How to Make Wine and Brew at Home from Supermarket Grape Juice

How to Make Wine from Grape Juice (real fruit later)

For those lovers of France, good life, food and wine, this is different to our usual articles about property and buying real estate in France. This blog post is about home brewing, making your own wine at home with grape juice, before trying with real grapes, or simply for a fun.

IT’S BEEN A GOOD YEAR FOR GRAPES

As previously mentioned, we have a vine, an 8 meter long, old vine, in the greenhouse (the key) which came with the house. This year it really seems to have come alive; probably a combination of lucky pruning, harsh winter, mild spring, warm summer and late autumn.

So we though we couldn’t miss this opportunity, making our very own wine with our own grapes. You’d think it’s easy, but where do you start?

PRACTICE MAKES PERFECT

As I am only going to get one shot at this experiment, I thought I’d better learn and practice, so decided to do a test run with some supermarket juice, which also work well. The benefits are that you get the fun, with no need of fruits, and the final product can be ready much faster.

I simply followed instructions gathered over the net and YouTube, after having received a home making kit for fathers days. I used 4 litres of supermarket grape juice (100% pressed), add about 800 grams of sugar mixed in 300ml of water using this method.

I used a teaspoon of Young’s yeast and left it to ferment in a demi-john (they’re easy to find on the net, start with a plastic one; top tip, get a spare!). And last minute, I added some Tannins, and 10 drops (or so) of freshly squeezed lemon juice, because it is a test!

LEARNING FROM OUR MISTAKES

I am very pleased I did this test as we made various mistakes along the way even at bottling stage. We now have a few bottles ‘resting’ in the cellar and we’ll tell you the results in a few weeks time.

Right now, we have around 8 kgs of freshly hand picked grapes in the freezer, the best and “reddest” grapes from the 15kg we picked. Freezing them is apparently one of the best way to preserve the sugar levels and also makes it easier to crush the grapes afterwards.

OUR TOP TIPS

Sterilising & Cleaning
Sterilising all the equipment you use is just about the most important thing when making any wine. Sterilisers are easy to use and you soon get into the “cleaning” routine, whatever you are brewing. You just need to mix the sterilising powder with water. Then leave the equipment soaking for about 20 minutes and rinse under the tap, that’s it.

Temperature
Control your fermentation temperatures. The number one reason for a failed fermentation is temperature. The ideal temperatures for a healthy fermentation is between 70° and 75°F (21 to 24).

Patience is Key
From growing your grapes and waiting for the ideal day to harvest, to resisting the temptation and leaving the wine to finish fermenting, patience is a of the essence. It can take months sometimes years for a wine to develop, and even longer for the first grapes to appear on your vine, and they may not be many.

Research, Look for Tips & Videos
For absolutely everything: growing, pruning, tannins, fermentation stages and times, bottling, picking, yeast nutrients, hydrometer, ph; I even looked up the best time of the day to harvest, and learned this is between 3am and before sunrise, so we did! There are a lot of wine loving people out there, and many interesting forums with passionate growers and brewers.

Keep Notes & Dates
It’s a good idea to write down notes, especially dates, ingredients, quantities, temperatures, as you may be doing this only once a year, so you can come back to your notes and compare what worked, and what didn’t.

How Much Does It Cost?
Before you start, you need to know you’ll probably end up spending approx £100 to get all the kit, buckets and yeast. So it’s not too much of a stretch and is guaranteed fun.

One Last Tip
Get your kids or family to buy you a kit for Xmas so you have plenty of time to experiment on grape juice before the summer, or until you have your own property and hobby vineyard in France.

Santé
While you wait for your own wine to 'mature' (it’s much faster than with real fruit) why not discover some great wines from the experts at The Great Wine Co, they have an awesome selection from France and around the world.