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Sep 14, 2010 10:43 AM

Tips on home winemaking [moved from Boston board]

NOTE: We've moved this discussion from the thread at -- The Chowhound Team

itaunas - thanks so much for the info. I built a decent crusher so I should be in good shape. I'll just be doing the destemming by hand which shouldn't be too bad!

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  1. Good news. The destemming is going to be work: if you want 5 gallons of wine, you probably want to start with 3 lugs (a bit extra) and wine grapes clusters should be a much tighter than what you buy in the supermarket . That said if you do it before crushing (with chicken wire or some grate), you'll potentially do a lot better than most consumer crusher/destemmers, but its probably easier to have the grate after crushing which isn't ideal (particularly you get whatever yeast/bacteria there is on the stems in greater concentration in the juice, plus you are getting more of the stem flavor in your wine). I am making this too complicated for your first batch, but you'll have to experiment and see how it goes. Buy your yeast, SO2, tartaric acid, acid kit, and any other additives before hand. When you get the grapes they are cold and will need to warm up before you pitch the yeast, but you can crush and sufilte, do your brix and acid measurements.

    5 Replies
    1. re: itaunas

      Great information. One question... After I add the campden tablets, do I wait at least 12 hours before pitching the yeast (like I have in some of the country wines that I have made)?


      1. re: eatanddestroy

        The sulfite you will generally add at crushing and then again after secondary fermentation. You want it to inhibit native yeasts, oxidation, right away. By the time your grapes warm up, you get your additions in (which you need to double-check), and the important step of building up a yeast culture before pitching it you are talking 24-48 hours which probably helps the yeast a bit. But you want to hydrate the yeast, then add a small amount of must to get it used to the temperature and acidity of the must, when that is bubbling scatter it on your must (some people mix it in, but I like waiting overnight before doing that).

        1. re: itaunas

          Thanks again for the tips. I'm probably going to pick up 6 lugs next week and make about 10 gallons.

          I'm looking forward to this! I have a ph meter and a TA testing kit, so I should be set. I know that since it's my first time, it won't go smoothly, but that will be part of the fun.

          1. re: eatanddestroy

            You are starting out ahead of many people, even those who have used wine kits first. Be prepared for extra juice after you press: I have gotten 10 gallons from 5 lugs easily (with enzymes which I am not certain are worth the expense) but have also cut it close too. If you have 6/6.5 gallon carboys in addition to the 5, or as needed add an extra 3 gallon and 1 gallon jug for the hard press juice that will help -- these can be bought for a reasonable price. When you press, you want to rack after 24-48 hours (if its still fermenting at press time, you can go back to a tub/bucket before carboys) to get rid of the muck and then hold off racking again until malolactic fermentation is complete (the yeast will fall out as fermentation stops, but that provides nutrients for the secondary fermentation and is desirable depending on wine style so you may want to stir them occasionally for up to 4-6 months when you should rack completely, can consider fining). Don't sweat the topping wine too much, you can add commercial wine if you run out.

            The one thing to emphasize is to wait and test again after any additions (water + acid, sugar) as wine chemistry is somewhat complex and many effects won't be linear. If you are in decent ranges save the tweaking for when you have more experience, but if the pH is off or the juice is too sweet you need to fix it before fermenting to avoid other problems later.

            1. re: itaunas

              oooh, I didn't know about additional rack soon after the pressing. I'm pretty confident that I'll do pretty well for my first time. I've been brewing beer for about 20 years now and, last year, I started making country wines along with the two pails of the California juice that I picked up in Everett so I got some practice on testing the TA/PH/Brix, along with topping up, adding oak, etc.

              Thanks again for all the information!

    2. Buy a good basic book. I recommend either "Home Winemaking Step By Step" by Jon Iverson, or Techniques in Home Winemaking by Daniel Pambianchi. There are also decent monographs on


      1. First crush yesterday, 200 lbs of grenache from the Lodi (CA) area. The grapes were in great condition, uniformly ripe with no shattering and just a few raisins. They came in at 23.1 brix, 0.5 TA and 3.5 pH. I prefer lower brix levels, so this is just about perfect, though the TA might need a boost.

        My supplier says none of the other red varietals will be in before the end of September. This is a very late season.

        1 Reply
        1. re: ernie in berkeley

          "This is a very late season."

          One of the mildest summers the San Joaquin Valley has had in many decades. If this keeps up we won't be able to afford to live here. ; >P


          Dave in Fresno