Making homemade wine from grapes is easy and can be a fun project to do with friends or family. You can make a lot of wine from just a few grapes, and there are many different types of grapes you can use to make wine.
We absolutely love making wine with grapes the old tried and true way here at The Farmers Cupboard, by getting the kids together and stomping! The have so much fun getting involved and crushing the grapes with their rainboots, and get a great connection with their food while doing it.
To make homemade wine from grapes, you will first need to crush the grapes into a grape mash, ferment and then press them to extract the wine. Alcoholic fermentation will take from 1 - 2 weeks and then another fermentation to change the malic acid into lactic acid. Then bottling and aging before its ready to drink. Sounds easy enough, doesn't it?
Well that is the quick and easy version of making DIY wine with grapes, let's get into the step by step process and highlight everything you need to know to get started.
In this article, we are going to talk about:
- The benefits of making wine
- Which grapes make the best homemade wine
- What you need to make wine
- How many grapes are needed for wine
- The steps for home winemaking
- The timeline for homemade wine and how long it is from making it to enjoying it
Let's get started!
How To Make Homemade Wine With Grapes
What Are The Benefits To Making Homemade Wine?
There is something so special about making your own food and drinks from scratch. Especially those traditional foods and drinks that are well known. You can make wine with grape juice, but we find it very fun to make it with the actual grapes. The grape stomp is a fun way to get everyone involved in the process.
Learning Traditional Wine-Making Knowledge
When you make your own red wine or white wine with red or white grapes, you get the benefit of learning traditional methods of fruit fermentation that have been used for centuries. Did you know that the oldest evidence of wine-making has been discovered in an 8000 year old village?
According to a paper about early wine making by The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS), "Chemical analyses of ancient organic compounds absorbed into the pottery fabrics from sites in Georgia in the South Caucasus region, dating to the early Neolithic period (ca. 6,000–5,000 BC), provide the earliest biomolecular archaeological evidence for grape wine and viniculture from the Near East, at ca. 6,000–5,800 BC.
The chemical findings are corroborated by climatic and environmental reconstruction, together with archaeobotanical evidence, including grape pollen, starch, and epidermal remains associated with a jar of similar type and date".
It is amazing to take these traditional methods of wine making and apply them to a modern day and age. The traditions will not be too similar with the advancements of modern farming in grape growing and tools used to make wine, however, it is still a hands-on learning experience based on ancient methods and traditions in grape fermentation.
Saving Money On Store-Bought Wine
When you make your own wine, you will have the upfront cost of the equipment, but your finished bottles will end of costing you maybe a few dollars as opposed to what you would spend at your local liquor store.
So if saving money on the cost of wine is important to you, this is definitely something you are going to want to learn more about. Plus, giving away your wine to friends and family as gifts becomes a norm, and it is also great to have on hand to bring a hostess for a dinner party.
Having Excess Supply For Gifts And Occassions
We hope you have a place to store your wine, because when you make it yourself, you will have many, many bottles.
People often like to store their wine in a cold room, but you can always buy a wine display case or rack and show off your own collection! You can even start collecting ceramic wine decanters and handmade pottery to showcase it. One thing is for sure, you will never run out of it, and it makes great gifts to give away.
Customizing Homemade Wine To Your Own Taste
Do you like your wine a bit oaky? maybe a bit sweeter? When you make your own, you have the chance to alter the flavor and taste your wine as it is going through all of its processes and then bottle it when you feel it is the perfect flavor for you.
Making wine really becomes an art form. You will get to know which grapes you like using and why, you will determine if you like the grapes better when you take the skin off, or how long of a fermentation you prefer you wine to have.
Developing Your Wine Tasting Knowledge
To further the point above, you really get to know wine and appreciate the flavors and notes a glass of wine may exhibit. You will understand more about the process and become more learned about the subject because you yourself understand the very process of what makes wine taste and smell a certain way.
Let's talk about the grapes you can make wine with.
Which Grapes Make The Best Wine?
