You Can Make Wine!

Have you ever wondered if you could make wine?  It might be easier than you think.

It’s possible that you know someone who has tried to make their own wine.  I’ve met plenty of folks whose Grandfather made wine in the basement – and a good majority of them wished it had stayed there.  But with a few basic tools you should be able to make a very respectable wine that you can be proud to call your own.

First, I would recommend that you read several books on wine-making at home.   This will give you a good solid understanding of the process, then you’ll be ready to get into the knitty-gritty.

You can start with as little as two, one gallon jars, airlocks for the jars, some juice and sugar.  You’ll have to purchase some yeast and I would recommend getting a hydrometer (a device to measure the amount of sugar in the juice), to determine the correct sugar level in the juice.   The last thing you’ll need is a piece of clear 3/8ths hose to transfer the juice from one container to another (in wine-making terminology, this is called racking) and you’re in business.

There are two things to remember about making wine.  The first is sanitation.  Always keep everything sparkling clean.  Never use chlorine but some other cleanser.  The second is to keep the outside air from touching the wine.  Always use airlocks on all your vessels, and make sure they are filled as close to the brim as possible.  This will eliminate the danger of oxidation.

When I began making my own wine, I didn’t need to spend too much money.  I started out with a primary fermenter which was a food grade 5 gallon bucket.  I had 2 carboys (large glass jars) and 2 airlocks.  I used a floating hydrometer and some used wine bottles.  I bought some corks and an inexpensive corker.  I purchased yeast at the local liquor store which handled wine-making equipment and supplies.  I placed my equipment on a two shelf cart which could be moved with little effort.  The first wine I ever made was a superb cherry wine.  It didn’t take much effort and it had surprising complexity for a fruit-forward wine.  I followed that up with a rhubarb wine which wasn’t too bad.

After that, I was hooked.  I have tried many grape varieties and juices.  Some were good and some were used to clean the drain.  But I have had fun experimenting with mixtures and flavors that you will never be able to find at your wine retailer or even at a local winery.

If you’re looking for juice, ask around and try to find a vineyard in your area and see if you can buy a few gallons.  Most will have a few grapes or juice that you can try and usually they’re more than willing to talk to you and lend a bit of advice.  And, of course, bringing them a bottle of your finished product should help put you in their good graces so you’ll be first on the list to purchase juice for next year.  Let them know several weeks (or even months) before harvest that you are interested.  Some vineyards may even let you pick some of your own grapes.

Here are some books that I recommend to get you started.

Micro-Vinification – A Practical Guide to Small-Scale Wine Production by Murli Dharmadhikari and Karl Wilker, Missouri State University.

Wine Making by Stanley Anderson, Dorothy Anderson, Harcourt Brace

Home Winemaking by Jon Iverson, Stonemark Publishing

Of course, there are a number of great resources on the internet as well.  And if you’re looking for a local vendor for supplies, there are a number of wine making stores and grocery stores now carrying basic supplies for the hobbyist.

It is incredible to be able to craft your own delectable drink.  If done correctly – with love and attention – it will always taste better when you make it yourself.  And unlike those folks whose horror stories we hear all too often about Grampa’s basement wine – you’ll have something to be proud of.