Winemaking Equipment and Ingredients
The basic equipment for making wine at home is very simple. The first need is for a natural polythene bin or bucket with a lid. These are available in a variety of sizes from 4.5 to 27 litres (1 to 6 gallons) from home brew shops, many branches of Boots the Chemist and from an increasing number of branches of Wool worth and supermarkets. It is best to get a medium-sized one to begin with and others as your interest increases.
You will also need several glass fermentation jars, a couple of bored bungs to take airlocks and a few unbored bungs to seal the jars while the wines mature. A large wooden or plastic spoon is needed for stirring. A plastic funnel is frequently in use and a nylon sieve and a jug with measurements marked on it are often helpful. All of these may already be part of your kitchen equipment.
A straining bag will be needed for fruit wines: one made from nylon or linen is best. A potato masher is ideal for crushing soft fruit, but a liquidizer may also be used. Hard fruits like gooseberries, are easier to crush if they are first softened with hot water. Stoned fruits must have the stones removed and discarded before crushing. Juice can also be extracted from fruit by steam heat in a Saftborn steam juice extractor. For large quantities of fruit a press is very desirable, if not absolutely essential. It is certainly needed for large quantities of the pulp of apples and pears after the first fermentation.
A length of plastic hose is needed for use as a siphon when transferring wine from one container to another without disturbing the sediment. A “J” tube fitting or similar device is needed for one end and a tap or clip for the other end is worth having.
When you have gained some experience, you will need a hydrometer and trial jar to measure the specific- gravity of the must and so enable you to calculate how much sugar to add to achieve a wine with a pre-determined alcohol content. A kitchen thermometer will also be needed.
Proper wine bottles should always be used. Used bottles should be soaked until the labels come off, washed clean inside and out and then sterilized before use. Champagne bottles are essential for sparkling wines. New cylindrical corks must be used and a simple corking machine is needed to drive them home until flush with the top of the bottle neck. Some sort of label is needed and handsome decorative labels can be bought in a great variety of styles. Foil or plastic capsules to cover the top of the cork and the neck of the bottle give the final touch to the professional finish of the bottle.
It is wise to keep a record either on cards or in a book of wines and beers made, listing ingredients, methods and dates.
Yeast is the most important ingredient used in winemaking. This is available in liquid form in a tiny phial, as granules sealed in a foil sachet or compressed as a tablet and then sealed in foil. Some firms market a yeast compound in a drum. It consists of yeast granules mixed with ammonium salts which act as a wine nutrient when dissolved. Unless you propose to make very substantial quantities of wine in a short period, these relatively large quantities are not a good buy since the yeast inevitably deteriorates after the drum has been opened.
A small quantity of yeast will ferment a huge quantity of must if it is first activated and then encouraged to multiply. This can be done by first activating the yeast in 300ml / l/2 pint of diluted concentrated grape juice or other fruit juice containing a little sugar and acid. The juice of half an orange or lemon with a teaspoonful of sugar stirred into half a pint of water is ideal for the purpose. The addition of one 3mg tablet of vitamin B, acts as a booster to the yeast and is beneficial, although not essential. Add the yeast to the solution contained in a sterilized wine bottle, plug the neck with cotton wool and leave it in a warm place for 24 hours, giving the bottle an occasional shake to stimulate the take up of air by the solution.
Next day, make up a larger and similar solution in a sterilized larger bottle and add the fermenting solution from the first bottle. Leave a large airspace, plug the neck of the bottle with cotton wool and again leave it in a warm place, shaking the bottle from time to time. Forty-eight hours from starting should be long enough to develop a colony of active yeast cells sufficient to ferment 45 litres/10 gallons of must. Always use pure wine yeast, preferably of a strain similar to the style of wine you have in mind to make. Bread yeast or beer yeast are not suitable for making good quality wines of fine flavour.
Acid is the next most important ingredient. A wine without acid has no bouquet and tastes like medicine. Acid is essential to obtain both a good bouquet and a good flavour. Yeast will not function properly without acid. Flower, vegetable, cereal and honey-based musts contain no acid and 15-20 ml (3-4 level teaspoons) of acid are needed. Depending on the sweetness and strength of the finished wine. Fruit juices, dried, frozen and fresh fruits are always diluted with water and so some acid is also needed. One to three teaspoonsful of acid depending on the acidity of the fruit is enough. Dates, figs, bananas and elderberries have little or no acid: blackcurrants, lemons and sour cherries have plenty.
