In most states in America, it is completely legal to make a restricted amount of wine right in your own home. Not only is homebrewing a popular hobby (the American Homebrewing Association’s rather conservative estimate claims there are around 500,000 homebrewers at any given time) but it is not as difficult a task as some might think, and does not have to be a particularly expensive hobby.
After all, wine is merely “a fermented beverage made from the juice of any fruit”. Galileo has famously described wine as “sunlight held together by water”, and this simple philosophical definition points out the ease with which wine can be made. All you need are the proper materials, a little bit of space, and the desire to make your own delicious homebrewed vino.
How do you make your own wine?
Homemade Winemaking Equipment
You’ll also need a large glass container which will work as a “fermenting vessel”. A proper vessel for fermenting your fruit can be obtained at a hobby store or brewing shop. The reason you should go ahead and shell out for the slightly more expensive brewshop jugs is that they will have an “airlock”. The airlock on your fermenting jug will allow carbon dioxide to escape the jug without allowing air to enter. Air in your fermentation jug will oxidize the fermenting fruit and ruin your brewing process. To find a brew shop in your area, use your old friend Google or another internet search.
A large “food grade” tub or plastic container with a lid will be handy when pressing the juice from your fruit. If you don’t feel like you can press or squeeze the juice out of your fruit by hand, an electric juicer will be of great assistance. Yeast, also obtainable from brew shops or in most grocery stores, is a necessity, as is a siphoning tube. If you don’t want to spend your entire life boiling your equipment, pick up some sterilization tablets or powder from a cleaning supply store, or perhaps also from your local big box store.
Home Wine Making Instructions
When you’re ready to make wine, gather your fruit and juice it and follow these home wine making instructions. How much fruit juice do you need? Enough to fill the fermentation vessel. Never water down your juice, as suggested by some homebrewing advice books, because the wine will suffer from the addition of water — basically, you’ll end up with watery wine.
Stomp, juice, press, or squeeze your fruit into your food grade tub. If using a particularly “frothy” fruit (apples, pears, etc), your siphoning tube will come in handy. You don’t want to add froth to your eventual fermentation mix. When you have enough juice to fill your fermentation jug, decide if you need to add sugar. Very sweet juices will not need sugar — I’m thinking here of plums or sweet grapes. However, to most other fruits I would add a pound or two of sugar per gallon of juice. If you aren’t a sweet wine fan, or if you like a particularly “dry” wine, you can reduce or cut the sugar entirely. Remember that sugar is food for yeast, and the more sugar you add the more alcohol content will be in the wine. Experiment with different sugar levels to find the quality of wine you like best, from very sweet to very dry.
Add your sterilization tablets to some water and sterilize your fermenting vessel. You can also boil the heck out of it if you want to avoid sterilization tablets. The idea is to ferment your juice in a completely clean vessel, avoiding impurities. Pour your fruit juice into your fermenting jug, and “activate” your yeast by adding it to a little warm water and sugar in a cup. After a few minutes, the yeast is “alive” and ready to go to work. Add the yeast to the fruit juice in your fermenting jug. Airlock your jug and watch as bubbles should begin to form in the airlock within a few hours of sealing off your fermentation jug. These bubbles mean that the yeast is reacting to the sugar in the jug, and alcohol is forming.
Set your fermentation jug in a relatively warm and safe place. Ideally, you should ferment your wine between 8 months and one full year. Trying to drink the wine too soon will leave you with a bad taste in your mouth. Wine takes time, and the more time you take the more you’ll be rewarded.
A little hint — I’ve found that placing the jug in a particularly cold spot for a week before opening will clear up or “clarify” the wine, improving its look and perhaps its taste.
At this point, you’re ready to bottle and cork your wine. Don’t forget to sterilize the bottles and corks you use. Print out your own fancy label, making note of the fruit, sugar amount, and year of bottling. Ideally, you’ll wait another year or two to drink the fantastic wine you’ve made.
Share it with friends. Show them how easy the process is. Who knows — perhaps you’ll start a local fad.
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