Skip to main content

I'm going to try making wine this Summer

I have always imagined myself living on a vineyard making wine so this Summer I am going to try and make my own wine. I love watching River Cottage, last week I watched the spring episode for the 2nd time where Huge made Elderberry Champagne. One of my artist friends makes her own wine for exhibition openings, last week she emailed me some of her tips. My mission is on! 

This is what I have found out so far...

Winemaking, or vinification, is the production of wine, starting with selection of the grapes or other produce and ending with bottling the finished wine. Although most wine is made from grapes, it may also be made from other fruit or non-toxic plant material. Mead is a wine that is made with honey being the primary ingredient after water.

  • Primary Fermenter – 26 Litre (7US gallon) plastic pail with a tight fitting lid that has a hole in the center. Used to make and ferment the wine "must".
  • Secondary Fermenter (Carboy) - 23 Litre (6 US gallon) glass carboy. Used in wine making for clearing the wine after fermentation.
  • Air Lock – fits in the hole in the lid of primary fermenter. The airlock is filled with water to let the natural gases escape your wine and keep any outside contaminants from entering your “must”.
  • Rubber Bung – has a hole in the center of it for the air lock and fits into the mouth of the glass carboy. These come is various sizes so be sure it fits the mouth of your carboy snugly.
  • Long Handle Spoon – plastic about 2 feet long, has a paddle looking end with holes in it. Stirring your wine allows air bubbles to escape so homemade wine may clear properly.
  • Siphon Hose and Clip – clear plastic hose 3/8” diameter about 5 ft long. Siphon is used in wine making to transfer wine from one fermenter to another, then to transfer wine into bottles. Clip holds siphon in place – attaches to carboy.
  • Potassium Metabisulfite" – used to sanitize all your utensils. The sulfite acts as an anti-oxidant when making wine, preserves the color of your wine, and encourages development of esters that give wine a smooth flavor. Dissolve ½ tsp in a quart of water. You can save this and reuse again. Keep it in a tightly sealed container.
  • Hydrometer and Test Jar – 10” or 12" with 3 scales is sufficient. Critical piece of wine making equipment used to check Specific Gravity (SG) of your wine as it ferments. As homemade wine reaches certain SG you can proceed to next step. Learn about using a hydrometer click here.
  • Acid Test Kit - used when making fresh fruit wines. Used to test the acid levels for fruits.
  • Wine Thief (or a Turkey Baster) – You will be glad you add this to your list of wine making equipment. It is invaluable when checking specific gravity of your wine. Draws wine out of carboy into test jar to take hydrometer reading.
  • Wine Bottles and Corks – for a 5 gallon batch of wine you will usually take 24-25 750ml bottles and corks. Bottles are sold in dozens or just save some used bottles and be sure to clean and sanitize thoroughly. Have a few extra corks on hand in case you break one.
  • Green Bottles – for red wines (they are light sensitive)
  • Clear Bottles – for white and blush wines
  • 40# Monofiliment line 10” long – inserted in bottle prior when corking to allow air to be released from bottle.
If making fruit wine, you will also need:
  • Nylon Straining Bag - used to contain fresh fruit in your primary fermenter.
  • Acid Testing Kit - used to test fruit for acid content so that proper amount of acid blend can be added.
Wish List: 
As you progress, you will want some additional wine making equipment. These will make your homemade wine making more proficient.
  • Wine Corker – a hand held wine corker will work but a floor model wine corker is really ideal. It holds the bottle in place for cork insertion.
  • Bottle Filler – about 18 inches long attaches to siphon hose with a tension tip. Press down and wine fills bottle. Release and it stops flow, allowing you to move to next bottle. Disperses exact amount of wine into bottle. This piece of wine making equipment should really be in the list of must haves but you can work around it.
  • Bottle Washer and Bottle Rinser – not necessary but nice to have.
7 steps to follow:
Making the Wine
Racking (Clearing) the Wine
Bottling Wine
Corking Wine
Label Your Wine
Aging Your Wine


