Time is an essential ingredient in good wine. If you're patient, making your own wine gives you control over every aspect of the process, allowing you to craft a beverage that matches your tastes. Making wine takes between three and four weeks, depending on the style. Aging, if you choose to incorporate it, adds between one and 12 months to that time.
Some home winemakers make several batches of wine at a time. This enables them to keep a selection of handcrafted wines on hand.
Preparation: One to Two Hours
The first day of winemaking is mostly preparation. It is essential to sanitize everything that will come in contact with your wine. Most winemakers use a chemical sanitizer. It is easier and more reliable than other method, such as immersing your tools in boiling water.
Once everything has been sanitized, you'll be ready to mix the wine. Combine juice, water and other additives in a fermenting bucket. Stir well, then seal the container. Move it to a convenient resting place where the temperature will remain constant during fermentation.
Primary Fermentation: Five to 10 Days
During primary fermentation, sugars in the juice begin to ferment into alcohol. When the amount of carbon dioxide released from the wine begins to decline, you'll know that the primary fermentation stage is ending.
At the end of the primary ferment, filter the wine to remove any additives such as raisins, elderberries or oak chips. Move the wine from the fermenting bucket to a glass carboy. If you want stronger oak notes in your wine, add the chips back in after you transfer the liquid.
Secondary Fermentation: Five to 10 Days
The remaining sugars convert into alcohol during the secondary fermentation. Use a hydrometer to take a specific gravity reading daily during the secondary ferment. Specific gravity is a measurement between 1.0 and 0.75 that tells you how dense the wine is compared to water. As fermentation progresses, the wine becomes less dense, leading to a lower specific gravity reading. Each recipe has a different final specific gravity target. This reading will tell you when the wine is ready to move on to the next stage in the process.
Clarifying: Seven to 10 Days
Once fermentation is complete, the wine will be cloudy from sediment and yeast residue. The final step in making wine is to add stabilizers and clarifying agents. These chemicals pull out the sediment allowing you to draw off pure wine, leaving impurities behind.
Bottling: Two to Three Hours
Sanitize all of the tools you'll use, then fill and cork the bottles. Finally, wipe them down and label. Store upright for the first 24 hours, then lay them down to keep the corks moist.
While you could drink your wine immediately after bottling, even a relatively short aging will greatly improve it by allowing the wine to mellow. Six months is the recommended aging for most white wines, and many reds. Fuller bodied red wines should age even longer, up to 12 months.