Beginner's Guide to Making Wine from Fruit and Flowers
Spring will soon be here. In winter we tend to make wine from wine kits, then from late Spring onwards there are lots of other fruit and flowers in season for winemaking.
You only have to consult a few old winemaking books or search the internet to realise just how many homemade wine recipes there are. And an awful lot of them are recipes for making wine from fruit and flowers. All the instructions will differ slightly, depending on the recipe. However the principles are generally the same.
The following general guide will give you an idea of what's involved if you fancy making your own wine from scratch this year and have never done it before. Incidentally, if you're likely to be making wine from garden grapes for the first time, check out our separate post on that.
Why make your own wine at home?
The reason customers start making wine at home is often the cost. Once you've invested in the equipment like a starter kit (which is also very well priced, the start up costs are low), you can be enjoying wine for very little. Particularly if you make it from foraged goodies which are free.
The cool thing about making wine from scratch is that one batch never tends to quite turn out exactly like the last, even if you think you've followed the recipe to the letter. Perhaps this is because the amount of sugar in the fruit varies slightly, or maybe the temperature at the time that you're making it. Or perhaps the natural yeasts behave slightly differently. Whatever the reason, making your own wine is an enjoyable and satisfying pastime. It also takes less time than you might think. So what's likely to be involved?
1. Clean and sterilise
This is a mantra through our blog posts but we really can't stress it strongly enough. Whatever wine you are making, clean & sterilise all equipment that will come into contact with the wine. Fermenting liquids are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, and unwanted bacteria will spoil your wine. There are a variety of Cleaners and Sterilisers to choose from, all of which are simple to use. If you've ordered the starter kit from us, a tub of cleaner/steriliser is included in it already. Simply follow the instructions on the packaging.
Regardless of whether the instructions say about rinsing off the sterilising liquid, we always rinse everything thoroughly in cold water after sterilising and just before use. Some don't. It's down to personal choice.
2. Wash and chop your fruit/flowers
Wash and chop your fruit or flowers as per recipe instructions, removing stems etc as appropriate. Place in primary vessel (usually a fermentation bucket for this first fermentation) with the amount of water stated in the recipe. Add 1 crushed Campden Tablet if the recipe says so, cover the bucket with a clean tea towel. Leave for the amount of time stated in your recipe, stirring occasionally.
3. Add yeasts and sugar
Add sugar, yeast, nutrient & any other additives into the bucket. Some recipes will call you for you seal the bucket with a lid & insert an airlock (adding a small amount of water to the airlock). Some will simply suggest you cover the bucket with a clean tea-towel again. Then leave in a warm place to ferment.
4. Strain into a demijohn
Keep the bucket at room temperature, around 18°C to 26°C. At some stage the must will start to ferment. If you don't have an airlock fitted to your bucket, you will still be able to tell because a yeasty foam will start to form on the surface.
After around 5 days (check your recipe) you will be ready to strain using a straining bag or muslin into your second fermenting vessel (bucket or demijohn).
5. Leave and allow your wine to ferment
Now all you need to do is keep that fermenting vessel at room temperature, 18°C to 26°C, and wait. At some stage the wine will start to ferment in the demijohn, often straight away. You will know because bubbles will start being produced in your airlock. Keep in a warm place until fermentation is complete. Hopefully by this stage any 'bits' in your wine will have driften to the bottom of the demijohn, leaving a clear wine.
6. Rack off your wine
Syphon (Rack Off) into sterilised vessels leaving sediment behind. If your wine is not yet clear, this process may be repeated until the wine is clear. You may wish to use finings and/or use a Harris Filters Kit to clear your wine at this stage, if it isn't happening naturally. If you decide to use finings, they will take a couple of days to clear your wine.
7. Bottle your wine
Once your wine is clear you are ready to bottle. You can syphon directly into each bottle or into a large jug and then fill your bottles. Fill your bottles leaving approximately one inch gap between the wine & the bottom of the cork.
At this point you can choose whether to just stick a quick label on your bottles (or not even bother because you know what they are), or go fancy. One option is to add shrink capsules to the bottle necks, and attractive wine labels.
Regardless of whether you made your wine from a kit or from fruit, you can make your bottles look gorgeous with very little effort and cost. People are amazed when you hand them a bottle of your homemade wine and it looks beautiful. Trust me on this. I think it makes the wine taste better too, in some strange way. Presumably because we drink with our eyes as well as our taste buds. Just as presenting food in a nice way makes it somehow taste better, so it is with wine.
8. Store before drinking
This is the point at which making wine from scratch usually differs from making wine from a kit. Once you've bottled it, homemade wine usually needs to be stored for at least 6 months to taste anywhere near half decent. With some wines, like elderberry, you're looking at 1-2 years.
In these days of instant gratification, it's tempting to think that's too long. But all things come to he/she who waits. There is nothing more satisfying than opening a bottle of wine you made from scratch ages after you made it, and enjoying it snuggled up in front of the fire. It reminds you of the day that you picked those (say) blackberries on a summer's day. And you have the satisfaction that you made it all with your hair hands.
And it doesn't all have to taste like Barbara and Tom's Peapod...
Other Almost Off Grid Favourites
Damson Wine Recipe
Blackberry Wine Recipe (aka Mock Claret)
Small Batch Dandelion Mead Recipe