Wine is a delicious beverage enjoyed across the world for its unique aromatic and flavor experiences. Making your own wine at home is simple; the wine-making process is entirely natural and requires little intervention, making it accessible to nearly anyone. There are five steps to making wine: harvesting; crushing and pressing; fermentation; clarification and filtration; and bottling and aging. Whether growing your own grapes or purchasing fresh wine grapes or juice concentrate from a local vendor, making your own wine is a rewarding experience.
Harvesting grapes for wine-making begins sometime between mid-August and late September, depending on climate. Harvesting takes place 100 to 120 days after flowering. Harvesting grapes from the vines by hand is a gentle process and prevents the delicate grapes from being damaged by a mechanical harvest. Harvest your grapes when you think the time is right based on how the grapes grow in your area, as well as how the grapes taste to you.
Crushing and Pressing
Crushing whole clusters of grapes by hand or by mechanical process is the next step in wine-making. Crush your harvested grapes into what is referred to as must, the pulp and skin of the grapes mixed with the juice. This can be done in a wooden barrel, or any other large steel or glass container. Red wine is made leaving the skins and pulp in the wine during fermentation, while white wine extracts the juice shortly after crushing. Leave the grapes with the skins and pulp during red wine-making to allow for coloration and additional tannins during fermentation. If making white wine, quickly press your grapes after crushing, harvesting just the juice, to avoid lengthened contact with the skins.
Allow your must or juice to sit and ferment. Freshly crushed must or juice begins to ferment naturally within 12 hours. Some wine makers prefer to kill natural yeasts and add their own yeast to the must or juice to have more control over the finished product. Ferment your wine in a dark place, 70 to 75 degrees F. in temperature. Fermenting usually takes from 10 days to one month, depending on climate, and sometimes takes longer. Deliberately stop fermentation earlier to have a sweet wine, and let the wine ferment longer if a dry wine is desired.
Clarification and Filtration
When you are ready to stop the fermentation process, clarify your wine, removing the precipitates and solids, by transferring it from the fermentation vessel into a new jug or container. You can use a siphoning system to transfer your wine into a new vessel, leaving the solids and precipitates behind in the bottom of the fermentation barrel. Additional or alternative filtration can be done with a range of filtration utensils, such as cheesecloth, coarse wire filters or fine filter pads.
Bottling and Aging
Finally, bottle and age your wine. You can bottle your wine immediately after clarification and allow it to age inside the bottle, or you can drink it fresh if making white wine or Beaujolais Nouveau. Alternatively, you can age your wine in a variety of materials, including stainless steel, ceramic and wooden barrels.