We are not big drinkers here on An American Homestead. But we will drink wine on certain occasions and I do love a good wine. When I served in the military (Zac) back in the late 90’s, I was stationed in Germany for 3 years. During my orientation at my new post, they offered a series of classes to new arrivals to learn some of the culture of Europe. I actually think they were called “Culture Classes”. One of the classes I choose was about wine. Germany and France produce some of the worlds top wines and I thought the class might be interesting. As a young soldier barely 20, this intrigued me. 🙂
Part of the class was to visit some wine retailers and learn what wines go with what foods and what glassware was appropriate for different wines. I was amazed at the simplicity of the science concerning this industry and always thought it would be neat to one day make my own wine.
Well, that day has come!
Producing your own wine is pretty simple. Some sources online make it sound WAY more complicated than it really is and that is mostly because there are so many retailers these days who sell kits online to help you in this endeavor. They make you think that wine making is complicated but their kit will make sure you are successful. They add all kinds of additives/chemicals and such along with tools to measure alcohol content and sugar levels, etc. They make it sound like it can’t be done without their help.
It is interesting to note that federal law in the United States allows for an individual in a 2 adult household to produce up to 200 gallons per year for personal consumption. I don’t drink anywhere near that much, but okay, the bottom line is that its legal to make your own. Got it.
People have been making wine for thousands of years. It’s not that hard. It’s supper easy.
I recently met a guy who was willing to talk me through the easy steps in making my first batch. It really is simple and he had some good experiences in making it over the years without all the complicated mumbo jumbo that I was reading online. He even at one point bought a couple gallons of Welches Grape Juice at the store and turned that into wine.
This is how simple it really is.
- Get some juice. Any juice. You can get juice by harvesting some of your own fruit, or pressing fruit you purchased from a farmer or even just go buy some juice at the store, but you need some juice.
- Sugar (this may be optional) Many juices already have a high sugar content. If this is the case, you may not need to add more. Adding more will up the sweetness of your wine. Sugar is important however…read on.
- Get some yeast. This is what makes the magic happen. Yeast is simply a fungus that eats sugar. As the yeast eats the sugar, it produces alcohol as a result. The alcohol preserves the juice (now called wine) and allows it to keep for long periods without refrigeration. Remember, we don’t have refrigeration here.
Add them all together and you will begin your fermentation process.
I thought at first it was important to activate the yeast before adding to the juice. Not so really. You can just pour the yeasts in the wine as long as the wine is at room temps around 70-75 degrees or so. Within 12 hours it should begin working and you will see the bubbles starting to rise.
There are really only 3 things you need for equipment.
- You will need some sort of container for the juice to be in during this process of turning into wine. Most people usually use what is called a Carboy. You can find these all over the internet. I found 2 glass carboys on amazon.com for $28 bucks each. Some people use buckets but lets face it, the carboy just looks cooler. You will need at least 2. If money is tight, buy one and then head to Walmart. They sell empty plastic versions made for water for just a few bucks. They are usually upfront by the registers near the water kiosk. But understand that the plastic one will be hard to find an airlock that fits it. So make sure you get at least one glass carboy used for wine making. I’ll explain why you need this second carboy in step 3 below.
- Air locks. You can find airlocks online that are used in wine making. Everyone I’ve talked to recommends to get the s-locks variety. These are really cheap. You should be able to find a few of these on amazon.com for only a few bucks. Make sure you get bungs to go with them that fit your carboy. The set linked above will work.
- Get a siphon. You will need a half inch siphon. These are easily found at Walmart for about $3 each. You need the siphon to move the top layer of the wine from the carboy into your other carboy. Why? Keep reading.
NOTE: It’s important to make sure you sterilize all of your equipment before they come into contact with the juice. Many companies and instructions online will tell you to use chemical tablets or other such chemical to keep your equipment sterile. This is absurd. People have been making wines for thousands of years and they didn’t have sterilization tablets or whatever else these people are recommending you use. Simply boil hot water and pour it in your jars or carboys. The heat of the boiling water will sterilize your equipment just fine.
That’s really all the equipment you need. You will need the siphon to move (what is called racking) your wine once its done fermenting. About 2 months into your wine adventure, you can “rack” your wine over into the other carboy and seal it off to let it to continue to ferment and age. Also during this time, yeast debris (called lees) and sediments are falling and collecting at the bottom of the carboy and you want to get your wine off the top and remove the gunk at the bottom. After you have racked your wine into the other carboy, clean out the first one and its ready to be used to rack back. If you only have the one glass carboy, use the cheap plastic one you got at Walmart to rack into and then clean out the glass one and then rack it back and seal it again.
So that is about it. Welcome to our adventure into wine making. We are going to let our wine age for about 8 months before we bottle it. There are many ways to bottle your wine. You can save old wine bottles and use them for your wine. You will need to purchase a wine bottle corker and corks for this. We are maybe looking into purchasing charred oak barrels for some small batches of wine to age in. You can really go crazy and even purchase traditional wine skins for your wine just like is mentioned in the Bible.
There are ton of opportunities to make and enjoy your own wine. Comment below and tell us about your adventure!