Home wine making holds a lot of mystery for some, particularly if they’ve never made wine. And for those who have, there are still some dark, mysterious corners with some unanswered questions.
With this in mind I’ve put together seven random wine making facts that many home winemakers still don’t know.
Look them over and see how many of them you know and how many of them are shinny, new ‘pearls of wisdom’ for you?
- Five 750ml wine bottles equals 1 US gallons. They don’t exactly equal a gallon. More like .99 gallons… just 1.2 ounces shy, but close enough for figuring out how many bottles you’re going to need. If you have 10 gallons of wine, you’re going to need 50 bottles.
- One pound of cane sugar will raise the potential alcohol of 5 gallons of wine must by 1%. This is a real handy wine making fact. If you are getting ready to ferment 5 gallons of wine must, and it has a potential alcohol of 9%, just add 3 pounds of cane sugar to get it to 12%. Again, this is not exact but very, very close.
- 2 cups of cane sugar equals 1 pound. If you don’t have a scale you can weigh your cane sugar by the cup. This is a little trick that came from cooking class, but is certainly helpful when making wine. It also ties in well with wine making fact #2.
- All wines contain sulfites, whether you add it or not. This is because sulfites are a minor byproduct of the fermentation. A normal wine fermentation will produce sulfites on the order of 10 to 15 PPM (parts-per-million). When we add sulfites as a home winemaker or as a winery, we are shooting for about 45 to 75 PPM
- Home wine making was illegal until 1979. When prohibition was repealed in 1933 all was still not right in the world. It was still illegal to make your own wine or beer at home. It wasn’t until 45 years later, in 1978, when California Senator, Alan Cranston introduced a bill that was passed and later signed by President Jimmy Carter in 1979, that it was federally legal for U.S. citizens to make there own wine at home.
- About half the sugar in a wine must is turned to CO2 gas, the other half to alcohol by weight. That is to say that if you add a pound of sugar to a wine must and it ferments completely, you will have added 1/2 pound of alcohol to the resulting wine. The other half floats away as CO2 gas. This division can vary a little depending on the wine yeast and fermenting conditions, etc. but almost always between 47% and 53%.
- Use Honey In Place Of Sugar: This is a great wine making fact if you’re into a little experimentation, you can try using different honeys in place of any sugar called for in a wine recipe. Once the sweetness of the honey is fermented away, you are left with its herbal qualities. For every pound of sugar called for in a wine recipe, you will want to use 1-1/4 pound of honey in its place.
Did you know some of these wine making facts. If you didn’t, well now you do. Do you have a random wine making fact you’d like to share with us. Just leave it as a comment below, and we’ll see how many everyone can come up with.
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.
i took my first wine making class about 45 years ago . the old timers then said a good rule of thumb is " when you make a gallon of wine at lest you so long, but if you make 5 gallons of wine at lest you twice is longz"
We made wine in Berkeley, california in the early 60’s. There was a wine shop on university ave that catered to amateur wine makers. The shop bought grapes from the napa valley in bulk and split them up after crushing to various wine makers. If it was illegal the law wasn’t enforced. Some of those wine makers went on to own or work in wineries in the napa valley
1978?? Hmmmmmmm…are you sure it was illegal before then? I was making beer and wine in the early 70s and ordering supplies from you (known as E. S. Kraus back then).
What is the sticky, gum like product produced in the primary fermentation of elderberrys and what is the best way to clean the fermenter and straining bags?
Cooking spray or oil will help cut elderberry gum and plenty of elbow.
If you leave the stems on that is where it comes from. Elderberries are a lot of work to remove from the stems but it makes the end results so much better. No more sticky goo to clean up. Yuk I cleaned as much off as I could with paper towels then used a product called GooGone. It is oily itself but removes the sticky goo much easier. Just use soap and water to remove any oily residue afterwards.
Stupid trick about elderberries and stems: Freeze the bunches in a plastic bag. When they are fully frozen, take the bag out of the freezer and whack the bag against the wall a few times (don’t go all Schwarzenegger though) to pop the berries from the stems. Hold the neck of the bag closed, tip it upside down then loosen your grip SLOWLY. The elderberries will pour out (usually on the floor on your first try) and the stems will remain in the bag.
I don’t know what that sticky stuff is that gets produced when elderberries ferment. I’ve general rule is that it cannot be dissolved by any chemical that you want touching your wine making equipment. Someone once said that gasoline would cut it, but wouldn’t want gasoline in my plastic fermenters. The rule with elderberries is you put a trash bag in the bucket and ferment in the trash bag. When finished you can throw away the bag and all that “goo.”
Great idea. I had all but given up on ever making elderberry wine ever again. I will use this tip the next time I get elderberries. Thanks
Great idea Walt! Thanks!
Dick, the gum you are referring to is a tar like resin that is completely normal when making wine from elderberries. There are too different products that are effective in removing this gum. The first is plane ol’ vegetable oil. I that doesn’t cut it for you then switch to Goo Gone. You can find this product in the housekeeping section of any full line grocery store.
I have made elderberry several times and I think Walts suggestion is the best one yet! I made sure I had no stems and still got the yuk so he is spot on.
