5 Myths About Homemade Wine

Myth vs Reality About Homemade Wines.There are many misconceptions and misguided assumptions about making wine at home. Most all of them are perpetuated by individuals who never even tasted or made homemade wine. Others are simply born out of the mystique surrounding the commercial wine industry.

How can something so sophisticated be made at home?

Here are the ones that we run into the most. The ones that flat-out drive us silly every time we hear them.

  1. Homemade Wines Don’t Taste That Good.
    Without question, you can easily make wines that are just as good, if not better, than the wines you find on the store shelf. And not with practice, but with your very first batch. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve done side-by-side, blind tastings with a challenging friend or an acquaintance between a glass of wine made from one of our wine ingredient kits and a glass of store bought wine, only to have the homemade wine win – hands-down. I’m not going to name any names, but I’m not talking about doing a blind tasting against the $8 stuff. I’m talking about higher dollar stuff that you’d buy to take to a dinner party, etc. Wouldn’t it be nicer to take your own personalized wine gift, that you made, to the party instead.
  1. Homemade Wine Takes A Lot Of Time To Make.
    Learning how to make your own wine is much easier than most individuals can even begin to imagine. It’s deceptively easy. There are a lot of wine making products on the market today that make it as simple as following a few directions. And, it doesn’t take that long. You can be bottling your first batch of wine in as little as 28 days. And as far as the time it takes out of your day, I’d say it doesn’t get any worse than the time it takes to bottle the wine – an hour to get it start, another half-hour to siphon it to a second container, etc.
  1. Making Homemade Wine Requires A Lot Of Expensive Equipment.
    This may have been partially true 20 or 30 years ago. Back then, depending on what type of wine you were making, you might need a grape crusher to crush the fruit and a grape press to press the fruit. Today it’s different. You don’t need to crush and press the fruit if you don’t want to. You can buy it already done for you. Now there are hundreds of wine making juices packaged up and ready for use from all over the world. You can get Cabernet grape from France, Shiraz grape from Australia, Merlot grape from California…  The choices are endlessShop Wine Making Kits.
  1. Homemade Wine Spoils Easy.
    Absolutely not. Homemade wine keeps just as good as commercially made wine. There is no difference in the keeping abilities between the two. There is no reason for one to keep better than the other. They are both made the same way from the same basic wine making materials. One’s just on a smaller scale than the other. I currently have several bottles of homemade wine that have been in my cellar aging since 1998 and 2002 and I would not hesitate to drink them myself or serve them to my friends and family.
  1. Making Homemade Wine Is Illegal.
    Wrong! Ever since October 14, 1978 it has been perfectly legal for Americans to make their own wine and beer. This is when President Jimmy Carter signed into law legislation introduced by Senator Alan Cranston of California. You can make up to 100 gallons per year. If you live in a household with another adult, you can make up to 200 gallons per year. It can be for your own personal consumption or to hand out has wine making gifts to friend and relatives. Just make sure you don’t sell it. That would be illegal!

Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

25 thoughts on “5 Myths About Homemade Wine

  1. Question….we just bottled our first ever batch of Concord grape wine. I couldn’t resist tasting it. Is it okay and safe? We are going to let it sit now for 28 days in the dark cool cellar to settle and ferment the rest of the way. We are like super rookies at this but it was fun. It tasted good. Thank you in adavance.

    • I hope what you stated is not totally true. The wine must be completely finished fermenting and clear before you bottle. If it was still fermenting (even slightly) when you bottled you are likely to have exploding bottles or popped corks. Also, with Concord wine you may get a “foxy” taste. This comes from fermenting the skins. You can eliminate this by treating it like a white grape by pressing immediately and fermenting the juice (the juice will likely be pink) or by heating the batch or adding some boiling water to extract the color and then press. You will probably need to balance the acid and sugar with Concord grapes whether you add water or not.

  2. Christopher, letting your new wine age undisturbed it a great idea. You will more than likely find that the wine will taste better after a month or two of aging and marginally so on up to 9 to 18 months. I don’t know what you did up to this points to make or bottle the wine, so I can not comment any further other than to say, be patient.

