Without question, learning how to make wine at home appeals both to the senses and the mind, a pleasure matched by only select hobbies. Few hobbies require as much attention to detail, but then, few hobbies have such a delightful payoff as making wine at home. The satisfaction of experiencing the aroma of a newly opened bottle of wine, the joy of that first taste, realizing the fruits of your labors – there’s nothing else quite like it.
The art of modern day wine making has increasingly grown in popularity. Higher wine prices have done much to increase the number of home wine makers in the United States and elsewhere. Wine making kits have made the process of learning how to make wine at home much less complicated.
Many wine makers choose to bypass kits and make wine the old fashioned way. Whichever way you choose, wine making is a hobby that is well worth the effort. If you’re just getting started with home wine making, however, you may do best starting with a kit and then growing your hobby from there.
The History Of Wine Making
No one knows when the first wine was made. Wine making legends exist in Greece and Rome that date back to near-prehistoric times. The making of wine was first documented in Mesopotamia in 6000 BC. The complete wine making process was recorded, first as a hobby and then as a profession, in ancient Egypt.
Experimentation was encouraged. Wine parties were held in communities to share the new blends and discuss techniques. Wine makers copied recipes off of the walls and tablets of their neighbors, changing the blends to fit their unique tastes. Adding different spices and changing ingredients allowed early wine makers to try new ideas.
Wine makers next began importing different types of grapes that were not native to the surrounding area with an eye to perfecting blends and creating new flavors. The Egyptians and Greeks considered the consumption of wine a privilege for only the elite in society. The first wine making business appeared in Greece. Gathering the successful processes from the best home wine makers of the day, Greek wine makers began opening bars specifically to serve wine.
Throughout history, the consumption of wine has been used in religious ceremonies, for medicinal purposes, and, more recently, has been shown to benefit the health of the human heart, when used in moderation. There are now 75 million wine drinkers in the United States and the number is growing. You too can be part of this fun, educational, and delicious trend by learning how to make wine at home.
Did You Know?
- The “vintage” means the year the wine was produced.
- Wine should never be gulped, but sipped and savored.
- Red wines taste better if allowed to “breathe”, or sit uncorked, for 30 minutes before drinking.
- Wine is used to describe grape wine. Wine made from other fruits or vegetables is called by the fruit or vegetable name, such as apple wine.
Learning How To Make Wine At Home
To get started with wine making, gather the basic supplies. These include fruits, a fermentation bag, a hydrometer, siphoning hose, yeast, bottles, corks, and various fining agents and additive chemicals. Beginners may choose to purchase a ready made wine kit (which we recommend) to learn about the process and required supplies before going on to purchase their own equipment.
Kits typically include a recipe book and basic equipment. Some kits make wine in as little as a month. Bottles are generally not part of a wine making kit. You will be required to supply your own. The wine making equipment provided in a kit can be used again and again. Other types of kits include ingredient kits that can be used with the equipment from a previous complete kit purchase. Ingredient kits supply the ingredients for specific types of wine, such as Wildberry White Zinfandel.
There are a few necessary terms to learn when first embarking on your journey of learning how to make wine at home. These terms will become the essential language used throughout the wine making process. Wine making terms can be broken down into two categories: processing terms – having to do with the process of wine making – and palette terms, having to do with the quality and consumption of the finished product, like the aroma of a wine.
While not an exhaustive list, the most important of these terms are below:
Acetic acid: Acetic acid is the acid that gives the sour taste to vinegar. Vinegar is a component in many wines, and a good winemaker must know the different acid balances in the different types.
Acetification: The process of formation or conversion into vinegar.
Aging: Aging is the most important step in wine making. Simply put, aging is the process that matures a wine. Certain chemicals in wine ingredients need time to break down and come together to give wine its unique flavor and fragrance.
Fermentation: Fermentation describes the process of yeast and sugar interacting to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. Fermentation is an integral part of the aging process. Fermentation temperatures must be between 70 and 75 degrees F. or displeasing taste or lagged fermentation will result.
Fortification: Fortification is the procedure of adding distilled spirits to a wine after fermentation to further increase its alcohol content. Many of the world’s most popular wines contain amounts of brandy, vodka, gin, and other spirits.
Fructose & glucose: Fructose and glucose are the two types of sugars in grapes and other fruits. Fructose creates sweetness while glucose creates body in the wine.
Inoculate: The addition of yeast or a bacteria culture to wine.
Must: The total combination of ingredients used for wine. Broken down into liquid and solid content, the liquid part of a wine is called liquor, and the solid part called the cap.
Kits may cost anywhere from $150 to $750 for more advanced kits. If you purchase equipment and supplies separately, prepare to spend $200-$500.
How To Make Wine at Home
Gather all of your supplies and ingredients and make sure everything is clean. Give yourself plenty of space to work so tidy up the kitchen beforehand.
The base fruit ingredients must have their flavor extracted through chopping, boiling, soaking, or crushing.
Acid, yeast, sugar, and other additive nutrients are added to the fermenting base ingredients.
The liquid part of the mixture is strained away from the solid and put into a vessel for fermentation.
The wine is siphoned off into other fermentation vessels at various periods to continue fermentation.
After fermentation, the wine is bottled, corked, and left to age. After aging is complete, enjoy!
Wine Making Tips And Tricks
The following helpful hints can help you get the most out of learning how to make wine at home.
- Learn the wine making process first and become an expert at it before attempting advanced recipes with longer fermentation and aging periods.
- Start with grape, apple, or berry wine. After you have perfected your technique, you can move on to other fruits and vegetables.
- Properly clean and maintain your equipment. Cleanliness is important for safety reasons, but also for ensuring that the wine you make is pure and doesn’t contain any contaminant aftertaste.
Getting More Out of Wine Making
Wine making is a hobby that allows creativity and individuality to shine. After you have become more experienced, have learned what works and what doesn’t, you can experiment with different ingredients and techniques.
- Try using different fruits, vegetables, nutrients, and chemicals
- Attempt more difficult recipes with longer aging periods
- Make and market your own wine label
Making Wine At Home Resources
The following online resources can help you learn more about making wine at home…
WinePress: Amateur and small winery wine making information, resources, discussion groups, and recipes.
E. C. Kraus: Home wine making kits, recipes, information, and tips.
WineMaker Magazine: Online version of the magazine with resources, tips, recipes, techniques, and information for all skill levels.
Wines and Vines: An online magazine of the wine industry, including breaking news, resources, and vineyard information.
Pioneer Thinking: A look at plants, fruit, and vegetables that can be turned into wine and which to avoid.
Oenologist: The People of Wine web site is filled with interesting facts, tips, information, and informative resources.
Related YouTube Videos
Check out the following videos to learn even more about starting this hobby.