The pleasure of wine is doubled when you make it yourself for a few cents a bottle, using your own fruits and without unnecessary additives.
Home winemaking is an excellent way to preserve any type of excess fruit, from apples to strawberries, and you also can make wine from herbs such as sage and parsley. I have even heard of tomato wine!
With a little imagination, whatever fruit you have too much of can be made into some kind of wine.
Some fruit wines are easier to make than others. Grapes are the simplest fruit to ferment because grapes give off their juice willingly, tend to ferment quickly, and the waste, called lees, readily separates from the wine.
Dark-colored berries like blackberries and black raspberries make great wine, too, whether you use them alone or combine them with other fruits like apples or pears. In home winemaking, you always have the choice between fermenting fruits by themselves or in combinations chosen to enhance flavor, color, and aroma.
For example, I can make a batch from all apples to yield a light white wine or add a pound of frozen blackberries to the fermenting apples to make a berry pink rosé with a blackberry aroma. Or I can make the two batches separately and blend them later on when the wine is within a few weeks of being ready to bottle.
Fruits and fruit juices for winemaking can be held in the freezer, and freezing and thawing have a tenderizing effect on apples, pears, and other low-juice fruits. Another option is to can fruits or fruit juices in a water bath or steam canner for later use in wine
The importance of sugar
The alcohol content of wine or cider is determined by how much sugar is available for the yeast to convert to alcohol. For the finished wine to be stable in the bottle, it should have an alcohol level between 8 and 12 percent.
Winemakers use a simple instrument called a hydrometer to test the sugar content (as reflected in specific gravity) of a newly composed batch of wine, but that measurement becomes approximate when you top off with water or add additional sugar-laden juice.
Old-time winemakers routinely added additional juice or sugar to raise the alcohol content of their country wines, which were valued more for their headiness than their flavor.
The fruit wine recipe we listed in this article, which uses 2 pounds of sugar per gallon of wine, will generally yield a wine with an alcohol level of around 10 percent.
Very sweet fruits like wine grapes do not need this much sugar, but apples or pears may need a little more. Some winemakers prefer corn sugar for winemaking, but any type of sugar — including honey — can be used to make wine.
Making fruit wine without additives
If you were to buy a wine-making kit, it would come with these or similar additives, which shorten the time you must wait to bottle the wine. Over the years, wine-making kits have changed to include fewer sulfites but more clarifying agents.
A natural winemaker lets time take care of yeasts and clarity, but the choice is yours.
Bentonite is a fine volcanic clay that pulls particles from the wine, helping them accumulate at the bottom of the fermenter. This clarifying agent is used mostly with white wines.
Kieselsol and/or chitosan are gel-like clarifying agents made from sea creatures used to remove haze from wines.
Pectic enzyme may come with a fruit wine kit, and even natural home winemakers use this enzyme, usually in liquid form, to help fruits break down and release their sugars.
Potassium metabisulfite is a sulfite used to sanitize equipment, and in the past, it was used to stabilize the wine. It is sold as a powder or as Campden tablets.
Potassium sorbate is the sulfite used to stabilize wine, which means killing yeasts so they cannot process the remaining sugars. Sweet wines depend on the use of this sulfite, but dry wines can be allowed to become still on their own.
Best fruits for making wine at home
Apples – Make a light white wine, a good base wine for blending; best when aged at least two years.
Blackberries – Make a bold red wine, best when aged two years, or combine blackberries with apples or pears.
Blueberries – Make a light rosé that is ready to drink young at only a year.
Cherries – Delicious jewel-tone cherry wine is great for holidays and special occasions, best when aged two years.
Grapes – Fast, clean fermentation makes grapes the top fruit for winemaking. It can be blended with other fruit wines.
Peaches – Messy to make, but peach wine delivers a great aroma in a full-bodied white wine.
Pears – Pear wine can taste flat on its own but is much improved with the addition of raspberries.
Plums – Plum wine made from chopped fruits has excellent character and color. Plum wine matures young and is ready to drink after one year.
