I am new to winemaking. How do I make wine?
Whether you're using one of our wine kits, or other wine ingredients, wine making is a lot easier than you might think. The recipe kits that Midwest offers come with pretty much everything that you need to make a great wine with your first recipe. They come with the wine yeast, sodium metabisulphite or potassium metabisulphite, bentonite, potassium sorbate, kieselsol and chitosan, all you have to do is provide the water and your wine making kit. For more information on winemaking equipment, see our page on How to make wine. page.
Here, we will just cover what ingredients are needed to make wine. Each wine ingredient kit may have slightly different items to add, so make sure you read the directions carefully to make sure you add everything at the correct time. These directions will give you a basic understanding of how the kit wine making process works.
The first step is making sure that anything that comes in contact with the wine is cleaned and sanitized. This includes your fermentor, lid, airlock, mixing spoon, etc. Midwest Supplies recommends using Easy Clean or One Step, for cleansing, and a sanitizer such as Star San.
Just follow the directions on the container for best results. You can also use metabisulphite if you do not have Easy Clean or Star San, but, make sure NOT to use the packets that come with your kit as you need those to make the wine. You want to continue to sanitize everything as you move on through the wine making process as well.
Combining the Winemaking Ingredients
Note: Follow the directions that come in the kit, those will be the most specific to your recipe kit. The following steps are standard to the wine making process
In 24-72 hours, your wine will begin fermenting. You will know it is fermenting when start to see bubbles coming up out of the airlock.
- In the first 3-4 days you might start noticing a sulfur-like smell. Do not panic, this is perfectly normal. The fermentation process will often produce a sulfur like odor that can be very strong. This will dissipate as time goes on.
- After 5-7 days you want to transfer the wine from the primary fermenter into a secondary fermenter. The goal of the transfer is to leave as much sediment behind in the primary fermenter as possible. Tilting the primary fermenter during the transfer process will help aid you in getting as much wine as possible. We prefer to transfer into glass carboys. Make sure to use a stopper and airlock on top of your carboy.
- The transfer of the wine will help the wine clear and allow the flavors to blend better.
- At this point, you are going to let the wine sit for 2 weeks. You might notice some fermentation, but it isn’t uncommon to see very little activity at this point.
- After the 2-3 weeks or the recommend Specific Gravity (S.G.) has been reached, you want to add the remaining packets from the recipe kit. Two of the packets are potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate. They work together to kill off the yeast and stabilize the wine to help preserve it once you are ready to bottle. The last packet is chitosan and kieselsol, a two stage clarifier for the wine. You’ll want to stir these ingredients in as well as you can. The back of a spoon works well, or use a stainless steel mix-stir rod that attaches to your drill to make this process easier. Remember to sanitize anything that come in contact with the wine
- Stirring is very important at this stage as it helps to get everything blended well, but you are also trying to release the CO2 from the wine. This part of the process is known as de-gassing. If you use a stir-rod, you will notice a lot of foam on top of the wine. This is normal; just keep mixing until it goes away.
- After everything is stirred well, you need to be very mindful of the headspace in your wine carboy. You need the wine to be up to the neck of the carboy, just an inch or so below the bottom of the stopper. You do not want to leave a large air gap because excessive air will oxidize your wine. If you have a large air gap, some ways to top off your wine are with a wine similar to what you are making (from your cellar or the store), or glass marbles. We prefer to use a wine similar to what we are making. And don't worry, you'll get that wine 'back' after you bottle.
- When you are all topped off, re-attach your stopper and airlock, and let the wine sit for at least 2 more weeks. It will take this entire time for the wine to clear, so be patient.
At this point you have a decision to make. The wine has produced all the alcohol it is going to, and should be clear enough to bottle. Some people prefer to allow the wine to age in the bottle. Some people prefer the wine to age in the carboy longer(bulk aging), as you tend to get a more consistent batch of wine. It is up to you on which way to go, but be aware that the wine is probably not ready to drink yet. Alcohol has a very bitter flavor that takes time to mellow and blend with the wine. That is why many styles of wines are aged for a long period of time before they are sent to the liquor store.
- If you decide to bottle, make sure that the wine is clear. If you bottle a cloudy wine, it will not clear properly in the bottle. It can also contain some off flavors that might create a different flavor in your wine than you were expecting.
- If you plan on bulk-aging the wine for more than 6 months, add 1/4 tsp. potassium metabisulphite to the wine to help prevent oxidation.
- Any other adjustments, like sweetening back the wine should be done at least a few days before bottling to allow sediment to settle.
- Bottle your wine. For more information, see our FAQ titled “How do I bottle my wine?”
Some Additional Notes
Learn to taste your wine at every step of the process. If you like your wine with a lot of kick, 6 weeks might be fine for you. But, most people like to wait longer for their wine to age and mellow. Try it in the carboy, try it at bottling, and try it 1-2 months after bottling. This will help build your knowledge on how a wine progresses as it gets older. The nice thing is that if the wine tastes a bit strong to you now, give it a month or two and it will be that much better.