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The Beginners Guide to Winemaking.

Empty Wine bottles

The master vinificators present to you a minimalist's guide to winemaking. Following this method you should be able to produce a gallon of perfectly acceptable homemade wine with the minimum of effort, hassle or cash.

We start at the beginning.

What to make it from.

In short, anything. For ideas and inspirations, you could consult the recipes section. However, since this is the beginner's guide, I would suggest something readily available, eg apples, blackberries or whatever's in season.

Done that? Good. Now you must go out and spend some money.

What to make it with.

Arm yourself with a tenner (this ought to be plenty). You will need...

  • A demijohn.
  • An airlock and a bored bung.
  • Siphon tube.
  • 6 Corks. (Plastic ones are far less hassle and recommended.)
  • Some wine yeast.

Also make sure you have the following available. This may or may not entail more shopping.

  • A bucket or similar.
  • A sieve.
  • A couple of packets of sugar.
  • Six empty wine bottles.

It is highly advisable (although perhaps not essential) to go and buy the following.

  • Cleaning and sterilising compound
  • Yeast nutrient.
  • Wine finings.
  • Campden tablets.

This is an appropriate place to put a link to the equipment section.

When you are suitably armed, and you have secured the use of the kitchen for the next hour you are ready to proceed.

Before you continue however, a word must be said about sterilising.


The official story has it that all wine making must be as sterile as an operating theater. Our story is that your equipment should be at least reasonably clean.

Certainly if your stuff is covered in soil or crud, it should be given a thorough scrubbing, and the demi-john in particular should be properly clean and preferably sterilised with boiling water as a minimum, but don't get too neurotic. I've only once got food poisoning from homebrew and it was pretty mild, and the wine was easily fixed by boiling it and turning it into mulled wine.

So, in summary, keep things fairly clean, and a bit of sterilising fluid in tactical places is generally a good idea.

Now, back to business.

Stage 1

  1. Check that you have everything.
  2. Bung the ingredient(s) into the bucket. Some mashing/chopping may be required.
  3. Pour water into the bucket.
  4. Stir for a bit.
  5. Bung in a pack of sugar. ie 1 kilo.
  6. Stir some more.
  7. Add a teaspoon of yeast and yeast nutrient (if you elected to buy some).
  8. Cover the bucket with something (eg a tea towel), and leave to stew for a couple of days.

Stage 2

  1. Sieve the mixture. Dispose of the gunk in any way you see fit. Pour the liquid into the demijohn.
  2. Add water to the demijohn until it is pretty full.
  3. Add bung and airlock.(You did remember to put some water in the airlock didn't you?) Leave for around six weeks.
  4. Use every means at your disposal to stop yourself drinking the wine during this period.

Stage 3

  1. Hopefully by now the wine will have completed fermenting and the airlock will have stopped making that annoying blop noise. If you invested in some campden tablets now is the time to crush and add one.
  2. Next day you can add some wine stopper if you bought some.
  3. Next day siphon the wine off the gunk into something else. eg the bucket. Stir in some wine finings then return it to the demijohn, (you did remember to get rid of the gunk didn't you?). This is called "racking".
  4. Put the airlock back in and leave the demijohn in a cool dark place for a week or so. Large amounts of willpower will prevent the wine getting drunk during this period.
  5. The wine should now be looking fairly clear. Rack the wine once more.
  6. If the wine still looks murky, bung in some more finings and leave. Rack after another week. Keep this up until you can't bear it any more.
  7. All that remains now is to pour/siphon the wine into bottles, cork and label. If you elected to buy cork corks, you may have difficulty - an additional fiver will get you a gadget to make this task easier (ie possible).
  8. Store the bottles in a cool dark place. Plastic corked bottles must be left upright. Cork corked bottles should be laid on their sides.
  9. Leave the wine to mature for as long as you can manage. Typical maturing times for the the first brew range between 5 seconds and 2 weeks.
  10. Drink and enjoy.

If you found that easy enough, read the more detailed Standard Method. If you hated it, go visit an off license.

See also : Method
  : Philosophy
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