Preparing wine is a process that requires a lot of patience and attention to detail. From vine to bottling, there are many stages that modify the taste of wine. Making quality wine is not cumbersome as it is an enjoyable process. Bring your friends and family together to help. Scroll to find a step-by-step guide on how to make Red Wine.
But as a first step let us look at sourcing grapes. This step is important for all kinds of wine. Depending on the variety, the harvest period for grapes can range from mid-January for the very earliest of varieties all the way through to mid-May for the latest season grapes.
The grapes should be picked when they are physiologically ripe. Once the grapes are harvested, the physical and chemical components of the grape which will influence the wine’s quality are essentially set so determining the optimal moment of ripeness may be considered the most crucial decision in winemaking.
Great wine can only be made with great grapes. The best flavour and aroma is generally considered to come from grapes that were growin in cool climate areas where the fruit has a longer ripening period. Also, grapes should be in good condition. Crushing as soon as possible after picking is ideal and remember to avoid any squishy, old mouldy grapes.
As a general rule its best to try to use wine grapes to make wine and eat table grapes. Some table grapes could be used as fillers or for additional flavour but not as the main winemaking grapes. So most of us are looking for Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir, Merlot and a small range of other grapes that by experience have taught us all to make the best wine.
Grape buying tips:
Every grape harvest in every region will have different quality levels every year depending upon the weather and growing conditions from the period of bud burst (shoots sprouting of spring) to the ripening period of the warmer summer. Its wise to talk to your grape vendor to understand what varieties they can offer, from where they source from and when harvest occurs? At the markets, often they will say best grapes from South Australia- however its unlikely to be from premium Barossa valley region @$2-6K/ ton, but more likely the irrigated plains of the Riverland’s where the bulk wineries also source the cheapest fruit from $600-1200/ ton. Alas, makes it more viable to sell at $16-24kg box in Melbourne Area. So, provided your grapes are fresh- (No mould etc) plus you are methodical with cleaning equipment and regular monitoring your process (Plus using our awesome products & services) you should be able to produce a quality wine at home to the level of most commercially made wines.
Avoid buying grapes on your first visit to the market just because they have yesterday grapes available. Instead use it as a gauge of what they can offer, and the price average expected.
Try strike a win-win relationship with the vendor, where by you leave a small deposit with them for your agreed 10 to 40 boxes so you can collect from them next day (or when ready) as the truck arrives at 6-8am with fresh grapes that were just picked less than hours ago!
Be a wise grape buyer! And remember the trust of the grape vendor is earnt in the proof of the quality grapes delivered, i.e. before paying that balance payment, turn one foam box over into empty 50 lt crate you have brought with you, to inspect the contents –
That the grapes are all the same, i.e. same variety / size of fruit throughout. You shouldn’t pay extra for Shiraz, if they give you it’s cheaper clone Mataro grape variety. (Still nice blended though)
More importantly check that the stems look green (not brown/ woody) and there are no traces of mouldy bunces below, as this will leave off flavours in the final wine. So, either reject or settle on price reduction with seller and ensure you pick out as many of these bunches out prior to crushing them. Plus consider using our condensed tannin Rouge added at the crusher to salvage the best wine possible. (Also use high dosage of High vanilla American oak chips amongst the skins for the 7-10 day ferment, which will improve flavour profile and mask any odd mouldy smells).
To understand winemaking- knowledge, industry networking and hands on experience are key to slowly improving your craft toward being able to produce quality wines at home.
For assistance with product, selection come see us instore for further helpful advice. Where you might need a little more guidance, we do offer instore wine tests, and during these sessions you will be able to have many of your simple questions addressed. During the vintage period we are at our busiest period dealing with retail equipment sales Australia wide, so it is a little more challenging for senior staff to offer longer consultative winemaking advice during retail operating hours. So, to assist customers who would like to gain further knowledge in a more relaxed environment The Artisans Bottega has setup various winemaking workshop for small groups to learn more about the wine process, what additives to use in which situations and perform some hands on juice testing and wine tasting. For more information on these sessions and costs involved please search our booking site at www.weteachme.com.au/artisansbottega
- Step 1: Set Up Your Work Area
Clean and sterilize all the equipment that may come into contact with the grapes. This step is vital and could make or break your recipe.
- Step 2: Crush Grapes In An Open Fermenter
- De-stem (remove stalks) from the crushed grapes for the best results. Dissolve the pack “Day 1 No 1” in a glass of water. When dissolved, add to the must (crushed grapes). And mix well. “Day 1 No 1” is potassium metabisulphite, that kills wild yeast, bacteria etc.
- Add “Day 1 No 2”. These enzymes help to improve the juice yield and to separate skins from pulp. After using “Day 1 no 1” you must wait 12 to 24 hours before adding the day 2 packs!
- Take out a sample of the juice and test it with a pH meter. The pH should be 3.4 to 3.6. If the pH is higher than 3.6 then add Tartaric Acid considering the following indications:
- pH 4.0 - 3 gm/lt
- pH 3.8 – 2 gm/lt
- pH 3.6 – ½ gm/lt
(It’s possible that the pH needs to be adjusted again after first fermentation)
- Dissolve tartaric acid in some cold boiled water. When dissolved, add to the must and stir well.
