Rudimentary Homemade Winemaking Process
When winemaking is boiled down to its barest essence, it involves these five simple steps:
- Choose a fruit. People have made homemade wine from almost every imaginable fruit. Choose something that grows locally or even something that grows on your property to obtain the freshest flavor.
- Process the fruit. You can either crush the fruit raw to release its juices or simmer the fruit in boiling water before crushing it. Leaving the peels on will usually create a more flavorful wine. Crush enough fruit to fill a clean two-gallon jar to no more than an inch below the rim. If you need more volume, add filtered volume, keeping in mind that water will affect the taste.
- Add yeast and honey or sugar. Add wine yeast and a bit of honey or sugar to the crock. Then, set the crock in a warm — but not too warm — place. Stretch a large balloon over the mouth of the jar, or cover the mouth with cloth and secure it with a rubber band. The yeast will generate a lot of gas while it ferments the fruit, and the gas needs a way to escape your jar without letting impurities into the brew. Let the crock sit for about three days, and stir it occasionally. Release the air from your balloon if needed.
- Strain and age. Strain the solids from your brew, pour the liquid into a glass container called a carboy and seal the carboy with an airlock. Add a Campden tablet to stabilize the brew. Then, let the wine age for at least a month and up to nine months before you bottle it.
- Pour into sanitized bottles. Add a Campden tablet to the wine as soon as you open the airlock on the carboy. The tablet will prevent bacteria from getting into the wine and turning it into vinegar.
3 Fruit Wines to Try
Try these simple recipes for wine made from elderberries, sour cherries and plums:
- Elderberry wine. Crush 3.5 pounds of elderberries and combine them with two pounds of granulated sugar, one 12-ounce can of red grape juice concentrate, the juice of one lemon and the juice of two oranges. Pour three quarts of boiling water over the mixture, stir to dissolve the sugar and allow it to come to a temperature of about 95 F. Add yeast, ferment for three days, transfer to a carboy and store for at least a month.
- Sour cherry wine. Mix 1.5 pounds of pitted cherries with three cups of sugar. Pour two quarts of boiling water over the mix, bring it to a temperature of 95 F and add the yeast and Campden tablet. Ferment and age in a carboy.
- Plum wine. Traditionally, plum wine is actually more like a cordial than a drinking wine, and the process is more like making vodka than making actual wine. Combine two pounds of red plums, one cup of sugar and one 750-milliliter bottle of vodka or other clear spirit. Store it in a cool dark place, stirring occasionally at first until the sugar dissolves, and let it age for six months. Sip it on the rocks or with a splash of sparkling water.
Before purchasing a complicated winemaking guide and worrying about the details of the craft, start by making some really simple homemade wines. After you’ve mastered the basic process, you can explore the nuances of artisan winemaking. Homemade chardonnay image by Daniel Spiess from Flickr Creative Commons.