If you don’t want to crush fresh grapes barefoot in your backyard to make wine, using fresh wine juice is a turnkey option. The juice should be fresh, made from high-quality pressed juices. Fresh juice is typically available seasonally--Italian and Californian fresh wine juice is available in September; while Chilean and South African wine juice is available in the Spring.
Step 1: Gather Supplies
To start, you will need:
Fresh wine juice
Sulfite Mix (for sanitizing)
Yeast (Philly Homebrew has documentation on which yeast work best for each juice)
6-7 Gallon Primary Fermenter (E.G. Food Grade Bucket, Glass Carboy)
6 Gallon Glass Or Special Plastic Carboy for Secondary Fermentation.
Solid And Drilled Bungs
Stainless Steel Mix Stir or Long Handled Spoon
Step 2: Primary Fermentation
You should begin fermentation in a clean and sanitized (using sulfite as directed) primary fermenter (e.g. food grade plastic bucket). Pour the juice into the bucket - ensure that you have at least 2” headroom below the lid. If your juice came in a bucket ensure that you have enough headroom by either pouring the juice into a larger bucket or by removing some liquid. You cannot have too much headroom during primary fermentation.
Juice is usually solid at near freezing temperatures, and for fermentation to begin, the wine juice needs to come to a stable temperature between 68-82F degrees. Usually this takes 24-48 hours after purchasing. The container the juice is in will condensate, so place the bucket on a towel as it comes to temperature.
Once you have verified that the juice is at a good temperature, add at least 2-4 packets of yeast (ask the staff at Philly Homebrew Outlet for guidance towards proper yeast for your variety of wine). Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the must (macerated grape juice). Optionally, you may hydrate the yeast in a starter solution (search the web for instructions). Place the lid, and airlock (filled ½ way with sulfite solution) on your primary fermenter and keep in a location that is at 68-82F.
Within 12-24 hours you should see signs of fermentation activity (bubbling in the airlock) The bubbling frequency may increase to almost 2 bubbles per second!! If you do not see bubbling, DON’T PANIC, it doesn’t necessarily mean the wine isn’t fermenting, the lid may not be properly sealed, or there could be a crack in the airlock. Open the bucket, and look for signs of fermentation, such as foam on the top, tiny bubbles popping at the surface, and of course the burning smell of CO2 and alcohol.
Leave the must in the primary fermenter for at least 14 days until the fermentation activity subsides. If you are using a hydrometer the specific gravity should be 1.010 or lower, if it is not at that level wait a few more days.
Step 3: Secondary Fermentation
Clean, sanitize and rinse the carboy, the racking cane and the tubing. Transfer the liquid from the primary fermenter into a carboy, using a racking cane and tubing, by placing the carboy below the level of the primary fermenter and siphoning the liquid into the carboy.
BE CAREFUL NOT TO MOVE OR KICK UP MUCH SEDIMENT IN THE BOTTOM OF THE PRIMARY.
Transfer as much liquid as possible leaving the heavy sediment in the primary fermenter - do not worry if a little sediment gets transferred. Fit a drilled cork to the mouth of the carboy and insert an airlock (filled ½ way with sulfite solution) then allow the fermentation to proceed for at least 2 more weeks. Do not be concerned if there is no evident fermentation activity. Ask the staff at Philly Homebrew Outlet to explain siphoning if you don’t understand.
Step 4: Racking the Wine
Siphon the wine off the sediment into another clean, sanitized, and rinsed carboy (alternatively: use the cleaned, sanitized, and rinsed primary fermenter, and siphon back into the cleaned, sanitized, and rinsed carboy), attach the airlock, and repeat after another one or two months.
Step 5: Stabilizing, Fining, Bulk Aging, and Bottling
Most wine will clear within eight months and three rackings. Many wines will need some help clearing. You may use a fining agent (Ask Philly Homebrew Outlet) by adding it to the wine at this time. Wine must be stabilized before bottling. An unstable wine can resume fermentation in the bottle resulting in a carbonated wine, popped cork or even an exploded bottle. Potassium sorbate should be added at the rate of ½ teaspoon per gallon to prevent further fermentation. Used in conjunction with sodium or potassium metabisulfite at ¼ teaspoon potassium metabisulfite per 5-6 gallons, this should prevent the wine from oxidizing and going bad for over a few years.
It is not uncommon for wine to absorb carbon dioxide, the gas is created as a byproduct of fermentation. Some of that CO2 is simply absorbed into the wine. The result is a wine that fizzes when poured. It may not fizz as much as a sparkling wine, but it greatly detracts from a wine that is supposed to be a still (non sparkling) wine. There are several ways to release this gas and return the wine to a true still wine. The simplest way is to use a stainless steel mix-stir (available at Philly Homebrew Outlet) and attaching it to a corded, or cordless drill and “whipping” the wine until the CO2 dissipates. Otherwise you can use a clean and sanitized wooden dowel, food grade plastic rod or spoon. Stir the wine for about 5 minutes and then replace the airlock and let the wine settle down for 30-45 minutes. Repeat this procedure several times until the wine stops giving up CO2 gas.
Most wines will benefit from bulk aging and bottle aging. Bulk aging is the process in which you allow the wine to stay in the glass carboy, completely topped up to the neck, for up to a year. You may use an airlock or a solid cork on your carboy during aging.
You may bottle the wine with a simple racking cane and tubing. Fill the bottles - leaving enough room so there is ½ inch of space below the bottom of your cork.
Store newly bottled wine upright for three days to permit the cork to settle and expand. After three days store the bottle on the side so that the cork is fully in contact with the wine at all times.
Allow the wine to age in the bottle 2-3 months. The wine will be best after six months of total bulk and bottle aging. Once the wine is bottled, the length of time is up to you. We recommend you try some bottles every month or so until you are proud of the taste. Depending on the wine, some can be perfect in 6 months, and some can require 3-4 years.