- At this stage, test the juice with a hydrometer. The ideal reading for making good wine should be 12.5° to 13.5°. If the must presents different readings, then grape concentrate, dextrose or water should be added.
Consult our experienced staff for help. The quantity you might have to add will depend on the readings. Do not forget to cover the protect it from dust and insects.
- Step 3: Yeast Addition
Rehydrate the yeast and pour it into the must.
- Step 4: Fermentation
- Dissolve ¼ of the pack “Day 2 no 1” (yeast nutrient) in water, add to the must and mix well.
- Plunge the must from the bottom to the top to help fermentation and aeration of the must.
- Plunging and lifting is a very important part of the fermentation process of red base fruit (grapes, plums, berries)
DAY 4 Onwards
- Dissolve the rest of the pack “Day 2 no 1” (yeast nutrient) in water, add to the must and mix well. This will work as a “yeast booster”.
- By now the must should be fermenting visibly. When the skins rise to the top of the must, push the skins down and mix with the must. If possible, draw must from below the skins with a pump or bucket and dump it in on top of the skins with splashing. The gas produced with fermentation will protect the wine from oxidation.
- Repeat 3-5 times a day. Keep the must covered with a cloth that will still allow the must to “breath”. Once the fermentation starts, test the wine with a hydrometer. Check the colour and smell.
- Step 5: Pressing
- It is time to press when the Baume` is 0-6 and the colour is satisfactory. Typically, this is between days 4 & 7 but it depends on the temperature. Now is the time to add Malolactic Bacteria and nutrient.
- Process for Malolactic Bacteria is best done on fermenting grapes. Prepare these as per instructions on the packets and mix into a little wine. Distribute this evenly through the remainder of the wine. Fill the containers leaving space for bubbling and fit airlock(s).
Malolactic Bacteria must be used only on wines with high malic acid levels. (hot climate grapes don’t always need malolactic fermentation.) Again, contact our staff for help with this process.
Strain off the fermenting wine from the skins. Normally a wine press is used. If you used head boards, the quality of the “free run” and “pressings” will be equal so there is no need to keep them separate. Put the fermenting wine into your barrel, glass demijohns or Stainless-steel tanks, and place it in a warm place.
As the bubbling in the airlocks slows down, top-up the containers as full as possible. Keep the wine warm (20-25°C) and check the wine with a hydrometer every day. Test the wine with a c meter, it should be 3.5 to 3.6. If higher, more tartaric acid can be added. At this stage, add half of the quantity previously suggested.
- Step 6: Completion of Fermentation
Fermentation is complete when all these tests are true:
- No more bubbles come through the airlock
- Hydrometer reading is well below 0 Baume’ (-1.4 to -1.9 be’)
- The wine no longer tastes sweet
You might need to stir the wine weekly to help the fermentation to finish. For best results we recommend testing the wine to prove that the yeast and malolactic fermentation have ended before you proceed with the next step.
- Incomplete fermentation is a common cause of wine spoilage.
When you are certain that the wine has finished fermenting, test the wine with a pH meter: ideally it should be 3.5 – 3.6. If higher, ask us before adding any more tartaric acid. If any tartaric acid is added, allow the wine to cool and settle for 2-4 weeks before proceeding with the next step.
- Step 7: Racking
- Take the wine out of the fermentation container and pour it into the above-mentioned container, over PMS. Be careful to leave all the sediments in the fermentation container.
- Make sure that the container is full of wine (if using a wooden barrel, check every week and top up if necessary). Rack the wine a second time at the end of winter and clean the barrel thoroughly.
Important to note: If the grapes were high quality and the wine already presents beautiful characteristics, it means that the “mother”/the lees are particularly good and healthy and they contribute in making the wine good and healthy too. In this case racking is not necessary until a very late stage, because “the mother” keeps feeding the wine good nutrients. Consult us for any doubt.
- Step 8: Maturing the wine
- For a less “home-made” taste, you need to mature the wine properly. Oak staves/chips will give the wine oak flavour if you are using glass or stainless-steel containers.
- PMS added in step 7 will preserve the wine for a limited time. Ideally, an addition should be made every 3 months until you bottle, when the wine requires a final addition of PMS.
- Contact us for any doubt and to test the Sulphur amount in your wine, to check if the levels are enough for storage and bottling. (This test is lab made and requires 5/7 working days for the results to be sent to you).
- Step 9: Bottling
- Bottle the wine when considered ready to drink. For best results, use red wine finings, then filter before bottling. We recommend that you get the wine analysed before bottling, in order to make sure that there is enough free sulphur dioxide (metabisulphite): the required levels will avoid spoilage and improve wine characteristics as well while maturing.
- Use of insufficient preservative (PMS) is the most common cause of wine deteriorating in the bottle.
- Step 10: Enjoy your wine!