Making wine is simple––it happens naturally. When fruit falls to the ground and rots, that’s what’s happening, wine is happening. Making wine is simple because wine makes itself, you just need to give it a proper venue.
Amazed? So was I. In fact, I wrote book about it! Anywho, here’s the recipe:
what you’ll need:
-Makes 4 bottles-
- A 1 1/2 –– 2 gallon crock or glass jar
- A 1 gallon carboy or small-necked glass container
- An airlock or balloon
- Fruit, preferably unwashed berries or grapes, but you can use anything (really)
- A few cups of honey
- Filtered water, non-chlorinated water (spring water works best)
- Long, thin plastic tube to siphon wine from carboy to bottle
- Used, clean bottles with corks/screw caps
I recommend foraging or picking your berries if possible, but either way, make sure they are not sprayed with anything or washed if you can help it––they house your yeasts. Keep in mind throughout, ingredients in winemaking, as it is with cooking, are essential to making good wine. This includes the fruit obviously, but the water and honey if you use any.
Try and fill the crock near full with the fruit and massage the juice out of it––squeeze it for 5 or so minutes.
Leave at least 1 1/2 inches between the top of the liquid and the top of the jar. When it starts fermenting it will rise a bit, so heed the last sentence to avoid overflow. If you do not have enough fruit to get to the top of the jar, don’t sweat it. Add a little water to make up for it––and no, this will not ruin your wine. It might make it a little lighter, but you wont regret that in the summertime. The goal is to make a gallon of liquid to put in the carboy. Eye it as best you can.
Once the liquid is in place, stir in 2-3 cups of honey.
(This is indeed imprecise, but if we’re trying to keep things easy, you’re going to have to make some guesses and learn by trial and error unless you want to buy a refractometer. I don’t own one, I might never, and most of my wines turn out great. If you added a lot of fruit, especially grapes which have a high percentage of sugar, add less honey. If you didn’t have that much fruit and it wasn’t really sweet fruit to begin with, add more honey. It’s that easy. If you want to be safe, add more honey. Often, if the wine turns out too sweet, I just let it sit and it levels out. If it’s not sweet enough, put it in a decanter with some honey for a day or so. If you like a sweeter wine, go nuts, add 4 cups of honey. Whatever––I’m trying to keep it simple, and if you’re only making a gallon at a time it’s not going to be a huge, time-consuming loss if you don’t love it…but I digress.)
Next, cover the container with a t-shirt or cloth and tie a string around it to keep bugs out. Stir it hard for a few minutes every few hours. Keep in a warm place, 70 degrees or so. Top of the fridge usually works well.
The next day, stir it every 4 hours or so, but don’t worry if you’re late or early, just stir it a few good times a day to keep mold spores submerged.
It should, if you followed the steps as I wrote them, start bubbling on its own within 2 or 3 days. You don’t have to add yeast, I never have and it’s never failed––the yeasts should already be on the fruit and in the air. If not, we’re all in trouble. Keep stirring a few times a day and keep it covered. Once the bubbling slows down (about 3 days after it starts bubbling) strain the liquid gently (no worries if some solid mass comes through) and put it in your small-necked container or carboy. Put your airlock on, or just use a small balloon, and set it in a cool, dark place. If you use the balloon you will have to let the resulting gas (carbon dioxide) out occasionally by simply pulling the balloon off then replacing it frequently for the first week, less so after that.
MAKE SURE NO BUGS GET IN, they want to spoil your wine and fun, keep it covered.
Let the wine sit for as long as you want, but I recommend at least a month. If you made a sweeter wine I might recommend longer. Then? Bottle the wine and further age it or drink it immediately. Voila! That’s the basics, you can make it as complicated as you want, but I like it simple. For me, that’s often where the complexity comes from anyhow.
GOOD LUCK –– and don’t be afraid to experiment or ask questions!