Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Making wine - A rough guide ... ...

I figured I'd write a post about making wine, seems a lot of people are thinking about having a go at it, I say why not :-)

It's not really that difficult to make a halfway drinkable wine, I've managed to do it twice so far, although I did follow a recipe the first time, well I more or less followed it ;-)

 Here's a picture of the plum wine we made last year (still in demijohns)

Not much of it left now ;-)
So on to making wine, you will need some equipment, a tub for starting things of,demijohns for fermenting and empty bottles to put it in once it's done, but you don't have to get everything in one go, you could get to the demijohn stage and then get the empty bottles as it'll take a few months for fermentation to slow down and stop.

Charity shops and free cycling are good places to find equipment, we got pretty much all our equipment from free cycle and charity shops, maybe you have a relative that used to make wine, they may have some spare or unused demijohns and other stuff, although you don't actually need them, you can used large plastic bottles, the 5 litre kind that you get water in, it's easy to fit an airlock to a bottle like this.
You will need airlocks, these help the gas escape during fermentation, they are cheap enough to buy, or you can find them in charity shops and such like, and it's also possible to make them using a piece of tube.

Here's a list of the basic stuff you'll need, it's what we use to make wine. 

Steriliser,this is very important, some people don't use it, but I wouldn't try it, it's best to have everything nice and clean to prevent build up of unwanted bacteria, a tub of steriliser is about £4 (you want vwp steriliser) this will last a while, we also use it to clean out our jars when we make jams.

Large plastic tub for starting things off, these can be bought for about £10 or you could use any large tub, even an old 10 litre paint tub will do, even more so as you can seal it, obviously it will need to be clean and paint free.

Demijohns, these can also be bought for about £10 each, which is a little expensive, so look in charity shops. Or you could use a large water bottle, but you'll need to make a hole to fit an airlock and rubber bung, this is easy enough to do.

Airlocks, these are cheap enough, you can usually get a pack of 2 complete with rubber bungs for as little as £2.50, but again you might find some in charity shops.

One of our airlocks -

This one is my favourite :-)

This airlock is an old one, it's made of glass, sounds great as the bubbles go through it, most are plastic these days, like the ones in the picture below.

Plastic airlocks -

I prefer the ones on the left, they sound better ;-)

Some other things you might want to get are a straining bag, or you can use muslin, a funnel makes bottling up loads easier and a long bottle brush, you can also buy these from good wine making shops, or you could buy a cheap pack of brushes from somewhere like poundland and attach one to a bit of garden cane, it's what I did to get the tough stuff from the bottom of the demijohns, you can also use a little dry rice in some warm water, just shake it about for a while, it works quite well.

Here's a picture of our blackberry wine, along with the brewing tub we use -

Oddly enough there isn't much blackberry wine left either ;-)


Here's a link to the local shop we use, the bloke that runs it is very helpful, you can also order online ---> Good life home brew (opens in new window) you should be able to find everything you need for making wine,beer and other stuff, they also sell some good wine making yeasts, it will also give you an idea of where to start with it all.

Okay I thought I'd leave you with a recipe for making plum or blackberry wine, although it's easy enough to adapt for them for making different wines, like elderberry for example.

Black berry & Plum wine (which are rather good, even if I do say so myself)

You will need about 2kg of blackberries or plums, which you can pick from your local hedgerows (it's what we did)

2kg of sugar (normal granulated is fine) Obviously the more sugar the sweeter the wine, but 2kg is a good starting point, you can always add more buy boiling some water and adding the extra sugar, but make sure it's cooled right down before adding it to the wine, or you'll kill the yeast.

Boiled water, about 4.5litres (roughly a gallon, enough for a demijohn)

And a good yeast, which you can get from shops like the one I mentioned, they do some good ones for about £1 a packet, enough for a batch of wine, or you can get larger packets of wine yeast.

I'm not going to go into working out the gravity and all the rest of it, but there are many guides online on how to work this out, but this will require a hydrometer, or you could buy a vinometer (about £3) which will give you a rough idea of alcohol content, once it's bottled up.

To start the wine of, make sure your tub is clean, use some steriliser and leave it for a few hours or over night (same for bottles and demijohns) when you want to use them make sure you rinse them well.

Fill your clean tub with the boiled water, then add the sugar and blackberries or plums, use a potato masher or big wooden spoon to mix it all up, try and break the fruit up as you go.

Leave the mixture to cool, make sure it's cooled down before adding the yeast or you'll kill it and it won't ferment.

Once you've added the yeast give it a stir, cover the tub and leave it some where warm for about 5 to 7 days, give  it a stir now and then, you should start to notice when it starts fermenting.

After 5 to 7 days you need to strain the wine through a bag of muslin and pour the liquid into your demijohn, then put an airlock on, you need to put a little water in the airlock, this stops anything getting into the wine, I normally use a little bit of the steriliser water in my airlocks.

The wine will be ready for bottling when no more bubbles go through the airlock, this can take a few months, once the bubbles stop this means fermentation has stopped, the sugar and yeast have turned into alcohol, and you can now bottle it up, you can use screw top bottles, we got a load of glass bottles and corks with our freecycled stuff, it's worth doing it this way.

To get the wine out of the demijohns use a length of plastic pipe (you can get this from wine making shops as well) and siphon the wine into your bottles, you can also buy filters that will help make the wine clearer.

Guess what ? we got a filter as well -

Even came with filter papers :-)

Leave your wine for a week or 2 before drinking, it will however get better the longer you leave it, we noticed a distinct difference between our wine from the bottles we drunk after a few weeks and the ones we drunk after a few months, so again it's worth leaving it that little extra.

The above recipe is how I made both wines, plum and blackberry (both made from foraged fruit) this method would work for elderberries and other fruits, we have a batch of elderflower wine on the go, but that requires a slightly different method.

You don't have to forage for fruits either, although buying a few kilos of blackberries will be quite expensive, but things like plums might be cheaper, we ended up with about 13 bottles (8 blackberry & 5 plum) of wine for Christmas last year, and each bottle cost about 50p not bad and we still have our eye sight ;-)

It's worth looking online for guides on making wine, there's a wealth of information and it's easy to do,saves money and the end results are pretty good, it's not just wine either, you can make your own cider and beers to.

Thanks for reading and happy brewing :-)


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