Easy Grape Wine Recipe: A Guide to Making Wine from Grapes at Home

Whether you're a budding wine enthusiast or an experienced winemaker, this simple grape wine recipe is tailored just for you.

I remember my first winemaking adventure – the anticipation of the first sip and the joy of sharing it with friends.

With the right ingredients, a dash of patience, and some passion, you can produce a gallon of delightful wine right at home!

Why Use Wine Grapes?

The secret to a flavourful wine lies in the quality of the grapes. Wine grapes are distinct from the table variety.

They are richer, seedier, and their thick skins house vital compounds that give wine its signature colour and taste.

While ripe grapes yield a wine with optimal alcohol levels and pleasant taste, unripe grapes result in a wine high in acidity and low in alcohol.

Ingredients for a 1-Gallon Batch of Wine:

  • 5-7kg (12-15lb) grapes
  • 1-2kg Brewing Sugar (to adjust)
  • Pectic Enzyme
  • Wine Yeast
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Campden Tablets
  • Potassium Sorbate (Fermentation Stopper)
  • Wine Finings (Optional)

Selecting the Right Yeast:

  • Gervin GV1: A general-purpose yeast, popular in France for both white and red wines.
  • Gervin GV2: Ideal for full-bodied Burgundy-style red and white wines.
  • Gervin GV5: Great for dry or sweet quality white English table wines.
  • Gervin GV8: Perfect for dry red table wines, Boarduex-style.

Tools of the Trade: Essential Winemaking Equipment

To transform grapes into wine, you'll need some basic but essential equipment.

Sterilization is paramount; every item must be pristine to ensure your wine ages without contamination.

  • Cleaner & Steriliser
  • Brewing Bucket
  • Fermentation Vessel
  • Glass Demijohn
  • Airlock
  • Bung
  • Hydrometer
  • Syphon Tubing
  • Thermometer
  • Straining Bag (Muslin Cloth)
  • Wine Bottles
  • Corks
  • Corker

Optional Winemaking Equipment

  • Trial Jar
  • Pipette
  • Bottle Labels
  • Shrink Wraps
  • Acid Test Kit
  • pH Meter

Step-by-Step Guide

1. Sterilization

The foundation of good wine is cleanliness. Sterilization is critical to prevent any unwanted bacteria or wild yeast from spoiling your wine. Every piece of equipment that will come into contact with your wine must be thoroughly sanitized. This includes buckets, fermenters, spoons, hydrometers, siphons, bottles, and even your hands.

2. Preparation

Preparation of your grapes is a crucial step in defining the flavour, colour, and overall profile of your wine. Ensure you choose ripe, healthy grapes, free from rot or disease. The quality of your grapes directly influences the wine's quality.

Carefully remove the grapes from their stems. Stems can add unwanted tannins and flavours to your wine. Lastly rinse your grapes thoroughly under cold water to remove any pesticides, dirt, or little critters.

3. Crushing

Transfer your cleaned grapes into a sterilized container, like a bucket. You can crush them using your hands, a potato masher, or a sterilized wooden block. The goal is to break the skins and release the juice, not to pulverize the seeds, which can impart bitterness.

Tip: If available, use a straining bag for the grapes. Place the grapes in the bag inside the bucket. This method helps in easy removal of skins and pulp later, making the process cleaner and more efficient.

4. Initial Additions

This step involves adding specific substances to the must (crushed grape mix) to aid in the fermentation process.

Start by adding the recommended amount of pectic enzyme to the must the typical dosage is 1tsp per gallon. This enzyme helps to break down the pectin in grapes, clarifying the wine and aiding in the extraction of flavours and colours.

Next crush one Campden tablet and sprinkle it evenly over the must. Campden tablets release sulphur dioxide, which acts as an antimicrobial and antioxidant, purifying the must and preventing unwanted bacterial growth.

Stir the must gently but thoroughly to ensure the pectic enzyme and Campden tablet are well distributed.

5. Resting Period

After the initial additions ,let the must rest for 24 to 48 hours in a cool, undisturbed place. The waiting time after adding Campden tablets is crucial as It allows the sulphur dioxide to dissipate and ensures that it doesn’t kill the yeast you’ll add for fermentation.

Place the lid securely on your fermentation bucket. If your bucket lid is equipped with a grommet for an airlock, make sure it's fitted properly, fill the airlock halfway with water and insert it into the grommet. This setup prevents any contaminants or insects like fruit flies from entering.

