries weeks away. Still, weeks away one has the wine one makes today.

Are there seasonal traditions, such as your favorite Christmas wine, that you start the proper time in advance?

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