Making wine at home
How to make a good wine at home
Making wine at home getting good results is possible, even without sophisticated equipment, because the nature gives us a hand doing most of the work through fermentation. This process is carried out by micro-organisms called yeasts present on the skins of the grapes, which break down the sugar found in grapes turning it into alcohol.
To make a good wine, we need good quality grapes! For this reason you should necessarily inform you of the best time for harvesting according to the type of grape: never picking it up wet from rain or with excessive dew, because it dilutes the wort, and it must not be too hot because it could ferment inappropriately.
Do not wash the grapes before you press them because they would lose the yeasts, while persist any pesticides.
However, it is essential to quickly push the freshly picked grapes to avoid souring and if you use plastic baskets make sure they have holes to let the piled grapes transpire. These precautions also apply to purchased grapes: for this reason it's better if they come from neighboring places and it is good practice to check the integrity of the clusters that are not in evidence. It is also good to know that the process of winemaking must be done in a clean, free from strong odors and large vibrations and airy room, as the fermentation process releases carbon dioxide harmful to health.
When you buy the grapes, keep in mind that for every ton you will produce 70 litres of wine using a press, otherwise the yield decreases.
The first step is crushing and destemming (using a crusher-destemmer), which in fact is the real phase that transforms the grapes into wine, letting out the juice from the fruit and separating the stalks. If you have a crusher, then you'll have to manually separate the stalks from the pulp and the skins in order to avoid the increase in acidity. During this process, add potassium metabisulfite (or Trefosolfina) because it has antiseptic and antioxidant properties: it only takes a teaspoon per quintal of grapes (not more, it may stop the fermentation).
The must obtained from this first process should be put directly into a fermentation container for the so-called "maceration", making sure that the container has been disinfected by detergents specific for wine.
- don't seal up the container (you need just a towel);
- keep doors and windows closed, while allowing an efficient ventilation;
- maintain the temperature constantly between 21 and 25 °C (if the temperature approaches 18 °C, use heaters);
- check that the production of carbon dioxide is not excessive (even with the aid of a tallow candle);
- never fill more than ¾ of the container where the must is fermenting because, during the tumultuous phase, it could overflow.
The must can also be left to ferment in the container in which it is pressed but, to prevent that once transformed into wine can turn sour, it is best to use a vat of wood or a food-grade plastic bucket and place a weight on the mass of the must, so that it is pressed. The winemakers generally use crossed wooden poles, cut to size and placed on the must with weights that favor the pressure.
The "tumultuous" fermentation begins 4-5 hours after crushing (yeasts present on the grape skins may not be sufficient, then add selected yeasts to help the start of fermentation: dilute them in warm water, add a bit of sugar observing the prescribed doses on the packaging (after a few minutes you will note some foam on the surface: it means that is fermenting) and add them to the must after 3-4 hours).
To start boiling, you must spend 24h (the duration may vary: if they are black grapes, 4-5 days). During these days must be done the treading (which consists in breaking the "hat" with a cane, so that the skins can release substances and dyes to the must). This operation must be performed at least once every 12 hours, stirring the marc who have formed the "hat" on the surface of the must. During this process, it should be carried out "pumping" by taking the liquid in the bottom of the container with a pump or by hand with buckets and pour it directly onto the hat.
If you want to get a full-bodied, bitter, colorful and strong alcohol, the slow fermentation cycle can last up to 18-21 days.
During this process, it is essential to check daily the temperature and the density, transcribing the results on your notebook, so you can see the progress of the fermentation. The temperature is detected with a thermometer, while the density control is performed by a must saccharimeter or densimeter: during the fermentation, this value decreases until it reaches a value between 0.990 and 0.995 (values of racking); if the value is greater than 1 it means that the fermentation is not yet complete; if the value stabilizes at a value greater than 1 it means that the fermentation is locked, so you have to turn it back on immediately (may be due to: too cold ambient or lack of yeasts). Warning: this value must be approached to 0 (zero), but should not exceed the negative, otherwise it could turn sour.
In the case of white grapes left to ferment for one day.
While if you like a rosé wine, making wine with marcs, it is appropriate to interrupt the fermentation after 18-24 hours at most.
A healthy and storable wine must have a minimum alcohol content of 11.5-12, but not always the must has enough sugar: to avoid this possibility, it should be checked using a densimeter, inserted in a cylindrical vessel containing wine. If the alcohol content is low provided, it must be added 1.7 kg of sucrose (sugar) per ton of must for every degree that you want to increase.
If the fermentation does not start well, it may be that the room temperature is too low, so it will be necessary to warm up a bit the environment; it may also be that there is a lack of yeasts, so you need to buy cultured yeasts to add to the must. But it could also occur the opposite case, namely that the temperature of the must exceed 36 °C: this circumstance would stop the fermentation because the function of the yeast would stop.
After a few days (4 to 10 days) the fermentation ends, you will taste the wine and you actually feel that all the sugar has turned into alcohol. At this point the racking which is the separation of the marc (skins) and the wine. For this process, you can also use a strainer basket that will hold over the skins and even the pips (seeds). The wine will be poured into a container filled completely and then you can lower the room temperature to 16 °C. You must put the skins that still contain a lot of liquid in the press and carrying out the first pressing: the liquid that is obtained will be added to the existing one, while that of the second pressing will be "cut", that is mixed with more varieties of wine to be consumed daily.
The wine, once sealed in its container (tank, demijohn or barrel), will continue its work by continuing to release sedimentary deposits. You will need to make decanting with a plastic hose for food that must not touch the bottom so as not to draw the "scum" (in order to minimize the time of contact with the air we recommend a decanting pump). Don't shake wine before being transferred: the residues, in addition to making opaque wine, are carriers of harmful bacteria for that. The 1st transfer must be made between late November and early December (check the right time on the lunar calendar), the 2nd transfer in January and the 3rd in the spring, on clear and dry days.
During the transfer, take a sample of your wine (about ½ litre), seal it in a bottle of the same capacity and bring it to an oenologist or a shop specialized in oenology, such as Polsinelli Enologia, for analyzing. This operation will cost about 15 euros, but they surely will be well spent because the oenologist will give you the right directions to correct any defects.
Now you will only have to choose the right time to bottle, in the period from June to end of August, after which you have to wait at least another six months before it can be tasted.
During the tasting, you will be thrilled because it will seem like the best wine you've ever drunk.