fermentation!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.)

glass carboys.

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!

– Jesse.


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About roughdraftfarmstead

Jesse and Hannah.
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  1. Pingback: Skinny on Fermentation: Easy Natural Mead | Sustainable Kentucky

  2. Justin Spann says:

    How do you know how much alcohol is in it per bottle and how can you make it stronger

    • Jesse says:

      Hey Justin,

      Thanks for the comment. The way alcohol works – in a nutshell – is that yeast will consume the sugar ( or in this case, honey) and turn it into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The amount of sugar available is almost directly proportional to the amount of alcohol it will make. I other words, the more food there is for the yeast, the more byproduct (alc) they will create. This is not infinite. The yeast will stop somewhere between 13 and 16%, as it will become too toxic (alcoholic) for them to survive. However, when using honey, it will take you longer (several months) to get to that point as honey ferments very slowly. Otherwise, you can fortify it by adding a cup of spirit per gallon (like port). Happy winemaking!

  3. Justin Spann says:

    How big are your wine bottles

  4. David says:

    do you have to use a earthen crock or can you use a metal pot. pretty much every recipe says to use a earthen crock. i was just wondering if it will change anything if i use a metal pot.

    thank you

    • If you have to use metal make sure it’s non-reactive, stainless steel. Otherwise it might taint your ferment and possibly make it less safe to drink. Thanks for the comment!

    • AJChandler says:

      I was wondering about the “earthen crock” myself. I own a couple of wine making kits and they use 5 gallon plastic bucks like those at the local paint or hardware store. Just buy the lid and let it sit on top of the bucket. Do not push the lid tight since the gas needs to escape.

      Buy a second bucket and lid to siphon one to the other. The trick is to keep it clean when starting to keep mold out.

  5. Eddie says:

    I’m now not sure the place you’re getting your info, but good topic.
    I must spend a while learning much more or figuring
    out more. Thanks for fantastic info I was on the
    lookout for this info for my mission.

  6. kris says:

    do you have to use powder yeast.or can the blueberrys produce its own i have only added a pinch. and i have mine in a kentwood water jug .but it is smelling and looking great. very excited.

    • Hey Kris, I’ve never had any issue with using indigenous yeasts (with any berry) so long as the berries are natural and not washed. And, since I usually use local honey, it already contains S. Cerevisiae (yeast) which help to start the ferment. Good luck!

  7. chris says:

    what is the bottling process? Do you strain the wine again, before actually bottling it? Any tricks to corking it?

    • Kelly says:

      I would also like to understand the bottling process more. I am about to transfer my grapes into a carboy (old livingston bottle).

      • derek says:

        Let the fermenting wine rest so that the yeast collects at the bottom. Then, you can siphon it through a hose. Try to keep your hose off the bottom of the fermenting container so the old yeast is left behind (they make wine canes, but those aren’t necessary).

        Just make sure that your wine has finished fermenting and no longer bubbling. Otherwise the pressure in your bottles may build and cause your bottles to shatter.

  8. Jo says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this recipe! I am quite surprised at how little information I could find on making wine naturally, so I was really excited to come across your blog. I just harvested and smashed 2 boxes of grapes that are beginning their ferment with a little honey now. Excited to try it!

    • Jesse says:

      Hey Jo,

      I was surprised myself! Especially when it’s so easy and tasty (and, dare I say, healthy). Good luck and let us know how the wine turns out!

      • Jo says:

        Well, it took a while to gather the bottling supplies so it sat in the carboy on the lees for a few months longer than I had anticipated (wondering how the flavor might be improved if bottling sooner??), but we finally bottled it tonight and it is great! I am really excited about my first wine, and love that it is naturally fermented. Until I can figure out where to put them, the bottles are currently on the counter next to my kombucha and beet kvass. :-) Thanks again for your recipe and information. I really appreciated it!!!

  9. Elizabeth says:

    Is it the presence of the gases in the airlocked jar that keep the acetobacter/vinegar thing from happening?

    • Jesse says:

      Yes and no, it’s also the lack of oxygen. Acetic acid is the anerobic fermentation of alcohol into acetic acid, the airlock keeps the oxygen out. The only present gas is carbon dioxide. But good question!

