Whether the grapes are from a local vineyard or from your own backyard, you can create stunning grape wines with incredible flavor, body, character, and texture that deserve being praised by family and friends.
Furthermore, you can make these wine bottles for less than what they would cost you at the supermarket, and if the grapes are sitting in your backyard, awaiting to get picked, this is a great bargain. Therefore, you should hurry and get into the fascinating and rewarding art of winemaking at home. In doing this, you will join the thousands of happy individuals who create and drink their wine with a sense of pride.
A fantastic guide to winemaking using grapes is called From Vines to Wines. The book does not just discuss winemaking; it also covers vineyard aspects. To better understand how wine is made, this book is the one to read.
To make wine, you can categorize the grapes into three distinct categories:
Native Wild Grapes (Vitis Muscadinia):
They are the grapes like Muscadine (Scuppernong), Fox, and Frost grapes. They have an extremely sharp flavor because of their high acidity and an assertive and robust aroma and flavor. They also have lower sugar than the majority of other grapes. This grape variety is distinguished from other varieties because they do not grow in clusters but grow as berries with their stem.
Native Wine Grapes (Vitis Lambrusca):
They are grapes like Concord, Catawba, Niagara, and Delaware. They are native to the North American continent. Although their aroma and flavor are not as strong as wild grapes, their acidity could be higher, making the juice a little sharp tasting. The level of sugar is more than wild grapes.
European Wine Grapes (Vitis Vinifera):
These include grapes like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Pinot Chardonnay, and others from Europe. Hybrid grapes like Reliance, Foch, Chambourcin, and Vignoles are also thought to belong in this category. On occasion, however, are they too acidic or sharp in flavor? Their sugar content is typically greater than native wine grapes and more so than wild grapes.
It is All About the Grape
How to make wine with grapes will depend on the type of grape you are planning to use. Particular grapes require just enough water to control their acidic or pungent taste. Some may not require any whatsoever. Others could require as high as three gallons of water for five Gallons of wine. This is the case for the majority of wild grapes. Not only does the acidity of the wild grapes call for dilution, but their intense, strong taste also demands it.
Sugar may have the wine have sugar added in certain situations. Sugar is what wine yeast ferments in order to create alcohol. After the fermentation has finished, the sugar has gone. If there is not enough sugar to feed the yeast, there will not have sufficient alcohol present in the wine. In the case of natural grapes, sugar is likely to be limited and less than particular indigenous wine grapes. The grapes generally do not contain much sugar. Sugar may be included in these blends; however, for European wine grapes, only infrequently is sugar required.
The critical point here is that making wine from grapes does not have to be based on following a recipe for wine. Instead, it is about making adjustments under the juice at the moment. The results can differ dramatically according to the grape; therefore, applying the same recipe to all varieties of grapes or even to specific grapes is not feasible.
Getting the Right Mix of Grapes
What is the best way to determine when sugar and water need to be added to juices, and if yes, how much is it necessary to add? This is relatively easy to answer. To measure and control acidity, you can utilize an Acid Testing Kit, and for measuring and controlling sugar levels, you can use an alcohol hydrometer. Both come with clear directions and are easy to utilize.
Acid Level Adjustment for Grape Wine
It is recommended to start with an acid reading on the juice to see where you are at. When the acid level is determined to exceed twice what is needed, you will need to add equal quantities of water to reduce the acid level to half. When the acid level is 10 percent too high, you only have to add 10 percent water. The instructions for the acid test kit provide the recommended acid levels for various kinds of wines. For more information on controlling your wine’s acidity, refer to the article Getting a Hands-on Wine Acidity.
Sugar Level Adjustment
If you have confirmed that the level of acidity is correct, you will need to test the sugar level and adjust it as needed. The wine hydrometer comes with a Potential Alcohol scale which tells the amount of alcohol that can be created using the sugars currently within the wine. It is recommended to aim for an alcohol level somewhere between 9 to 13 percent. The majority of European wine grapes provide sufficient sugar by themselves. Native grapes typically require a small amount of sugar, while wild grapes require significant quantities. Read the article Getting to Understand Your Hydrometer for more details on using a wine hydrometer.
Processing the Grapes
After you have learned some of the changes required in making changes to your juice, it is time to look through the actual process that the fruit undergoes. In general, red grapes are treated differently from white grapes. Red grapes are cut off, then crushed, fermented, and boiled with the pulp and skin for some time, and later, they are pressed using the wine press. White grapes, on the other hand, are crushed using the stems left on and followed by pressing immediately. The pulp and skin do not enter the process of fermentation that occurs with white grapes.
De-stemming & Crushing Grapes
The method you use for crushing and de-stemming will depend on the quantity of grapes you are dealing with. If you make wine using wild grapes, you only need 20-40 pounds to get five gallons of wine. When making wine using European wine grapes, the amount is more significant in the region of 60-80 lbs for 5 gallons. If you plan to make fifty or more gallons, you will need 600 to 1600 pounds. Smaller amounts could be crushed and de-stemmed with a hand-held device, but once you reach larger quantities, purchase a crushing/destemmer combination or even crushing if you are dealing with whites.
As we mentioned, red grapes are pressed after a couple of days of fermentation. White grapes are pressed prior to fermentation. The size of the wine press you purchase will be determined by the volume of the task that you are working on. A tabletop press of a small size is adequate for handling 50 to 100 pounds of grapes. It can press up to 15 pounds at one time. For bigger jobs, you will look at an enormous press, such as the R-25 ratchet press.
Preparing Grapes for Fermentation
After the grapes are de-stemmed, crushed, and pressed if needed, and the sugar and acidity levels have been assessed and adjusted when necessary, it is time to make the mix ready to be fermented. The mix, referred to as a “must,”–should be placed in an open fermenter. The next step is to include in the must these ingredients.
Then, add one teaspoon for each gallon. It is not yeast, but instead, as a source of energy for the yeast that will be added later.