How to Make Your First Gallon of Wine part 1
This is the first part of a walkthrough that will help you to make your first batch of wine using supermarket juice. 1 gallon is 6 bottles of wine.
This post is clearly aimed at those over the legal age of consumption. Please check the legalities of making wine where you live. Here in the UK, it’s pretty much fine to make and drink for ‘domestic’ purposes, but selling it can get you into serious hot water.
This is pretty much where I began with my ‘all things, all homemade’ mentality. Let’s face it, wine is pretty expensive stuff and the range of flavours is pretty limited. I needed a hobby to get me away from the various screens I find myself looking at every evening. I wanted something I could make and share with friends and I’m bordering on being an alcoholic.
Having read various books, blogs, websites and forums I eventually began making wine from kits. I soon moved into using fresh fruit and vegetables and all manner of other methods. I then found this very popular method being discussed on the various brewing forums and gave it a go.
The concept is popularly known as ‘Wurzel’s Orange Wine’, or WOW, but that’s really a specific recipe. Using supermarket juice to make wine goes back much further than advent of the internet but the term WOW helpfully conveys how easy this is to do. These days, probably around half of the wine I make still uses this method. Read through to the end; there are some customisation options you may want to consider before you start.
This seems as good a place to start as anywhere. It’ll take a small amount of effort and cost to get this together. This can be anywhere from £5 – £20 depending on the choices you make. All of this is a one-off cost and the equipment is reusable. It’s available on the net but I would urge you to seek out your local homebrew shop. These tend to be around 10% more expensive but you’ll be supporting local business, have access to advice and you can crack on with the making much quicker.
- 1 gallon / 4.5L Demijohn. This is where the action will take place. If cost is an issue it’s possible to use a 5L bottle of drinking water but I find the grooves can discourage clearing the wine (which will be covered in a later post). Ideally you will want at least 2 of these. It’s always helpful to have an empty one handy at the later stages.
- Bung and bubbler (fermentation trap). These are often sold together. They keep nasty things away from your precious wine while stopping things from exploding.
- A good size funnel. You could do away with this if you have a steady hand and don’t mind a little mess.
Other useful bits:
- Siphon tube with sediment trap. This will be used later.
- Hydrometer and trial glass. This measures potential alcohol. The difference between the readings at the beginning and end of the process determine the final strength. Not really needed for this method as I’ll explain exactly how to get the alcohol level you want.
- Demijohn cleaning brush. Cleanliness is essential. You’ll need one.
- 3 litres of supermarket fruit juice of your choice. This needs to be just juice. Not ‘juice-drink’. Or ‘nectar’. It doesn’t matter if it’s ‘from concentrate’. This can be three of one kind of juice, or you could make up your own blend. Avoid using very pulpy juices like banana or mango. They give off a lot of sediment and extend the brewing by months. Also, just white or red grape juices tend to be poor candidates. They just don’t have the oomph to compare with commercial wines. That said, I am currently experimenting with a merlot grape juice from one of the posher supermarkets. This time, I’m using Rubicon Watermelon juice.
- One of the following:
- 1 Litre Red Grape Juice (often abbreviated to RGJ)
- 1 Litre White Grape Juice (often abbreviated to WGJ and currently hard to find)
- 220g (one bottle) of Red Grape Concentrate
- 220g (one bottle) of White Grape Concentrate
- White granulated sugar: We’ll work out how much in a minute*
- Either one sachet of your chosen wine yeast, or 1 teaspoon of general purpose wine yeast. (Beer or baking yeast will not be sufficient).
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient.
There are a few extras you can add to improve deficiencies in the wine. I’ll describe these at the end of the post.
*How much sugar? First we need to decide how much sugar we want, and subtract how much sugar we already have. This is pretty easy to do. Simply look at the nutritional information on your juice cartons. Check the carbohydrates section and take the number ‘of which sugars’.
On my watermelon wine, this is given as 9.9g per 100ml. So 99g per carton. WGC is about 65% sugar. So the 220g bottle adds 143g. In total, I have 99×3 + 143 = 440g of sugar in total. I want my wine just under 12%, so I added 600g of sugar.
Taken from First Steps in Winemaking by C.J.J. Berry
Hygiene and cleanliness.
Fermenting is often described as ‘Any large-scale microbial process occurring with or without air’. We want the right kind of microbial process. All food preparation needs to be hygienic, but when that food will be stored for an extended period of time in a great environment for microbial nasties, we have to up our game. All equipment must be thoroughly cleaned and then sterilised. There are various methods to achieve this but it’s safest to use a propriety method. A product called VWP is common and can be fetched from your homebrew shop. Milton fluid can also be used. Please ensure that the equipment is very thoroughly rinsed after using these though. ‘No rinse sanitisers’ are also available if you search for them.
- Put the kettle on.
- Put the sugar in a jug. Add boiling water and stir until you have a smooth syrup and all the sugar is dissolved.
- If you are using grape concentrate, empty all 3 cartons of juice into the demijohn using your funnel.
- If you are using grape juice, empty that and 2 of the 3 cartons of fruit juice into the demijohn using your funnel. The final carton of juice will be used in the future.
- Pour in the sugar syrup you have made followed by the grape concentrate (if using).
- Add the yeast and nutrients to the top of the ‘must’ (that’s the concoction you’ve just made).
- Give the demijohn a gentle shake to mix the contents.
- Fill the water trap on the airlock by around 1/3 and add the top part. This top part is different depending on what type of airlock you’re using. Fit this to the top of your demijohn.
- Place the demijohn in a warmish place, preferably in the dark. You’re aiming for around 22°C / 72°F. If, for some reason, the volume of liquid is any more than that shown above, stand the demijohn in a steady bowl or lipped tray. The level of the liquid will rise quite a bit at the beginning of fermentation.
That’s it for now. When you wake up tomorrow, you’ll have some very weak wine. I’ll post the next steps soon. To hurry up a bit, it will probably be with a different wine.
Before you go, here are some options that may improve the outcome.
- When making up the sugar solution, add two ordinary tea bags before adding the hot water. These will contribute tannins to the finished wine and improve both the flavour and the feel.
- For fruit juices that are low in acid consider adding 1tsp of citric acid (available at the homebrew shop).
- For juice wines it’s worth adding 1tsp glycerine/glycerol. This is a natural product available from most big chemists. This kind of wine can feel a bit ‘thin’ when drunk and this addition improves the ‘mouth feel’.
Leave a message if you have any questions or extra tips to offer.
All the best