Steps in winemaking
First thing you need is a recipe. You find recipes on the web or
in winemaking books or you can compose your own recipe by combining
several recipes. You can find a couple of recipes I've tested myself
in the Recipes chapter.
For other places on the web to find recipes, see the Links
If you want to compose a recipe yourself, measure the acidity with an
acid test kit. Adjust the acidity to the amount you like, typically 5 to
8 g/l for wine.
See the Acids chapter for more info on this subject.
Check if the recipe requires a juice fermentation (for white wines) or
a pulp fermentation (for red or blush wines).
Both require their own approach to the first stages of winemaking.
Specific procedures for pulp and juice fermentations for red and white
wines respectively will be indicated with the bold headings red and
A juice fermentation must be used for making white wines. In this
case juice is extracted from the fruit by pressing (with a wine press)
and then fermented in a carboy or fermentation bottle
A pulp fermentation is used to maximize color and flavour extraction,
necessary in making red wines. It basically means
making a pulp of fruit by crushing and fermenting on the pulp without
extracting juice first. This can't be done in a carboy (secondary fermentor),
but in a primary fermentor like a bucket. This
fermentor must be sealable against the air and vinegar flies to some
extent e.g. by placing a lid on top with an airlock or you can use a
plastic bag attached to the top with a rubber band. Be inventive.
For beginners, it's best to start with some juice or concentrate bought
in a shop. This is easy to start with and requires little equipment.
This way you can start with a juice fermentation without having to
press the fruit with a wine press, and avoiding a pulp fermentation.
Keep records of all ingredients and all events. See the
More info chapter.
Preparing the must
Sanitize your must to kill wild yeast and bacteria. This can be
done by means of:
The sulphite is the most commonly used and probably the best way.
- Adding sulphite or crushed campden tablets (1g/10kg), the most common way
- Pouring boiling water over fruit, to kill most wild yeast and
bacteria on the fruit skins
- Boiling, this helps extracting juice, but can result in change of flavour
and could cause a pectin haze, if not using pectic enzyme
Crush the fruit, try to be inventive. A home made pulp cutter on a
drilling machine can be very handy.
Juice fermentation requires the extraction of juices now. This can be done
by boiling or by means of pressing.
Clean fermenting vessel and other material and rinse it with a sulphite
solution to sterilize it.
Fill the fermentor with the must and add water, and other ingredients
that the recipe calls for except the sugar and yeast.
Take a hydrometer reading first.
Calculate the amount of sugar needed for the desired alcohol content. For
more info on this subject, see the Sugar and alcohol
Dissolve the sugar and take a reading of the starting SG (Specific Gravity).
If you have't got a hydrometer, add the sugar according to the recipe.
Take out some must with a measuring jar, dissolve the sugar and gently
pour off the liquid. This way all the sugar gets dissolved properly.
You can boil the water before
adding to the must and dissolve the sugar in the hot water first.
Crush and dissolve one campden tablet and add it to the must if you haven't
already done so and let it stand for 24 hours for the sulphite to do its thing.
For more info on sulphite use
see the More info
Leave some room (at least 1/5) on top, otherwise the foam will leave
you with a big mess when the fermentation starts and the fermentor
Cover the primary fermentor with a lid that doesn't
close perfectly or use a plastic bag with a rubber band. Air must be
able to get in to promote yeast growth during the first few days. Further, the carbon
dioxide gas produced by the fermenting process must be able to escape.
Vinegar flies must be kept out.
A lid with a hole would be best, a piece of cotton or a paper towel could be applied.
Try making a little more wine than your secondary fermenting vessel can
take for topping up purposes when racking later on.
Plug the bottle with some wadding or a paper towel to
allow oxygen into the bottle and to keep fruit flies out. This is necessary
to promote yeast growth during the first few days. Fill the carboy to 4/5
part. Put the rest of the wine in another bottle, so that you can completely
fill the carboy later on in the process.