Paul, George, We started selling product for making wine and beer in October of 1966. It was Not illegal to sell juices and yeast, etc. It was illegal to make the wine from these products. The Act was Public Law 95-458, dated October 14, 1978. Yes, we were providing products for people to break the law.
Dick, I bow to Customer Service’s comment about the gum you referred to as being a tar like resin – I always referred to it as sap. The best way I have discovered to remove it is 1st strip the individual berries from the stalks as best as you possibly can, then 2nd strain the juice through women’s knee high hose. (I buy new packages)
You might also like to try Elderberry Blossom wine. Basic recipe is 2 inches of flowers (stripped from stems) per each gallon you plan to make. I use a 5 gallon bucket. For 1 – 2 gallons add one orange, one lemon and one lime cut in half and squeezed then just throw the rind in on top. (2 of each for larger batches) Add a pound of sugar and then pour a gallon of boiling water over it, stir and let it stand over night. Next day add yeast dissolved in water and additional water. If you are making a larger batch you will want to add additional sugar water (cooled!) When you transfer to a carboy pour through a knee high hose. Leave some head space and when it stops working take a sample and if you want a little sweeter add a bit more sugar water. Play with it, you can’t mess it up too bad unless you add too much sugar. A pound or half pound at a time is best. This wine “fines” very quickly and you can drink it by late summer but take my word for it same some for winter…it’s exceptional about January.
Item #5 about amateur wine making being illegal until until 1979 is not exactly true as i remember it. I’ve been making wine since 1974. At that time I could make wine, but had to write to the government and get permission. I was required to keep detailed records of what I made and be prepared to present this information about my production if asked but the feds. When I relocated from PA to OH in 1976, I had to write and get permission to move xxx gallons of my wine from one address to another. What changed in 1979 was this requirement to keep all the records and document what you were doing. You could make your 100 gallon per year (200 if head of household). As long as you didn’t sell any of it, the Fed could care less what you did with it. I hope this helps.
Can molasses be used to sweeten wine and what ratio to sugar do you use? What fruit wine will go best with this flavor?
Henry, the sugar to molasses ratio is 1 cup sugar to 1.5 tablespoons of molasses. However, because the flavor of molasses is so much stronger, it will probably take much less than if you are using sugar. Our best recommendation, is to take out a small sample of the wine and keep track of how much it took to get it to sweetness level you desire and then multiply that amount by the remainder of the batch. This method will keep you from over-sweetening the entire batch.
I think number 5. is incorrect. I started making wine in 1974 and it was legal then. However, before you could make wine at home you had to apply to the ATBF for permission to make wine and they sent you a form giving you permission. On this form (issued yearly), you had to list all the wines and amounts you made. It was in 1978 that they did away with all this reporting and tracking.
Back in the 60’s in western NY state, we had an old Italian friend from the old country who made a 40 gallon barrel of red wine (kick yer head with one glass), and we were told it was legal there to make a 40-gal max.
The general rule I use is 20% sugar will give 10% alchohol. So usually 10 lbs sugar will work
for 5 gals, unless you have a grape like delaware then you don’t need any sugar.
Delaware can have 22% sugar.
I have made Rasberry wine and it has stopped fermenting, I racked it once and it is almost clear; but it is very dry and does not have a great
Rasberry taste to the wine. It does but it is not mild, where do I go from here, been trying to make great wine for years and can’t quite get it down pat. Making the wine is no problem getting it to taste right is another story.
Francis, when the fermentation completes and the wine becomes dry, it is common for it to lose some of the fruit flavor. If you back-sweeten the wine it helps bring back the fruity flavor. The article posted below will give you other tips on how to get more fruit flavor.
More Get Flavor In Your Wine
Number 5 is NOT correct. It was not illegal to make wine at home before the law changes in 1979. I’ve been making wine since 1974. What a home wine maker had to do prior to 1979 was send a form to the federal government and get permission to make wine at home. Once you got the form back endorsed by the Feds authorizing you to make wine at home you could do so. I think the limits then are like now, 100 gallons per year (200 gallons if head of household). I had to keep good records of what I made and could be audited to check me if the Feds wanted to do that. With the laws changes in 1979 all the requirements for that paper work went away. When my company moved me in 1976 from PA to OH, I had to get written permission from the Feds to move X gallons of wine from my old home to my new home. I think in my files somewhere I have a copy of the form authorizing me to make home made wine.
This is off key alittle bit, but didn’t know where to ask; What can be mixed with Blueberries to make a full barrel of wine? I’ve made 5 gals in the past, and won a ribbon in the KY State Fair, but I have 37 lbs in the freezer, and want to know what can be mixed with it (ie: Blackberries?)? I have almost no limits on my blackberries this year, they are loaded. On your Elderberry note, I have never had a problem with Elderberry, but I mix those with Blackberries also. My Fair wine this year. Thanks
Doug, if you are looking for something to simply complete the batch then I would probably use the Blackberries. However, if you are looking for something the matches well with Blueberries I would probably use Strawberries.
ok, so would blueberry/blackberrymix fair? And if I done this, what would be the best yeast? I may end up mixing blackberry/elderberry again, and just use the blueberries in a 5 gal batch?