how to make homemade wine

How to Make Homemade Wine - FAQ

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Make Wine From Home


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Q: Can you teach a beginner how to make homemade wine?

A beginner in How to make wine from home can benefit from using a wine making kit at first. These wine making kits are based on grape juice concentrate and also offer easy to follow instructions that will help the beginner make good wine (provided the instructions are followed closely.)

Another benefit from using these wine making kits is that the beginner can start making wine even if space is at a premium and the beginner has no time or inclination to process fresh grapes into juice. This means the beginner is able to produce wine that is drinkable and of good quality sooner.

Q: Which is better – to use fresh fruits from scratch or to rely on a wine making kit using grape juice concentrate?

The biggest advantage with using a grape juice concentrate-based wine making kit is convenience. Using a kit means you need not do much adjustment of sugar and acidity levels. That is why beginners are advised to use a wine making kit first before progressing to learning how to make homemade wine using fresh fruit like fresh grapes. Wine making kits can be bought inexpensively for $80 on-line at Heinsohn's Country Store. Excellent fruit juice concentrate in 6.5 litre and 9 litre containers can be bought on-line for $60 at Perfect Brewing.

If you use fresh grapes, be prepared to undergo a more complicated process for wine making. First, you need to crush the grapes well so that they are ready for fermentation. You then have to test the sugar level and the acidity level of the “must” or wine blend so that you can adjust it (because with grape juice concentrate you need not adjust much or at all.) So, an inexperienced vintner would find using fresh fruit to be less convenient and a bit intimidating at the start. However, if you really want to learn traditional wine making, then using fresh fruits is the way to go.

Q: What is usually the main reason home-brewed wine turns out bad?

The biggest and most common reason newbies learning how to make homemade wine produce a bad quality wine batch is because the wine making space used and even the tools, equipment and containers used are not sanitized. Actually, you even have to sanitize your hands before doing any wine making so what more the things you use that come into direct contact with the young wine?

Q: Why does my finished wine smell like vinegar?

Your wine will smell like vinegar if it is ruined and you ruin wine if you do not practice thoroughly sanitary wine making habits. That is why you really have to sterilize everything you use before starting to make any wine.

Q: Can you describe the basic process for how to make wine from home?

At its simplest, wine making means you – the vintner – have to create the optimal conditions for vintner’s yeast to be able to change fruit sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide, and then allow the carbon dioxide to be released into the air so that wine becomes the final product. Much of the process is actually more of Mother Nature’s job than the vintner’s so home-brewing of wine is much less complicated than most people imagine.

Q: Why does wine need to ferment first?

The fermentation process involves using vintner’s yeast (which is different from baker’s yeast) to transform fruit sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol. Without fermentation, all you have is grape juice or fruit juice. Once the carbon dioxide evaporates into the air, wine is the result.

Q: Why do we need to balance acid levels in the “must”?

Basically, all fruit including grapes have varying levels and types of acids. A wine blend that has too much acid cannot be drunk. But a wine blend that lacks enough acid will be bland or flat. So, to create good wine, you need to balance the acid levels within your “must”.

Q: Can you describe finings?

Finings can also be called clarifiers – these are substances which are natural substances used by vintners to promote wine clarification or wine settling. Some commonly-used finings or clarifiers are Bentonite, isinglass or gelatin. The unwanted protein-based sediments like yeast and tannin will bind with the finings so that they clump together and can be easily removed through racking.

Q: Should I use sulphite in my wine blend?

Many winemakers do use sulphite to destroy harmful bacteria that can ruin the wine, while also eliminating oxidation that can also change wine quality. However, you have to be sure that whoever will drink your wine is not allergic to the sulphite. Some people develop a negative reaction to sulphite.

Q: What is the optimal period for preparing wine so that it is ready to be drunk?

A good rule of thumb for wine making is that white wine blends tend to be ready to be drunk sooner than red wine. But there is no pre-set formula for determining when wine is ready to be drunk otherwise. As a vintner, you have to develop this skill of gauging when your own wine has been prepared and aged properly so that it is ready to be served. You have to be acquainted with the processing times for different vintages to be able to predict accurately when your wine is ready.

Q: What is the formula for estimating alcohol content?

First, identify the starting specific gravity. You then have to deduct the finished specific gravity from this starting specific gravity. Then, divide the result by 7.36. This gives you the alcohol content.

Q: How do I find the right wine bottles and corks to use for my wine?

Many vintners advocate using glass bottles for storing wine because it is more convenient and practical to sterilize glass bottles. Glass bottles can also be re-used over and over provided you clean it first and sterilize it again prior to storing new wine in it. Plastic bottles may release unwanted odors, which is why they are not commonly used to store wine. Another reason glass bottles are more commonly used for wine storage is that wine looks better stored in glass bottles, partly because you can check for wine clarity easier.

