Home Wine Making the Right Way

Home wine making is easy to do if you have the right equipment and the patience to wait for perfection.

| December 1994 /January 1995

As the daughter of an established grape grower and wine maker, I have some fond memories of the family winery's humble beginnings. My most pleasant childhood memories surround harvests before the winery was built. On warm, Indian-summer afternoons when the air was scented with falling leaves, my parents would haul buckets of grapes to the back porch and empty them into oak half-barrels. Then the fun would start! My sisters and I would take off our shoes, roll up our pants legs and jump into the barrels. There was nothing more enjoyable than being knee deep in squishy purple goo and having our parents encourage us to get even messier!

During my father's days as an amateur vintner, he produced delicious, polished wine in the garage with not much more hardware than a few glass jugs, some plastic tubing and a hydrometer. And making great wine at home is something that anyone can do with success. All that is needed is the right equipment, a few ingredients and a basic understanding of general wine making principles.

Most of the equipment listed here can be found around your home. Keep in mind that for all the materials, use only plastic, rubber, glass, nonresinous wood (such as oak or ash) and stainless steel materials. Certain metals, like lead, will poison wine and resinous woods (such as pine or cedar) will impart a nasty flavor. Your equipment must also be free of scuffs and chips where bacteria and wild yeasts can hide. Once you have all the equipment, it is time to start your adventure in home wine making!

Home Wine Making Supplies

three-gallon plastic buckets to mash fruit and store pulp
wooden masher (or your feet!)
plastic sheeting to cover buckets and twine to securely fasten sheeting
long-handled wooden spoon
plastic turkey baster for drawing juice samples
plastic measuring spoons and cups
hydrometer to test sugar content of wine. (This is optional but very handy. It will enable you to calculate the precise amount of sugar present and the amount of alcohol it will produce.)
colander and clean nylon stockings for straining the "must" (pulp)
cotton muslin to press out any remaining juice from the pulp
plastic funnel
one-to-five-gallon glass jugs (Apple cider jugs will do nicely.)
rubber or wooden stoppers that have been bored through from top to bottom
fermentation air locks to allow carbon dioxide gas out of jugs without allowing any air in
plastic or rubber hose to siphon wine off deposit formed during fermentation (This is called racking.) —standard or screw-top wine bottles complete with new, straight-sided corks or screw caps
long-handled nylon brush for scrubbing bottles and jugs
wooden paddle to flog corks into bottles or a tabletop-mounted corking device

(Any specialized items, such as fermentation locks, can be ordered through wine equipment suppliers.)  

Keeping your equipment scrupulously clean is of the utmost importance. A great way to sterilize is with a solution of metabisulfites which you can obtain in the form of Campden tablets available through a supply house or at some drug stores. As you might imagine, using soap will ruin your best efforts at wine making, so steer the equipment clear of it. Instead, scrub bottles and jugs with baking soda and rinse well with either boiling water or sulfite solution.

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