  3. I am from Shiraz/ Iran…Shiraz grape is the best grape for making wine…and you should by it from Shiraz…not Australia !!!

  4. For the past seven years I have been making wine from fresh grapes grown in my backyard vineyard. I have recently decided to give up my vineyard and begin making wine from kits.

    During my study of the process of kit winemaking, I have discovered several differences between the two processes. Specifically bulk aging, and cold stabilization.I have been bulk aging my reds in carboys for a year before bottling. Part of this aging process includes storing the wine in a refrigerated enclosure at 38 F for 2 to 4 weeks to allow the pottassium bitartrate to crystals precipitate out.

    These two processes are not part of kit winemaking. Why?

    • G. Wayne, you can certainly bulk age any wine made from a kit if you prefer. The directions are simply telling you that this wine will be ready to bottle within 4-6 weeks. The kit directions do not mention cold stabilization because the manufacturer of the kit has already taken care of that for you.

      • By saying this, do you mean since they include stabilizer in the kit? I’ve noticed that kit wines, dry reds specifically, have a different flavor than store wines. Almost an off flavor. I wonder if cold crashing would help that. Thoughts?

  5. Also about liquor laws. As I understand it, the federal laws allow 100 gallons per year(200 per household) and as long as you don’t sell it, they don’t care much about what you do with it. However each of the 50 states may have their own laws about what you can do with your home made wine. Many states make it unlawful to consume your homemake wine into an establishment that has a state liquor permit. Only wine that has had state tax paid on it may be legally consumed there. I hear there are some states with even more restrictive laws. Either learn you state laws or plead ignorance if you get busted. 🙂

  6. I am a first time Brewer I have two gallons of my own greenhouse grapes Muscat fermenting now in Demi johns for six weeks now the must before yeast read 1045 it is now reading 1030
    How long should I leave it before bottling also should I use finishers to clear it

    • Will, the answer to your question is that you need to let the wine sit until the fermentation is complete before bottling. Once the fermentation completes and the wine is clear, you can then bottle the wine. Until the specific gravity reading reaches .998 or less the fermentation is not complete. Since your reading has not moved much in six weeks, it appears that you may have a stuck or sluggish fermentation. There are a number of things that can cause a stuck fermentation. Please take a look at the article posted below to see what could be causing your fermentation trouble.

      Reasons For Fermentation Failure

  7. if you’re a person making sweet wines, find something that is a slightly loose seal. i had a tight seal on 5 gallons of blueberry wine, (back sweetened, added stuff to kill the yeast). one of the gallons still exploded. adult child is totally angry at me. not my fault, was in the basement, temp shouid have controlled the reaction. basically, stuff happens.

    • Angela, you never want to “seal” a wine that is fermenting and adding “stuff” to kill a large and vigorous colony of yeast is doomed to failure. The only reliable way to stabilize your wine to prevent further fermentation is to rack the wine off the yeast (several times) after the yeast have become dormant because they have consumed all the sugar there was for them to eat. Then you add both K-meta and k-sorbate and then you can back sweeten but if the yeast is still active they produce half the weight of the added sugar as carbon dioxide and in a sealed container that translates to many, many pounds of pressure per square inch and glass can only withstand so much pressure.

  8. I like that this article pointed out that you can make custom wines to fit your taste. My uncle loves wine, so I think he may enjoy making his own. What supplies does he need to get started?

  9. Your myths are always very interesting,a learning tool and a problem solver. I look forward to read more.thank you.

  10. It was not until recently that I endeavored to make my own wine and now I know why I was never much of a wine drinker and I also know why I have incorporated a nightly sample glass into my routine. Because it really is that good and my current Pinot Noir wine kit wine that has only just finished degassing is that good right off the hop. Today was taste test day with a comparison to an off the shelf 2 year Pinot Noir with both mine and the bought sample back sweetened just a touch and I’m on my way to the sink to dump the bought Pinot Noir down the drain. Just saying… follow the instructions and procedure carefully and there’s an excellent chance that you won’t be disappointed, you may even be enlightened. Now, with that said, I do have my own both Apple and Saskatoon wine on rack; however, with a few samples and the possibility of a year in the making I knew that a wine kit was the only way to go… who knew how better educated the possibility of a home brew shop could make this home town? And as they say, one thing leads to another. Thank you Mr. Kraus for your wealth of information.

