"Wine Making... From Start to Finish!"

graphic showing a wine maker holding a glass of red wine standing beside his wine press


Sip. Slosh. Swirl. Swallow.

Mmmm... delicious!

Wine making does that to you... well, at least the drinking part of it. :)

Did you know that you can make quality wine at home for super cheap? Yup! For $1.50/bottle and even lower depending on what you're making.

  • grape wines
  • fruit wines
  • vegetable and flower wines, you name it.

... I still remember my first batch.

It was a cabernet sauvignon (from a kit) - 25 bottles of dark, fruity and succulent brew.

Once that wine hit the back of my throat, I was hooked. And you? What will you make? The choice that you have nowadays is mindboggling.

From this point forward, I'll share with you the easiest steps to make each type of wine:

  • show you how to store your wine
  • wet your whistle with some wine tasting tips
  • and let you in on all the secrets so that you get the most from your wine quest!

Kit wines are available year-round, or, if your creative juices are really stoked, try wine making from:

  • fresh grapes
  • fresh or frozen juice
  • country wines (fruit wines)
  • or even icewine juice!

The best thing about it is, you take on as much or as little as you like.

There's nothing better than enjoying the fruits of your labor with friends and family. Pouring a few glasses of some rich and silky red, and watching their faces light up! Perfect.

But wait a minute. It's not all about crafting your very own delicious splash of wine is it?

... it's about the entire experience. A journey of sorts. Ready to get started?


Making Wine From a Kit

Infographic showing workflow for wine making from a kitWine making kit workflow

This is probably the best way to get some hands-on experience. It's how I started. And you don't need much equipment or know-how, just follow the included instructions.

You can make it at home or at a retail wine shop. You'll wind up with around thirty bottles of some very excellent wine.

Once you've made (and shared!) a few batches, you'll wonder why you didn't get into this sooner... soooo simple.


Wine Making From Fresh Grape Juice (must)

Infographic showing winemaking workflow from grape juiceMaking wine from fresh grape juice workflow

We're getting a little more involved, with a little more equipment as we move down the list here. But this is still pretty easy stuff.

Fresh grape juice or must, is usually sold in a 20l or 23l pail. This is the real McCoy here (not juice from the grocery store). You can buy the juice fresh or frozen from local winemaking shops or even online.

The grapes are selected in the vineyard for quality and ripeness. Then they are cold-pressed. Most will contain additives such as: 

  • acids
  • sugar (or grape concentrates)
  • and sulfite (commonly used as a preservative in most wines).  

This is done to balance the wine and gives the manufacturer consistency, pail after pail. And just so you know - these additives are standard in pretty much all wines.


Note:

The workflows shown on this page are typical, and there are many options you can choose at each stage. But you have to start somewhere! This is what makes wine making so 'personalized'.

Depending on the chosen options, you can make different tasting wine using the exact same juice or fresh grapes. Uniquely yours.


Wine Making From Fresh Grapes!

White Grapes Workflow:

Infographic workflow showing how to make wine from fresh white grapesWorkflow for making wine from fresh white grapes




Red Grapes Workflow:

Infographic showing workflow for making wine from fresh red grapesWorkflow for making wine from fresh red grapes


  • crushing
  • destemming
  • macerating
  • pressing

You know you're in deep when the "ings" arrive on the scene!

This is where you can really come into your own as a winemaker. You have the most control over the process and the outcome of your wine.

But along with that, comes more opportunity for things to go wrong!  You will have spent more money on equipment, fresh grapes (unless you grow your own), and supplies.

It will eat up more of your valuable time as well. Oh, and it's bound to be messier.

Yet, this is just so rewarding. In soooo many ways.

You can buy grapes from a certain region, known for growing a specific varietal that you love. After crafting the wine to perfection and with some aging, it's ready to share! With:

  • friends
  • family
  • neighbors
  • and fellow wine geeks.

Through careful planning and experience, you can make wine as good or better than what you're buying retail. Did I mention at a fraction of the cost? And the bragging rights are all yours!



Image of strawberries, dandelion, and apples that you can make country wine fromTasty wine can be made from many fruits and edibles

Making Country Wines

Did you know that amazing wine can be made from:

  • fruit
  • vegetables
  • flowers
  • herbs, and darn near anything edible!

Experimenting is the key here, especially blending with other wines. Your creativity and attention to detail will make you some beautiful wines.

