Making Wine Step by Step 

Many people love wine, but have no idea how easy it is to make your own right at home. Winemaking is a fairly simple process that doesn't require much all that much gear. In fact, most of it is the same as brewing. That's why so many home brewers make wine as well (and vice versa).
They already have most of what they need!

Step 1: Primary Fermentation

Primary fermentation is where we create our wine base with all of our fruit and sugars. We then add our yeast and let it convert our sugars into alcohol, and making the base of our wine.

  1. Get your Wine Journal ready.
    It may sound dumb at first, but you will be so happy you have it later. When your batch turns out beautifully, you'll want to know what you did and when you did it. Record the date you started and the ingredients. You'll keep track of specific gravity readings, temperatures, everything you do and when you did it.  

  2. Sterilize everything!
    As with brewing, starting your batch from a clean slate is vitally important. Any microscopic critters left over from the last batch of wine can easily destroy your current batch of wine.

  3. Add your Bentonite.
    Bentonite is a natural clay-based clarifier. It absorbs colloidal substances and is usually added prior to fermentation. Mix bentonite and hot water in your primary fermentor following the directions on the package before adding juice.

  4. Prepare your fruit or dump in your kit juice.
    This is where you add your fruit to the mix. If you are using a wine kit or fruit puree, it's as simple as dumping the juice into your primary fermentor. If you are using real fruit, you'll want to cut it up or mash it to increase the surface area and put it in a mesh bag to contain the pulp. Don't worry about washing it, the alcohol from fermentation will kill the germs.

  5. Fill with water. 
    Raise the level of your mixture to the correct level using QUALITY drinking water. Russ recommends using Reverse Osmosis water to give you the best, most consistent results. You can use bottled water if you don't have an RO system at home. Using quality water will help you achieve more consistent results.

    Most kits usually make 5-6 gallons. If you are making wine from scratch, this will be determined by the size of your primary fermenting vessel. Make sure to leave at least a half gallon of air at the top of the primary fermentor so that the foam created during fermentation has room to grow before the CO 2 escapes through the airlock (or bubbler).

  6. Add your Oak
    If your recipe calls for Oak Chips or Granular Oak, now's the time to add it.

  7. Check your specific gravity and adjust as necessary.
    Stir the mixture and test your specific gravity. You generally want your specific gravity to be between 1.080 and 1.095. Add sugar as necessary to get it there.

  8. Add your yeast.
    Open your sterilized yeast packet and sprinkle over the top. Do NOT stir it in, just let it sit on top. While not necessary, many experienced vinters generally prefer to give their yeast a boost before adding it to your wine mix by using a yest starter.

  9. Seal your primary fermentor and add your airlock.
    Now we seal our fermentor. We do not want any new air to enter the system during the fermenting process. In reality, it will be producing enough CO 2 that having a complete seal isn't a major concern, but we still want to use the airlock to minimize the possibility of contamination.

  10. Wait a week. 
    Let the yeast do it's work for 5-7 days. Make sure your fermentor is kept between 72°-77° Fahrenheit to keep the yeast happy. Give it a quick stir once a day to make sure you're getting an even fermentation. You know you're ready for secondary fermentation when your specific gravity drops to below 1.010.

Step 2: Secondary Fermentation

The goal of the secondary fermentation is to get some of the solids out of the mix so the yeast can concentrate on just the wine. If you are using a wine kit or puree, you may not need to do this step. Follow the instructions in your kit.

  1. Sterilize everything again.
    It never ends. Nor does it become any less important.

  2. Measure your specific gravity.
    If it's less than 1.010, you're ready to begin. Record this value in your wine journal.

  3. Siphon the wine from the primary fermentor to the secondary fermentor.
    Place the primary fermentor above the secondary fermentor. At home, you may decide to place the primary on a table and the secondary on the seat of a chair or the floor. You just want the bottom of the primary fermentor above the fill line on the secondary fermentor.

    The easiest way to start the siphon itself is to fill it with clean water and hold your finger over the end of the hose. Then, place the Racking Tube (siphon) into the elevated wine in the primary fermentor and the hose into the empty secondary fermentor sitting below it. Then let gravity do it's work.

    You'll want to leave the solids and thick sediment behind in the primary fermentor, but try to transfer as much liquid as possible. Clean your primary fermentor and set aside to be used again in bottling.

  4. Do NOT top up the secondary fermentor.
    You will need this headroom for stirring and additions you will make during stabilization.

  5. Seal the secondary fermentor and add the airlock.

  6. Wait 10-12 days.
    Stick the secondary fermentor back in your climate controlled fermentation area. Continue to keep temps in the 72°F to 77°F range. Fermentation should be complete at the end of this period. When the airlock no longer bubbles, fermentation is complete. Specific gravity should be 0.995 or less. You aren't done until you are under 0.995.

Step 3: Stabilizing, Clearing & Degassing

Fermentation is now complete, so now we turn our focus to finishing the wine.

  1. Sanitize everything.
    Yup. Still the first step.

  2. Test specific gravity.
    Make sure the wine's specific gravity is at 0.995 or less. Record this value in your wine journal. If it's not, you aren't ready for step 3 yet. Replace the bung and airlock and let it ferment for a while longer. If your wine is taking longer than normal, it's most likely due to your wine being stored at temperatures below 72°F.

  3. Add stabilizing agents.
    Dissolve your stabilizing agents in water and add to the mixture to stop any fermentation that may still be happening.

  4. Stir with the degasser.
    Using the degasser, stir the wine vigorously for 60 seconds to remove any CO2 from the mixture. Russ recommends using a degasser that fits on the end of a cordless drill to make the job easier (and more fun). Keep the speed on the drill low or you'll have a mess.

  5. Add fining agents.
    Fining agents help any sedement fall out of solution, giving you a nice clear wine.

  6. Replace the bung and airlock.

  7. Wait 14 days.
    Wait for it to clear. After 5 days, you may want to give the vessel a quick twist (without lifting) to allow any sediment stuck to the walls to drop to the bottom and settle with the rest of the sediment.

Setp 4: Bottling 

Our wine is now finished and ready to drink! We just need to get it bottled for storage.

  1. Sanitize everything.
    No surprises here. The new thing here is that now you'll sterilize each of your wine bottles. You'll need about five 750ml wine bottles for every gallon of wine. (30 bottles for a 6 gallon batch)

  2. Check and record your final specific gravity.
    Make sure the wine's specific gravity is still at 0.995 or less. Record this value in your wine journal.

  3. Rack your wine back into primary fermentor.
    This is the same as when you moved the wine into the secondary fermentor, but reversed. The goal is the same though. Leave all the sediment behind in the fermentor and get the clear wine out.

  4. Rack wine from primary fermentor into your bottles
    Now that you have clear, sedement-free wine, it's time to move it into your bottles. You should be getting good at siphoning by now. Use a bottle filler to control the flow. Leave a good inch and a half air gap below the cork and above the wine, or about two finger-widths.

  5. Cork your bottles.
    Add your corks. You can use a hand-corker, but Russ recommends you get a stand. They're not much more expensive and they are WAAAY easier to use.

  6. Stand bottles upright for 3 days.
    This gives the cork a chance to seal. After three days you should be safe to lay the bottles on their side for aging.

  7. Store bottles in cool dark, temperature stable place.
    Your wine is ready to go! However, you may be surprised how much better your wine is if it has a chance to age a bit longer. Experiment!

  8. Enjoy!