BE SURE to sanitize all your equipment as you go. Cleanliness is VERY important. Clean all items your wine making equipment using a sanitization solution made with ½ teaspoon Potassium Metabisulfite dissolved in a quart of water. This will kill any wild yeast or bacteria that may cause off-flavors in your wine. That means the spoon, siphon hose, fermenter, carboy, turkey baster, hydrometer, air lock, bung...everything that will have contact with your "must" during the process. The biggest problem people have with "bad" wine is that sanitization has not been complete. This is a critical step of you are following your wine making instructions closely. When you end up with "bad" wine, it is usually because of contamination. Save the metabisulfite solution in a tightly capped container as it can be used over again. This solutions has a distinct smell. when this smell disappears, toss out your sanitizing solution and make more. After sanitization, rinse thoroughly with tap water. This step cannot be stressed enough.
Making the Wine 
Make a mark on your primary fermenter at the 5 gallon point. Do this by filling primary with 5 gallons of water, then discard water. Use tap or spring water. Distilled water is not recommended when learning how to make wine.
Add about 4 inches of water to the fermenter, aerate the water by splashing or spraying.
While stirring, sprinkle the Bentonite into the water.
Pour in the juice and any residue that remains in package (if using a kit). If making fruit wine - go to the fruit wine instruction page for specific instructions. Keep stirring.
Add water to primary fermenter to bring it to 6 gallons. Keep stirring.
Make sure the "must" is between 65-75 degrees F. As the wine ferments, the temperature of the must can rise up to 10 degrees and if the must gets too warm, off flavors can occur.
Use the hydrometer to check the specific gravity (SG). Make sure the hydrometer is floating and twirl before reading. The SG should be 1080 or higher. If it is below, have a glass of wine and then stir some more. Take another reading.
When the reading is above 1080 SG, sprinkle on the yeast, fill the airlock with water 1/3 full, place airlock into the grommet in lid of primary fermenter. Place the primary fermenter in a 70 to 80 degree even temperature area. Within 24 hrs., the "must" should be fermenting.
(If you have a cat, it is NOT the cat making the noise you will hear at night! This is the most exciting part of learning how to make wine. This means your wine is "working"!)


Within 24 hours after adding the yeast, fermentation (foaming) should begin. If it doesn't, don't panic. During cooler weather, fermentation takes longer. If you live in a cold area, during winter place a blanket around the fermenter. If fermentation doesn't start, add another package of yeast and a tablespoon of Super Ferment.(yeast nutrient)
On the third or fourth day of fermentation, take a hydrometer reading. The reading should have dropped from the first day. The specific gravity should keep dropping as your wine ferments. Check it every 3-4 days and keep track of your readings in a journal.
Most fermentation will take about 14 days. The time will vary depending on the temperature and how well the yeast is working. You should ferment your wine down to a specific gravity of 1.000 or lower. .990 is ideal. The lower the SG, the dryer the wine. 
If you like a sweeter wine, don't panic, you can sweeten it after it clears and has stabilized.

Typical Specific Gravity readings for wine:
SG of .990 to 1.000 Dry
SG of 1.000 to 1.010 Medium Sweet
SG of 1.010 to 1.025 Sweet
SG of 1.025 and up Very Sweet
OK...this is the hardest part of following your wine making instructions. Waiting...and waiting...for your wine to ferment. Don't worry, you are about to taste the BEST homemade wine ever.....YOURS!!

Racking (Clearing) Wine

Clearing – There are a couple wine racking techniques.  One is to siphon the wine into the carboy and add sulfite.   Keep the carboy topped up and wait (1-3 months) for the wine to clear.   This would be considered the "natural" way to rack wine.
Another would be to add a “fining” to the wine.  Fining will clear the wine in two weeks. This speeds up the process so your wine is ready to bottle sooner.

First Racking

Dissolve the packets of Potassium Metabisulfite and Potassium Sorbate (come with wine kits) in one cup of water. Mix the clearing agent (also included) and pour the solution into an empty carboy. The sulfite acts as an anti-oxidant, preserves the color of your wine, and encourages the development of esters that give the wine a smooth flavor as it ages. The Sorbate will prevent the wine from re-fermenting after bottling.
Siphon the wine into the carboy containing the solution.
Stir wine vigorously for 2 minutes with the end of your spoon. This allow the air bubbles to escape. Do not skip this step or your wine may not clear.
Make sure the wine is up to the neck of the carboy. If not, add water to top off.
Insert airlock and bung. Be sure airlock has water in it.

Second Racking

In about 2 weeks the wine should be crystal clear. Carefully rack the wine off the sediment into another carboy. If another carboy is not available, rack the wine into your primary fermenter, clean out the carboy, and rack back into the carboy.
Top off the carboy with water. In another 2 weeks, the wine should be ready to bottle.

Bottling Wine

You will need about 24-25 bottles for 5 gallons or 30-31 750 ml bottles for 6 gallons.
Sterilize your bottles using the metabilulfite solution you prepared when you started. Use a funnel to pour some solution into each bottle. Swish around and pour out. (if you have a bottle washer and bottle tree, you will save some time.)
Line your bottles up and using a bottle filler, start filling the wine bottles. Fill with wine within an inch of the top. When you remove the bottle filler, you will have a full bottle of wine waiting to be corked.

