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    Still Grape Wine Basics

    This guide will take you through the basics of making 1 gallon of wine.

    Download the PDF Version


    • 2 Gallon Plastic Primary Fermenter
    • 1 Gallon Glass Secondary Fermenter
    • Airlock with Stopper
    • Hydrometer with Test Jar
    • Wine Thief/Turkey Baster

    • Spoon
    • Siphon/Racking Cane with Tubing
    • Sanitizer/Cleaner
      • B-Brite/One Step – Cleaner
      • Starsan/Iodophor – Sanitizer
    • Bottles and Caps/Corks
    • Bottling Wand


    • Fruit base 7-9lbs of Grapes
      (consult the recipe example below)
    • Cane Sugar or Dextrose (corn sugar)
    • Yeast Nutrient
    • 1 Gallon of Good clean spring water
    • Wine Tannin*
    • Acid Blend
    • Pectin Enzyme*

    • Yeast
      A good general purpose yeast is recommended
    • 71B-1122, K1V-1116 – Best for fruit wines
    • D-47, EC-1118 – White wine yeast and champagne yeast are also good to use
    • Campden Tablets (Potassium Metabisulfite)
    • Potassium Sorbate (Needed if back sweetening)*

    * Optional Products

    Cleaning, Sanitation and Fruit Preparation

    Prepping the Grapes for Fermentation

    The amount of grapes will vary to yield 1 gallon of juice we recommend 7-9lbs of fruit for a 1 gallon recipe, the more fruit used the stronger the flavor and the less water and sugar will be needed.

    Using the grapes you have grown in your yard one way to make wine. New England has many native and wild grapes to choose from. Some of the most common grape family found in the area are Vitis labrusca or fox grape. Catawba, Concord, Delaware, Isabella, Niagara, and many hybrid grape varieties such as Agawam, Alexander and Onaka are part of the fox grape family. The term fox grape comes from the “foxy” musk of the grape, which is an earthy, sweet, muskiness that smells like fresh grape juice. Labrusca sweetens nicely which helps to mask the foxiness. If you prefer a dry wine, do not recommend use grapes of the Labrusca family. If you are looking to use other varieties of grape it is best to contact local suppliers for the seasonal grapes.

    Once you have the grapes it is best to de-stem and discard any imperfect grapes before crushing, this will help avoid imparting vegetal character to the wine during fermentation. There is debate on washing or not washing grapes, we will leave that option up to you. Either way you will produce a fine wine.

    Prepping the Equipment for Primary Fermentation

    Anytime you are fermenting sanitation should be the most important step in the process. We are trying to grow good yeast and keep the wild yeasts out. Ensure that anything that comes in contact with your juice is sanitized. Taking care of these steps first will help you produce fantastic ciders. Always remember that you cannot sanitize what is not clean. Avoid abrasive scrubbers on the bucket or any chlorine cleaners these can damage the plastic or impart off flavors later on.

    Clean and Sanitize – Follow instructions on cleaner and sanitizer for correct dosing rates.

    • 2 Gallon Primary Fermenter
    • Airlock
    • Spoon

    Primary Fermentation

    Equipment/Ingredients Needed for Primary

    In this example recipe we will be making a red labrusca wine however almost any grapes can be substituted

    • 2 Gallon Plastic Primary Fermenter
    • Hydrometer with Test Jar
    • Thermometer
    • Straining bag
    • Wine Thief/ Turkey Baster
    • Spoon
    • Cloth to cover primary fermentation bucket
    • 7-9lbs of red labrusca grapes
    • Yeast Nutrient
    • 1 Gallon of Good clean spring water
    • Pectin Enzyme
    • Campden Tablets (Potassium Metabisulfite)

    Example Recipe

    7-9lbs of grapes

    2 Pounds White Granulated Sugar or enough until 1.090-1.095 specific gravity is reached.

    Spring Water (Enough to top off to 1 gallon)

    1 tsp Yeast Nutrient

    ½ tsp Pectic Enzyme Powder

    1 Campden tablet

    Wine Yeast 71B-1122

    1. Place sanitized straining bag into sanitized fermenter.
    2. Place the grapes into the straining bag and tie off.
    3. Crush the grapes in the straining bag ensuring that the grapes are sufficiently broken apart.
    4. Add enough water to bring up to 1 gallon if needed.

    NOTE: At this point taking a gravity reading is important. Ensure the specific gravity of the must is 1.090-1.095. If the sugars are still too low add additional sugar and stir until fully dissolved. Make note of the Specific gravity.

    1. Remove the straining bag and set it aside in a sanitized bowl. This will make combining ingredients easier.
    2. Add the following: Pectic Enzyme, Yeast Nutrient, **Crush Campden Tablet and mix with a small amount of warm water to dissolve add mixture to primary fermenter and stir to combine.
    3. Return straining bag to primary fermenter along with any juices.
    4. Cover primary fermenter with cloth (to keep the fruit flies and dust out) wait 24 hours before continuing.
    5. After 24 hours, uncover the fermenter squeeze the straining bag and stir the must. sprinkle the yeast packet into the must.
    6. Place the cloth back on the bucket.

