How to Make Wine in Your Backyard

By: WineMarketDate: 15/07/2014

Like all good backyard experiments, things can go wrong. But if you’re set on making wine in the garage, under the house or in your laundry, at least you are unlikely to blow anything up, or have the dog turn on you when you convert their kennel into a kid’s tree house.

At least with ‘backyard winemaking’ you’re doing the simplest of things, right? Grapes ferment and then ‘hey presto!’ you’ve got yourself your very own Parramatta Penfolds, Chateau Darwin Reserve or Grassroots Grange. Maybe.

To avoid having made the best batch of vinegar this side of your local delicatessen, there are a few things you can do to ensure you get something drinkable, if you’ve decided to go down the home-winemaking road. Like ‘proper’ winemaking, you’ve got to ensure several factors are locked in and taken care of, otherwise you’re little bit of fun on the side might just have your mates running for the porcelain bus, or worse still, blaming you for the hangover of their lives.

So what are the things that go into making wine in your backyard? Well, first of all, most winemakers suggest it takes a fair whack of good beer to make great wine, so you best find yourself a 6-pack of something frosty in preparation. After that, well, here’s how thing can be done:

  1. First of all, clean. Clean. Clean. Yep, winemaking is around 90% cleaning, 10% doing the actual winemaking. If you want pure, fresh, unadulterated wine, you best get out the gloves, some ‘bio-friendly’ cleaning products and get yourself set for a little housework.
  2. You’ll need vessels to ferment your ‘wine’ in so find yourself something of a decent size, maybe start small with a 20L vessel, be it glass ‘jar’ or plastic ‘tank’. You’ll need some plastic hose for siphoning, and a smaller vessel to ‘top up’ your wine as it matures. For the end product, you’re going to have to get yourself some wine bottles with appropriate closures too.
  3. Clean them all… yep. Then maybe do it again.
  4. Next step would be actually getting some fruit. You’re best off getting to your local farmer’s markets or fruit and vegetable market during the actual wine grape growing season, and seeing if anyone can source you some proper winemaking grapes. That, or maybe visit a vineyard by the dead of night and see if some needs picking. Or ignore that last statement.

  5. Most winemaking involves just the grape berries, so you’re going to have to clean the fruit first up by taking out the stems and leaves that might come with your grapes. Don’t wash the grapes as natural yeasts may be on the skins that can help with fermentation.
  6. Using your hands or a masher of some kind, crush and squeeze the fruit to get its juice out. Pour the juice into your vessel, and then add back in enough of the skins to make it fully topped up. Some people add some honey at this stage to sweeten the wine, and to give the yeast some extra ‘food’, but that’s a personal decision.
  7. Let it ferment naturally – set your vessel in a naturally warmish place away from direct sunlight. After a day or so (or sometimes a bit longer) you’ll see the wine start fizzing, which is the fermentation taking place. Let it go. You’ll want a lid on your vessel that lets air in and out, but that keeps bugs from getting in.
  8. Stirring the ‘must’, the combination of juice and skins, a couple of times a day is a good idea to help the fermentation and to help macerate the skins. If you are making ‘white wine’, the skins should be removed earlier than the red skins, if you don’t want to end up with an ‘orange wine’. You can press the skins further, and remove extra juice and flavour, once you have siphoned off the solid materials, and return the extra juice to the storage vessel, with the clean juice already in there.
  9. When the fizzing slows down, strain the liquid and put the clean juice back into your storage vessel. If you have an airlock, it should let gas escape, but none back into your vessel – it’s a good idea to procure one from a beer or home winemaking shop.
  10. Let the wine mature. Yes, it’s a test of patience, but once the fizzing stops and your clear liquid is settled in its vessel, you have to keep your sticky, thirsty mitts off it. Letting the wine mature will make the wine more integrated, flavoursome and easier to drink. It will also ensure the fermentation has fully taken place.
  11. After some time (say, a couple of months, you know you can do it!), it’s time to bottle. You might like to add a small sulphur tablet to preserve the wine, but it should be fine without, if you drink your wine pretty quickly.
  12. Bottling day. What fun! Make sure you have enough bottles, siphon hose and a seal for your bottles. Siphon off your wine into bottles, ensuring bottles are full to the top so no oxygen can get in, the seal them and let them rest for another week or so, for some more mellowing and bringing the flavours together.
  13. Time to drink! Polish off the finest crystal glassware you have, pour yourself a rewarding glass, drink up! You’ve just made the world’s first Domaine de Notsonasti Wine. Cheers!

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