Basic Wine-making Method

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Wine Demijohns Wine Demijohns

This is the basic technique used to make any country wine.  All recipes on our website follow this simple method, and an understanding of it will allow you to make your own recipes.

Basic equipment and supplies

You can start making wine with very basic apparatus. Initially there is no need to go out and buy a lot of expensive equipment. It is far better to start making wine with the basic equipment and you can acquire more specialist equipment as you go along. There are however some fantastic starter kits on the market that you may consider investing in if you’re serious about making wine. 

The bare essentials are:

1.       1 gallon foodgrade plastic bucket

2.       1 gallon glass demijohn – these can often be picked up cheap at car boot sales

3.       Air lock

4.       Siphon tube

5.       Funnel

6.       Empty wine bottles – just drink the wine save the bottles and if you’re starting off with screw tops fine, however corks seal bottles better and you may wish to invest in a corking machine at a later date.

You will also need some basic chemicals (Just buy the ones stated on each recipe and you will slowly build your collection):

1.       Sterilising solution – there are some great products available from homebrew suppliers or you can simply use baby sterilising solution available in the supermarket.

2.       Citric acid

3.       Pectolytic enzyme

4.       Tannin

5.       yeast nutrients

6.       wine yeast

Step 1 - Clean and sterilise all equipment

Complete cleanliness is vital to the winemaker. All vessels, equipment, and airlocks must not only be visually clean but they must be sterile. Airborne yeasts and bacteria can ruin a wine at any stage. Specialist homebrew suppliers offer chemical solutions that both clean and sterilise equipment at once and in my opinion these are very worthwhile.

As a first time winemaker however I highly recommend cleaning all equipment with simple washing-up liquid and then sterilise using a sterilising solution available for supermarkets (usually marketed as sterilising solution for baby equipment) e.g. Milton.

Step 2 – Prepare The fruit juice for fermenting / extract the flavour.

There are a number of different ways to prepare the fruit juice for fermenting and it will often depend on the individual recipe.  Some of the more common techniques however are as follows:

1.       Pressing  - this is most commonly used for soft fruit such as strawberries, raspberries or indeed grapes – and if the fruit is soft enough this can be done by hand.  This method is also used however to press the juice from apples to make cider and pressing such hard fruit would require renting or buying a more heavy duty press (although similar results can be achieved using a juice extractor)

2.       Boiling – often used to extract the flavour from root vegetables for example parsnips, and also occasionally used for some fruits including plums and bananas.

3.       Cold water soaking – the fruit is pulped and the yeast introduced. The mixture is stirred several times a day for up to 7 days before being strained into a fermenting vessel.

4.       Hot water soaking – boiling or near boiling water is poured over the ingredients which are then left to soak for three or four days.  As with cold water soaking the yeast is introduced at an early stage but you must ensure that the water has called to below 21°C before introducing it – the yeast will be killed at temperatures higher than this.

Each individual recipe would usually specify the method used to extract the flavour.  You may also need to add some pectic enzyme or other chemicals at this stage, however each recipe will specify what is needed.

Step 3 – strain the liquid from the fruit pulp

Whichever method you used to extract the flavour from the fruit you will need to strain the liquor from the fruit pulp.  The method of doing so is very easy. Simply strain through a piece of muslin and squeeze as much of the juice out of the pulp as possible.

Step 4 -  add sugar and yeast

If you have not done so yet most recipes will require you to add the sugar and yeast at this stage. Add the amounts as directed and stir until it has dissolved – more serious winemakers will also test the liquor at this stage using hydrometer to ensure the ad exactly the right amount of sugar – however as a beginner many of the recipes are tried and tested so use the amounts of sugar recommended in the recipe and you should be OK.

Step 5 – Pour the liquor into the fermenting vessel and top up with water if necessary. 

Step 6 – fit an airlock to the fermenting vessel

Step 7 – keep in a warm dark place for a few months as the liquor ferments.

Step 8 – Racking

Once the bubbles have slowed through the airlock and there is a thick layer of sediment in the bottom of the demijohn it’s time to rack the liquor. This is key to producing clear stable wine.

Using siphon tube carefully siphon the clear liquid from the original demijohn into a second clean demijohn leaving as much of the sediment as possible. To do this place clean Demi John below the level of the one containing the wine and remove the bung and airlock insert the tubing carefully into the wine so not to disturb the sediment at about half way down the jar and hold it in place.  Take the other end of the syphon and hold it below the level of the bottom of the original fermentation vessel, put it in your mouth, and stuck steadily until the wine reaches the end ( and don’t forget to taste!) then placed the end of the tube into the new clean jar and siphon the wine to it.

Once you have finished racking the wine and depending on the recipe you may need to top up with some additional water otherwise refit the bung and the airlock to the new jar and place back in a warm dark place until the fermentation has finished. You may need to repeat this racking process as necessary.

Step 9 – Clearing

Most wines will clear on their own, however some may need a little help with the use of finings.  Depending on the type of finings used follow the instructions supplied.  This topic is covered in more detail in our troubleshooting section.

Step 8 – Bottling and Labelling

Siphon the wine into clean sterilised bottles and seal either using screw tops or a corking machine. For your first batch just use screwtop bottles but if you plan on making more wine or plan on keeping it for any length of time I highly recommend a corking machine – these can be picked up from a specialist homebrew supplier for under £10.

You can also enhance the appearance of your wine by attaching attractive labels to give it the professional look.  Store the wine for as long as you are able to and enjoy – each gallon will make six bottles, I tend to drink three and leave three in the loft for as long as possible as the flavour we usually improve.


Phyl @ The Allotment Gardener

Lifelong gardener and allotment enthusiast. Now have 3 allotments!


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