Wine Making Basics

Wine Making Basics Wine and wine glasses

1. Prepare the Fruit.

Prepare the fruit [any fruit] by cutting it up into small pieces, break the skins on smaller fruits. Remove any seeds or pits and some of the skins on thick skinned fruits such as apples, they lead to a bitter tasting wine. On smaller seeded fruits, it’s obviously not possible to remove all the seeds, but avoid crushing them as most contain undesirable compounds when crushed.

The condition of the fruit used in fermentation is critical in wine making.

Unripe or Green fruit is higher in acid and low in sugar content, it adds tartness to wine. Fully ripened fruits are low in acid and have concentrated their sugars, this is the best fruit for wine making. Over-ripe, bruised or damaged fruit has begun the process of decay even if you can’t readily see it – mold, bacteria and fungi are present. Bad fruit such as this can ruin a batch – yes one bad apple spoils the whole batch.

Fruit per 5 Gallons

Peaches, Apricots, Plums, Strawberries, sweet melons – 16 to 18 lbs.

Blackberries, Raspberries blueberries, currants, gooseberries, pineapple 12 to 15 lbs.

Mash the fruit up a bit, but don’t get carried away, you don’t want the consistency of mashed potatoes, some chunks are just fine.

2. Mixing the Ingredients

Chaptalization – Adding Sugar To The un-fermented juice is known as chaptaization, the unfermented juice is referred to as “must”. Adding sugar is not for the purpose of sweetening the wine, but rather to feed the yeast that will ferment into alcohol.

How Much Sugar ?

2 lb per gallon will give you about 12% alcohol content, yeast gives out at about 14% alcohol content -so basically as a rule of thumb add 2 lbs of sugar per gallon – which equals 2 – 5 lb bags, or 10 lbs of sugar per 5 gallons.

Yeasts have difficulty completing fermentation with excessive sugar levels. Any excess sugar content is going to remain in the finished wine, resulting in an overly syrupy sweet wine.

Stir together the fruits and correct amount of sugar and add them to a primary fermenter – a five gallon bucket will suffice as a “primary fermenter”. Be sure the bucket is squeaky clean. Food grade plastic containers are best for this purpose because they are easy to clean and do not affect the taste of the wine. Collect any pulp in a fermentation bag and submerge the bag into the mixture.


Add up to 3 teaspoons of tannin per 5 gallons. Dissolve it in some luke warm water first and then stir the water mixture evenly into the batch.

Tannin is Tannic Acid. Tannic acid enhances the flavor of wines and aids in the clarification process by neutralizing unwanted proteins. Wines lacking in Tannins deteriorate in quality more rapidly in storage.


Add enough water to the blend to equal just shy of 5 gallons by volume, you want to leave a little head space at the top of your container.


Add 5 crushed Campden Tablets. – Campden tablets are sulfur-based, they eliminate bacteria and wild yeast which can ruin or toxify a batch. It also eliminates free chlorine from tap water.

3. Purification

Cover the batch with a pourous towel for 24 hours to allow the tablets to purify the batch. During this 24 hour period the sulfur gas is vaporized and leaves the batch.

Only after this process is completed can you add your own yeast. Adding it earlier would have killed off the yeast. It is imperative that during this one day purifying period that the juice can breath in order for the sulfites to escape. If they do not dissipate , then it is probable that the yeast you add will be destroyed and fermentation befuddled.

4. Yeast

Add the yeast by sprinkling it over the top of the juice then cover it again with a clean towel and allow it to ferment for a minimum of 5 days preferably a full week. A day or two into the process you should notice a bubbling or foaming in the juice, that’s the yeast at work. Most of the fermentation process occurs during the first few days.

5. Secondary Fermentation

Siphon the wine into a carboy. A carboy is a container, generally glass, sometimes plastic used for the secondary fermentation of your wine . When siphoning do not allow the siphon end to sit on the bottom of the bucket [primary fermenter] – you do not want to suck up the sediment from the bottom – you only want the liquid. Siphon off as much as you feasibly can without stirring up the muck. The muck is disposable when finished. Some people use the sediment in fruit jerky.

You have to siphon it, never strain the wine as you transfer it from the primary fermenter. Straining causes oxidation. Be sure the end of the siphon tube that is “spitting-out” is placed at the absolute bottom of the receiving carboy, this will also help to prevent oxidation.

In oxidation, oxygen changes the chemical composition of the wine. When a wine is oxidized it discolors and browns. The taste changes to something resembling cough medicine in extreme cases.

Ascorbic Acid can be added to lighter colored wines during the fermentation. process, it is an anti-oxidant that reduces oxidation. About 1/8 teaspoon per gallon should suffice. Lemon Juice can be used in lieu of absorbic acid.

6. Clarification

Attach a wine airlock filled about half-way with water. A wine air lock, also known as a fermentation lock is an inexpensive device, generally only a few dollars, but well worth it. It allows gases such as carbon dioxide produced during fermentation to escape the fermenter, while not allowing outside air to enter, thus avoiding oxidation. Letting the juice ferment for about another month and a half, slightly longer, is just dandy.

You can test your batch with a hydrometer, which is an instrument that gauges the density of liquids. It is a glass tube with a weight on one end.

Hydrometers allow you to ascertain the “specific gravity”[SG] of your liquid – wine or “must”. A winemaker can monitor the progress of fermentation and make adjustments accordingly. The hydrometer should read at least 0.990 but no more than 0.998 on the SG scale when this phase of the process is completed.

7. Racking and Bottling

The final steps in wine making is siphoning the wine off of the accumulated sediment and into another secondary fermenter. Repeat this a third time after about two months and again before bottling.

Racking is done when needed, it’s not just 2-3 times it could actually be more. So long as fresh deposits of sediment accumulate on the bottom, you should continue to rack periodically.

When the wine has cleared of any visible sediment you’ll need to siphon it off one more time to purge any residue, don’t take any sediment up the siphon it should be only liquid you uptake. Stir in 5 more crushed Campden tablets before bottling it.

This last dose of Campden or potassium bisulfite is needed to keep the wine from spoiling up until the time it is consumed. Vinegar just doesn’t go well in a wine glass.