Rhubarb – Rhubarb wine is easy to make, but the wait is long for fully developed wine, up to 4 years.
Strawberry – A sweetheart of a wine, strawberry wine has a long fermentation period, so don’t rush to bottle it. Strawberry wine is best when aged for at least one year.
Raspberries – Use raspberries on their own, or combine them with other fruits to improve the color and aroma of wines.
Step by step guide for making fruit wine
Recipes for making fruit wine, sometimes called country wines, vary only slightly from one to another. That being said, you have tremendous flexibility in the fruits and fruit juices you use.
The following measurements are recommended for a 1-gallon batch.
You will need:
- 3 quarts water, boiled
- 6 drops liquid pectic enzyme
- 4–6 pounds fresh fruit, cut into small pieces
- 2 pounds sugar
- Juice from 1 lemon
- 1 packet wine yeast
Optional – 1 can of frozen white grape juice concentrate
How to make fruit wine
1. Start by placing the fruit in a fermentation bag inside a sanitized primary fermenter. Mix the sugar with 2 quarts of hot water and carefully pour it over the fruit. Add the lemon juice, pectic enzyme, grape juice concentrate (if you decide to use it), and additional boiled, cooled water to bring the water level up to 1½ gallons.
When the temperature cools to 72°F, test the specific gravity or taste the liquid. As a general rule, it should taste quite sweet, similar in sweetness to a light syrup.
Add the yeast and cover the primary fermenter and make sure you provide a means for gases to escape (using an airlock is recommended).
2. Every 5 to 6 days, you should stir the fruit in the fermentation bag. Turn it in various ways so that a different side of fruits floats to the top. Do not use your hands and use some sterile utensils. The liquid will become cloudy and slightly effervescent. Use a spoon and taste the liquid, and you should notice a drop in sugar level by the fifth day.
3. After about a week, when the fruit in the fermentation bag has become a gooey mess, lift it from the container and let the juice drip back into the wine. Take your time with this operation and avoid squeezing the bag. Let the wine rest for a few days. Do not throw away the fermented fruit and use it in your compost pile.
4. Without wiggling the container, siphon the clear part of the juice into a clean glass bottle and fit it with an airlock. Make sure to leave about 4 inches of space between the bottom of the airlock and the top of the liquid. In case needed, add boiled, cooled water to bring the liquid to this level. Install the airlock.
5. The bottled wine should be placed in a dark room at a temperature ranging between 60 and 70°F. You can cover the bottle with a towel to protect the wine from light. Light will change the color of your fruit wine, so this step becomes mandatory to preserve the color.
6. After about a month, you can siphon the fruit wine again into a clean bottle. This operation is called racking. Move your fruit wine to a cool place, and check the airlock monthly to make sure it’s clean and functions properly. After three months, you can rack it again.
7. Some people avoid using sulfites to kill any live yeasts remaining in the wine. If you decide to do the same, then you must wait for the wine to consume the sugar (also known as becoming “dry”) before bottling it. The wait time for the fruit wine to become dry takes about six months. In the last month, move the fruit wine bottle to normal room temperature, just in case higher temps stimulate activity by surviving yeast.
8. Your fruit wine is finished, and it can be bottled when no air can be seen escaping through the airlock for several days. Also, no bubbles should be present around the top edge of the wine. If you are doubtful that your fruit wine is ready, just wait some more time. If you bottle the wine before it becomes still, it will pop the cork, and it will make a mess in your pantry or cellar.
9. In general, I recommend you allow the bottled fruit wine to age for at least a year before tasting it. Many folks will taste their fruit wine during the bottling time and feel it too rough to be enjoyable. However, this “rough” wine will mature perfectly if you give it the proper time. We let our fruit wine mature for two years, and we obtain amazing wine from our organically grown fruits.
Making fruit wine is not a complicated endeavor as long as you follow a few simple rules and you keep strict hygiene. If you are growing fruits on your homestead, you should definitely give fruit wine a try, and you won’t regret it. This article will provide you with all the basic info and the step-by-step guide to make your fruit wine, so all you need is the will to try it.
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