      • JoeCone says:

        sorry, but as a microbiological-pedant, I must take issue.
        acetic acid is formed aerobically and there will always be enough dissolved oxygen in the liquid to allow it to occur to some degree.
        limiting it with an airlock is one method.
        using specific quantities of sugar or fermenting out to specific gravities at a limited range of temperatures is key to controlling the exact amount of acetic acid produced.
        adding strong black tea (or just about any bitter herb) will help both in limiting growth of acetic and other bacteria, but also provide a bitter bite to offset the naturally sweet and acidic taste of wines.

        • Thank you for taking issue with this comment. I am sure (and would hope) I originally intended to write “aerobic” in regards to acetic acid, but thank you for the correction and further insight! Feel free to add your input anywhere you think it would be helpful!


  10. Carolyn Hooley says:

    Hi, thanks for your website, very informative. I was wondering if you ever made apple wine? I am brewing a batch now with wild apples from my yard and could use any advice you might have. I used both honey and sugar as a sweetener. If it smells yeasty like bread is that good or bad?
    Thanks Carolyn

    • Jesse says:

      I love apple wine! I have an apple/plum going right now! And the yeasty/bread smell is a good thing. Just means its working!

      Thanks for the comment,

  11. Jake says:

    I too am curious about bottling the wine. We have both white wine and red that we are making, the red wine seems to be very thick, almost syrupy. Should I strain it again when I begin to bottle the wine? If it’s thick, do I need to add water? Thanks, this recipe is really fun to try.

  12. Joyce says:

    I have been looking for an easy recipe not involving chemicals….totally going to try this.

    How do you feel about using the plastic buckets? I don’t have a large enough glass or crock vessel.

    • Jesse says:

      So long as the buckets are “food grade” (and throughly cleaned), I say go for it! Really, people have used everything from pits to clay pots, glass jars, animal skins and just about anything that will hold liquid to make wine for centuries! Be creative and good luck!


  13. Ruthie says:

    These posts have been very helpful–thank you! SO excited! Making my first wine today–using my brother’s homegrown scuppernong grapes.

  14. Andrea says:

    I don’t know about where you are but here in Wis. honey is expensive. I am on a very limited budget and will have to use sugar. The grape crop here is phenomenal this year and I am so looking forward to making wine. My question is what ratio of grapes-sugar should I use? I prefer a sweeter wine. Also is there any other type of flavoring I could add to mix it up a little?

  15. Fran says:

    I started my wine 2 weeks ago, it’s now in the carboy with a balloon on top for the second fermentation stage and i would like to know about the bottling process, should i siphon it in a second carboy and leave it for a while before i put it in the bottles to have a more clear wine? This is my first time making wine and i don’t want to invest too much on fancy equipment, the information on the net is overwhelming, i like your site best.

    • Indeed. To get a more clear wine, siphon into another, smaller carboy (I say and emphasize smaller because the more empty space the more oxidizedmyourmwine will become), and let it sit. However, I usually do not “rack” as it’s called. I am careful to get as little lees–the junk in the bottom of your carboy– in my bottles as possible, then I bottle the last bottle with a lot of lees (and label it!). Then, the wine continue to seperate and you can have one more glass of wine from the lees bottle. Hope that helps!

      • Fran says:

        Thanks for the reply it is very helpful,so far everything looks as it should(I think…) and i will transfer to a smaller carboy, thanks again, really appreciate the advice.

  16. Stephanie says:

    Thank you for this wonderful information! I have apple wine going in the carboy with a balloon right now; after the chopping, fermenting and squishing stages. Your steps were simple and easy for a novice such as me to follow. Excited to give this as Christmas presents next month. Thanks!!

  17. Sigrid says:

    Thanks for your info..
    I am making a wine for a chemistry project and I was wondering if I added honey how long would I have to wait for the fermenting or can I use an alternative like sugar to lessen the waiting time?? and do you remove the skin part of the grapes during fermenting in the carboy or you wait it out with it then finish product? Do I need to use a strainer??

    • Sugar will indeed ferment much faster! Honey ferments in two parts and can take months to finish. I personally leave the fruit skins in to create a richer wine, though it can also produce a cloudier wine. And although you can filter, I don’t, but I do use a strainer to catch the chunks.


  18. Maria says:

    Firstly, let me tell you how much I love your detailed instructions. They are absolutely wonderful for a novice, such as myself.

