You can make your own wine at home using kits, which are basically concentrates or straight from natural ingredients when you have gained a little confidence.
For the beginner, wine from kits is a good way to gain an understanding of the process and confidence.
Making Your Own Wine from Kits
The general method for most wine made from concentrates is to mix the concentrate with hot water and sugar, mixing thoroughly to dissolve the sugar. You may have to add some citric acid as well for best results. Usually the concentrate pack will give you the specific recipe details. Often you only add part of the sugar initially, adding the rest as a syrup after the initial fermentation has slowed down.
Then allow your base, it’s called a ‘must’, to cool to below blood heat (38deg C) before adding your yeast or you’ll kill it. You can also add yeast nutrient, we found it really helpful, which is really like a booster for the yeast.
Pour into the demijohns leaving some headroom or it will bubble up into the airlock and could breach the seal. Fix the bung and airlock on. Don’t forget you need to add sterile (boiled from the kettle is fine) water in the airlock, that’s what seals it against wild yeast getting in.
Now put your demijohn somewhere warm. Ideally you want to maintain about 18 to 20 deg C so an airing cupboard is ideal although with good insulation on the tank they’re not as warm as they used to be. You can buy little electric blankets for demijohns, but that’s a cost.
After a few hours you’ll see little bubbles of air coming through the airlock and these will speed up quite quickly. A little foam will appear on the surface and the plop of bubbles coming through the airlock will get faster and faster. Sometimes it can take a day before the fermentation takes off, if it’s much longer then assume something has gone wrong with the yeast. You can usually rescue the situation by adding some yeast to a sugar solution and adding that to the demijohn.
After the initial rush, things slow down and this is where you add extra syrup if the recipe calls for it. Once again things speed up and then calm again. Now you just need to be patient and leave things alone for about six weeks.
After this time, you can check the specific gravity (for the alcohol content) with your hydrometer and if all is well move onto the next stage, racking. Down at the bottom of your demijohn there will be a layer of yeast and sediment. We don’t want this in the wine, it doesn’t taste well and it spoils the look.
Sterilise another demijohn and some plastic siphon tube, then carefully siphon off the wine from the first demijohn into the new one. To do this, put the full demijohn onto an upturned bucket or similar so that its base is above the top of empty demijohn. Insert your tube just an inch or two in and then suck on the other end to fill the tube with wine. Once filled, place into the top of the lower clean demijohn and the wine will start to flow from one to the other.
You need to use a little skill and judgement now. The idea is to get the wine and leave the sludge behind. Be very gentle and as the end of the siphon gets near the bottom keep your eye on the tube as well. If it suddenly sucks up the gunk, pinch the tube off or close it with your thumb.
Now we want to stop any further action by the yeast by killing them off. Add 1 Campden tablet crushed and mixed with boiled water. Campden tablets are made of sodium metabisulphite and they release sulphur dioxide which is a powerful sterilising agent.
Top up your wine to just under the neck of the demijohn with cooled boiled water and put a solid bung into the jar. Leave it in a cool dark place and sediments will continue to settle out. After three months it should be sparkling and clear, ready to bottle.
You can hasten this clearing process by adding wine finings as you rack. These will cause the remaining sediments to clear in a day or two but since all home made wine improves with age, usually just leave it to time.
Now you can rack the wine again or bottle it. With a kit wine, I’d just bottle and I’d probably have used the finings to hurry things along. Don’t forget it’s critical to have clean, sterile bottles. If there is old sediment in a bottle, don’t use it.
You soften natural corks in boiling water, which sterilises them and then cork the bottles. You can get plastic wrappers that you place over the cork end of the bottle and shrink wrap them on with a hairdryer. They look most professional.
Label with the name and most importantly the date, place in a wine rack and test your strength of character. The longer you leave it, the better the wine.
We’ve a great tradition in this country of making wines from wild ingredients like elder or blackberries and from vegetables – like parsnip and peapod. It may offend the French but they can be just as good as any imported wine.
The country wine recipes give details of the methods for each.