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About My Bakin', Cookin', Wine Makin'!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Home Wine Makin'

My very first exposure to home wine making was when I was seven.We lived in the basement apartment of a two family home,the landlord,being Italian (100% from Italy),made wine.The storage area of the rear part of the basement that was not part of our apartment,was used for his craft.I watched intently as he turned the top handle of the press and all that sweet smelling grape juice poured out the bottom tray.Often I would be presented with a glass of juice,delicious!He made an Italian red wine of some type,our family,that I can recall, didn't drink wine,Dad preferred beer,Mom ,rarely drank alcohol.As a young adult wine did not appeal to me,the hard liquors were my choice of drink.Fast forward,married with children,wine was still not of much interest to me.Fast forward to retirement,by this time my wife an I had learned to appreciate wine with  dinner meals.Here In NC,wineries were literally opening by the week,I believe there are more than 70 now,throughout the state.Having the time now ,we took day trips to many of them,having some wine and picnicking on the usually beautiful grounds.
Searching the Internet for information of a particular wine,I came across several 'Home Brew sites',checking them out was like opening another world of creativity for me.Had you asked me prior to this,how is wine made,I would recall my limited knowledge of being seven,and my winery experiences.I had no idea that good wine could be made from these 'Wine Kits', sold at home brew stores! The appeal is the immense variety available,from fresh grapes,only what would be available locally could be used.From kit's any wine from the world can be made.
 Always enjoying a new challenge,( Really Loving) we made our first homemade wine from a kit.An Australian Chardonnay,not a high price kit ,actually toward the lower price range of about $65 (kits make 30 bottles of wine).We did have to purchase some equipment,nothing exotic, (everything was available in a package offer)a 6 +1/2 gal food grade plastic fermenting bucket,with lid and a grommetted  vent hole for the airlock,a glass 6gal jug (called a carboy) for secondary fermentation,a manual siphon and 6ft of  food grade plastic tubing (like the stuff at pet stores for tropical fish),bottle brush for carboy,airlock,and sanitizer, a hydrometer (measures sugar level) and of course the wine kit. Additionally, I knew this was going to be a life long hobby for me,and treated myself to a floor corker.Which makes corking the bottles an ease,and a bottle tree to place the cleaned and sanitized bottles on ,prior to filling.The wine kit contains the juice ,yeast,oak (if to be oaked) ,clearing agents,preservatives ,instructions. Wine bottles were free for the asking at any winery,great considering they are over a buck each to buy.We chose bottles from one particular winery in the end,their labels just peeled of easily.
After fermenting, the wine is racked ( transferring off of the sediment after fermentation is complete),stabilizing ,clearing,   and bottling,aging at least 3 months (6 ,12+ months is better) the wine was ready to taste.
 Our very first homemade kit wine was much better than I would have expected. I could compare it to a $7-10 bottle store bought! I was hooked on this fascinating new hobby.That was 3 years ago,since, I have made,white and red wines of different varieties,some mid range price, some higher, as well as non-grape wines,fruit,nut,grain,vegetable,herb and seed wines.My conclusion,IMO,the lower end whites and up turn out good,only upper price reds are good.By that I mean $100 + red wine kits are the best value.
Please understand,I am in no way "the authority' on home wine making,I can only share my experiences,in my wine making.Their are numerous wine forums discussing wine,any question one may have ,you will find the answer there,as well as sites on making,recipes for non-grape wines (another wonderful part of the hobby) as well as books written specifically for the home wine maker. And of course the staff at your local home brew shop.
Another creative part of  the process is creating your own wine labels! I use a greeting card factory program for mine,and find it very enjoyable.After all it's your wine and the label reflects your design.
 Wines I have made:
 Whites- Chardonnay,Pinot Gris,Torrentes,Piesporter,Fume blanc,Green Apple Riesling,
Reds- Chianti,Shiraz,Cabernet Sauvignon,Merlot,Pinot Noir,Italian Brunello (needs to age 2 years,14 months  left to go).
 Non -Grape Wines:
Apple,Apricot,Almond, Anise (Star Anise),Banana,Basil, Blueberry,Blueberry Port,Barley, Carrot,Corn,Grapefruit,Cranberry,Elderberry, Ginger,Jalapeno (cookin' or drinkin'), Lemon,Onion (cookin' wine),chocolate Orange,Pear,Rice, Sweet Potato,Wheat.And at he moment what I call a Country White (for lack of a better description),a combination of  frozen juices, white grape juice, apple,grapefruit.The concept being the grape juice creates the 'wine base', the grapefruit adds citrus notes,the apple a fruit note,like cookin' or bakin, it's the adventure of the experiment.Won't know how it will be for at least a year,as most wines,grape or other require that amount of time to age,some two or more years.Heck,the time will pass whether I make wine or not ,so let's make wine!