    Here’s my question. How long does the wine stay fresh once bottled? I’ve read on other websites that it doesn’t last as long, but then question that information as I then wonder how the ancient Greeks and Romans kept their wines fresh. Also, I always thought wine was one of those things that just get better with age.

    I know my question may seem inexperienced, to say the least, but it would put my mind to ease knowing.

    Thank you again for your wonderful instructions!

    • If by fresh, you mean still drinkable, wine can last years once bottled! The greeks and romans, interestingly enough, fermented and kept their wines in amphorae and clay pots that they often topped with rags, wood pieces, pieces of hide, or sometimes with olive oil which floats on top and does not let (much) oxygen in. I forget when people began to use cork, but it was much later than you might think. Hope that helps!

  19. Hello guys this post is very awesome and profitable to me, even i had a wine video it helps you to make your own wine for absolutely free check it out here if you don’t mind. How to make wine

  20. Amy says:

    I followed the instructions on this blog post and my wine has mold! :/ What did I do wrong?

    • Hey Amy!

      Bummer. Mold usually occurs when there was not enough stirring in the beginning stages of fermentation, or when too much oxygen gets into the carboy. If it is just a light, white film, scrape it off and bottle the wine. If it is actual mold, consider composting it, or scrapping the mold off and letting it turn to vinegar by pouring in some raw apple cider vinegar and leaving Exposed to air. Sorry about the mold. Hope that helps.


      • Amy says:

        Thanks Jesse! I think it wasn’t mold but the thin white film that I’m guessing was yeast. I will try to just skim it off and see how it is :). Thanks so much!

  21. SPrince says:

    Wow, very interesting article!
    I do have a few questions for you.

    It would appear that you are fermenting on the natural yeasts, and not adding wine making yeast. Am I correct in that assumption? I believe that is why you said don’t wash the fruit and don’t spray it either…

    If the wine is still sweet at bottling, do you add anything to it, so that fermentation doesn’t re-start while in the bottle and build up pressure? From what I have heard, the corks can blow off the bottles. Here is an article on how to back sweeten wine, but it would appear that you are not back sweetening, but instead sweetening to the point that the yeasts will naturally die out at a certain alcohol level.

    Thanks in advance for answering my questions.

    • Yes to natural fermentaiton and no to adding anything. If you let it ferment for at least a couple months in carboy and store in a cool place, you shouldn’t have any trouble with cork explosions. If it is REALLY sweet, you can find champagne stoppers which will ensure the wine’s safety. Bu again. Cool temperatures slow microbial activity, us the yeast will not be as active and pressure should not overcome the cork.


      • SPrince says:

        Thanks for your reply!

        When you say steaming, exactly what do you do? Do you simply just put up a tea kettle and let it go to a complete steaming boil and put the bottle in front of the steam?

        Wow, I am going to try that!

        Thank you so much!

        • Oh, yea. There are a number of ways to do it, but a tea kettle is fine. If you have a steamer that fits is pot, just boil water under the bottles for ten minutes, or simply dip the bottles in the pan but turn it down to a simmer. Let me know if you have any other questions!

          Good luck

  22. SPrince says:

    Oh, I am sorry, one more question.

    Do you use anything special to clean and sanitize the jugs and wine bottles?

    And, if you are re-using old wine bottles, do you have any secrets to how to remove the old labels? Removing labels can be such a pain!

    Thanks again!

    • I use hot, hot water and sometimes I will let the crock sit it he greenhouse for a few says. Nothing sanitizing like the sun! Other than that, I use no chemicals, bleach, etc..

      As for removing labels, the best method I’ve found is steaming. It doesn’t always get the glue off perfectly, but it works pretty well and the glue can usually be finished off with a cloth and some alcohol.

      Hope that helps!


  23. jane says:

    I love your style! This is just what I was looking for! Thanks! Off to check out your book and more of you blog!

  24. Pingback: Homemade Concord Wine in a confusing number of steps | The Ashwood Farmhouse

  25. Robert Olson says:

    I have a 5 gallon carboy and about a three gallon, very thick, blackberry wine in process. Just put it in the carboy today. Is this going to be to much air space? If so, can I add some water to fill the carboy or is it to late to add water. If I add water, should I add some more honey (I have two quarts in the batch now.
    Thanks for your help.

    • Hey Robert! It’s not necessarily too much room, but you might get a little oxidation in the wine which can taste a bit like Carmel. Some like it, some don’t (think Madeira). If you add water, add at least a two and a half cups of honey per gallon of water. It’s not necessarily too late, but it will take longer to ferment out. Hope that helps!


