Step One: Primary Fermentation
Primary Fermentation is the main alcohol producing process in Wine Making. During fermentation, wine yeast consumes the sugars in your must (the grape juice, and skins) and excretes ethyl alcohol (Ethanol). To start your primary fermentation, simply prepare your must in a fermentation vessel (usually just a 5 or 6 gallon bucket). You can also add Yeast Nutrient, Yeast Energizer, Pectin Enzyme, Acid Blend and Campden Tablets, each are highlighted below:
- Yeast Nutrient: Adds essential minerals and nutrients that yeast need to survive and reproduce.
- Yeast Energizer: Even more nutrients for your yeast, this really helps the yeast reproduce and ensures a vigorous fermentation.
- Pectin Enzyme: Helps breakdown the cell walls in your fruit. This allows for extraction of more juice. Which, of course, equals more yummy wine.
- Acid Blend: Used to increase the Ph balance of your wine. Acid Blend usually contains 50% tartaric acid, 30% malic acid, and 20% citric acid.
- Campden Tablets: These are pre-measured amounts of potassium metabisulfate. One tablet per gallon provides the perfect amount. These tablets will kill any unwanted bacteria in your must, preventing spoilage or off flavors. This will also kill any wild yeast that may be present. Be sure to let your must sit for 12 to 24 hours after using this before adding your own yest.
Once everything is in the bucket, follow the instructions on your packet of yeast. Usually this just means reconstituting with warm (not hot) water for 15 minutes, then add it to you must and give it a little stir.
Within a day or two you should see some very active yeast hard at work. Once the active fermentation slows down (you should see less bubbles) move on to Secondary Fermentation.
Step Two: Secondary Fermentation
Once the rolling boil of primary fermentation slows down, you want to get your wine into a safer environment. You need to protect your treasure from exposure to oxygen and other foreign contaminants. You’ll need to rack (siphon) the wine from your primary vessel into a glass carboy. Leave as much Lees (dead yeast) in the primary bucket as possible. If you have any empty space between your wine and the top of the carboy, top it up with water (or more juice) until the wine level is almost to the top. Next add an airlock to keep out any invaders and also to allow air pressure to escape.
You’ll want to rack the wine to another clean and sanitized carboy at least once a month during the aging process, leaving behind any sediment or Lees each time. Again, be sure to top up with water to reduce oxygen exposure.
Continue these rackings as your wine ages. Depending on the wine this can be anywhere from a few months to a couple of years. Once aged and the wine is nice and clear, move on to bottling.
Step Three: Bottling
When you are ready to bottle, you will need to stabilize your wine. This will kill off any remaining yeast, preventing further fermentation after sweetening. To do so, add campden tablets and potassium sorbate in the appropriate amounts.
I like to sweeten my wine at the same time as stabilization, then wait a few days before bottling to ensure fermentation does not start up again. If fermentation happens in the bottle, corks will explode out and send wine everywhere. To sweeten, add sugar (dissolved in water) to taste.
Once sweetened and stabilized, clean and sanitize your wine bottles and corks. Each gallon of wine will give you about 5 regular sized bottles of wine, so plan accordingly. Rack the wine from your carboy into the bottles and cork them. Then get ready to enjoy the final step with friends and family.
Step Four: Drinking
Finally the fruits of your labor can be enjoyed. Now that you have all this extra wine in your wine racks, it’s time to start drinking it. All wines can be enjoyed either at room temperature or chilled. But, I think that white wines are best chilled and reds are best at room temperature. Your mileage will vary.
Be sure to bust out your own bottles whenever you have company over, it’ll be sure to impress. Also, your homemade wine is great as a housewarming present, or to just bring along to a party.