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Home Winemaking
The single word wine by default means alcoholic drink made from grapes, especially black grapes.
Homemade Wine
Homemade wine.

In Bible, Paul advised Timothy who was sickly to drink a little wine. Most probably Timothy was sickly due to cold weather. Red wine has beneficial property for health. Natural wine is good for health provided drunkenness, also known as alcohol intoxication, is avoided at all cost. In UK, it is illegal to even just attempt to sell alcohol to someone who is already drunk.

Check the law book. Most countries allow small quantity of wine produced at home. In such countries, it is fine if there is only one portable fermentation vessel in use. It is mostly illegal if the kitchen looks seriously like a brewery, in which serious production can be done. Homemade wine is not to be sold because such sale is against the no-selling principle of do-it-yourself and is illegal in most countries.

It is not difficult to make wine at home. Yeast does not have to be added. Natural chemical balance of grapes allows fermentation without addition of other things. The taste of such wine is dry, meaning it is not sweet. Ancient people (e.g. Noah) certainly made wine without packaged sugar or domesticated yeast. It is just that the taste may be a little different from one batch to another depending on which strain of yeast successfully establishes colony. Yeast is a type of fungus and are available on grapes and in the air.

Use only grapes, preferably black, for home winemaking. Remember only red wine made of black grape is better for health. Only experts can use other material such as rice because there has been case of poisoning.

Things to use

Try utilize existing items in the kitchen without buying.
  1. A vessel for fermentation. The size should be at least two liters because it is not worth the effort to make small quantity. Clear glass vessel provides view to the fermentation process. Ceramic vessel is porous so it is good for the carbon dioxide to escape during fermentation. Wooden vessel adds unique flavour to the wine. Do not use plastic container to avoid undesirable chemical reaction. If possible, put under the sun to disinfect it before each use.
  2. A balloon or air lock.
  3. A clear glass flat-bottomed bottle for secondary fermentation and sedimentation of lees. It should be clear because it is easier to siphon out wine later.
  4. A dark tinted glass bottle to keep new wine. The tint is to avoid the wine being degraded by light. Re-use wine bottle.
  5. Brown sugar.
For filtering
  1. A suitable tool to press fermented grapes. Example is given in the picture. Preferably the size is big enough to fit in all the fermented grapes at one time to save time.
  2. A jug to temporarily hold the new wine.
  3. A strainer less than 1 mm or made of cloth bag. (optional)
  4. A tube long enough to siphon wine into bottle. An aquarium air tube can be improvised.
  5. A funnel to channel the wine into bottle.
Manual Squeezer
Manual squeezer.

The grape

If possible, use seeded grape because grape seeds add nutrients and special taste to the wine. If wine grape (e.g. Cabernet, Merlot, Shiraz) is not available, table grape can be used.

The grapes should be firm when pressed with fingers, or crisp when eaten. This is to ensure that the grapes will not be mashed after fermentation, making pressing process difficult. If the grapes are not firm and crisp, then do not ferment them. Black grapes should be entirely black, including the skin around the stalk.

If the grapes have sulfur on skin, do not buy them. Sulfur smells like gunpowder. To detect sulfur, just rub a few grapes with finger and smell the finger. The taste of the wine produced can be affected by sulfur. The sulfur is added to preserve the grapes.

If the grapes look clean, no washing is necessary. To wash the grapes, prepare two pails of water. Before washing, glance through the grapes to take out rotten ones. Dip the grapes in the first pail. Then dip the grapes again in the second pail. No rubbing is required. Do not leave the grapes in water for long or else the grapes may be spoilt.

Preparation for fermentation

Crush the grapes by clean hand and put them into the fermentation vessel. If the grapes are not crushed, there is no juice to jump-start the fermentation. Discard rotten grapes. If pedicel (a fragment of the stem on top of the grape) is stuck on the grape, it does not have to be removed as it can also help fermentation. Do not put in grape leaf.

Leave space of at least a quarter of the height of the vessel. This is to avoid overflow during fermentation.

Add a few tablespoons of brown sugar. Actually brown sugar usage depends on the condition of the area one lives. In some areas, if brown sugar is not added, there may be a layer a white powder on top of the wine after primary fermentation. Experiment one small batch without sugar first and if there is white powder, if yes then use brown sugar in the next batch. Do not put too much sugar or else the wine produced will be sugary. This is because the yeast will die when alcohol concentration becomes higher, so excessive sugar will not be fermented.

Then seal the container with balloon or air lock. The balloon or air lock lets carbon dioxide come out without letting oxygen go in. Balloon is porous so carbon dioxide can escape. If oxygen goes in during fermentation, the content may turn into vinegar. For glass vessel, do not seal the vessel completely or else the air pressure in the vessel will be very high and explosion may happen. If ceramic vessel is used, then complete seal can be done.

The content at this moment is technically grape juice. Put the vessel somewhere warm but without strong light.

Primary fermentation

Once the vessel is sealed, do not open the seal at all before the primary fermentation is complete. Primary fermentation takes around 5 to 14 days. Warmer room temperature brings faster fermentation.

Fruit flies may come flying around because they smell alcohol. It is an indication that the wine is doing well. Just ignore them because they cannot go into the vessel.

Balloon expanding
Balloon expanding.

When there are no more big bubbles, primary fermentation is over. The grape juice has turned into wine naturally. Taste the wine. If the taste is acceptable, proceed with filtering.

Filtering

One can choose to leave the wine in the fermentation vessel a few weeks until the grapes settle at the bottom with clear wine on top of the grapes. This article talks about filtering right after primary fermentation.

Siphon out most of the wine into a clear bottle with a flexible tube. Then scoop out the grapes. The grapes are to be pressed by using a suitable pressing tool. It is a good workout for the arm to press the grapes. Collect the wine in a jug after pressing. The pomace (leftover solids after pressing) is edible but if the taste is not acceptable, just put it into flower pot as fertilizer. Pour the new wine from the jug through a strainer into a tinted glass bottle using a funnel.

Although the wine is filtered by a strainer, it is still considered unfiltered wine because it is still cloudy before precipitation of lees. Unfiltered wine is sought after by lovers of traditional wine.

After bottling

When bottling, the new wine has made contact with air so secondary fermentation starts. In secondary fermentation, carbon dioxide is still released but at a slow rate. That was why Jesus said not to put new wine in old wineskin because the gas may burst the old wineskin. In the photo, secondary fermentation started in the fermentation vessel even before bottling because the seal was opened for wine tasting after primary fermentation. The balloon expanded but the size was not as big as during primary fermentation. Note that those bubbles in the photo were small, indicating that primary fermentation was over.

The new / young wine is usually purple. It is drinkable but the taste can still be improved. For better taste, wait until the purple colour starts to turn red. This happens usually around a fortnight after bottling. Also clarity will be better because dead yeast and grape particles precipitate as lees. For even better clarity, after lees precipitation, siphon out the wine into a dark tinted bottle. The point is if the appearance of the wine, especially clarity, is not attractive yet, then the taste is not better yet.
Posted: 2013-12-16; updated: 2016-12-27 by Ong Seng Aun.
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