  26. Minna says:

    Really enjoying to read about this method, I just have some honeywine going on, and was hard to find information about methods without the adding of the yeast. What do you think about frozen berries, I have so much blueberries in the freezer, picked them myself for a month ago, do you think it might be possible to revitalize those berries?

    Sorry for any mistakes, writing from Norway :) Lovely blog!!


  27. Christian says:

    This is the best natural wine making article I’ve found online! Still in the fermentation stage and using a plastic bucket (brand new) covered with a piece of cloth. I have a question.

    I’ll be using a transparent plastic gallon carboy to siphon the wine once stops bubbling . My question is, does this carboy needs to be covered up to avoid light getting to the wine and ruin it? I’ve heard some winemakers do.

    Thanks in advance.

  28. Jensen Kho says:

    Hi Jess

    I like the way of instruction making wine. Simple & easy to follow :)
    This is my first time making wine. I bought one kilogram of grapefruit last Sunday, very dark ruby color of its skin. Slightly wash and crush the grape by hands in a round glass jar. Cover with the lid, not tight, just put on… last night, Tuesday, after 2 days, it started bubbling (in between, i added 2 tablespoons of sugar), i stir at least twice per day.
    I am excited how it will turn out in final result.

  29. Jensen Kho says:

    Hi Jess
    I need your advise :(
    Last Friday, i moved my first fermentation to second fermentation stage. I changed it from glass jar into glass bottle. I filter it with a piece of cheese cloth after that i place a balloon on top. I pin-hole the balloon as well.
    On Saturday, the balloon was getting expansion. I think it’s good sign :)
    However this morning (Monday), the fermentation is stop, because the balloon doesn’t expansion. I still able to see the bubble on surface of “wine”!
    What shall i do next?

  30. Brenda Kanekkeberg says:

    Hello there! Where were you guys when I was young and trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up?! I’m so jealous, you guys are just having to much fun!
    So, I found you when I was looking for a way to make wine without additives…cause really, I know for a fact that in the Bible days they didn’t go down to the local brewing supply store and buy special stuff to make there wine! I was very excited and inspired to not let the birds have my grapes this year. So the kids picked for me and I got 4 baskets full of green grapes…(about 60lb)s and 3 baskets of red grapes(45lbs) So after about 2 weeks(ugh!) I finally got to them, 1 batch any way, picked off the stems, crushed them, added honey, and let them sit in a plastic bucket for a week then strained them and added to a1 gal glass jug..(.the rest are a week or so behind) Any way I was a little short and have about a 3 inch head space on the first batch, but I saw your pic with the 3 jugs and they had varying headspace , so I didn’t worry too much. now I have a scum on the top and its bubbly, its white and speckled…is this mold of some kind?

  31. mandy says:

    Thanks for a great post. Im making my first batch now and everything has gone as you described, itvhas been sitting for about 3 weeks now and i just syphoned the wine off the yeast that accumulated on the bottom and has now been sitting for a few days but is still really cloudy. Is this normal, how long does it take to get clear, or is there something i can do to make it clearer? Thanks for your input and great blog!

  32. Junji says:

    Is it possible to use sugar instead of honey, if so what is the equivalent ratio to honey

  33. Just found this blog and am soooo happy! Have wanted to make more than just the very simple plum wine from my own tree (unsprayed, of course!). Not having a suitable, large enough container, I have used an ordinary bucket with a large oven bag inside, the type used to roast chooks in, to avoid any nasties from the non food grade plastic bucket. If the bag is safe enough to roast my dinner in, it must be just as safe for winemaking! The other advantage of this is that the bag can be twisted and tied to the level of the contents to seal from too much air.
    To digress a bit……this year I experimented with a deterrent for fruitfly which has decimated my harvest in previous years, and it worked. To bait a tree, as I have done previously, seems to me to entice the fruitfly to the tree via the baits. This year I simply perforated several ziplock plastic bags, inserted a piece of sponge or terry towelling in each, saturated with citronella mozzies repellent then closed and festooned tree with same. Fantastic — it worked like a dream! Crows loved me to bits this year, though — about a quarter of the bumper harvest went to them! P.S. I live in Perth, Western Australia.

  34. TheWineBrewer says:

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