Finding the perfect wine to go with your favorite dish can be an adventure. The only thing that could make the experience more exciting is the knowledge that you made the wine yourself. Making wine is a surprisingly simple process if you have the right equipment and know how to use it.
To make wine you will need a few supplies. You can always add more, but the absolute necessities are:
• fermenter with a lid
• plastic or glass carboy
• stopper and airlock
• siphon and 5’ of hose
• ½-inch wooden dowel long enough to stir the wine while it is in the carboy
• shut-off clamp
• plunger corker
• recipe and ingredients or a wine ingredient kit
Fermenters resemble the plastic five-gallon buckets that you find at home improvement stores. They are made out of food-grade plastic and hold around six gallons of liquid. These buckets are used for the initial fermentation of the wine. Whether you have purchased a kit with juice concentrate or are using your own recipe, this is where the magic begins.
After you sterilize your fermenter add your ingredients following the directions of your kit or recipe. Once your starter is mixed and ready, put the lid on the fermenter. Place your stopper and airlock in the opening in the lid. The airlock allows carbon dioxide gas made during fermentation to escape while preventing outside air from getting into the wine.
Put your fermenter in a warm dry place until your instructions say that it is ready to be moved to the carboy. A carboy is a clear glass or plastic bottle that resembles the ubiquitous office water cooler bottle.
This is where your siphon and siphoning hose come into play. Attach the hose to the siphon. Put your fermenting bucket on a counter or other elevated surface and place your carboy below it. Pull the stopper and airlock from your fermenter, and then remove the lid. Put the siphon in the now fermented juice and the end of the hose in the carboy and begin siphoning the fermented juice into the carboy. There will be sediment left in the bottom of the fermenter. You can throw the sediment out.
Put the stopper with the airlock into the opening of the carboy and let your wine continue fermenting. Depending on your recipe or kit, this could be anywhere from a couple of weeks to over a month. When you are close to the time that your wine should be ready, test it with your hygrometer. The hygrometer measures the specific gravity of a liquid, which will tell you when your wine has the right percent of alcohol. Once you reach that point, stop fermentation. If you are using a recipe, there should be instructions on how to do this and if you are using a kit then the ingredients you need will be included.
It is time to take your dowel and stir all of the dissolved carbon dioxide out of the wine. Be ready for a workout, it can take a while. As you stir, the wine will foam up like beer. Let the bubbles evaporate, then stir some more. Keep going until there are no more bubbles. Eventually all of the carbon dioxide will fizz out of the wine. Put the stopper and airlock back in the carboy.
Let your wine sit for another week, so that the sediment settles to the bottom. Use your siphon and tubing to drain the wine from the carboy to the wine bottles. Use the shut off clamp to stop the flow of wine between bottles. To get your cork into the bottle use the cork plunger.
You can drink the wine immediately or let it age for a few months.
And there you have it. With a few basic supplies and ingredients, you have made your own wine.