    NOTE: “Flipping the cap” is the process of squeezing and rotating the grape skins in the straining bag. This will ensure that the must is degassing, the yeast are getting oxygen and grape skins don’t start to rot. Flipping the cap should be done at least 1-2 times per day. The smell of sulfur and the foaming are normal during this process.

    1. Keep the fermenter in a cool dry location the fermentation temperature should be 68°-74°.
    2. Primary fermentation should take 4-7days or until your specific gravity is 1.040.

    Secondary Fermentation

    Equipment Needed for Secondary Fermentation

    1 week after primary fermentation we can move to secondary. This step will help the wine clarify while also getting it off of the dead yeast and sediment. Fermentation will continue during secondary, it is important that you start to reduce the head space in the fermenter, over exposure to oxygen will lead to spoilage.

    • 1 Gallon Glass Secondary
    • Airlock with Stopper
    • Hydrometer with Test Jar
    • Siphon/Racking Cane with Tubing
    • Sanitizer/Cleaner

    Cleaning and sanitizing is still very important in these later steps, when in doubt sanitize!
    The next steps are referred to as “racking” this is the process of moving the wine out of one fermenter and into another. This can be repeated multiple times over the course of fermentation and post fermentation to aid in clarification.

    Starting the Siphon for Racking Cane Users: Connect the tubing to your racking cane, the tubing should connect to the shorter curved end of the racking cane. Fill your racking cane and tubing with clean water or Sanitizer (if you are using StarSan). Place thumb over one end end of the tubing and place the racking cane in the wine. Ensure the exit of the tubing is below the wine, when you release your thumb a siphon is created, run out the sanitizer and put your thumb back over the exit. Now move the tubing to the secondary fermenter and begin filling from the bottom up. Avoid splashing if possible.

    1. Uncover the fermenter and remove the fruit strainer bag squeeze and let it drip dry over the fermenter before setting aside.
    2. Once the fruit bag is removed, raise the primary fermenter so it sits above the secondary, this will allow the siphon to transfer the wine from the primary fermenter to the secondary using gravity.
    3. Place your racking cane or siphon in the wine, start the siphon and transfer the wine from the primary to the secondary fermenter. Try to keep splashing to a minimum, and rest the tubing on the bottom of the secondary fermenter.

    NOTE: Avoid allowing the racking cane/siphon from touching the bottom of the primary as this will stir up the sediment on the bottom.

    1. As the primary fermenter empties you will need to tilt it a bit to get the remaining wine. Do this carefully to not disturb the sediment. If you get some sediment in the secondary it is okay however it might take a few extra racks to clear completely.
    2. Seal up the fermenter and let the wine continue to ferment for another week check the specific gravity should be below 1.000.
    3. If the wine is below 1.000 you can move on to bench trials and doing flavor correction. If the wine is still cloudy you can rack again and let it continue to age until its clear.
    4. If the wine is clear and you like the flavors you can move on to bottling.

    Bench Trials

    Bench trials are used to adjust flavor profiles in a finished wine. An in-depth explanation on bench trials will not be explained here. The following can be used when experimenting with flavors in wines. Once you have achieved a flavor profile you like you may bottle or age the wine.

    • Wine Tannin – Used to add a pleasant dry flavor to the wine.
    • Acid Blend – This is a blend of Malic, Tartaric, and Citric acid. Used at the start of fermentation, but can be used later for corrections. If the acid levels are too low then a wine can taste flabby and bland.
    • Back Sweetening – The method of adding sugars after fermentation. This can only be done if potassium sorbate has been added to the wine. To stabilize wine use ½ tsp Potassium Sorbate and 1 Campden tablet per gallon of must.

    Bottling the Wine

    Equipment Needed for Bottling

    Note on Stabilizing Wine: Stabilizing wine is optional, if you are looking to age wines for a long period of time it is highly recommended you stabilize wine for the best results. See back sweetening on how to stabilize wine.

    • Siphon/Racking Cane with Tubing
    • Sanitizer/Cleaner
    • Bottles and Caps/Corks
    • Bottling Wand
    1. Clean and sanitize all bottles and equipment. Corks should be soaked in sanitizer for 15mins before use.
    2. Securely fit the bottling wand on the tubing and connect the other end of tubing to the racking cane.
    3. Start a siphon just like you did in the racking process.
    4. Fill each bottle by depressing the bottling wand against the bottom of the bottle. Fill all the way to the top of the bottle opening. The bottling wand is spring loaded and will seal when not pressed, when the bottling wand is removed it will displace the correct volume of liquid.
    5. Cork or cap each bottle and set aside.

    Note About Bottle Shock: Bottle shock is a temporary condition where flavors are muted or disjointed. Some wines are able to be consumed after a few days. Most wines benefit from bottle conditioning, this gives the wine time to mellow any harsh flavors and have the flavors meld together. It is recommended that most wines be aged for another month or longer.