How to make wine at home

Make your wine at home having excellent results is now possible, even without sophisticated equipment, because the nature helps us making great part of the work through the fermentation. This happens thanks to microorganisms, called yeasts, on the peelings grape that break down the fruit sugar transforming it in alcohol.

To make a good wine we need high quality grapes! This is the reason why you must inform about the best period of the harvest according to the grape variety, you should avoid harvesting rain wet grapes or with too much dew as the must will be too dilute; moreover it should be not too hot as the fermentation could be not properly.

Do not wash the grapes before pressing because the yeast would be lost whereas the pesticide would persist.

It is essential anyway to press quickly after the harvest to avoid acidification and also make sure to use open plastic trays to let transpire the stored grapes.

These advices are also valid for purchased grapes, for this reason it’s better that grapes come from nearby zones and it’s a good practice to control integrity of not visible bunches. It is good to know that the process must take place in a clean and ventilated room, without strong smell and strong vibration, as the fermentation releases carbon dioxide harmful to health.

Just in case you will decide to buy, be informed that each quintal produces 70 liters of product using a press otherwise the yield decreases.

From Pressing to Fermentation

To make your wine at home the first operation is pressing and destemming though which is possible to separate the liquid from the fruit removing the stems by the use of a stainless steel destemmer. Just in case you only have a crushing machine you have to separate by hands the stems from the pulp and peelings to reduce the acidification. During this operation add potassium metabisulphite as it has antiseptic and antioxidant properties: a teaspoon is enough for each quintal (not more as it can stop the fermentation!). The obtained must from this first production must be put directly in a fermentation tank to let “maceration”, being sure that it has been disinfected with the right oenology cleansers.

During the fermentation:

  • Do not cover hermetically the tank (only with a sheet)
  • Close doors and windows but let aerate in the properly way
  • Keep constant temperature between 21 and 25 C° (just in case the temperature is around18 °C use heaters)
  • Control that carbon dioxide production will not increase (also using a stearic candle)
  • Do not fill the tank over the ¾ where the must ferments as during the tumultuous phase it could overflow.

It also possible to let ferment the must in the same tank where it has been pressed but to avoid that once transformed could be acidic we suggest to use a wood tank or a plastic tub suitable to food contact and place a weight upon the must in order to press it. Usually winemakers use crossed wooden poles, sized and positioned on the must with weights that help the pressure.

The tumultuous fermentation begins after 4-5 hours after pressing (the only yeasts on the peelings berries could be not sufficient, so add selected yeasts to help process starting: take care to respect prescribed doses on the packaging, dilute them into warm water, add some sugar and after a while you will notice foam on the surface, that means it is fermenting, then after 3-4 hours you can add it to the must).

It will take 24 hours to start the boiling, whom duration may vary, just in case of black grapes it is 4-5 days. During these days the punching must be done (it consists in breaking the cap with a stick so that peelings will concede substance and colors to the must). This operation has to be done at least every 12 hours, mixing the peelings, also called marc, that created the cap on the must surface.

During this process it is also suggested to make some “passages”, taking the liquid on the bottom, using a pump or by hands and pouring it directly on the cap. If you wish a full-bodied product, bitter, colored and with strong alcohol volume, the slow fermentation can be also of 18-21 days. It is important to check daily temperature and density taking note on your notebook and in this way, you can notice your fermentation performance. The temperature has to be measured with a thermometer whereas the density measurement has to be done with the right chemical glassware for food use, such as a hydrometer or a densimeter. During the fermentation this value decreases to reach a value between 0,990 and 0,995 (racking values), if the value is higher than 1, it means that fermentation is still not concluded. If during the fermentation the density stabilizes on a value higher than 1 it means it's blocked therefore it must be activated again (among possible causes: too cold room or yeasts deficiency). Warnings: this value must be around 0 (zero), but it cannot exceed in negative or it could become acidic.

In case of white grapes let ferment only for 1 day while if you would like to have a rosé through the marc, it is suggested to stop the fermentation after maximum 18-24 hours. To obtain healthy and preservable product it is necessary to reach a volume of alcohol of minimum 11,5-12, but the must does not always present enough sugars. To avoid this happens, you have to check with a densimeter in a cylindrical container with must. If the alcohol volume is too low, it should be added sucrose (sugar), measuring 1,7kg for each must quintal for each grade that you want to increase. If the fermentation doesn’t start in correct way it’s possible that the room temperature is too low and it is necessary to heat the room; a yeasts deficiency may also occur therefore you should buy selected yeasts to be added to the must. On the contrary, it may be possible that must temperature exceeds 36 °C and in this case the fermentation would stop because the yeasts don’t work anymore.

Racking, pouring and final bottling of homemade wine.

After some days (from 4 to 10 days) the alcoholic fermentation ends, you have to taste the must and feel that all the sugar is transformed in alcohol. At this point the racking starts and it's the separation between the peelings and wine. For this process you can also use a wicker sieve that will hold the peels and the seeds. The product will be poured in a completely full tank and only at this point we can lower the temperature under 16 °C. We put the peelings, still containing much liquid, in the press and we perform the first pressing, the liquid will be added to the other while the one got from the second pressing should be mixed to other typologies to be consumed daily.

The liquid will be closed in the wine tank (tank, demi-john or barrel) where it will continue independently the work, releasing the sedimental deposit. It will be necessary to make pouring with plastic food contact hose that must not touch the bottom and eventually suck the lees (to reduce as soon as possible contact times with air we suggest to use a pouring pump). A useful suggestion is to not shake it before the pouring. The sediments not only make turbid the liquid but are also bearers of harmful bacteria. The first pouring must be done between end November and begin December (check the right period on the lunar calendar); the second pouring in January and the third in late spring, during clear and dry days. During the pouring take a sample of your product, about ½ liter, seal it in a same capacity bottle and let it analyzed to your oenologist or in a specialized shop like Polsinelli Enologia : the price is around € 15,00, but it is for sure a good deal because the oenologist will give you the right indication to correct any defect.

Now you only have to choose the right time to bottling, in the period from June to end of August, then you have to wait at least 6 months before to taste it. We saw with our expert how to make wine at home, a process handed down in the centuries to us, getting improved through the use of machines and equipment that allow you to make independently your beverage. Keep following us and don’t lose any of our guides with suggestions and advices of experts of Polsinelli Enologia.