Wine Making from Kits

In this handout I will inform you of the basics of wine making when using either the boxed wine kits from RJ Spagnols or Winexpert.  With these basics you should be able to go on your merry way producing the wine of your choice.  The instructions for the 2 companies are slightly different, so be sure to read the instructions for the kit you are making.

Winexpert and Spagnols make winemaking easy for the hobbyist.  They have done the growing, picking, crushing, acid balancing, pasteurizing of the grape juice, added the yeast nutrients, choosing and included the fining agents, stabilizers and even oak flavoring.  A few wines also contain a finishing blend of concentrated grape juice of the appropriate grape (F pack) for you to sweeten a wine that has fermented too dry for your tastes.  The F pack is included in those wines that are normally sweeter (Like White Zinfandel and dessert wines).  If you do not have an F pack in your kit, and it is too dry, you can add some wine conditioner to sweeten it before final clearing and bottling.

Listed below is the suggested list of equipment that you need to make your first batch of wine.  The first group of items are included in our Winemaking kit.

Included in Winemaking Wine Kit Equipment Kit

1 – 12 Gallon plastic primary fermenter
1 - 6 Gallon Plastic Carboy (secondary fermenter) (glass carboy optional)
Cylinder Airlock and rubber bung with hole for airlock
Auto-Siphon, 4 feet siphon hose and shut off clamp
Hydrometer (to measure sugar content)
Temperature strip (place on plastic primary fermenter)
Bottle Filler
Wine Thief (for removing samples of wine)
Plastic corker & 30 wine corks
2 oz. PBW and solid bung for cleaning Plastic carboy
2 oz. Potassium Bisulfite (to sanitize equipment, bottles and corks)
 

Additional equipment recommended:

Home Wine making Step-by-Step book
Hydrometer Jar
1 additional 6 – gallon carboy
Wine de-gassing tool (stir stick)
30 - 750 ml Wine Bottles (size of your choice - standard 750 ml wine bottle is 5 per gallon)

Lets make wine!

Sanitation is very important.  All equipment used in making wine should be sanitized before using it.  I suggest sanitizing with Potassium (meta)bisulfite (or commonly called “sulfites”)  Sulfites are uses in 2 different dilution ratios when winemaking.  For sanitizing equipment you make a strong solution, by dissolving the potassium bisulfite in water at a rate of 4 teaspoons bisulfite per 1/2 gallon of cool water.  For stabilizing your wine prior to bottling, you use far less sulfites, only ½ teaspoon dry measure for 6 gallons of wine.  To sanitize your glass and plastic fermenters, I would fill the fermenter with about ¼ to ½ gallon of your sulfite solution, then swirl the liquid to contact the entire inside of the fermenter and lid, and then let drip dry for 10 minutes. Any left over residue on your fermenters will be harmless to your wine.  Sulfite solution has a fairly strong smell to it, and is an anti-oxidant, so be careful not to breath much of the aroma from the solution.   You may re-use the solution as long as the solution is clear and it has not lost its aroma. I would suggest making your solution and storing it in a 1 gallon jug for use at a moments notice.   You should also use this solution to sanitize airlock, corks, etc.

Cleaning your equipment after using it is also very important.  Plastic fermenters should not be scraped with a brush, we recommend using a warm water solution of PBW (or Straight A or One Step) which are excellent cleaners that simply require warm water and a good soaking to remove the organic buildup on your equipment.  For you plastic carboy, fill it with about 1 to 2 gallons of warm water and 1 Tablespoon per gallon of the cleaning solution, put the solid bung on, and turn upside down to get the solution to soak the dried on areas.   After about an hour, you can shake and swirl the liquid in the fermenter to get them clean.   Always clean dirty equipment, then sanitize the clean equipment.

It is assumed in these directions that all of the equipment that you will use will be sanitized before you put it in contact with your wine.

1) Sanitize your 12-gallon plastic fermenter.  We have marked the outside of your fermenter with a black felt marker where we estimate the (23 Liter) 6.1 - gallon mark is.  Attach the temperature strip to the outside of the fermenter about 3 inches below the mark.   Dump the sanitizer into your sink or a bucket, and let the fermenter drip-dry.  Add about ½ gallon of warm water to the fermenter.   Add the Bentonite (package #1) to the water and stir well to dissolve. 

2) Then fill the fermenter with the wine (grape) juice.  Place the box of grape juice on a table, and the 12 gallon fermenter on the floor below the box of grape juice. Open the plastic cap on the bag of grape juice, insert your auto-siphon into the grape juice, put the end of the hose in the 12 gallon fermenter, and pump the auto-siphon a few times to get the juice flowing.

3)   If your kit includes oak powder or chips, open the package, and add the oak powder/chips to the wine.  Some kits do not have oak powder or chips.

4)  Top the fermenter off to the 6.1-gallon mark with good quality (filtered is best) cold or warm water.   You would like your wine to be between 75º and 80º.  (If you are making a kit with grape skins or dried raisins, you would carefully add the grape skin pack now.  It is best to use the mesh bag provided to put the grape skins in the wine for easy removal later. With the grape skin kit wines your starting volume will be larger than the other wines) Then vigorously stir the wine to mix well.   Then add the yeast by cutting one corner of the package and sprinkling the yeast on top of the wine.  Do not stir the yeast into the wine.  I would suggest removing a sample of the wine at this time and taking a hydrometer reading.  This is your original gravity reading.  Record your reading below for later use.  For most wines you should have a reading between approximately 1.080 and 1.090.  Snap the plastic lid on the fermenter to keep out undesirables!  The lid fits loosely to allow carbon dioxide to escape out of the sides, yet covers the fermenter well.  Place your fermenter in an out of the way place, with the temperature between 65° and 80°.

