Home winemaking can be a very satisfying hobby (as if getting drunk wasn't enough!) but nothing can compare to the satisfaction of sitting back in the garden with friends sipping a glass of wine that only a few weeks ago was grape juice. Here is my rough guide to how best to make wine in the home, how much you can expect to pay for the supplies, and some of the places to buy them.
The basic brewing and winemaking process can be split into a few separate stages:
First, the ingredients must be placed in a vessel, along with sugar and water. Wine can be made out of almost anything, provided it has some flavour and enough sugar for the yeast to convert into alcohol. You can buy good wine kits that include the juice, yeast and stabaliser (see later) which just needs sugar adding.
Ensure that all your equipment is clean!! Batches can go bad ((sometimes even when they are clean!) and I find the best way to do this is just to place all your equipment in a bowl of water and add some sterilising tablets. The kind used for baby bottles is fine - not anything strong like bleach or with a taster. Rinse thoroughly! don't forget that yeast is a bacteria. Using equipment will kill bacteria, and will also kill your yest to prevent fermentation if not thoroughly rinsed. Rinse well.
Place your juice into a vessel (a gallon demi-john like the kind you can usually buy from stores like Superdrug will do fine). You can actually use any vessel, provided you can have some kind of airlock system for letting out gas. You can buy all these supplies online too from places like shop4homebrew and Brew it Yourself. I can particularly recommend shop4homebrew because their orders usually arrive next day if you place them before 2pm.
Place the juice into the demijohn or vessel, ensuring you wash out the can thoroughly with water to ensure none is wasted. Now top up the demijohn to the 1 gallon (4.54 l) mark with water, and add sugar. Check the instructions on the kit if there are any, if not, the amount will depend on the juice and can be anywhere from 50g to 300g. If you made the grape juice yourself, it might be worth playing it safe and adding around 150-200g of sugar until you get the recipe just right.
Now leave in a tepid, dark place for around two to three weeks. Within the first 24 hours, you should start to see air bubbles start escaping from the airlock. This is mostly CO2 liberated in the fermentation process. This gas needs to escape, or else the vessel will explode!
Filtering / Clearing
Once the fermenting is finished (you will know it's finished because the speed at which the air escapes will slow down until it seems to stop altogether. If it stops within the first few days, the chances are that some other bacteria has entered the vessel and you now have vinegar!
Add stabaliser such as potassium sorbate. This will kill the rest of the yeast, shake thoroughly and leave for another day. On the second day add finings. Your kit should come with some, and if not plenty are available. Vin Clear is possibly one of the better brands (and have been in use by humans for many hundreds of years!) Shake gently and re-stop the vessel and leave in a dark cool place for another few days.
You should see the yeasts and starches fall to the bottom, and there should come a point where you can syphon the cleared wine into another vessel. If you have a filter such as the Harris Filters, they are worth using, and will polish up the wine to be crystal clear like water.
FINALLY, BOTTLE AND DRINK!!