Thinking about making your own wine? If you enjoy a glass now and then, either with a meal or as an after dinner drink, making wine has been a really fun hobby for me and you may enjoy it too. The home winemaker can make a delicious wine as sweet or as dry as personal taste dictates since he/she controls the ingredients, and it can save considerable money over buying as tasty a wine at retail prices.
For your first attempt at winemaking, I recommend using grapes. Around our area, Concords are easy to find grown locally. If you have access to vintner grapes, they are grown specifically for making wine and have some qualities that differ from Concords. It is said that "grapes want to be wine". That seems true since, after the first week of diligent work, the wine seems to make itself.
Your essential but basic supplies:
--a primary fermenter. This can be a clean, 5-gallon food-safe plastic bucket, preferably with a lid.
--a secondary fermenter called a carboy. Pawn Stars featured one that was pre-1800 and hand-blown, worth exactly umpteen hundred dollars. What you actually need is a 3 or 5 gallon narrow-necked glass jug. Smaller jugs will also be useful. You can use plastic. I prefer glass because it's easier to clean and less likely to impart flavors from a previous use.
--air locks. Glass or plastic bubblers to fit the neck of the primary fermenter. You fill it with water or a sodium bisulfite solution to keep air away from the wine.
--siphon hose. About 6 feet will do the trick.
--strainer. You can use cheese cloth, muslin, a collander, or a pillowcase (really!). I use a combination to filter the wine. Sediment in your wine will make it cloudy and throw off the taste.
--wine yeast. Grapes naturally have yeast on them but it's not always the type of yeast that would make a good wine, so you buy a yeast designed to give a good, strong fermentation. Lalvin D47 or Bourgovin RC 212 are both good for a red grape wine.
--sodium bisulfite. You will need this chemical to sanitize your utensils and fruit.
--pectic enzyme. This breaks down the fruit's pulp and yields more juice. It has the added benefit of producing a clearer wine.
--grapes. About a bushel is needed for five gallons of wine.
--sugar, either cane or beet white granulated sugar works well. I've even tried brown sugar and may prefer it for grape wine.
--long-handled spoon. Some long plastic ones are on the market that work well in winemaking.
--a reliable wine-making book. I have several.
--dark wine bottles, corks, a corker such as a tabletop model and labels.
--hydrometer. Nice to have. Helps you read out the amount of sugar in the wine and calculate potential alcohol content.
You can buy winemaking kits that include juice or pulp. I haven't tried these yet but they come with step-by-step instructions. The drawback for me is the chemicals that you add in addition to the list above. The additional chemicals speed up the process so that the wine is ready in 30 days but these kits put things into the wine that I don't want. Time (up to several months) and simplicity often make the best wines. I like a good, clean wine, one that has filtered itself out and defizzed over a few months without added chemicals.
I use a supplier who is within a short drive of home but I also order supplies online.
Making wine is easier than it sounds. In recent years I have made several batches of wine but I am not an expert. You don't have to be. There's some chemistry involved but you don't really need to know exactly what actions and subsequent reactions are occuring, just trust that they do. Yes, it's work but it is such a fun hobby! Like a good cook, you develop your taste and get a natural feel for what works. Watch my upcoming blog "How to Make Concord Grape Wine" for a basic procedure.
Winemaking at home is legal in the U.S. for up to, I believe, 200 gallons for personal use and no, you can't sell the wine unless you become a wine vendor. But as your kindergarten teacher used to tell you, "Sharing is nice!" (In fact, I may have been your kindergarten teacher!)
As with any alcohol, do NOT drink too much and NEVER drink and drive. Taken with self-control and moderation, this will be a hobby you will treasure. Plan now for your own delicious wine next winter and live life abundantly!
From your little old winemaker, me (Quoting the old Swiss Colony ad.)
Welcome to The Pauley Principle!
The Pauli Principle, named for Wolfgang Pauli, deals with atoms and electron-sharing that results in new, stronger bonds. Think 2 parts hydrogen and 1 part oxygen, a shared delectable (!) electron and VOILA! Water!
Similarly, when you prepare whole food to share with family and friends, especially foods you've grown, something amazing happens. Meals become tastier and healthier. Your soul, not just your stomach, becomes fulfilled. You live life more abundantly as a result. During a shared meal, the bonds that people create grow stronger and become something new: GREATER than the sum of the parts! I give you The Pauley Principle.