As you contemplate the prospect of making your next batch of wine you will need to decide whether you want to use fruit, such as grapes, or packaged fruit juices. Packaged juices are known as concentrates and can be easily purchased online as well as in home brewing stores. There are many advantages to using concentrates, including the fact that they come with easy to follow directions and usually all of the extra ingredients you may need. Many novice winemakers feel that concentrates are a great introduction to the process of winemaking. There are also advantages to using fruit rather than concentrates; however. The main advantage to using fruit is that you have more control over the process, and thus the results, when you use fruits.
For the most part, the process of making wine from fruit is similar to making it using concentrates. There are a few differences; however, and those differences are critical.
Before you begin, you will need to make sure that you have plenty of fruit. It is not uncommon for many novice winemakers to think they have a sufficient amount of fruit when in fact they do not. You will need at least 70 pounds of grapes in order to produce six gallons of wine. This is the equivalent of about two bushels. The one exception to this is if you are using wild grapes such as Muscadine. In that case you will only need about 25 pounds of grapes due to the fact that wild grapes tend to have a stronger flavor as well as more acid.
Since you will be dealing with a large amount of grapes, you will need to make sure that you have sufficient facilities to deal with them properly. Before you are able to use them to make wine, you will need to remove the stems as well as crush the grapes. Later, the grapes will then need to be pressed after they have had a few days to ferment.
You can easily remove the stems as well as crush the grapes by hand. For small batches of grapes, you can use something as simple as a potato masher to crush the grapes; just make sure it has been cleaned and sanitized first. If you are dealing with larger amounts of grapes it may be worth it to go ahead and invest in a grape crusher as this will speed the process along.
As previously mentioned, after the grapes have fermented for a few days, you will need to press the pulp in order to extract as much juice as possible. In the event you are making white whine, the grapes will need to be pressed directly after they have been crushed but before the first fermentation.
When working with fruit rather than concentrate you will also need to have a hydrometer on hand in order to assist you in controlling the sugar level. As you may recall, this essential in determining the alcohol level in the final wine so it is a step that must not be overlooked.
An acid test kit may also be helpful in controlling and monitoring the levels of acid that are present in your wine when you are using fruit rather than concentrate. When the acid level in the wine is too high, the resulting wine will typically have a taste that is too sour or sharp. If there is not enough acid; however, the wine may taste somewhat flat. An acid test kit will provide you with accurate readings and help you to determine whether you need to add water or acid blend for balance.