Making Wine at Home

In October 1995 there were a lot of plums and greengages on the trees in my friend Joy's garden. I made some wine with them in order to avoid them going to waste. The resulting wine has gone well so I was disappointed when the trees had hardly any fruit on then in the Autumn of 1996. I managed to get a lot of fruit from a greengrocer in a local market at a very cheap price so I was able to continue with my winemaking again. With any luck I should end up with more than 300 litres of wine during 1997. I guess that it might be a bit late in the day to suggest that you follow my example right now, but you might find that if you approach a market greengrocer late on a Saturday afternoon in September or October and ask what price he wants for several cases of fruit, you may well end up with an offer that you cannot refuse. (I paid £22 altogether for 120kg bought in three lots. ) Most fruits are packed in 10kg boxes. 30kg plums or 40kg grapes will make 50 litres of wine. If you decide to make some wine with fresh fruit, the following section covers the equipment and method I use.

General Remarks
All utensils and equipment must be washed with clean cold water before and after use. The small residual amount of chlorine in normal drinking water is sufficient to sterilise smooth clean plastic and glass items. (check that the water does not smell of chlorine. ) Washing up liquid and abrasive scourers should never be used. Where absolute sterilisation is needed, use a sodium metabisulphite solution at a concentration of 2 tablespoonsful (or more) per litre. This solution may be kept in a bottle and re-used many times. The sterilising action is caused by sulphur dioxide gas (do not breathe it in) which is liberated by the solution. Discard the sterilising solution when the smell of sulphur dioxide weakens. . Winemaking yeast is fairly resistant to a low concentration of sulphur dioxide (2-3 parts per 1000) that will kill or inhibit bacteria and wild yeasts. Stained equipment should be cleaned by a proprietary cleaner such as Chempro SDP and thoroughly washed in cold water afterwards. Commercial wine seldom tastes of grapes. Don't expect plum wine to taste much of plums.

N + 1 X 25 litre buckets. with lids. (One more than you will ferment wine in. ) 2 X 5litre plastic containers. ("Spring" water containers are ideal. ) 1 X 10 litre household bucket (for waste products). 1 X 1 litre fizzy drink bottle for each 25 litre fermentation. 3 metres of 6mm bore flexible plastic tube. A length of rigid plastic or glass siphoning tube to fit the end of the flexible tube. A siphon tap. A large (150mm) funnel. A winemakers hydrometer calibrated in Specific Gravity (SG), sugar and alcohol. A winemaker's thermometer. A hydrometer jar. A straining bag. (A clean pillowcase will do if all else fails. ) One pair of medium weight rubber household gloves. 1 X 6 inch diameter plastic strainer. A very large saucepan. A cooker.

500g or a pound of sodium metabisulphite. 1 container of Formula 67 (or equivalent yeast). 1 container of Pectic enzyme (50g) 1 container of Rohament P enzyme (25g) 1 container of Fungal Amylase enzyme (25g). 1 can of grape concentrate to make one gallon (red, white or rose, your choice) for each 25 litre fermentation. 4kg sugar per 25 litres of wine. Fruit: 20kg grapes or 15kg plums or other soft fruit.


Fruit Preparation
Put 10 litres or 2 gallons of water into 25 litre bucket No. 1. Add 3 tablespoonsful of sodium metabisulphite and stir well. (It should stink of sulphur dioxide so don't breathe it in. )Put the gloves on. (A little talcum powder in the gloves makes them easy to put on and take off. )Remove the stalks from the fruit and put the fruit into the bucket. The sulphite solution will sterilise the fruit. Discard any fruit that you would not eat as it is. If the fruit gets above the liquid level, add a little more water. Put the lid on the bucket and shake it around as much as you can without straining yourself. (It could weigh around 26kg. )Put 1 litre of water into bucket No. 2. Add half a tablespoon of sodium metabisulphite. Put the lid on the bucket and give it a good shake. Empty the liquid down the sink. Do not rinse the bucket afterwards. Wearing rubber gloves, transfer the fruit into bucket 2. As you do so, squeeze the fruit so that the skin bursts if it has not done so already. When all the fruit has been transferred, add water so that it just covers the fruit. Add half a tablespoonful of pectic enzyme, and a level teaspoonful of each of Rohament P and Fungal Amylase enzymes. Use a large stirrer to stir the contents or put the lid on the bucket and shake it up as much as you can. Put bucket 2 in a safe place with its lid securely fitted.

