Winemaking is a centuries-old practice that many people now see as a way to use extra fruit, put a unique spin on entertaining or experiment with a new skill. Best of all, it doesn't take long to learn, and a 5-gallon batch produces more than 25 bottles.
"[Wine] is easy to make — kit wines are super easy," says Kyle DuPont owner of Brewstock, a beer and wine brewing supply company. "It's not like you're going to make your first batch and it's going to come out terribly; it should come out good."
Home winemakers can choose from kit wines, fruit wines, white wines, red wines and country wines. The first thing to decide is whether to make a fruit wine or a kit wine. Kits come with juices that possess the ideal level of acidity and sugar and already have been sanitized. Home winemakers add yeast to kit wines and allow them to ferment.
Many home winemakers grow fruit and others procure local produce. Danny Prat of Ridemore Ranch and Berry Farm says each year a few people come to his farm to pick blackberries or blueberries to ferment. DuPont says people also forage in City Park for fruit to make wine.
Any kind of fruit can be used to make wine, including apples, raspberries, strawberries, peaches and blueberries. Wine made from fruit or flowers is called country wine and can be as good as wine made from grapes. Muscadine grapes grow naturally in the Southeast and typically are used to make sweet red wines.
Lloyd Simoneaux, who made wine at home for nine years before opening Hillbilly Wines, offers this advice: "Different people make wine differently, so find what works for you, and if you're doing it as a hobby and a passion remember to just enjoy yourself."
All materials used in the process of making wine must be sterilized. Sodium metabisulfite, potassium metabisulfite, or B-Brite can all be used to create compounds that will clean equipment.
Primary fermenter: Depending on the batch size, this can be a large bucket or trash can.
Secondary fermenter: A glass container helps you see the wine.
Airlock: The secondary fermenter is sealed with a valve that allows carbon dioxide to escape but does not allow air into the container.
Hydrometer: This device measures the level of sugar in the must, or young wine.
Siphon tubing and siphon stem: At least five feet of thin, flexible tubing attaches to a length of more rigid tubing to help transfer the wine from one container to another in a process known as racking.
Bottles: You can put your completed wine in any container. Some people save old wine bottles and maintain the convention of putting red wine in green bottles and white wine in clear bottles.
Corker and corks: A 15/16-inch cork is best for most standard wine bottles. Corkers make it easier to insert the cork into the bottle and come in many different varieties. Hand corkers and lever corkers are the most cost-efficient options for the home winemaker.
Cut up the fruit and place it in a primary fermenter bucket. The fruit can be crushed in this bucket or in a bag inside the bucket so it is easier to remove pulp later.
Put any necessary additives in the primary fermenter. These may include sodium metabisulfite to prevent harmful bacteria, campden tablets to sterilize the juice, acid blend to increase acidity, grape tannin to increase flavor, pectic enzyme to help the fruit release juice, and sugar to adjust for desired sweetness and alcohol levels.
Wait 24 hours and add wine yeast to this mixture, known as the must.
Allow the wine to ferment for seven days, or until the foaming caused by fermentation stops.
Transfer the wine to the secondary fermenter, leaving behind the pulp and yeast sediment.
Add the airlock to the secondary fermenter and allow the wine to ferment until it is clear (usually four to six weeks).
Once clear, rack the wine to remove the sediment by moving it to a different container that contains a crushed campden tablet.
Allow the wine to age for at least a few more weeks before bottling. Sugar can be added at this point to sweeten the wine.
Bottle and enjoy!