We all have different reasons for making our own wine, Mine was to do something with the glut of fruit from our garden. Whatever the reason, I will approach wine making for beginners as exactly that. This article will describe the first steps and some of the things to avoid to make sure your first attempts are fit to serve to your friends.
When you are starting out I think you should make wine in small batches. To my mind (and trust me, in my own experience) once you get it right you can then up the quantities.
Personally I tend to make in small batches but there are advantages to larger amounts if you have the fruit to spare. The biggest one being that you may actually get to age some rather than sampling them all. The taste of wine that has been allowed to age is far superior.
Now decide what fruit you want to use. If you have a good supply of grapes then you are into the real thing. If you are using other fruit then you may need to add sugar to give enough alcohol content. In some cases the fruit / vegetable is just little more than a flavoring and most of the alcohol comes from the yeast acting on added sugar.
Cleanliness is essential. Get the wrong bugs in and the whole batch can be ruined. I use sterilizing solutions and with a large fermenting bucket you can sterilise the bucket and all your preparation tools (mixing spoons etc.) in one go.
Prepare your fruit and whichever recipe you are using put the liquid into your fermenting bucket. Now comes the first wait!
Cover your container and wait for 7 days. There should be a fairly vigorous fermentation, then once this is over it is time to move the wine on to glass containers (demijohn / carboys) Leave behind as much of the gunk as you can by siphoning and / or filtering and seal with a airlock .
This is when patience is needed. A good month is best.
After the month is up, you will want to transfer it back to your bucket, again making sure that you leave the yeast waste on the bottom. The process of transferring the wine from one vessel to another allows you to get rid of any waste and helps clear the wine.
It may be necessary to repeat this several times until the wine is clear enough to bottle. This is helped by adding a stabilizer to stop the yeast working.
Be sure all the vessels are re-sterilized at each stage.
Patience is a virtue! Better bottle clear, does not taste any different but the look is so much better.
When you are happy with the appearance then the last but one stage is here. Time to bottle.
Make sure again that the bottles are sterile, siphon the wine in and seal them. There is a huge debate in the major wine making world about corks or screw tops. Currently in the home wine making world corks are the preferred option.
Do not be in a rush to try it! The longer in bottle (6-9 months) the better. Some are better left a lot longer.