How to Destem Grapes for Wine

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Wine grapes may be smaller than table grapes, and require special handling when de-stemming.
Wine grapes may be smaller than table grapes, and require special handling when de-stemming. (Image: grapes image by siloto from Fotolia.com)

Stems in grapes can provide extra tannins when you are fermenting your wine, but they can also alter the flavor in undesirable ways. De-stemming your grapes helps to avoid this problem, and also allows you to closely examine your grapes before fermentation. That way, you can easily discard any imperfect grapes. De-stemming is not difficult, but it is time consuming. Consider inviting friends over and offering them some of the finished product if they help you de-stem your grapes.

Things You'll Need

  • Grapes
  • Gloves
  • Bowl or large container

Pick up your grapes and gently pull them, one at a time, from their stems. Make sure the entire stem comes away from the grape when you pull. Do not allow tiny pieces of stem to remain.

Place the grapes in a bowl or other large container to be processed in winemaking. Discard the stems, either in the garbage or through composting.

Wear gloves when handling more acidic grape varieties, such as scuppernong. Take care with all grapes, as continued exposure may irritate skin, especially with very acidic varieties.

Tips & Warnings

  • In commercial wineries, industrial de-stemming and crushing machines are used. However, these are not practical for most home winemaking operations due to size and cost considerations.
  • Grapes can stain, so make sure to wear clothes you do not care about when working with your grapes. Also, try to avoid squeezing the grapes very hard while you are de-stemming, particularly if you are interested in whole-berry winemaking. Whole-berry winemaking relies on whole, undamaged grapes to create light, fruity wines.
  • Discourage friends from snacking on the grapes as they de-stem. Many grapes used in winemaking are not particularly good for eating.
  • If you want a small amount of extra tannins in a particular wine recipe, consider only de-stemming a portion of the grapes you are using. Ratios of stemmed to de-stemmed grapes can vary based on your recipe, experience and personal preference.

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