REAL ESTATE- GIMME SHELTER- Vintage fun: A home wine-making primer

Randy C. Nunes
The Fermentation Trap 


Q: We'd like to try making our own wine at home (we have grapes and berries growing in the back yard), but don't know anything about what's involved. Is it complicated and messy? Is it legal? We'd love some advise on how to get started.

A: First of all, know that winemaking is completely legal if you're of legal drinking age and you don't plan on selling what you make. You're allowed to make up to 100 gallons a year, and you're allowed to share your creation with others. Oh, but don't go trying to distill anything– that's a no-no. It's actually not that hard to make your own wine if you have fresh ingredients, the right equipment, and are willing to be patient. 

You can find winemaking equipment sets online or at homebrew stores like the Fermentation Trap, but you can also collect the equipment yourself. Basically, it involves obtaining a big container, preferably a plastic jug like the ones in water-coolers or a glass jug, a rubber stopper,  a fermentation trap, a stirrer, a funnel, a turkey baster, a secondary jug, bottles, a siphon, and plenty of santitizer. I'm afraid there's not enough space here to go into great detail about what exactly you need and why, but there are plenty of online resources for that. Basically, here's what you need to do when you have and understand the basics

The first and most important step is to clean and sanitize all your equipment using an iodine sanitizing solution like B-T-F iodophor or Star-San 5 Star, which you can pick up at a homebrew or a restaurant supply store. Next, you'll need to extract the flavor and/or aroma from the ingredients  (grapes, berries, other fruit)  you are going to use by chopping, pressing, boiling or soaking them. All ingredients are a little different and you need to be sure to do some research on what is best for your ingredients.

Next, add the ingredients like sugar, acid, yeast nutrients and yeast to the fermentation jug to achieve the proper ratio and ferment the ingredients in the plastic jug for  approximately 7-10 days, making sure to keep the temperature from 65 - 75 degrees.  

Then you'll strain the liquid from the pulp and put the liquid into a secondary fermentation jug, usually a glass jar or carboy. Fit a fermentation trap to the top of the carboy or jar and allow fermentation to proceed at 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit until all the bubbling in the fermentation trap ceases.

Then siphon the wine off the sediment or lees into another clean vessel. Reattach the fermentation trap or a solid object. Repeat after another one or two months and again before bottling.

When the wine is clear and fermentation has stopped completely, siphon the wine into bottles and cork them, leaving them upright for three to five days before storing them on their side. 

Finally, the hard part: leave the wine for six months to a year before sampling.

Again, these are just some of the basics, and we recommend doing the proper research before you get started. Good luck!