You’re probably familiar with home beermaking kits, and you’ve undoubtedly heard tales of bathtub moonshine, but did you know you can make wine at home as well? It’s true! You probably won’t be able to duplicate the finest vintages from Tuscany, but it’s possible to make some pretty good hooch in your own home with just a few supplies. And besides, most of the fun is in the creation of the wine, and the fact that you are drinking something you made yourself makes it taste that much better.
The first thing you’ll need to do to get started is find a good store that sells winemaking supplies. A quick search of the internet will turn up several options, and you may even have a store or two in your own town that sells this sort of paraphernalia. Once you find a store to your liking, you’ll need the following equipment:
2 Carboys: these are large 5-6 gallon containers where the fermentation occurs. They come in plastic and glass; however, glass is the best option because plastic can retain some of the flavors of the previous batch.
Hydrometer: this is a device which reads the alcohol percentage in the wine, otherwise known as the wine’s gravity.
Corker: this device is used to put corks in wine bottles after you’ve filled them with your creation. It’s important to spend some extra money and get a good one, because the cheaper ones don’t work as well and can be frustrating to use.
Thermometer: a thermometer is important to measure the temperature of the wine as its fermenting. Stick-on thermometers are best, so you don’t have to open the carboy to check the temperature.
Winemaking Kit: this kit contains things such as wine yeast, potassium sorbate, and other things you’ll need for your concoction. It may also contain some or all of the other equipment listed here.
Corks, Empty Bottles, and Oak: The corks and empty bottles are self-explanatory, and the oak is optional to give the wine that oaky flavor that it normally gets from aging in oak barrels.
The first thing to do is press the grapes. If you want to make red wine, leave the skins in the mixture, and if white wine is your goal, then strain out the skins. Pour the pressed grapes into the fermenter, and then add the wine starter, which will come in the kit. Here is where you may add in the oak flavoring if so desired. Add some cold water according to the kit’s directions, and stir. Record the temperature and gravity with your tools, and then add the yeast, sprinkling it on the top of the mixture. Do not mix it! Close the carboy and airlock it, and wait a week for the fermentation to begin to occur. Make sure the temperature is between 60 and 75 degrees for the yeast to take effect.
Siphon the wine into the second carboy, leaving the sediment in the bottom of the first container. Those of you making white wine will also pour in a mixture of Bentonite (from the wine kit) and warm water, about 12oz. Put any oak chips that you’re planning on using into the carboy as well. Fill the container the rest of the way with cool water that’s first been boiled, and then airlock the container and let it sit for around 12 days.
After this last waiting period, you’re ready to again siphon the mixture out of the carboy and back into the other one, leaving the sediment behind. If you want to add sorbates or sulfites, this is the time to do it. Stir the mixture well several times throughout the next day, and add more cool water. Finally, let the mixture sit for another 10 days, and the end result will be your very own wine vintage! You can now bottle the wine with your empty bottle and corker.