  I have not as yet kept a complete photo process of making any particular wine,but I do have enough photos of various wines in different states of progress to give a complete picture of the evolution from start to finish.
This is the first stage,assembling the ingredients.This is a red grapefruit juice wine,note the activated wine yeast in measuring cup,pineapple chunks,also raisins were added , as well as additives,acid blend,meta bisulphite tablets ,purifies must(liquid juice).Kits contain juice ready to ferment all additives have been blended into it.
Shown are the 6+gal fermenting pail ,lid with airlock (seals wine from outside contamination) and the wine kit.Fermentation takes about 7-12 days,depending on the wine being made.

Racking Grapefruit wine after fermentation ,the wine(must) is not clear at this stage

Wine that has cleared,left ,2 gals of 'Country White',and 3 gal carboy of Sweet Potato Wine.Sediment visible at bottom of jugs.Wine is ready to be racked off sediment,and either bottled or left to age in gallon or 3 gallon jugs (bulk aging).Benefit of bulk aging ,takes longer for a temperature change to actually affect wine opposed to a 750ml bottle.Once the wine has aged then it's  bottled.Sometimes I bulk age for convience,or if it's an expensive kit. 


Red wine (a Shiraz) has cleared,and was stabilized,aged 9 months in carboy,in cool place .Now being racked once more off any final sediment ,into a sanitized pail (food grade ONLY),ready to bottle.
Sanitizing clean wine bottles and placing on bottle tree.Everything that the wine comes in contact with,from start to bottle has to be clean and sanitized
Bottling wine using siphon and gravity fed.End of tubing has a bottling wand attached,with a small pressure tip to release wine when pressed against bottom of bottle.
Filled wine bottle on corker,placing sanitized corker into iris of corker
Pressing down contracts iris,squeezes cork and pushes it into bottle neck in one motion.
Corked bottles being labeled by my nephew, (Dr Michael Reddy,NASA Scientist).Labels are homemade and applied with glue stix, and wash off easily when bottle is empty.
Pinot Gris ,from a kit,with a comical label
My wine 'cellar',actually our master bedroom walk in.The only place in the house where the temperature stays fairly constant.Majority of these need to age another year or two.All top rows are either ready or close.

Some of my Wine ,and home made labels,which were produced on my inkjet printer,labels are not water proof.I make a master sheet of uaually 4 labels ,on photo paper then have them printed at Staples,(about .60c a sheet of 4) which are water proof

A close up of labels,the Australian Chardonnay  (from a kit), is two years old,which we opened recently,it was like silk!  Designing the labels is a hobby unto itself!
Found this photo of myself,age two ,1946,yep that's a wine wagon.Didn't know it,wine was to be in my future!PS 216,Brooklyn NY in background,where I would eventually attend. 
For more information,check out some of the wine forums on line,sites dedicated to home brew,and books from your local home brew supply store. Note: fermenting wine has an odor which bothers some and not others,and should be considered. sites I use;






  1. WOW! You make your own wine!! I've always wanted to try but just not brave enough to do it. I look forward to reading about this more! How many years have you been doing this?!!

  2. I just started the process about 2 weeks ago. Already loving the hobby! Your blog was inspiring and helpful. Can't wait to have a collection like yours! Cheers!