Making the yeast starter
A yeast starter can be made (24 hours before fermentation start), but
rehydrating the yeast is usually sufficient (about 15 minutes before fermentation
start) if you are not making large batches of wine (less than 10 liters). A
yeast starter gives the fermentation a more vigorous start.
For a simple yeast starter you'll need:
Slightly heat the juice until lukewarm (about 30 degrees Celsius),
nutrient and the citric acid. Put this mixture in a sterile bottle. Add the
yeast and stir well. Cover with some wadding. Let it stand for about 24
hours untill foam has formed. When foam has formed, it is ready to be added
to the must.
- Must (5 to 10 % of the amount to be fermented)
- Sugar (when the must contains little sugar)
- Small amount of yeast nutrient
- Small amount of citric acid (or some lemon juice)
- Wine yeast
Another way to prepare the yeast is rehydration. Rehydration means dissolving
the yeast in half a glass of tepid water and letting it stand for about 15 minutes. You
can toss in a teaspoon of sugar to give it something to do. This of course must be done
the day you're going to start the fermentation.
When you're lazy, just sprinkle the yeast on the must.
A yeast starter usually works best and it's necessary for larger quantities.
For smaller quantities, rehydration usually is sufficient. The faster
the must will start to ferment, the better. A yeast starter is the fastest
way, rehydration comes next, and just adding the yeast dry takes the longest
untill fermentation start. The longer the period before fermentation gets going,
the more chance oxygen, bacteria and mold get to spoil your
Go to the Secondary fermentation paragraph and skip the ones in between.
24 hours after the campden tablet has been dissolved in the must, the yeast
starter can be added to the must.
The actual start of fermentation will take place within about 2 days after
adding the starter. This will be perceptable due to foam formation and
bubbles will start rising towards the surface.
Pulp fermentation generally takes a few days to a week.
Foam will form in the primary fermentation vessel, but as it should be significantly
larger than the amount of must to be fermented, the foam shouldn't be a problem.
The rising bubbles will cause a cap of fruit pulp to form on top, which must be
pressed down at least once a day to keep it submerged to avoid mold growth.
This can be done using a clean spoon. Pressing also maximizes color and
Transfer to secondary
When the color and tannin extraction has been sufficient
(a few days to a week after fermentation start) the must needs to be
transferred to the secondary fermentor (a carboy or jug). The sediment and
cap have to be separated from the wine. This can be done in a process
You may want to take a hydrometer reading here, if you have one. It should read
Straining can be done like this:
After straining, place an airlock on top of the bottle.
- Clean the secondary fermentor and all equipment and rinse all with a sulphite
solution. Wash your hands carefully.
- Clean and sterilize another bucket and put a nylon straining bag
- Pour the must through the straining bag. You can use a measuring cup to do this.
Avoid excess splashing.
- Take the bag out of the must and gently press the liquid out.
- Dispose of the solids.
- Pour the wine into the secondary fermentation vessel through a large
Put some cheesecloth over the funnel to catch small solid particles. If
the cheesecloth becomes filled with particles and the flow through it
is slowed down too much, pull the cloth a bit aside, such that a clean
part covers the funnel.
Do not fill the carboy completely yet, because of overflow danger.
If you've made some excess wine that doesn't fit the carboy, put it into
a smaller bottle, also under airlock. You can use it for topping up while
racking later on in the process.
After primary fermentation (and having racked the wine to the secondary
fermentor when you've pulp fermented) the next fermentation step starts,
the secondary fermentation (obvious isn't it?). Fermentation will continue
here, but not as vigorously as primary fermentation. Fill your carboy almost
to the top, when no foam is being formed any more.
Place a bung and airlock on top of the carboy.
When fermenting clear juice, you've skipped a few paragraphs.
The process continues here.
You'll only fill the carboy for 4/5 part. Fill another bottle with juice
so you'll be able to fill up the head space later on.
Add the yeast starter and get both bottles fermenting. Put a piece of
wadding in the neck of the bottles to keep fruit flies out.
