How to Make Wine From Fresh Grapes

vineyard imageWine is a drink that has been made for centuries.  It consists of grapes, sugar, and yeast that are allowed to ferment until gas stops being released.  Once that is done, the beverage is bottled up and stored so that the flavors can mellow and sweeten with age.

The preparation of the grapes slightly differs according to the type of wine that is being made.  Red wine is made from the juice, skins, and seeds of red grapes while white wine is made from white grape juice only.

To begin the wine making process requires that every piece of equipment be sanitized.  This includes one 2 to 4 gallon food-grade pail with lid, plastic tubing half-inch in diameter, two 1-gallon glass jugs, fermentation lock and bung, five large wine bottles, and one potato masher.

The next step in the winemaking process is to pick the grapes.  Test a small batch of crushed grapes for their sugar content.  This is done with a hydrometer and is measured in Brix degrees.  Red grapes need to be between 22 to 24 Brix degrees.  White grapes, on the other hand, need to be between 19 to 22 Brix degrees.

If the selected grapes reach the correct sugar content, then they can be picked.  Be selective though when picking the grapes.  Only pick those that are not rotten or questionable.  Once picked, wash the grapes, let them air dry and go through them again before moving on to the next step.

After you are satisfied that the grapes are free of insects and vineyard debris, place them in a nylon straining bag and put the bag into the food-grade pail.  Once in the pail begin the crushing process by squishing the grapes with the aid of a potato masher.  Add to this must or crushed grapes a campden tablet.  Cover the pail with cheesecloth and let sit for one hour.

At this point is where red and white wine differs.  In the process of making red wine, the juice, skins and seeds are left in the pail.  White wine, on the other hand, requires that the nylon straining bag be lifted and squeezed to remove as much of the juice as possible.

The next step requires the winemaker to check the temperature of the juice and its acid content.  Red wine needs to be around 70-75 F degrees while white wine needs to be 55 to 65 F degrees.  A titration kit will be needed to test the acid level.  Red wine requires an acid rate of 6 to 7 grams per liter while white wine requires 6.5 to 7.5 grams per liter.

After these tests have been done, retest the Brix level.  Adjust as required by wine type.

Dissolve wine yeast in one pint of warm water and let sit until bubbling begins.  Once the bubbling starts pour into the pail and stir.  Cover the pail with cheesecloth and move to the correct room.  Red wine requires a room that is kept between 65 and 75 F degrees.  White wine requires a cool room that is kept between 55 to 65 F degrees.  After 24 hours, check the progress of the fermentation process.

Once the must has reached a dryness of at least 0.5 degrees Brix, it is time to rack the wine.  At this point, remove the nylon straining bag from the red wine pail and squeeze out all the juice.  Racking is a process by which the wine is siphoned away from the sediment.   The easiest way to do this is to place the pail above the jug and run plastic tubing from both containers.  The siphoning will remove the liquid and leave behind the sediment.  Once this is done, top off the jug with grape juice and cap with a sanitized bung and fermentation lock.  Let sit for 10 days and then follow the racking process again.

If you are making a red wine, the wine will need to sit for six months before the next step while white wine needs to sit for three months.  After the correct time period has passed, siphon off the clear wine from the sediment and place in sanitized wine bottles.  Cork the wine off with a hand corker.

Both types of wine will need to be stored in a cool, dark place.  Red wine will need to rest for at least six months before drinking.  White wine, on the other hand, will need to rest for at least three months before consumption.

While the process of making your own “house wine” seems overwhelming, it is well worth the effort and time.  Just remember that once you make your first wine you will be hooked on making your own designer “house wine.”


Mindy McIntosh-Shetter has been an Agricultural Science educator, and is a horticulture and/or environmental blogger who earned a degree from Purdue University in Agriculture Education with a minor in biology, and natural resources. Presently she is finishing up her Masters in Environmental Education and Urban Planning for the University of Louisville while working on her own agriculture/environmental blog.

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