Some of the wine you produce will show fantastic coloring and aromas. It's always a treat to open a bottle of lush elderberry or strawberry wine when company is coming over. ;-)

These wines are usually made in smaller batches, so minimal equipment and supplies are needed. That's completely up to you though. Scale up and make a larger batch if you have the fruit.

The different types of wine you can make is just amazing. Once you get started, it'll be hard to look at food without wondering what a wine made from it would taste like!



Wine Making Equipment and Ingredients

There's no getting around it...

You'll need some wine making supplies to make yummy wine!

Take a look at the images above to give you an idea of the equipment you'll need. Or check out my wine making supplies page. Decisions like batch size, which methods you use, and how you plan to store your wine all factor into it.

Make sure you use "food grade" equipment for all plastic pails, hoses etc. You don't want any off-flavors coming out in your wine.

Scratches in the plastic can hide bacteria that can quickly ruin a batch too. So replace what you have to and get a good nights sleep!

When wine making, there are some ingredients (additives) you'll need to add to each batch as well. They're different for each batch you make but may include:

  • acids
  • malolactic bacteria (and nutrients)
  • sugars
  • sulfite
  • tannins
  • fining agents
  • yeast
  • yeast nutrients
  • pectic enzymes
  • oak chips/powder etc.

You should follow a recipe to get started to 'get your hands wet'. Check out my how to make wine or fruit wine making pages for a few wine recipes.

In general, I would buy fresh ingredients and corks. The ingredients have a shelf life and corks can become tainted with TCA which gives off a dank, moldy smell in your wine (known as corked wine).


Cleaning and Sanitizing

Yes, they are two different things. And they just happen to be the most important part of making your homemade wine!

For cleaning use:

  • soft water
  • soft cloth (not an abrasive pad)
  • soft brushes (not recommended for plastic fermenters though - cleaner only)
  • PBW or B-Brite (non-caustic cleaner)

Rinse the item first. Then clean, then rinse well. Let the cleaner do the work. You don't want scratches in your plastic fermenter etc.

Stay away from dish soaps and any cleaner with chlorine in it

For sanitizing use:

  • Potassium metabisulphite crystals or crushed Campden tablets.
  • or Star San sanitizer

Rinsing isn't necessary if you follow the instructions for getting the proper mix.

This all seems simple enough...

Amazing that more wine gets ruined from not cleaning and sanitizing properly than anything else!




Image of wine bottles in a wine cooler and an image of wine bottles laying in a wine rack.Typical wine storage methods

Storing Your Wine

Proper home wine storage... for too many people this is just an afterthought.

Let's say you just finished a large batch of fresh grapes. After all that time and money spent, agonizing over the details:

  • fussing
  • testing
  • adjusting
  • waiting
  • racking
  • and tasting

You've finally reached the storage stage. It pays big time to store it properly! If your wine is going to be cellared for years then this is even more important.

The proper:

  • temperature
  • relative humidity
  • and lighting

all have a part to play here. The jury is still out on whether vibration is a bad thing or not for your wine as it ages. But I would keep it in a quiet place and not have to worry about it.

There are some pretty high-tech wine coolers and credenza's to check out as well. They come in an array of sizes, styles and finishes to suit just about any decor.

A proper wine cellar is very nice... but so is having some of your wine close at hand after a long day. Especially if it's held at the perfect serving temperature!



Image of Napa Valley Wine Train tours showing the train and dinner settingNapa Valley Wine Train Tours

How To Enjoy Your  Wine Making Experience

What?... Like I need to tell you how to enjoy it? Not likely, but here are a few tips anyway. :)

Baby steps. Start small and grow into your experience. Your passion will build as you move along.

Join your local wine club. That alone can accelerate your learning! You'll be sharing knowledge of wine with like-minded people.

Learn the art of blending wine. Ditto for tasting wine. Along the way you'll develop your palate.

Pairing food with certain wines should be high on your list of winejoy, if you love food the way I do! And cooking with wine is just pure bliss.

Try something new for a change. Like grape stomping your next batch. Or wine making Appassimento style (drying your grapes).

There are some awesome wine tours to check out, as well as:

  • Resorts
  • Castles
  • Getaways
  • Wine train tours and bicycle tours too! Many with some fantastic chefs.


So... your wine world awaits.

It's time to get cracking... Er... drinking! ;)