There are many varieties of grapes to make wine with. Before choosing between red wine grapes and white wine grapes, you are first going to make sure you are using actual wine grapes as opposed to table grapes.
Then, you will determine if you prefer red wine or white wine. Of course, the grapes you can get also depend on where you live, so we are going to focus on North American grapes that are easy to purchase or grow.
Red Wine Grapes
If you want to make red wine, here are the red grapes that are best:
- Pinot Noir
- Cabernet Sauvignon
White Wine Grapes
Here are the top white grapes for white wines:
- Sauvignon Blanc
- Pinot Grigio
If you are ordering bulk grapes online, you are going to want to make your wine immediately so you are using fresh grapes. So before lining up those fresh grapes, make sure you are ready to jump right into making wine before they arrive. Have all of your wine making supplies ready.
What Do You Need To Make Wine?
There are some staple items you need to make wine at home. If you are making wine with grapes, here is everything you will need:
- Bulk wine grapes in the variety of wine you would like
- A grape crusher unless you have a huge amount of grapes and plan to get your boots wet!
- A grape or fruit press to strain the liquid out (this links to a wooden press which is the most popular choice by seasoned wine makers, fyi)
- A primary fermenter: a container to keep your grape juice in after crushing
- A secondary fermenter: (A second container) 5 gallon glass carboys work great
- Airlocks to let gas get out of your fermenting container
- Wine yeast
- A hydrometer for wine
- An acidity testing kit
- A racking/syphoning kit
- A proper filter for wine
- Wine bottles, corks or lids, and optional shrink wraps and labels
How Many Grapes Do I Need To Make Wine?
There is an old saying: A good grape vine will make ten bottles of wine.
With our experience, an average grape cluster has about 70 grapes. Assuming that, 60 grape bunches (approx. 4000 grapes) will make about ten bottles of wine.
To summarize, 60 grape clusters x 70 grapes/cluster =approx. 4000 grapes; makes ten bottles of wine.
How To Make Wine With Grapes
Let's talk about how to easily make wine from grapes.
Step 1: Crush the grapes.
We live in wine country here at The Farmers Cupboard and have access to huge amounts of grapes that we stomp right in the grape bin, and yes, that is me below crushing grapes last fall. We get the whole neighborhood involved and make hundreds of bottles.
If you aren't getting this many grapes, we highly recommend getting a good grape crusher to run your grapes through.
Check if any grape crushers are on sale on or have coupons on Amazon TODAY (and you can bookmark this page, it updates daily with Amazon sales on grape crushers).
We manually remove the stems from our grapes after we crush them because if the stems are left in during the primary fermentation, it can make your wine bitter.
Step 2: Let The Grapes Rest In A Cold Soak
After crushing your grapes, you are going to want to let those mashed grapes rest for about 24 hours in a cold room or anywhere where the temperatures are around 50F. This will allow your newly crushed grapes and juice to stabilize before the next step, which is the primary fermentation.
Step 3: Add Wine Yeast
Once you have determined which yeast you will use, mix it with warm water to wake it up, and add it to your crushed grapes after they have finished cold soaking (step 2) for 24 hours.
The yeast will wake up, bloom and feed on the sugars of the grape juice and begin that fermentation process. You will want the proper yeast for wine making as it is bred to produce higher levels of alcohol content. A proper yeast will thrive well in the environment that fruit juice provides and beat out any of the natural yeasts or bacteria.
We have used the naturally occurring yeast before but your results will not be consistent year over year and there is a good chance your wine will spoil and then your investment going down the drain.
Wine making for the hobbyist is a journey and if you want to get good at it over the years you need to take out as many unpredictable variables as possible, so we suggest you go with a yeast engineered for wine.
Step 4: Primary Fermentation
Once your grapes have been crushed, cold soaked and the yeast has been added, there is nothing to do but let them go through their initial process of the primary fermentation.