Making a Fermentation Starter
Make two holes in the grape concentrate can and pour the liquid into the fizzy drink bottle. Put a little water in the can, swirl it round to extract a bit more grape concentrate and add it to the bottle. Put 1 litre of slightly warmed water (25°C) into the 5 litre container. Add 100ml of grape concentrate and one teaspoonful of Formula 67 yeast. Screw the lid on the container and shake it for half a minute. Put the container in a safe place which will be maintained at around 20°C. Then LOOSEN THE LID a little to allow carbon dioxide to escape.

Starting the Main Fermentation
Thenext day wash bucket 1 thoroughly in cold water and pour the liquid from bucket 2 into it. The fruit will now be much squashier so it will be easier to remove plum stones and the like as the fruit is transferred from bucket 2 to bucket 1. Plum stones contain hydrogen cyanide. If they are left in the must, the wine will acquire an almond flavour which will be a warning that it is poisonous. Grape and blackberry pips are less of a problem. When the fruit less stones and any remaining liquid have been transferred, put the lid back on bucket 1 and wash bucket 2.

Check the 5 litre container to see if there is a fermentation. If so, pour three quarters of the liquid into bucket 1 (with the lid off of course) and add three quarters of the grape concentrate that is left to the bucket. Put half the remaining grape concentrate into the 5 litre container and add two litres of 25°C water. Rotate the container in alternate directions to mix the solution. Beware of the fizz. Put the lid on loosely to allow gas to escape and put the container back in its safe place.

Use a long spoon or anything suitable to stir the contents of bucket 1. Use any means you can to collect enough juice to fill the hydrometer jar to seven eighths full. If the strainer is pressed down onto the fruit at the top of the bucket, it will fill with relatively clear liquid which can be used to check the SG. Measure the SG of the juice and make a note of the figure. Put the juice in the hydrometer jar back into the bucket and put the lid on. Put the bucket in a place which will be maintained at a temperature of between 18° and 22°C. Average plums or grapes contain enough sugar to give an SG reading of 1025 to 1030 in 20 litres (out of a final 25) in the proportions I suggest. Blackberries are harder to measure because it is harder to get the juice out of them at this stage. If they taste very sweet assume an SG of 1020. Otherwise assume 1015. The target SG is 1080 to 1085 in 25 litres to give 12% alcohol in the finished wine. The sugar needed for 25 litres is around 4kg.

Sugar Preparation
Sugar should be dissolved before it is added to the fermenting must. To dissolve the sugar, put 1 litre of water into the large saucepan, heat the water until it is nearly boiling and gradually stir in 2kg of sugar. Maintain the heat until the sugar has completely dissolved. Cool the saucepan full of liquid in a sink which has been partially filled with cold water.
        (Warning! The temperature of the sugar solution could be well over 100°C.  Be very careful with it.)
Stir the sugar solution and the water in the sink (with different stirrers) to hasten cooling. Put the cooled sugar solution in a 5 litre container and ddissolve another 2kg of sugar in 1 litre as before. When the second lot of sugar solution has been added to the 5 litre container, add water until the volume is 5 litres. The solution is now in a form which makes it easy to convert litres of liquid into kg of sugar (800g/litre).

Checking Progress
Check the SG again on the next day (Day 2) Check the SG again on the next day (Day 3)
When the SG has dropped by 15 points or after 3 days, the fermenting must must be strained. A coarse straining bag is ideal and if a wine press is available, squeezing the juice out will be easy. In the absence of a wine press, use the following method:Wash bucket 2 with cold water and borrow a dozen plastic sprung clothes pegs. Clip the straining bag to the side of the bucket on the inside with the clothes pegs so that nearly half the circumference of the mouth of the bag is supported by the side of the bucket. The clothes pegs should be as close together as possible. Put bucket 1 on a chair and bucket 2 on the floor. Wash the siphon tube with cold water inside and out. Push the end of the rigid siphon tube under the fruit which will be forming a crust at the top of the bucket. Fit the tap to the other end of the flexible tube and turn it on. Put the end of the tap between your lips and blow gently until a bubble or two is heard in the bucket of must. (This will free the end of the tube of any blockage. ) Allow the flexible tube to droop so that its lowest point is well below the level of the fruit in the bucket. Suck until you see liquid reach the lowest point in the tube and turn the tap off. Arrange the syphon tube so that the tap end is well inside the empty bucket and hangs there without being held. Then turn the tap on. Liquid will siphon into the empty bucket until the syphon is blocked by fruit pulp. When the syphoning stops, remove the syphon tube and wash it inside and out with cold water. Use a cup or other suitable container to scoop the fruit pulp into the straining bag. (It is best to have rubber gloves on at this point. ) Don't put all the pulp into the straining bag. Four or five cups full will be enough to start with. Hold the bag and remove the pegs. Then twist the neck of the bag until the pulp at the bottom of the bag starts to be compressed. Knead and squeeze the bag to extract as much juice as possible. When little or no more juice is forthcoming, empty the relatively dry contents into a household bucket, re-attach the bag to the side of bucket 2 as before and repeat the squeezing process. If you put too much pulp into the bag you will find that the bag is too heavy to hold and it is very difficult to extract the juice. If you have got access to a wine press, ask the owner for advice on the best way to use it. When all the juice you can get has been extracted, wash the straining bag thoroughly to remove all traces of fruit pulp. Measure the SG. Note the figure. Add sugar solution to raise the SG by 25 points. Note the new SG. Put the bucket back in its place with its lid on.