Tip: A 48-hour period is generally recommended. 

6. Sugar Adjustment

Now it's time to check and adjust the sugar levels. This is crucial for determining your wine's final alcohol content.

Begin by taking a sample of the juice from your bucket, using a pipette, pouring or siphoning a small amount into a trial jar. Then, gently lower the hydrometer into the jar to measure the Specific Gravity (S.G.). You’re aiming for an S.G. between 1.070 and 1.090, which should yield an alcohol by volume (ABV) of approximately 10.5% - 13%.

If the S.G. is below your target, incrementally add dextrose (brewing sugar) dissolved in a cup of lukewarm water. Then, stir this sugar solution into your bucket of must. After mixing, recheck the S.G. with your hydrometer, repeating the process until the desired level is reached.

Tip: A general guide for adjusting the S.G. is to add about 17 grams of sugar per litre of juice to increase the ABV by 1%. Remember to factor in that your bucket contains not just juice but also fruit pulp, which can affect the reading. Always pour your tested samples back into the bucket to maintain consistency and avoid wastage.

7. Fermentation

It's time to start the fermentation process. If you're making white wine, remove the grape skins and pulp now; a straining bag comes in handy for this. For red wine, keep the grape skins in the mix for a deeper colour and richer flavour. 

Add in some yeast nutrient and then sprinkle your chosen yeast over the must. Allow the mixture to ferment for about 7 to 10 days at a steady temperature of 18-22°C.

If your bucket has an airlock, make sure it's securely fitted; if not, the lid should be loosely placed to let CO2 escape without letting anything in.

8. Racking

After the primary fermentation, whether you're making red or white wine, it's time to "rack" the wine. Using a siphon with a sediment trap, gently rack the wine into a clean glass demijohn to separate it from the sediment.

During this transfer, try to minimize pouring the wine directly from the bucket to avoid oxygenation and disturbing the sediment. Sealing the demijohn with a bung and airlock, allow the wine to undergo a secondary fermentation and clarification for another 7 to 14 days.

Tip: If you're making red wine, remove the grape skins do not transfer into your demijohn,

9. Settling

After the "secondary fermentation", check the specific gravity (SG) with a hydrometer to gauge if fermentation is complete. Your final gravity (FG) should be between 1.005 - 0.995.

If the FG hasn't reached the desired range, give it more time. Once your reading remains consistent over two consecutive days you can now proceed to degassing the wine.

10. Degassing

This is essential for removing residual carbon dioxide, which can affect the wine's taste and texture and help your wine age properly. Agitate the wine by stirring or swirling it vigorously within the demijohn.

This process, known as degassing, might take several minutes and should be repeated over a few days. Be careful to avoid too much agitation to prevent excessive oxygen exposure, which can negatively affect the wine's quality.

11. Stabilizing

Once degassing is complete, stabilize the wine to ensure it stops fermenting and to preserve its longevity. To do this, add 1 crushed Campden tablet and a suitable dose of potassium sorbate (often referred to as a fermentation stopper) into the demijohn.

These additives prevent any remaining yeast from fermenting any further, particularly crucial if you're aging your wine for an extended period. After adding these stabilizers, wait for 24 hours before proceeding to bottling, or allow the wine to mature longer for natural clearing.

Tip: For cloudy wine, consider adding fining agents to help clarify it faster. Some winemakers prefer maturing the wine in the demijohn before bottling for enhanced flavour development.

12. Bottling

Now that your wine is stabilized and clear, it's time to bottle your creation. Siphon the wine from the demijohn into sterilized bottles, taking care not to disturb any sediment that may have settled at the bottom. Seal the bottles with corks or appropriate closures.

While homemade wine can technically be consumed immediately, it's often better to allow it to age in the bottle. For white wines, a minimum of one month is recommended, and for red wines, ideally two months or more. The aging process helps the wine develop more complex flavours and aromas.

Tip: The longer you can resist the temptation to open your bottles, the better the wine will generally taste, as it continues to develop and mature over time.

Conclusion: Celebrating Your Winemaking Journey

Embarking on the journey of home winemaking is a fulfilling experience, blending art, science, and patience. From selecting the perfect grapes to the final pourin', each step offers learning and excitement. As you uncork and pour your homemade grape wine, relish not just the delightful flavors but also the pride of your creation. Share it with friends and family, toast to your success, and remember that each bottle tells the story of your dedication and love for winemaking. Cheers to many more batches and the simple joy of pourin' a glass of your very own wine!