The acid is best added in crystal form although fresh lemon juice may be used instead. Citric acid is the most popular and the least expensive. Tartaric acid and malic acid are widely used alternatives. A blend of all three, taking into account the kind of acid in the fruit, is ideal. For example, apples contain malic acid and so it would be best to add only citric and tartaric. Oranges contain mostly citric and so it would be best to add some tartaric and malic. Raisins, sultanas, and sweet grapes contain mostly tartaric acid and so it would be best to add some citric and malic acid.
The finished wine needs to contain from 4ppt (parts per thousand) of acid for a light dry wine to 7 ppt for a stronger or sweeter wine. If there is no natural acid present in the must, a simple rule of thumb is that 5ml (1 level teaspoon) of citric acid per 4.5 litres/1 gallon is approximately equal to 1 pt. The juice of one fresh lemon of average size is equal to one teaspoonful of citric acid crystals.
Pectic enzyme is the next additive of significance. All fruits contain pectin to some extent some more than others. Pectin is the gelling substance that makes jam set. Pectic enzyme is the dissolving agent and if the pectin is not dissolved, there is the possibility that the finished wine will contain a haze that will spoil its appearance. When making wine from fresh, dried, canned or frozen fruits or bottles, cans or cartons of fruit juice, it is necessary to include some pectic enzyme. It is variously described as Pectolin, Pectolase, Pectozyme, Pectolytic enzyme and so on. The powder keeps well when securely sealed. The liquid type deteriorates after some months. The quantity to use per 4.5 litres/1 gallon varies with the make and is indicated on the pack.
Tannin is contained in grape stalks, seeds and skins. It gives firmness and character to red wines and some should be included, since fruits other than the pear and the elderberry are deficient. A few drops per 4.5 litres/1 gallon of the liquid type or from 3.5ml (½ – 1 level teaspoon) of the brown powder, is sufficient to make a substantial difference to the wine.
All endeavour is totally wasted unless every piece of equipment is not only spotlessly clean but also sterilized. Hygiene cannot be stressed enough. For this reason, sulphite is the winemaker’s best friend. Sulphite can be bought in 100g/3-1/2oz packets containing fine white crystals or in tablet form known as Campden tablets. Those new to winemaking are recommended to use the tablets at first since these are easier to handle and release a known quantity of sulphur dioxide into the water.
Start a session of winemaking by first crushing four Campden tablets and placing the powder in a clean bottle with acap. Add half a teaspoonful of citric acid and 600ml/1 pint of cold water to the powder. Screw on the cap and shake the bottle gently until the crystals have dissolved. Wash all equipment clean and then sterilize it with the sulphite solution. Pour the solution into a polythene bin and swirl it round to swirl the entire surface then pour it back into the bottle. Sterilize a fermentation jar in tin- same way. Wipe other surfaces over with a clean cloth soaked in the solution. Sterilize corks by placing them in a polythene box full of the solution. Fit the lid and leave for several hours ensuring that the corks are well submerged. Sterilize bottles by first pouring the solution into one bottle. Kit a temporary stopper and shake the bottle well. Remove the stopper and pour the solution into the next bottle and so on. No equipment should be used unless it has first been sterilized. This will prevent wine being spoiled by invisible bacteria or fungi that have settled on the equipment. After use, wash all equipment clean and drain it dry before . Sterilize before using it again.
When making up a must wash all the fruit in a mild sulphite solution containing one crushed Campden tablet per 4.5 litres/1 gallon. Crush the fruit into your sterilized bin, add the pectic enzyme, acid and water together with one crushed Campden tablet per 4.5 litres/1 gallon. Cover the bin and the sulphur dioxide will protect the must from infection while the pectic enzyme is at work. Add the active yeast after 24 hours. The yeast will now have a clean must in which to operate and will not have to compete with spoilage organisms. When fermentation has finished, rack the clearing wine into a sterilized jar and add one crushed Campden tablet per 4.5 litres/1 gallon to prevent oxidation and infection.
Carried out faithfully, these simple precautions prevent ‘off’ smells and flavours, stimulate the wine yeast, assist in clarification and preserve the wine. The winemaker who practises good hygiene as described above will consistently produce clean, sound and wholesome wine that is a pleasure to drink. In brief: 1 Use proper equipment, and avoid metal other than good quality stainless steel. 2 Use pure wine yeast that has been properly activated and remember to include sufficient acid. 3 Use a pectic enzyme with your fruits and never fail to sterilize the ingredients as well as the equipment. 4 Use one crushed Campden tablet per 4.5 litres/1 gallon immediately alter the first racking when fermentation is finished and make sure little air space is left in storage jars.
