Making wine at home is a lot easier than it sounds. Wine is a mostly hands off process that requires time and patience. Learn how you can make your own wine at home with these easy to follow instructions. This tutorial was written with our juices in mind, but these steps can largely be followed for almost all winemaking. This is the process we use to make all of our wines at KJ Urban Winery.
Stay CLEAN. Sanitize everything that comes into contact with your wine. This cannot be overstated.
Airspace – it is GOOD to have during initial fermentation, and BAD to have post fermentation.
Always use a hydrometer to determine if your wine is full fermented. Your eyes will not always be right.
Stabilizing your wine is a requirement, it is a safeguard against bacterial infection, oxidization, and secondary fermentation. Not using stabilizer is an effective way of wasting your money!
Temperature – If you ferment below 20.5c the fermentation will be very slow and might even stop pre-maturely. Ferment your wine at 22c.
Equipment Needed (for a 22L Batch)
30 Liter Fermenter, a 5 gallon carboy or you can re-use the canisters our juice came in, and a 23L pail.
Hydrometer, siphon tubing, J-Tube. Optional: plastic spoon, filling tube, bung and airlock if using a carboy.
Potassium metabisulphite (sanitizer), stabilizer, yeast. Optional: yeast nutrient, gelatin & kieselsol for clarifying white wine.
Take the 11L plastic container, and pour the juice into the sterilized carboy or plastic fermenter. Leave 7-8 inches of space at the top of the carboy or fermenter. You can safely fit two of our canisters into the 30L fermenter. If you are using a carboy to ferment you will need a gallon jug for overflow. The gallon jug must also have 3-4 inches of space below the neck Remember, airspace is good for fermentation. The fermenting juice will bubble up considerably and the air space prevents it from spilling.
Take a specific gravity (s.g.) reading using the hydrometer. It should usually be anywhere from 1085-1100. Write down the s.g., it will be needed to determine the alcohol % later. Make a yeast starter by pouring approx. 100 ml of juice and 100 ml of lukewarm water into a large glass. Sprinkle the yeast into this solution and allow the yeast to proliferate for about 30 minutes at room temperature. Then pour into the fermenter or carboy using most of the starter and leave a bit for the gallon jug. Then lightly place the lid on the fermenter. Remember to ferment in a room between 20.5c and 26c.
Skip this step if you are using a 30L fermenter. To provide the yeast with the oxygen it needs to multiply, place a paper towel in the neck of the bottles for the first 2-3 days. Then replace with bung and airlock.
Oaking – If you would like to oak your wine, adding a small amount of oak chips to your juice at fermentation can help bring out some of the oak flavours. We recommend using 1/3 of your oak at fermentation and 2/3 at racking. Ask us for details on appropriate oaking amounts.
The fermentation should take 7-14 days (To produce an off-dry wine please consult section 8 on the next page). The optimal s.g. is 996 or lower. You won’t see much happening in the first two days. Days 3-6 will have lots of bubbling and action, and then it will slow down. Take a hydrometer measurement after 7 days. The wine will likely need more time still. If the wine has not reached 996 after 14 days you can gently “swish” the carboy/fermenter to move the viable yeast inside. Adding yeast nutrient can also resolve a stuck fermentation.
Once the specific gravity is at .996 you will have successfully made wine! Now it is time to rack, because while it is wine, it’s also very rough. (For White Wine, see step #5)First, siphon the wine off of its sediment into a 23L pail, then apply the stabilizer (1 tsp/22L wine mixed with 100ml of hot water. Potassium Metabisulphite is considered a stabilizer.) to help prevent oxidation and bacterial infection. Now you need to move the wine into an airtight vessel. The best, and cheapest way is to just clean out the canisters the juice came in. Tilt them back and fill to the beginning of the spout, squeeze any air out and screw on the cap. Otherwise, siphon into a 5 gallon carboy and add the bung and airlock. Remember, airspace at this stage is BAD. There should be less than an inch of space between the bung and the wine.
Oaking – Now is the time for the second regimen of oak. Add the remainder of your oak into your vessel. The majority of the oak flavour will come at this stage as it sits on the oak chips for the next 3+ weeks.
Clarifying White Wine(Optional)
White wines can be harder to clarify. Using a combination of gelatin and Keiselsol at racking can greatly assist white wines in clarifying. Do NOT use gelatin and Keiselsol on red wine as it could potentially strip the colour out of the wine
How to use: mix ½ tsp of gelatin with 200ml of boiling hot water. Stir for a minute and let sit for 10-20 minutes.
Just as in step 4, siphon the white wine from its fermenter into a pail. Add the same amount of stabilizer as in step 4, and then add the gelatin once it has sat for the required 10-20 minutes. Wait another 10 minutes and then add 1oz of Keiselsol.
Just as in step 4, rack into an airtight container and proceed to step 6.
The wine should be placed in a very cold spot, like the garage (in the winter) a fruit cellar, or any fridge. You want to aim for somewhere between +5/-5c. The wine should sit in this cold place for at least 3 weeks. If it stays for longer, it should be racked again every 3-4 weeks. When the wine has been racked 4 times, stabilizer should be used again. Red wine will clarify in about 3 months.
When your wine is clear, it is ready to bottle. Taste the wine, and sweeten it to your taste if so desired, by adding wine conditioner. Remember to stabilize the wine just prior to bottling (1/2 tsp potassium metabisulphite mixed with 100ml warm water/22L). Age the wine according to desired varietal characteristics.
Making a Wine Off-Dry
We have found that if done safely, leaving residual sugar in our juices can lead to amazing wines. We find this works best in our Moscato, Riesling, and Gewurztraminer juices, but this technique is effective with all juices. Even a Rose blend of our Merlot and Trebbiano could be done in this same fashion.
Begin the fermentation as you normally would by adding the yeast. The goal is to stop the fermentation at a specific gravity (s.g.) of 1.015. The wine will continue to ferment a little after stopping it which will result in a s.g. of 1.005.
Begin checking the s.g. daily after 5 days. It should be at 1015 by day 6 or 7.
Once it is at 1.015, rack the wine into a pail and add the following: