There’s a lot of variation in how to make your own wine, however, the same basic steps apply regardless of what type of wine you make.
- Must preparation: For this step of how to make your own wine, the fruit or wine grapes are made into a mushy substance, known as the “must”. During this stage, sugar and acid levels must balance so that when following the wine recipe it leads to a well-balanced wine.
- Primary and Secondary Fermentation: During the primary fermentation, wine yeast converts sugar to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This is also known as aerobic fermentation, since the fermentation container is exposed to air. Primary fermentation lasts for 3 to 5 days, and accounts for around 70% of the entire fermentation activity. Secondary fermentation is much slower, lasting one or two weeks, and ferments the remaining 30% left unfermented by primary fermentation. This is also known as anaerobic fermentation, since the fermentation container is closed off to air. This focuses the wine yeast on converting sugar to alcohol instead of multiplying.
- Racking & Aging: The purpose of the racking step is to transfer the wine from one fermenter to another, leaving behind sediment in the bottom of the first fermenter and out of the finished wine. You may rack wine multiple times if there’s a lot of sediment to remove. Aging wine can occur over any time period, depending upon what type of wine you are making. Aging allows the wine to evolve and develop, which effectively alters the flavor, aroma, and taste of the wine. Typically, red wines require longer aging than white wines, in order to develop the more complex characteristics that are unique to red wines.
- Clarification and Stabilization: The clarification step acts to further “fine” the wine from sediments by adding finings or further racking to remove solid particles and sediment. Changes in temperature, humidity, or other environmental factors can cause chemical reactions in wine, which sometimes results in the precipitation of solids. Stabilizing the wine using chemical or temperature treatments will prevent your wine from experiencing this precipitation when exposed to less-than-ideal conditions.
- Bottling and Storing: The last step in this overview on how to make your own wine, comes after you’ve finished your delectable wine. Bottle it to protect it from overexposure to air, light, and other environmentally detrimental conditions. Finally, you want to store your wine under “cellar conditions” in order to preserve the life of your wine. Lay the bottle on its side, keep it in the dark, and store around 55°F.
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.