This wine recipe is the one Grandpa used to make his homemade wine. He never did write it down, as he made wine for so long that he just remembered how to do it. I, on the other hand — being just a novice wine maker at the time — wrote the recipe down.
The recipe makes 50 gallons of wine, give or take a few gallons, but you can adjust the ingredients for your own use.
Good luck and "Happy, Happy".
Ingredients and Equipment
- 12-14 bushels of "blue" Concord grapes (approx. 480-600 pounds)
- 100-125 pounds sugar
- Large funnel
- Some screening
- Outside work area
- Two to three 40-55 gallon open top wood barrels
- One 55 gallon wood whiskey barrel
- Grinder and press
Three weeks before picking grapes:
- Wash two to three open top barrels with a scrub brush and fill then with water. Keep them full of to swell the wood and seal any leaks.
- Rinse out one 55 gallon whiskey barrel and fill with water to make sure it is also leak free. Keep the whiskey barrel off of the ground so you can check under it for possible leaks.
- After a week, If any of the barrels are leaking, tighten steel bands and recheck after a day or so. If leaks are still present after another two or three days, get an axe and, while cussing and swearing, "bust them up", have a glass of last year’s wine and get yourself some new barrels.
Pick grapes when they almost fall off of vine when you touch them. This will be sometime in early September, depending on the weather. You will have only a few days to pick them, as they don't last long when ready. Pick 12- 14 bushels, or 480-600 lbs. It seems like a lot, and it is, but if the sun is shining and you have some wine to drink, then it's a good day to pick grapes.
Breaking skins for primary fermentation:
- If you have a grinder, put your grapes into it and grind them to break the skins. If you don't have a grinder, you can break the skins by stomping the old fashion way or smashing with a 2x4 or similar item. Remember you just want to break the skins, so don't over do it!
- Put about 6-7 bushels of this pulp into each of the open top barrels. Keep these barrels approximately 12" off of the ground and fill no more than 2/3 full. The "must" needs room to work. Cover with cloth or canvas.
Note: If you grind your grapes on a Sunday they will be ready for the next stage by the following Saturday.
- Let this pulp naturally ferment for 5-7 days. Gently push down the pulp a couple times a day during this time. This "must" as it is called, naturally has yeast cultures in it. The type of natural yeast could be one of three different major strains. A bread strain that will make a sweet wine. A vinegar strain that will make a sour wine. Or, if you are lucky, a wine strain, that will make a good wine.
Hint: If you want to boost your chances of making wine instead of vinegar, put one pack of wine yeast in barrel for each five gallons of "must". Mix yeast with some lukewarm water before adding and stir into pulp.
Siphoning of primary juice:
- After 5-7 days of primary fermenting, use a 7 to 8 foot long, 1/2" clean garden hose with a stick tied on to one end. The stick must extend over the end going into the barrel about 1-2" to keep the hose off the very bottom of barrel.
- Tilt the open top barrels towards you a little by propping with a 2x4 and siphon off the fermented juice. Siphon off of the bottom of the barrel. Put this juice into a clean open top barrel.
- After siphoning off all the juice you can into clean open top barrels, you are ready to add the sugar. Keep these barrels 12" off of the ground also.
- The amount of sugar to add is somewhere between 2 to 2-1/2 pounds of sugar per gallon of juice. Stir in the sugar and continue to stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
Optional: If you have a press, you can process the pulp left in your barrels and get another 5 to 10 gallons of juice. This juice will not be as clear as what you siphoned, but you may need it for topping off your final barrel.
Final Barrel Filling:
- By now you should have your empty, leak-proof whiskey barrel in your basement. It needs to be on some sort of frame or cement shelf so that it is about 12" off of the floor. This barrel will weigh about 500 pounds or more when full, so your frame must be strong.
- Put a large funnel that has some screening tied tightly on it into the top "bung hole".
- Slowly start filling your whiskey barrel with the sweetened fermented juice. Fill this barrel no more than 6 to 9 inches from the top bung. This gives the fermenting wine room to work in its secondary stage. It still may bubble out the top some. Keep the bunghole open after filling.
- Top off barrel a cup or two a day for the next two to three weeks. During this time the fermenting will slow and you can top off the barrel to within an inch of the bunghole.
Air Locking Barrel:
- Now is the time to put an air lock on your barrel. Use the original bung you removed, drill a hole in it and put in a piece of clear rubber hose so it just goes through the bung.
- Put bung into bunghole and seal with melted wax. You can brush on the melted wax with a small brush a little at a time.
- Put the end of the hose in a glass of water. If you have sealed it good you should see bubbles in the glass of water very soon. Keep water glass filled enough to not let in any air through the hose.
- Let wine work till it stops bubbling for a few days or around Christmas. When you're ready to seal up tight, either replace entire top bung or pull out hose and plug with a small piece of round wood and tap it into opening. Once you are sure you have sealed tight, just sit back and wait.
Note: You can purchase a food grade (cream colored) rubber bung with a pre-drilled hole in it and a plastic airlock made to fit this hole. You can also purchase the same rubber bungs without a pre-drilled hole for final sealing.
- Wine will be ready, no earlier then Easter. We usually opened the barrel and took some wine out for Easter Sunday.
- To do this, put a piece of clear hose with a stick tied on to the end going into the barrel. This is to keep the end of the hose an inch or two off of the bottom. Place this hose in slowly and carefully.
- It is best to have the stick long enough to stick out the top of the barrel. You do not want to disturb the settlings if at all possible. Support stick/hose assembly so that it doesn't move around.
Hopefully if everything went well, you will have a pretty good tasting wine. Maybe a little "green" yet, but good just the same. You can bottle a few for Easter Sunday and then bottle the rest within a week or so. You don't want too much air left in barrel for very long as it may turn your wine bad.
- When you are ready to bottle the entire barrel, make sure you have enough bottles to do it all at once.
- Your bottles should be very clean. Use a weak bleach solution or Camden tablets to clean. If using a bleach solution, rinse well. If using Camden tablets just drain.
- Use only clean twist top caps or NEW corks. Old corks will have bacteria on them and spoil a perfectly good bottle of wine.
We never allowed our wine to age for very long. It always seemed we were running out of last year’s batch when this year’s batch was being bottled. But I can tell you from experience, if you have the patience to wait a year or two you will be pleasantly surprised. Wine mellows slowly but it is worth the wait.
Good luck and Salute to all!