Foam will form on top of the must due to rising bubbles. That's why you only
filled the carboy partially. The amount of foam depends on the ingredients used
and fermentation conditions. Although you've only filled the bottle partially,
the danger of overflowing still exists. That's why it's a good idea to place
your carboy somewhere where spillage can't hurt like in a bucket or
When the yeast has started doing its work, put a fermentation lock in place
of the wadding.
When fermentation slows down (you can tell by the bubbling rate of the airlock
or by hydrometer readings) it's time to add the rest of the total amount of
sugar required if you want to get a higher alcohol content. The SG
should be about 1010 now. It's best to add the sugar in several steps.
Take a hydrometer reading before and after each sugar addition
to be able to calculate the alcohol content when the wine is finished.
Siphon off some wine, dissolve the sugar in it and siphon back.
Notice that dissolved sugar needs some bottle space. Don't just throw
dry sugar into the wine, unless you want to get a volcano
foam eruption. Even worse, most sugar will sink to the bottom, not
When the fermentation process really slows down (usually after a month or
so) and all sugar has been added, you need to fill the bottle all the way
to the top to minimize the surface area. This should be done because the wine
doesn't provide itself a
CO2 blanket any more (only during vigorous fermentation), and
could oxidize (and get spoiled).
Use the excess wine you've made to top up, use a similar wine, or water.
When the wine has stopped fermenting (it has stopped bubbling) it has to be racked.
The wine has to be siphoned to another bottle leaving the sediment behind.
The process has to be done several times so that you end up with a clear batch of
wine. You'd better practice with some water first, if you've never
racked before to avoid spilling the wine.
Racking is done like this:
You'll have to repeat this sequence every time a reasonably thick layer of
sediment has accumulated untill the wine is clear. About three rackings
should do. If the wine doesn't clear out of itself,
there are fining agents like bentonite to help you out. If you don't mind
the haze, don't worry.
- Find a carboy or big bottle to take all the wine.
- Clean the bottle and all equipment and sterilize all with a sulphite
solution. Rinse with water.
- Dissolve a crushed campden tablet in half a glass of water and pour it into the
- Now put the full bottle a little higher (not over 1 m) than the
bottle about to be filled. Place it on a kitchen chair or table for
instance and the other one on the ground.
- Place the siphoning hose into the must and suck untill the wine starts
to flow. Pay attention not to suck up the lees.
- Then pinch the hose and lower it into the other bottle. Release the tube
and the wine will start flowing. Avoid vigorous splashing (to avoid
- Stop the flow just before sucking up sediment.
- To avoid losing the wine mixed with lees, you can pour the remainder
into a small bottle and let it stand overnight in a cool place like a
refrigerator. The next day you can pour the wine off the lees and add
it back to the rest of the wine.
- Rinse out the sediment. Use a bottle brush, if necessary.
- If the bottle in which the wine is now is bigger than the
original one, siphon the wine back again.
- You will lose some volume here, so you'll have to refill the bottle to the
top. You can use some excess wine you made by fermenting in a small
bottle beside the carboy. If you didn't you can top it off with a
similar wine or use water. Make sure that you've refilled the fermentation bottle
within a day to avoid too much oxidation.
When the wine is clear, and the fermentation process has fully ceased,
the wine can be bottled. Take the hydrometer if you have one to check
for residual sugars and to be able to calculate the alcohol content. The
Sugar and alcohol chapter explains how to do this
The wine can also be matured in the fermentation bottle (bulk aged), but if
you haven't got that many of those the choice is easy. Beware that if you
bottle too soon, your corks might start popping out due to
re-fermentation in the bottle, and leave you with a terrible mess. So it's
best to wait a few months after fermentation stop to make sure that
fermentation has fully ceased and the wine is stable.
Just before the actual bottling, the wine can be sweetened to taste.
Check the Sugar and alcohol chapter on how to do this.
Use green or brown glass bottles for red wines, and white or colored bottles
for white wines. The easiest bottle to work with is the Bordeaux type (easy
to pile up).
Here is the bottling procedure:
Move right on to the next step.