Original Gravity reading: ____________________. 

5)  Fermentation should start in 12 to 24 hours.  You can tell that the fermentation is started by looking for foam production on top of the wine, or you can also take another hydrometer reading, and if it has dropped, you know fermentation is started.  The hydrometer reading is the most accurate determination for fermentation.  If your fermentation has not started within 72 hours, please call us at the store. 

6) Let the wine ferment for about 6-8 days.  Then siphon the wine into your sanitized carboy using your auto-siphon. This separates the sediment (oak chips and grape sediment) from the wine.  (If you have a wine with grape skins or raisins, you will remove them now) 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.

7) Let the wine ferment for about another 14 - 21 days.  The fermentation should slow during this time to a near stop, and begin to clear.   At the end of this time period your wine should be fully fermented. (If your temperature was lower than 65º, it may take longer---but no worries)

8)  Remove a sample of wine using your wine thief, and take a hydrometer reading.  When the hydrometer reading is 0.998 or below, and fermentation activity has ceased, (don’t worry, time is your friend.  If it takes a few weeks longer to finish fermenting, that is O.K.)  You then add the Sulfite (package #2A) and Potassium Sorbate (package #2B) ThePotassium 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.  Stir the wine to mix these ingredients with the sediment on the bottom of your fermenter.  We sell an attachment you can use with an electric drill that works wonders for this task.

9) If your wine has a bag of finishing blend or sweetening blend, they are added now.

10).  Package #D1 and D2 are fining agents to promote clarity.   Add the contents of package D1 (Kieselsol) and stir the wine for 1 minute to mix with sediment on the bottom of your fermenter.   Then add D2(Chitosan) and mix for about another 5 minutes.  This mixing of sediment and packages D1 and D2 will actually help the wine clear.  Do NOT put these in the wine in reverse order.

11) 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 1.086 - final 0.996 =  90.  Multiply 90 X .125 = 11.25% alcohol by Volume.

Ending Specific Gravity____________

12)  After about a week, your wine should be clear.  Rack your wine to another carboy (or back into your 12-gallon plastic primary fermenter, clean out your carboy immediately and transfer back into the carboy).  Try to rack your wine with a minimum of splashing from this point on.  Remember that oxygen is your enemy from now until you drink your wine.   NOTE: wine kits contain very low levels of sulfite compared to commercial wine.  If you want to age your wine longer than 6 months, you must add extra metabisulfite powder to prevent oxidation.  To do this, dissolve ¼ teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite powder in ½ cup cool water and gently stir into your wine.  This extra sulfite will not affect flavor or early drinkability. 

13)  Let your wine set in a quiet, dark place to clarify.  Time is your friend here.  Just keep the wine out of direct sunlight, and keep oxygen contact to a minimum.  Wine kits are designed to settle at 68-70°.  This is a good time to “top off” your wine with additional boiled and cooled (or filtered) water, to where there is only about 2 inches of air space at the top of your glass fermenter from the wine to the bung.  

14)  Wait another week or two to let the carbon dioxide (Co2) leave the wine.  If your wine kit includes Metatartaric Acid (typically in the En Premier and RQ wine kits), be sure to add this at least 2 days prior to bottling to reduce tartaric crystals to form on the bottom of your bottles.  If you filter your wine, add this after filtering.

15) Once your wine is properly sweetened, de-gassed, and clarified, you can bottle it.  If you are in no hurry, you can simply let your wine sit in the carboy with the airlock on it for a few more weeks till you have time to bottle, (but no more than 6 weeks).  Sanitize your wine bottles with a potassium bisulfite and water solution, (4 teaspoons potassium bisulfite and ½ gallon of water) and soak your corks in the same solution about 3 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 diameter of the cork. A synthetic cork called “Noma” corks also work well, and are a bit less expensive, but need a floor corker to insert in the bottle.  The general rule is larger corks for longer aging.  We have included #8 corks in your kit.  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 3 days to let the cork dry out, the compressed air to escape, 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, but try to save some for at least a year or more to see how flavors improve with age.  Most wines will improve with age, but many factors are involved here.  In general, wines with higher alcohol levels, higher acid levels, and higher tannin levels require more aging, and taste better older.

Store your wine about 45º to 50º if possible.  Most importantly store the wine at a constant temperature. Avoid rooms that fluctuate in temperature.   Also higher humidity is 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 metal foil shrink seal on to enhance the appearance of your wine.  We have a number of labeling and foil options, and can custom print on your wine labels for free.  We also rent floor corkers and wine filters if you need them.  Enjoy!!

Every November RJ Spagnols announces 5 new “Restricted Quantity” wines that are available via pre-order.  These are often cutting edge exiting wines that are fun to experience.   Check with us in late November or visit our web site to see what these wines are.   Also be sure to sign up for our free monthly E-Mail newsletter at BaderBrewing.com.

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