Pick your grapes, throw away the under ripe grapes. Wash the grapes, then remove the stems, and crush the grapes to expose the juice. (You may want to put your crushed grapes in nylon bags to make it easier to squeeze out the juice later today, or rent a press, if doing large batches). Add 2 gallons of hot tap water (about 130°), stir the water in the grapes to mix well, and then add the pectic enzyme, yeast nutrient, and potassium metabisulfite (or crushed campden tablets). Top off the wine with warm water to about the 6 ½ - gallon mark on your fermenter. You will lose volume when you remove the skins later, giving you close to 5 gallon finished volume. Add the corn sugar to the wine about 1 pound at a time, stirring between each addition to dissolve the sugar. Measure your sugar level of the juice (juice only, no pulp), being careful not to go above 1.085. You may need more or less sugar than the recipe calls for based on the ripeness of your grapes.
Record your original hydrometer reading below. This is necessary when you want to know alcohol content. It should be about 1.075 to 1.085. Avoid sugar readings above 1.085, since higher alcohol contents will hide all of the good fruit flavors.
Original Hydrometer reading ___________
Put the lid on the bucket with the airlock filled with sanitizing solution, and let the Potassium metabisulfite sanitize the wine. The Potassium metabisulfite produces a gas called Sulfur Dioxide. It may smell unpleasant, don’t worry. This gas is normal, and will dissipate in about 24 hours. The Sulfur Dioxide will minimize wild yeast and bacteria in your wine in the next 12 to 18 hours, while it will not be harmful to your packaged wine yeast added later. (The Potassium Bisulfite will also inhibit enzymatic browning of white wines, promotes clarity and extends the shelf life) The wine yeast will be added approximately 24 hours later
About 2 hours later, press the juice to remove the grape skins. The wine is called “must” at this point. If you have an acid test kit at home, test your wine and adjust it accordingly at this point. You need an acid test reading of about .60 to .80. You add acid blend if too low, and potassium bicarbonate to lower acidity. (We will test the acid for you at the store for free!! Just bring us about an 8 ounce sample after the must has been completely mixed)
Approximately 24 hours after you have added the Potassium Bisulfite, you may then add the yeast. Cut one corner of the yeast package, and sprinkle the yeast on top of the wine. Do NOT stir the yeast into the wine, but allow the yeast to slowly absorb liquid and then start fermenting. Now tightly place the lid on the bucket with the airlock full of the sanitizing solution. CL23 yeast can ferment as low as 46º, but cool temperatures slow the fermentation. Try to keep the must between 55° and 75°.
Fermentation should start in 24 to 48 hours. You can tell that the fermentation is started by looking for foam production on top of the must, or gas bubbles coming out of the airlock (if the lid is tightly sealed) If your fermentation has not started within 48 hours, please call us at the store.
Let the wine ferment for about 5-7 days. Then siphon the wine into a sanitized glass or plastic carboy. This separates the pulp from the wine. Throw the pulp away. The purpose of this racking (transferring the wine into a different container is called racking) and all other racking is to separate the sediment from the wine, since the sediment can cause some off flavors, and of course causes cloudiness.
Let the wine ferment for about another 10 - 15 days. The fermentation should slow during this time to a near stop. (If your temperature was lower than 65º , it may take longer---but no worries) You should also see some clearing in your wine. Rack the wine into another sanitized glass or plastic carboy. You should take a hydrometer reading while racking to see how far the sugar level has dropped at this time. If the reading is 1.000 or below, it is an indication that they yeast has fermented all of the sugar into alcohol. Continue to let the wine ferment until your hydrometer reading is at 1.000 or below.
When they hydrometer reading is 1.000 or below, it is time to stabilize the wine.
Add 3 ¾ teaspoons of Potassium Sorbate and 1/4 teaspoon of Potassium Bisulfite (or 5 crushed campden tablets. Remember that oxygen is your enemy from now until you drink your wine. The Potassium Bisulfite is added at this time as an anti-oxidant, to minimize browning, promote clarity and as a preservative. The Potassium Sorbate is added to prevent any additional fermentation in the bottle that would cause carbonation or to push the cork out of the bottle). Try to rack your wine with a minimum of splashing from this point on.
Sweetness. Your wine should taste pretty close to the final product by now. It is very common for the wine to have an ending specific gravity of .995 to 1.000. This is often too dry tasting for most people, since they would like a sweeter wine. The solution is to add sweetness back in at this time. The Potassium Sorbate you added in the previous step allows you to add more cane sugar, and not have it be fermented by the yeast. You can add boiled and cooled sugar water at this time. I cannot tell you how sweet you like your wine, so I also cannot tell you how much sugar to add. I would start by adding about ½ pound of sugar boiled in about 2 cups of water. You can add more later if you would like. The idea here is to add a little at a time, taste the wine, and then add more if you feel it is not enough. Experience has taught me that it is best to have a friend help you tasting for sweetness. Patience is valuable here.
You can determine your alcohol content now if you subtract your ending gravity from your original gravity and multiply the difference by .125 (example original gravity 1.085 – final gravity of 0.995 = 90. Multiply 90 X .125 = 11.25% alcohol by Volume.
Let your wine set in a quiet place to continue to clarify and de-gas. This may take a few weeks, to a few months. Time is your friend here. Just keep the wine out of direct sunlight, and keep oxygen contact to a minimum. Some people will “top off” their wine at this time with additional boiled and cooled water. This is up to you, as it is a compromise. Too much water added will dilute the wine flavors, too much oxygen contact can cause loss of flavor.
If your wine is not clarifying, as you would like it to, you can add some bentonite at this time, or filter your wine. You may want to call to ask about your options here.
Once your wine is properly sweetened and clarified, you should bottle it. Sanitize your bottles with the potassium metabisulfite solution (4 teaspoons potassium metabisulfite per ½ gallon of water) soak your corks in the potassium metabisulfite solution for about 5 minutes to sanitize them and make them easier to insert into the bottle. Corks come in 3 sizes. Number 7, 8 and 9. The smaller the number the smaller the cork. A new synthetic cork called “NOMA” corks also work well, and are a bit less expensive. The general rule is larger corks for longer aging. Transfer your wine quietly, with a minimum of aeration. Fill to about ½ inch below where the cork will go in. Immediately put the cork in, and stand upright for about 5 days to let the cork dry out and form a seal. Then set the bottle on its side or upside down to keep the cork moist and sealed (no need to do this with the NOMA cork). Age your wine as you wish and drink when you want!! It’s your wine, so drink it when you want. Most wine will improve with age, but many factors are involved here. In general, higher alcohol levels, higher acid levels, and higher tannin levels require more aging, and taste better older.
Store your wine about 45º to 55º if possible. Most importantly store the wine at a constant temperature. Avoid rooms that fluctuate in temperature. Also higher humidity is also better since the cork is more likely to hold its’ seal.
You should label your wine so that a year from now you remember what it is!! You can also put a shrink seal cover on to enhance the appearance of your wine.