The usual practice is to use corks to cover the wine bottle but it is also possible to use the new screw-top type of wine bottle covers. You can use short corks to cover short-term wines while long corks can be employed for long-term wine instead. Screw-tops are okay to use so long as they seal your wine bottle well.

Q: Do I have to filter my wine?

Filtering is not mandatory in wine making but some may advocate filtering because your wine comes out with a finished polish. Generally, white wine requires some filtering if you want it appear clear.

Q: Why did my homemade wine give me a headache after I drank it?

Wine that gives anyone a headache probably contains too much tannin (meaning, your wine contains too much histamine as well.) Red wines tend to have too much of these so you might prefer to switch to making white wine instead. It is also possible you are simply allergic to at least one wine making component.

Q: What happens if I don’t do racking immediately following fermentation?

You may find that your wine will taste a lot like the yeast that you used – this is because your wine liquid rested too long on the dead yeast called “lees” following fermentation. That is why you have to do racking as promptly as possible.

Q: Can you describe cold stabilization?

The cold stabilization process is necessary to partially eliminate wine acids via precipitation, which results in a softer finish. To do this process, you first have to conduct the acid titration process to determine the acid content of your wine. Then cold stabilization follows, by submitting your wine to almost freezing conditions for around two weeks. People who live in a cold climate can just put their wine in a very cold part of their house (like the garage.) You will find that the wine acid crystallizes afterwards at the bottom of the wine container. You may then do racking to eliminate the crystallized acids.

Q: Which is better for flavoring wine – oak chips or oak extract?

Some say that oak chips are better to use to flavor your wine because these lend your wine a more natural flavor afterwards. But oak extract is more convenient for wine flavoring than oak chips for beginners learning how to make homemade wine. The oak extract relies on oak chips to flavor the 60% alcohol solution of your wine.

Q: What are the different types of sweet wine?

Sweet wines may be of the white wine variety, the red wine variety, or the pink or blush wine variety. Sweet wines can then be subdivided into other types within each of these categories. You can also get extremely sweet wine which is called dessert wine.

Sweet wine is sometimes preferred by beginners learning how to make wine from home because it takes time to appreciate the dry wines. The white wines that are sweet can be good to drink even without food to go with them. Red wine that is sweet is not so common because a sweet red wine may be considered flawed by some vintners. If you find it hard to look for sweet red wine, ask around for “fruity” red wine – it’s the same thing. If the red wine is very sweet, then you might be drinking Port or a dessert wine.

The pink or blush wines lack the tannins of red wine, so thus they are light pink in color. On the other hand, dessert wine may also be called “late harvest” wine because these are produced from grapes that were taken off the vine much later than is common during harvests. That is why “late harvest” wines are quite sweet – the sugar in the grapes tends to accumulate.

Q: How long should wine be stored on the rack before serving, and before it spoils?

At least 90% of the wine produced around the world is not meant to be stored for too long, meaning they should be consumed as young wine. That is why one of the dangers with wine making is that you fail to consume your wine when necessary and it then spoils.

Most vintners will agree that the most age worthy types of wine use the Nebbiolo grapes, the Syrah grapes, or the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Wine that age well will have enough tannin to classify your wine as “tannic”. Tannic wine has enough grape skin in the wine blend to allow the wine to age well through time.  Though tannic wine is not so drinkable when young, because the tannin makes the wine rather searing on the palate, if you age it just right it has a desirable structure considered “elegant” among vintners.

Store your wine in a relatively humid and dark place, which has a temperature ranging from about 55 degrees Fahrenheit to 55 degrees Fahrenheit for best results. Avoid places where temperature fluctuates constantly – the room temperature has to be constant all throughout storage time.

Warmer temperatures will make your wine age faster. A storage room that has too much light will also causes your wine to peak faster and reach spoilage sooner.

Q: If I have any opened bottles of wine, can I preserve the leftover wine in them so they don’t spoil?

Yes, you can still save any leftover wine you have, provided you do not leave the wine bottle open to the air. You have to prevent oxidation from happening because this renders your wine into vinegar, and thus useless for drinking.

To store this leftover wine properly, use a smaller container that will nearly overflow when you pour the leftover wine into it, and that can be capped tightly. This assures you that zero air bubbles are contained within the wine that would lead to oxidation. You can store this wine in a cool refrigerator for up to seven days – after that, you may have to discard it.

If you want to use leftover wine for cooking instead, you can simply freeze the wine in containers (like ice cube trays maybe) until you need the wine for cooking. This is a very economical way of using up your leftover wine.

Additional Resources:

Please realize there is considerable free content on this website in addition to the articles. We also have 60 tips & tricks catagorized into wine making starter tips, fermentation & process tips, understanding wine yeast and racking & clarification tips. We also offer a free E-course and for specific questions you can always go to our wine making forum.


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