Continuing the Fermentation
Check the SG daily. When it has fallen to 1015, add sugar solution to raise it to 1025 again. Repeat this cycle until all the prepared sugar solution for that fermentation has been used.

The SG should fall to less than 1000 eventually.

Fixing a Stopped Fermentation
If the fermentation stops when the SG is above 1010, pour half of the contents of the 5 litre container into bucket 2 and stir it in. Get a cup full of must and put it into the 5 litre container and stir well.

The fermentation in the 5 litre container should show itself on the next day. If the fermentation in the bucket has not restarted, transfer half the contents of the 5 litre container into the bucket again and put another cup of must into the 5 litre container. Repeat this process every day until the fermentation has restarted in the bucket. After a day or two, the contents of the bucket and the 5 litre container will be nearly the same. Either the fermentation will be working in both or will have stopped in both. It is rare for this method of restarting fermentations to fail but if this happens, one starts again with fresh yeast, grape concentrate and water but this time acclimatising the yeast to the must more gradually. The grape concentrate left over is for this job.

Final Work
When the fermentation is complete and the SG is below 1000, the wine should be siphoned off the sediment into bucket 1. After another week, the wine should be siphoned off any remaining sediment into suitable containers. 5 litre spring water containers will do. After a further month the wine should be siphoned off the sediment in the 5 litre containers. It may be fit for drinking then but it will improve with storage.

General Notes
This description is for a single fruit wine (if the grape concentrate is ignored). No single fruit wine except grape will be brilliant; it will always be unbalanced. I always try to produce a selection of single fruit wines which can be blended later to give a better wine than any of the individual wines could be. Plum wine is vastly improved if it is blended with relatively small amounts of blackberry wine and sloe wine. The recipe given makes a dry wine if fermentation is complete. If you require sweeter wine add sugar (or saccharin) to it just before drinking it as you would for tea or coffee. Do not add sugar to sweeten wine when blending. A raspingly dry wine can be improved a little with a little drop of GLYCEROL. Other useful items to have are some GRAPE TANNIN and some CITRIC ACID to adjust the balance.

All fruit wines can be improved by adding a small quantity of a very good commercial wine to the blend. One bottle of commercial wine to six of home-made wine will produce a result which is nearly as good as the commercial wine most of the time.

A blend that tastes good just after it has been blended will change. Try it again after a fortnight to see if a refinement to the blend is needed. Repeat until all your friends demand cellarsful of the stuff. It is possible to make wine stronger than 12% alcohol but the result is not worth the effort unless you just want to get pissed. There is little point in making small amounts of wine. 25 litres will produce 35 standard bottles. The cost of the ingredients work out to be around 50p per bottle if the commercial wine used for blending is excluded.

Additional Notes
Beware of fruit flies! These little flies carry wild yeasts and bacteria from one place to another. Keep them out of your must!

The must and wine will always taste OK (if somewhat yeasty) from the the start to the end of fermentation if it is sound and uninfected. If the must or wine tastes bad in any way, there is no cure. Throw it away. . This does not mean that it should be thrown away if you do not like the taste of yeast or very dry wine. (See notes about blending.)

If the wine is left to stand on the yeast after all the sugar has been used, the yeast will begin to decompose, giving a smell between mature meat and Marmite. This smell is almost impossible to remove but it can be reduced by using small quantities of the affected wine in a new must. Growing yeast will make use of most of the decomposed remnants of dead yeast. This is a slow and laborious process because only about a pint of affected wine can be added to each gallon of new must without spoiling the new must. However, if one is patient, a lot of wine can be salvaged eventually.

Keep the air above finished wine to a minimum. Always ensure that finished wine is stored in full containers in a cool place. Clean plastic fizzy drink bottles and spring water containers are OK. Glass demijohns are heavy, expensive, fragile and awkward to store, but are the best for longer term storage of reasonable quantities. Safety stoppers are available which fit demijohns. These permit any gas from secondary fermentations to escape while keeping air out.

Happy drinking!

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