  11. Angela, I bottle 99.9% of my wine in 1 gal. bottles. I have a dark cool room to store them and loosen the caps about 1/2 turn because all my wine has been back sweetened (Mainly to offset high alcohol), never had fermentation start again but that could be due to very careful racking AFTER total clearing and all my wines are 15-17% alcohol.

  12. Hi there I have produced my first ever batch from a fruit called grewia asiatic. Vastly found in india and other Asian countries… it’s been 7 days and fermentation is kinda over…. how can I have a crystal clear wine? Should I siphon it to another jar and wait for a while… or I have read that gelatin can clear it up. Please advise

    • Sunny, Before the wine will begin to clear, the fermentation must be complete. Once the fermentation is complete, the wine will begin to clear on its own. The only way to know if the fermentation is complete is by taking a hydrometer reading. If you need further assistance in clearing your wine, please take a look at the article posted below.

      Clearing A Cloudy Wine

  13. I’m interested in making flower wines. I am told that I should use a grape base to give them a fuller body. Is there a specific grape type that would work best for a flower wine such as Elderberry? What about yeast stains?

    • Karyn, the type of grape juice used is not that critical. Most people will use chopped muscat raisins or Welch’s white grape juice.

  14. I use a wine kit – Argentia Ridge – usually the Cab but Shiraz and Merlot also. I use 2 Fastfermenters. Very succesful so far.
    I get to .992 S.G. every single time after 10 days. Probably before then but I have’nt checked. I believe this is due to fermenting at about 80F average temp’. The 80F temperature is because the fermenters are in a machine room in the house that also houses the furnace and water heater. C’est La Vie.
    Question: If I am at .992 after 10 days have I then actually gone through both first and second fermentations? The wine is good although it has no ‘nose’ to speak of.
    Any thoughts?

    • A nose is something that develops with age. It is not a quality you would expect from a newly fermented wine. So I wouldn’t be to concerned at this point. Follow the steps, get it in the bottle and let it age for a minimum of 6 months, a year is better, before touching it.

      • OK. Thanks.
        About the .992 SG question. The ‘recipe’ from the juice supplier has degassing and the addition of metabisulphite, kieselsol etc after 18 days.
        Could I perform that step after 10 days given that I’m pretty sure the wine is fully fermented at that point?

  15. I was taught to make home made wine by a old geezer up the road from where we lived 38 years ago i have found so many myths.Wine making is easy and fun.i prefer fruit and or tea wines i have had verry good results.I do bottle my wine and yes wine changes after sitting always for the better..one of the best wines i have made was with rhubarb i have found what i was taught is true pretty much same recipe for all batches of wine.i did stunn a couple of wine store brewers who kept insisting i buy camdon tablets and other junk that are not necessary…i took in one of my bottles of 6 week old wine they absolutky refused to believe it was made from scratch and that it could be made from dry baking yeast.according to my alcohol meter my wines turn out aprx 14-16 precent with baking yeast.this has started arguments with hard nosed brewers but my results as with many others prove its value..one winter i ran out of wine and unable to make fruit wine i was forced to use 6 boxes of green tea to make my wine from it turned out quite good after sitting.one of the best wines i have ever had was given to me on my wedding day..a neighbour was selling his house and brought me 10 one gallon jugs of wine that had been sitting in his attic since he had bought the house 45 years earlier it was Crystal clear rose hop wine..the crazy fello who lived next to my when I was a kid made banana wine i never found out how but it was unique..i used to distill half of my wine into a beautiful smooth medicine…..medicinal purposes only of coarse..i have recently relocated to south america i have just started a fresh orange/ lemon/passion fruit batch of wine it shows great promise.i am not a professional brewer they have their place but for all the new young red neck or country brewer want to be’s you can make wine from anything that will allow the fermentation process to take place …in the north we picked pine needles and made strong tea from them and made wine from the pine needle tea ,full of vitamin C and verry strong alcohol …dont limit yourself to what you should do…what would you like to do???Coffee wine anyone?

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