Making Wine from Concentrates The best way to learn how to make wine at home is with a can of concentrated grape juice. It is widely available and can be bought in more than twenty different styles, from a dozen or so different manufacturers. Indeed, you can buy a beginner’s kit from a number of sources that provides a fermentation jar, airlock, bungs, siphon, funnel, bottles and corks as well as a can of concentrated grape juice and some suitable yeast. Campden tablets are also included and a sterilizing agent.
First wash and sterilize the jar, bored, airlock and funnel. Next, open the can and pour the contents into the jar. Rinse out the can so as not to waste any grape juice and add a total of 2.85 litres/5 pints of cold water to the jar. Swirl this about to distribute the concentrate evenly in the water, pour in the yeast, soften the bored bung in hot water, fit the stem of the airlock firmly into the hole at the broadest end of the bung, half fill the airlock with sulphite solution or cold boiled water and push the narrow end of the bung into the neck of the jar until a tight fit is achieved. It will be seen that there is an airspace above the must. This is to allow for any foaming that may occur in the first few days of fermentation. Now place the jar in a position where the warmth is steady and the jar is protected from bright light. By the next day, bubbles of should be rising throughout the must which will now have become cloudy. After a while the air will be pushed out through the water that forms the lock and later the gas will escape in the same way.
Most concentrates require the addition of some sugar after ten days. Sterilize a large jug or bowl and place the specified amount of sugar in it. Remove the bung containing the airlock and gently pour a good measure of must over the sugar. Stir this until the sugar has completely dissolved, then pour it slowly and gently back into the jar. Top the jar up to the neck band about 3 cm/1 – 1/2in beneath the bottom of the bung. Replace the bung and airlock firmly and put the jar back into its former position and leave until fermentation finishes. It is easy to test when fermentation has finished as no bubbles will be passing through the airlock and the wine will be clearing from the neck downwards and will look still.
Move the jar to as cold a place as you can find for a few days to encourage the solid particles in suspension to settle on the bottom of the jar. After three or four days a deposit will be seen to have formed and the wine will look hazy rather than cloud) or milky. Now is the time to siphon the clearing wine from its deposit of dead yeast cells and grape pulp. Sterilize a clean jar and place it on the floor or a low stool. Position the jar of wine on a table or work surface above the empty jar and remove the bung and airlock. Push one end of the sterilized siphon tube into the wine, but not so far down as to disturb the sediment. Take the other end of the tube and insert it in your mouth, then suck gently until the lube is full of wine. Squeeze the tube close to your lips and place that end into the empty jar. Release the pressure on the tube and the wine will flow from the jar above to the jar below. Watch the end of the tube in the wine and make sure that it is kept just below the surface. As the quantity of wine reduces, carefully tilt the jar to increase the depth of wine beneath the end of the tube until all the wine has been transferred and only the sediment remains. The jar can now be washed out and drained dry for future use.
Add one Campden tablet to the nearly full jar of wine and top up with a little cold boiled water. Fit a softened and sterilized bung without a hole and press it home tightly. Label the jar with the name of the contents and the dale fermentation stalled, then put the jar away into a cool place while the wine matures.
After four weeks or so, examine the jar and if the wine is now quite bright, as it should be, siphon the wine once more into a sterilized jar. Add one more Campden tablet, top up again, replace the bung, change the label over and return the jar to store until the wine is six months old.
The manufacturers might suggest that the wine may be bottled earlier, but experience shows that these extra few months improve the flavour of the wine considerably. Sterilize six wine bottles and corks, siphon the wine into the bottles, fit the corks, label the bottles and store for another four to six weeks before drinking the wine.
A number of wine kits are advertised as being ready for drinking within one, two or three weeks from starting. Whilst the claim is true in the sense that you can swallow it without harm and, indeed, with some pleasure, it remains a fact, admitted by the manufacturers, that the wine improves with keeping. Some of these kits are marketed in 22.5 litre/5 gallon quantities only which is too much for a beginner. It is wiser to try a six-bottle pack in the first instance.
After making up two or three different kits you will feel quite confident about sterilizing, siphoning and so on. The kits make good wine, but little skill is required from the winemaker. Much more satisfaction can be gained from making the wine all the way from growing and picking to bottling.