I had a try at making wine from grapes with a surplus of eating grapes from the garden. It is quite easy to do and the result wasn’t bad at all – even if I do say so myself!
I have been growing a grapevine along my fence and carefully nurturing it through all the steps of pruning grapevines in anticipation of being able to harvest luscious white seedless eating grapes. Last year I was away at harvest time so I missed the first grapes and the birds got them. This year there were masses of grapes and I could barely contain my excitement waiting for my first crop. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that they weren’t seedless at all – I find that having to spit out all the seeds really detracts from my eating experience. I was so frustrated that I nearly ripped out the grapevine on the spot, ready to start again. But a little voice in my mind said ‘I wonder if I could make wine from them?’ I had made beer and cider so it couldn’t be too hard and I had all the gear, but this was the first time I’d be doing it with my own fruit rather than from a kit.
After some ‘googling’ I found the very helpful makewine.co.nz website that has a page with a generic recipe and instructions for making fruit wine. It recommends that you freeze and thaw the fruit to help the flavour extraction process. This was perfect because I was right in the midst of harvesting everything else from the garden and it meant that I could delay the exercise until I had more time. So my 3kg of grapes duly went into the freezer.
The recipe is for 5 litres of wine and recommends you use at least 2kg of fruit – the more you use the fruitier the flavour of the wine. Wash fruit and remove stems and any bad bits before freezing.
Juice Extraction (1 day)
When you are ready to start wine-making, thaw the fruit and mash it in a sterilised 10 litre food grade plastic bucket with a lid. Making sure all your equipment is sterilised is critical to the success of the process. Pour a full jug of boiling water over the grapes, cover with an airtight lid and leave to cool to room temperature. Add 1 tsp of 10% potassium metabisulphite solution and 5g of pectolase (all available from makewine.co.nz or similar stores). These ingredients sterilise and help break down the grapes to release the juice. Put the lid on and leave 12-24 hours.
Primary Fermentation (3 days)
Sterilise all equipment using Potassium Metabisulphite.
Add 6g of GO-FERM Protect and 5g wine-making yeast to 50mls of filtered or cooled boiled water and leave to rehydrate for 20 minutes.
Dissolve 800g white sugar, 5g citric acid and 1/4 tsp tannin in 1.5 litres of boiling water and add to the fruit mixture (known as ‘must’). Cool to room temperature.
Add the rehydrated yeast mixture (don’t worry if it is still a little lumpy). Stir the must and put the lid on.
Stir again in about 12 hours. By this time the must should be showing signs of fermentation: bubbling and the pulp will be pushed to the top of the liquid as a ‘fruit cap’.
Stir twice daily for 3 days using a sterilised spoon and keeping the lid on between times.
Secondary Fermentation (1-4 weeks)
Sterilise all equipment using Potassium Metabisulphite.
Strain the must through a straining bag or muslin in a collander. Don’t squeeze the bag – just leave it to hang for an hour or more and stir the pulp around gently to drain the juice. Squeezing the bag may result in cloudy wine.
Aerate the strained must (the juice) by pouring from container to container or shaking the container.
Put the must into a 5 litre carboy. Top up with cooled boiled water if needed, leaving a gap of about 10cm between the wine and the bung to give some ‘headroom’ if the fermentation causes much foam. Once the fermentation has calmed down, top the must up so that there is no more than a 3cm gap between the must and the bung.
Put a small amount of potassium metabisulphite solution in the airlock. Put the airlock in the carboy, ensuring the levels of solution are uneven (this indicates air tightness).
Within 24 hours you should start to see bubbles coming through the airlock. If you don’t see bubbles then the ferment is finished or stuck (see more detail on makewine.co.nz).
Within 1-4 weeks the bubbles will stop.
Racking, Bottling and Maturing
Once the bubbling has stopped, your wine should be clear or clearing. If it isn’t, you can try using finings (see makewine.co.nz).
‘Rack’ the wine by siphoning it into another carboy (don’t forget to sterilise everything), leaving the lees or sediment behind. Add 1 tsp of 10% potassium metabisulphite solution before racking to help protect the wine from oxidisation.
Top it up with cooled boiled water after racking so that your wine is no more than 2cm below the bung.
Leave the wine in a cool dark place for it to continue clearing (I left mine for a month while I was away travelling).
Once the wine is clear, siphon it off the lees into sterilised bottles. This should give you 6 x 750ml bottles of wine. The level in each bottle should be about 2.5cm from the lid (top up with a little cooled boiled water if necessary).
It is up to you how long you leave it after that.
Makewine.co.nz says “all the books say leave it for months, here at makewine.co.nz, we don’t have much patience so we’re usually drinking it in 1-4 weeks’ time. Some wines will improve and mellow with age.”
I left mine for 2 weeks before trying it and it wasn’t bad at all!! It was definitely very fruity but fresh and clean, and certainly drinkable. I’m going to leave the other bottles for varying lengths of time to see how it develops.