Beginner’s Guide to Making Wine from a Kit
There is a vast range of homemade wine kits to choose from, and all their instructions will differ slightly. However the principles are generally the same, and the following general guide will give you an idea of what's involved if you fancy making your own wine from a kit and have never done it before.
Why make your own wine at home?
The reason customers start making wine at home is often the cost. Whilst there is duty payable on wine that you buy, there is no duty on wine kits. That's why it works out so much cheaper than shop-bought wine. Once you've invested in the equipment (which is also very well priced, the start up costs are low), you can be enjoying wine for under £1 a bottle!
Customers tell us the wines made from average priced wine kits taste just as good as the ones you buy for £6-8 a bottle, if not better. And making your own wine is an enjoyable and satisfying pastime. It also takes less time than you might think. We have a regular customer who buys a popular merlot kit most months. He told us it is on a par with a well-known brand of Merlot around the £6/7 price point and improves even more when left for a couple of months. We now make it regularly and we completely agree with him - in fact we honestly think it's better than that.
And it costs just over £1 a bottle to make!
When you get your wine kit, it is strongly recommended that you closely follow the instructions which come with it. Wine making from a kit is really is very straightforward, and pretty much guaranteed to turn out well if you follow the instructions. Once you have all the equipment, such as a Wine Making Starter Kit exactly like this, all you'll need to buy in future is the wine kit itself. The equipment and bottles can be re-used over and over again.
So what's likely to be involved?
1. Clean and sterilise
This is becoming like a mantra through our blog posts but we really can't stress it strongly enough. Whatever home brew you are making, clean & sterilise all equipment that will come into contact with the beer, wine or cider. Fermenting liquids are an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, and unwanted bacteria will spoil your beer. 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.
Here we are sterilising bottles in my Dad's bath when his first attempt at brewing was ready for bottling - quick and easy.
2. Pour the grape juice concentrate into your bucket
If you're making a small 6 bottle wine kit, you might be adding the concentrate to a demijohn. Either way, add the suggested amount of Brewing Sugar if the kit asks for it (some have sugar syrup included so won't need to add sugar - check the instructions) and mix well. Top up with cold & hot water to the level stated in your kit, to achieve a specific temperature of between 18°C to 26°C (again depending on the kit). Stir well.
3. Check the original gravity
Now it's time to take your first hydrometer reading. You do this by floating the hydrometer in a sample of the liquid, and reading off the level. Most kits will read approximately 1040 at this stage. Check the temperature of your brew is between 18°C & 26°C, then add the yeast & stir well. Full instructions on how to use the hydrometer will be in its protective tube or read our post about how to use a hydrometer. Ensure that you make a note of this figure, as you can use it to work out the alcohol content once fermentation has finished.
4. Add Wine Yeast
Your kit will have come with a sachet of Wine Yeast, and probably Yeast Nutrient also. Add them as directed & fit the lid tightly to the bucket/bung in the demijohn. Insert the sterilised Bubbler Airlock into the hole , adding a little cold water into the airlock.
5. Wait whilst fermentation takes placeNow all you need to do is keep the fermenting vessel at room temperature, 18°C to 26°C, and wait. At some stage the wine will start to ferment. You will know because bubbles will start being produced in your airlock. Keep in a warm place until fermentation is complete. This may be indicated by the airlock no longer 'blooping', no more bubbles on the surface of your wine, or by the hydrometer reading being the same on 2 consecutive days. The final gravity should be around 998 or below.
6. Rack off and add stabiliser and finings
If you're using a bucket with a tap, you can add the stabiliser and finings directly to the bucket and stir. The sediment will have settled below the level of the tap by the time you come to bottle your wine. However if you're using a bucket without a tap or a demijohn, rack off (syphon off) your wine into another sterilised vessel, whether that be a demijohn or bucket, leaving behind the sediment. Don't worry if a bit of sediment makes it into the second vessel. Add the Stabiliser Sachet (also known as Fermentation Stopper) & mix in well, and the finings too.
7. Wait for the wine to clear
The finings should clear your wine in a couple of days.
8. Bottle your wine
Once your wine is clear you are ready to bottle. We don't sell new wine bottles as a rule, as so many home brewers re-use them rather than send them to the recycling bin. 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.
9. Finishing Touches
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.
You can make your bottles look gorgeous with very little effort and cost, and people are amazed when you hand them a bottle of your homemade wine and it looks beautiful. Trust me on this.
I reckon 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.
9. Drink and enjoy!
Many wine kits say the wine can be drunk immediately after 7 days. But if you can resist, many benefit from being kept for a little longer. Even a week will make a big difference to the taste of your wine. That's usually because of a phenomenon known as 'bottle shock'. After that, your wine will be delicious to drink, at a fraction of the price of shop bought!
And if you start making the next kit when the equipment is freed up, then you'll never have to buy wine again. How cool is that?
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