In the UK the climate change over the last decade has led many people to realise that we are now in a position to produce our own good quality wines at home. Commercial vines are being planted all over the south of England and as far north as the Midlands and South Wales. Although we have always been able to grow grapes in a greenhouse, it is outdoor cultivation that allows ordinary enthusiasts the opportunity to grow enough grapes to harvest, press, ferment, bottle and ultimately drink their own wines. This page is an introduction for those wishing to learn how to make wine.
The first key to success in home produced wine is the right vine in the right location. Here is a short selection of the best wines for our climate. Whichever grapes you plant, they will do best in sheltered sunny positions in well draining soil
Ideal to go alongside a wall. Great grape for fizzy chamagne style homemade wines.
Ripens well in the south and large vines yield good crops.
A great all rounder, it flowers late and and ripens quickly which is what you need in the UK
First class early variety. Small golden berries in profusion. Produces a light delicate white wine. Of German origin. Suitable for desert use as well.
Good and hardy vine that produces lovely grapes
A cross of Madeleine Angevine and Mueller Thurgau vines .A good early variety
that gives small but sweet grapes excellent for desert wines.
Disease resistant Early pale grapes produce a reasonable white wine
MUSCAT OF ALEXANDRIA
Makes large oval grapes of very high quality but it needs a warm spot to
Once you have a couple of bucketfuls of grapes, it is time to think about making wine.
Get yourself to a diy or garden store and buy a large feed trug for crushing your grapes in. Having tried all sorts of methods, such as liquidisers, crushers, squeezing the grapes by hand and every other idea I could think of, it is now totally clear to me that crushing barefoot is actually the very best way of extracting the grape juice from the skins and seeds. Make sure the base of the trug is wide enough for you to stand comfortably with both feet inside.
Wash and shower your whole body, not just your feet before trampling the grapes. This is to ensure that you don't start the fermentation with yeast that might have settled on your skin during the day.
A half full trug of grapes (approx 30lb) should yield enough about 12 - 15 bottles of wine. Now get in the trug and tramp around for about 20 minutes till all the grapes have been smooshed. Go through by hand and remove all the stems so that you have a trug full of juice and grape skins.
Transfer this to a fermenting vessel (a lidded plastic bucket made from food grade plastic is available from homebrew suppliers and even stores such as Wilkinsons)
Add 2 heaped tablespoons of wine yeast and stir. Now leave it for 24 hours with the lid on.
Remove the lid and listed carefully. There should be some bubbles coming up through the floating skins. Push the skins down into the juice and recover
Repeat step three each day for a week. By now the bubbling should subside somewhat.
For the next step you need some brewing equipment. If you have enough grape juice for 2 demijohns you will need to buy threeof them Lets label them A, B and C - I will show you why in a moment)
Transfer the juice, but not the skins to two demijohns (A and B) and fit airlocks.
demijohns with airlocks
The demijohns are where, for about a month or so, the fermentation will continue at a much more gentle pace.
After a week you should notice a buildup of sludge at the bottom of the demijohns A and B. This will impart a bad flavour to the wine so we must 'rack off' the wine. We do this by cleaning our third demijohn ("C" ... ah, now you see) and siphoning the wine from 'A' in to it. Now clean the demijohn A and then siphon the wine from B into it. Now you have two full demijohns of fermenting wine with no sludge.
By the end of about a month you should have a wine with as much as 14% alcohol. If all goes well, once the airlock stops bubbling, the fermentation process will be complete. The sludge will have built up again but this time we can rack off into bottles.
Now it is time to bottle your wine. The ideal containers are (unsurprisingly) old wine bottles. You can seal them with plastic corks, beer bottle caps, or if they originally had screw caps these can be reused.
Again the key factor is cleanliness. We dont want any nasties getting into our wine so we siphin the wine into cleaned and sterilised bottles and seal with clean sterilised lids as quickly as possible.
Bottle your homemade wine and let it mature for at least 6 months. If you can leave it 3 or 4 years you may well be astounded. I always aim to leave at least 4 bottles in storage for special occassions. A cool dark place such as a cellar is perfect, but the undrstairs cupboard will do. You want somewhere with a low and constant temperature.
Did you know that you can make wine from fruits other than grapes? Elderflower wine is a particular favourite of mine, followed closely by elderberry, nettle, damson and cherry wines.
Even leaves of certain trees can be made into wine. Oak leaf and beech leaf wine are two well known examples.