- 24 hours before bottling add one crushed campden tablet to the
wine. Add potassium sorbate and sugar, if you want to obtain a sweet wine.
- Prepare corking, as this follows the bottling procedure immediately.
- Bottling requires some wine bottles which should have been
cleaned when you got them. Just before bottling rinse them with a
sulphite solution and drain them. This can be done by filling one bottle
for 3/4. Shake well and use a funnel to transfer the solution to the next
- Filling the bottles can be done with your siphoning tube. This is done
like racking, only now you don't have to worry about the lees. Bottles need
to be filled to about 1 cm below the cork. Don't try to fill the bottles
exactly to to this level in one operation, but stop the flow a little
earlier and top up a funnel afterwards to avoid spilling the wine.
- When you exchange bottles, you'll have to stop the flow. This can be done
by pinching the hose. Another way to stop the flow is by lifting the bottle
to the same level as the fermenting bottle. But don't lift it too high, or
the wine will flow back and out of the hose and you'll have to suck again.
A little tap attached to your siphoning hose together with another piece of
hose to reach the bottom of the wine bottles facilitates bottling.
Now that you've just finished filling your bottles it's necessary to cork
them (if you've chosen to use wine bottles). Corking bottles really can't
be done without a corking machine (believe me, I've tried). This could use
some practice. When you're not making large quantities a hand held corking tool will
do. Large quantities require a floor corker.
- 12 to 24 hours before bottling soak your corks in a sulphite solution
to sterilize them and to make them more flexible.
Make sure that the corks are fully submerged, so put some weight on top.
- Insert a cork in the device. and put it on top of the bottle.
- Push very hard untill the cork is in place.
- Take the corker off.
- If the cork hasn't been driven deep enough into the neck of the
bottle, adjust the corker. If you've got a hand corker,
put only the upper part of the device on the cork, and hammer it down with
a wooden or rubber hammer. Do not try pushing while using only the upper
part of the corker because the cork will overshoot and end up in the wine.
- Freshly corked bottles are best left standing up straight for a few days
in order to prevent wine spillage due to popping corks (they still could pop,
put a bottle standing won't leak empty). Corks could pop due to the force of
the wine and compressed air. This risk goes away after a couple of days.
- Eventually the bottles must be layed on their sides, otherwise the corks
will dry out, leak, and the wine will oxidize.
Labeling and capsuling
All bottles should be labeled. It is necessary to identify the type of wine,
but a nice label also looks better.
A couple of things that could appear on it are: type of fruit, sweet/dry, year,
month, date of fermentation start and bottling date, type of wine, your name,
You can buy labels ready made or you can have some custom designed for you.
But homemade wine looks good with homemade labels. Labels can
be made with pen and paper or on the computer. Almost every paint program
or wordprocessor can produce nice labels.
For more info on making wine labels with a computer, see the
Label making chapter.
Labels are best glued on with water soluble glue like Pritt or UHU stick.
This is necessary for getting them off easily in order to reuse the
You can use capsules to cover the top of the bottle neck and the cork. It is
mainly for decorative purposes.
Most capsules must be heated to attach them to the bottle neck. This can
be done by means of a candle or a heat gun for removing old paintwork.
Pouring boiling water over them also works. Of course this must be done
Aging means letting your wine lie down for a period of time before
consumption so that its quality improves. This can be done before (bulk
aging) or after bottling (bottle aging).
Almost every wine improves with time. A few months will cause significant
change, a year or more will be better.
This process doesn't continue into infinity. There is something like a peak
in quality, but most wine is being drunk too early.
The time that home made wine will ages usually depends on how long you can
bare to wait. A typical aging time for your first bottle is something
between 1 second and one week after bottling. So the more wine you make, the
better chance it gets to age.
To age wines you need a place where it is dark and where temperature is cool and
That's what it's all about! Consuming your wine. You can drink it with some
company so that you get opinions from outsiders about your wine.
It may taste different from commercial wine, you should be aware that
you've really made something a bit special.
Use wine glasses, if you have some available. White wine should be drunk
rather cool, red wine at room temperature.