Your grapes should look like a slurry of solids, grape skins and liquid all together. Check your sugar levels with your hydrometer as a base to see where your sugar levels are at from the start.
You will be checking your sugar levels as the fermentation process carries on, because as your yeast consumes the sugar content, it produces alcohol. So knowing how much sugar is left will give you an idea of how your wine is coming along. Make sure you push down your floating skins every day to keep things wet and working.
Step 5: Pressing/Racking
Once your primary fermentation has completed and the yeast has consumed the sugars from the grapes and grape juice your mixture will stop bubbling. Depending on the temperature this could take 1-2 weeks.
It is time to transfer your wine to a second container for further processing, called second fermentation, but before hopping to this process, you will need to rack your wine (separate juice from solids).
When your wine separates the clearer liquid on the top from the sediment (solids, grape skins, etc.) on the bottom, you can rack it with a racking and siphoning kit to transfer the clear liquid to your second fermentation container, but it is easiest to first press your wine to get the majority of juice out first, and then you can fine tune it by getting any little pieces leftover out.
Step 6: Second Fermentation
Once we are ready for our secondary fermentation, we like to barrel age our wine, especially since we tend to mostly make red wines and getting a more oaky flavor in red wine comes from barrel aging. So it is recommended to barrel age a red wine, but it is not necessary for a white. You can also do your secondary fermentation in a glass carboy and add oak pieces.
The secondary fermentation is also the time for your wine to tone down its acidity so it can become a smoother drink. This is the malolactic fermentation which will require you to add malic bacteria. So you are going to have to transfer the wine from your primary container to your secondary container while avoiding any solids that have collected on the bottom.
Step 7: Optional Preservative Chemicals
Many wine makers choose to add sulfur dioxide to their wine after the fermentation process is done. Adding sulfur dioxide helps preserve the wine. Some don’t want to use chemicals, and that is a personal decision. We usually don't add sulfur dioxide, but that is our choice.
If you do want to use sulfur dioxide, follow the recommended amount on the package that you purchase for how much wine you have. It will likely be around 25 - 45 parts per million (ppm) depending on the wine.
Step 8: Taste Test & Add Sugar If Necessary
It is always good to taste test your wine as it processes. If you find your wine is too dry and it is close to bottling, you can add granulated sugar, however, you don't want to restart yeast again. Instead, you want it for the taste profile of your wine. So if you are going to be adding sugar to the wine, you are going to have to also add potassium sorbate and metabisulfite to deter another fermentation process.
Step 9: Bottling, Corking and Personalizing
Once your wine tastes just the way you want it to, it is time to bottle. You can use your own collected, sanitized bottles as long as they have been thoroughly cleaned and disinfected, or you can purchase wine bottles online.
To cork your bottles, this is something you won't be able to do by hand. You will have to get a corker to properly seal your bottles.
Corking machines typically come in floor corking models or countertop models. Countertop models are smaller but tend to be more expensive for their convenience. Floor corking models are heavier and take up a bigger footprint; both work great and it is just a matter of preference.
You can also have your own custom labels printed for your bottles.
Store your bottles in a cooler temperatures in a dark place and enjoy them over the years. Give them away as gifts and uncork them for your dinners.
Here are some other questions people are asking about making homemade wine:
How do you juice grapes for wine?
To juice grapes for wine, you will have to crush them to get that juice out, and then press them. To do this, you can use a wine crushed and a grape press or a fruit press.
How many pounds of grapes does it take to make a gallon of wine?
It takes somewhere around 17-20lbs of grapes to make a gallon of wine.
How long does it take to make wine from grapes?
That depends on if you add wine yeast or if you are hoping the natural yeast on the grapes will do its own thing. By adding wine yeast, the fermentation speeds up and it should take around 3 weeks for the process to happen. When making natural wine without adding yeast, you are looking at 6-9 months for the fermentation to happen.
How much wine will a 5 gallon bucket of grapes make?
A 5 gallon bucket of grapes will produce anywhere from 60-80 bottles of wine.
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