Corking Wine

You dont need to use corks, the bottles are hard to find, corknig is a pain and its an extra expense. You can use recycled screwcap ones! As 95% of NZ wine is in screwcaps its not silly! You soak them like the bottles in the solution and as long as the seal in the lid is intact in the lid they are perfectly fine!
But if you do choose to use a cork you can use either a hand corker or a floor corker.
Hand corker - bring a pot of water to a boil. Remove from burner. Place the corks in hot water and hold down with a saucer. Let them soak for about 10-15 minutes so they become pliable. If you leave them in too long they will start to fall apart. Also if the water is too hot it will damage the corks. 
Floor Corker - soak corks in potassium metabisulfite solution for a few minutes. Pat them dry, then cork.
Optional - Prior to corking, you can use a piece of 40 lb. monofilament line (fishing line). Drape line over the lip of the bottle. As the bottle is corked, pull the line out. This allows any trapped air to escape the bottle.

Label Your Wine

All the effort that you have put into making your wine, its time to put YOUR OWN label on it.  Head over to our Wine Label page to learn what is put on a wine label and why. There you can also learn "how to" create your own personalized labels.
Aging The Wine 
Finally your wine is ready to drink. All the work is have followed all the wine making is the time for rewards. really need to let your wine age a few months. Go ahead and drink a couple of bottles, but let the rest age a while. If you have made your wine from a wine concentrate kit, there is a life span for red wine of 2-5 years and a life span for white wines of 2-3 years. 
If you plan to age your wines longer, it is recommended to add 1/4 teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite to the wine before bottling.

You can make all sorts of wine:
Apple Wine Recipe from Fresh Cider
Elderflower wine recipe
Blueberry Wine recipe
Watermelon Wine recipe

Dandelion Wine recipe

Making wine at home is a fabulous hobby. It can save you money, important in difficult times, and give you an endless source of fun, interest and excitement. It can also be a long and difficult journey, with lots of potential mistakes along the way. 

Bang up a gallon of wine 
whenever you get a free half hour or so. Use whatever recipe, method and ingredient supply you have to hand. The more wine you have, the better, and the more popular you will become. 

Top ten golden rules for successful homebrew winemaking 
click for the link.

I found New Zealanders making Elderberry Champagne

Feel free to share your tips and favourite recipes with me x


Popular posts from this blog

Art Every Day Month Day 7 - Encaustic Wax

I'm really enjoying blogging again, it's been years since I have written everyday. I used to do morning pages before I got pregnant, I have heaps of books full of my dribble. The Artist Way by Julia Cameron got me into the morning pages! Every artist should own a copy of that book! 
I was talking to a friend yesterday and she wanted me to order her a box of encaustic wax. I haven't done any encasutic for such a long time, so today was the day to dust off the cobwebs and get melting. 
Here are my 2 creations for the day...

Releasing my MADNESS! 

Getting more into it without distractions

Don't you love the texture wax makes!
I have been looking for my cutter cause this card is too big and I just can't find it anywhere. 
Here are some other pieces I have done, in the past with encaustic wax.

This one was done with the iron on card.

This one was done with the iron on card. 

This one was done with the iron on card.

This one was done with the iron on card.

This was done with a paint…

Art Every Day Month Day 28 - Helpful tips for NZ Artists

I want to share with you some very basic tips for New Zealand Artists.
If you don't have access to a computer buy one ASAP, it will open many opportunities for you, not just in your local community but all over the world.
PACE Program  
Pathways to Arts and Cultural Employment (financial assistance). PACE was launched by Minister's Maharey and Tizard on 9 November 2001 and became effective from 12 November 2001 (I was one of the first on the PACE program). The aim of PACE is to assist job seekers willing and able to pursue a career in the arts and creative industries to move to wards sustainable employment and self-sufficiency. To find out more visit and search 'PACE'.
If you don't have an email address I recommend using Gmail. Gmail offers you to store larger amounts of data. Make sure you keep all your emails to clients as a reference to look back at from time to time.  Visit: to sign up for a free address. When making an email ad…

Finally life is back to normal

Today is the first day in nearly 2 weeks that we have back our happy little singing girl. Nothing worse than a sick child! It makes you realise, on days like today, how lucky we have it.
I got a lot done today I started painting a series of affirmations paintings for our house. It will be nice to be surrounded in positive words when we need them. Called into the recycling centre and the supermarket. Gave shit to plummer Dan when he walked in on me cleaning the shower and chatted to the builder who is fixing our bathroom floor. Caught up with Chanz, Mum and Lyn. Got my 4 artist trading cards ready to send off 2mora for the next trade. Bought a Norfolk pine for our Christmas Tree, potted it in a lovely pot and decorated. I also split up one of my plants that I have wanted to do for sometime now but had ran out of potting mix. I got a shock when I drove into the Springvale Garden Centre it's FLASH! They have a kids play area, I have never been to a garden centre with a playground in …