Im a confused newby...

riley17(5)August 12, 2008

Ok, its always been a dream of mine to make homemade wine. I bought a fontenac gris grapevine and this year is its very first cluster on it. My question is what do i do now? i know it'll take awhile before i get enough grapes for wine, but ive been reading some of your posts and i dont understand things like racking and isling something or other. where would be a good but affordable place to buy supplies from? Thanks in advance for the help.

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makalu_gw(z5b NY)

Right now, all you have to do is take care of your vine so it stays healthy, pest free and can direct all its energy into next years growth. Compared to growing grapes, the winemaking part is pretty easy. Simply put, the process from vines to bottles is:
- Wait until the grapes are fully ripe and then harvest them

- Press the juice from the grapes. A grape press is really helpful when you're doing a lot of them but to start you can use a potato masher, VillaWare strainer (if you have one for other things) or even go the very old fashioned way and stomp on them (with clean feet!)

- Add something to kill off the wild yeasts. Normally people use something called potassium metabisulfite or campden tablets but if the volume is small you could also just heat the grape juice to kill the wild yeasts (be careful not to get it too hot since you will lose some of the good smelling parts)

- Optional Step: check your grape juice (called must) for the proper amount of acidity and sugar and adjust as necessary. Take gravity readings (brix or specific gravity) and record.

- Transfer the must into a fermenatation vessel (anything from a plastic bucket to a plastic or glass carboy) with an airlock - something that lets the gasses from fermentation escape but keeps the outside air and bugs out - and add the yeast of your choice.

- Watch the fermentation go. In a week or two it will slow down and you can transfer (called racking since was common to siphon from the vessel in the top rack to the bottom one) all the liquid from your primary fermentation vessel to another carboy with airlock (secondary fermenter or just secondary) and let the fermentation go until you see no more bubbles.

- Optional Step: (but highly recommended) When you don't see bubbles or movement in the airlock, take a specific gravity reading, wait a week and take another one and see if they are the same. Assuming that you're doing this at a temperature of around 70 degrees if the readings are the same (probably around 1.000 or lower) your wine is done.

- Transfer (rack) the wine from one carboy to another to get it off the dead yeast and then let it settle out until the wine is very clear and you've got a layer of sludge at the bottom of the carboy (could take 3 months or longer).

- Rack it one more time so that you end up with a jug of very clear wine with little or no sediment in the bottom and you're set. At this point, you can either let it age in the big carboy or transfer it into bottles, cork them and let the wine age in the bottle. For almost all wines, you're going to want to let them sit for a few months to a year just to get the tastes to balance ... less for whites, more for reds.

Once you get into it, there can be a few more steps that are more fine tuning and fixing things that were a little off but these are the basics. For your first batch, I'd highly recommend seeing if there are any homebrew shops in your area and ask them if they have a club that you can sit in on since the local folks will have lots of knowledge and are usually very willing to share.

Many of the supplies can be scrounged from things you already have around the house and your local homebrew store will probably have the rest of them. If you're looking for an online place to purchase / compare prices, try E.C. Kraus (, Cellar Homebrew ( or ( Each is in a different part of the US and might be closer to you. For a beginner book, though dated I'd still recommend C.J.J Berry's First Steps in Winemaking since it covers all the basics very well.

Trust me ... once you get started, it's an easy and very addictive hobby.

    Bookmark   August 13, 2008 at 7:57AM
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thank you, ill check those out!

    Bookmark   August 13, 2008 at 9:13AM
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