How to Make Homemade Country Wines

How to Make Homemade Country Wines

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This is a guest post from Ashley Adamant at Practical Self Reliance

Just about everyone is familiar with traditional grape wine, but many people have never heard of the many varieties of country wine that have been made in homestead kitchens for generations.  Country wines are like grape wines, but they’re made with whatever fruits, flowers, or herbs are readily available – backyard winemaking, if you will.

This article goes over the basic winemaking process so that you can apply it to any recipe you would like to try.  In order to make a successful country wine, you’ll also need to know a bit about ingredients and equipment so that you can plan ahead for your project.

Choosing Ingredients for Country Wines

Fruit or Flavoring – The sky’s the limit when choosing fruit or flavorings for country wines.  Literally anything growing in the garden will work, but fruits and flowers tend to make the best tasting country wines.  Still, they’re commonly made with vegetables including parsnips or beets, or with green herbs like parsley.

Sugar – Though most fruits taste quite sweet, they often don’t contain nearly as much sugar as grapes.  To make up for this, white sugar or honey is added. When honey is used, it’s called mead or melomel.

You may also find recipes that call for tannin powder, acid powder, or pectic enzyme.  These added ingredients can help to improve the feel of the wine or create a clearer finish.  Refer to the recipe you are using for best results.

Suggested Country Wine and Mead Recipes

Because every fruit is slightly different, it helps to work from a wine recipe.  This is especially helpful when you’re new to winemaking as it can be hard to judge how much acid, tannin, or sugar is appropriate.  Here are a few recipes to get you started:

~ Peach wine

~ Goldenrod and Ginger Wine

~ Rhubarb wine

~ Spiced Hawthorn and Rosehip Mead

~ Dandelion wine

~ Elderberry Mead

Winemaking Equipment

It doesn’t take much equipment to successfully make wine at home.  Just like any hobby, winemaking can be done with a lot of expensive equipment if you choose, but there are also alternative methods that don’t entail quite as much investment.  In order to make a one gallon batch of wine, you’d need the following equipment:

Fermentation Vessel – Generally wine is fermented in a narrow neck demijohns, by far the most common fermentation vessel.  You can also adapt a wide mouth mason jar with a home mason jar fermentation kit (with an airlock).  This one-gallon jar fermenter is also a good choice.  It can help to have two vessels for when you want to transfer to a clean one part-way through the process.

Air Lock – An air lock allows CO2 from the fermentation process to escape, but doesn’t allow oxygen or contaminants to enter the fermentation vessel.  It fits into the top of the fermentation vessel with a rubber cork, like this water lock and cork combo.

Sciphon – Moving the wine out of the fermenter is a bit more complicated than just pouring it.  The “lees” or sediment at the bottom needs to be left behind, and the clarified wine above must be siphoned off.  The most efficient way to do that is with an auto siphon.  This is also handy come bottling time.

Bottles – Cleaned commercial wine bottles can be used, provided they’re sanitized and de-labeled.  In that case, you’ll need wine corks and a bottle corker.  A simpler solution is to just use reusable flip-top Grolsch bottles.

Sanitizer – To avoid contamination, anything that’s going to touch your wine should be cleaned with a sanitizer.  A simple no rinse oxygen based cleaner, like this one step sanitizer works well.

While all of these supplies can be purchased online and kits can be very helpful, you may also want to visit your local brewing supply store if you have one.  Talking to an expert about the process can really boost your confidence!

How to Make A Country Wine

Now that you’ve determined your ingredients and you’ve got your supplies, you’re ready to get started!  This basic winemaking process is a great place to start for a beginner. Once you’ve been making wine a while, you’ll find that there are many advanced techniques you can incorporate into your brewing.  

For now, start with these six steps:

Step One: Juice the Fruit 

Prepare the fruit by peeling, coring, and chopping as appropriate.  Either use a juicer or press to extract the juice or cover the chopped fruit pieces in sugar and allow the sugar to extract the juice for 4 to 48 hours, depending on the toughness of the fruit.  Occasional stirring helps distribute the sugars and break open the fruit cells.

Step Two: Pitch the Yeast

Strain off the sugared fruit juice and add it to a fermentation vessel with all the winemaking additives from your recipe.  Dissolve the dry yeast in ¼ cup of water and allow it to bloom for at least 5 minutes. This gives it time to wake up the yeast aren’t shocked by high sugar levels.  Add the yeast to the fruit/sugar mixture in the fermentation vessel and fill to near the top with clean chlorine free water.

Step Three: Seal the Fermentation Vessel

Leave about 2 inches of headspace in the fermentation vessel and seal with an air lock. This is important because it prevents a buildup of pressure during the fermentation process, while at the same time ensuring that no harmful bacteria or vinegar cultures infect a homemade wine.

Step Four: Primary Fermentation

Set your fermentation vessel in a room temperature location out of direct sunlight (unless your recipe calls for something different).  The yeast will really get going within 24 to 48 hours, and a fast and somewhat violent fermentation will continue for 2-4 weeks.  This is when much of the alcohol is produced.  Check on your wine daily to be sure that the wine hasn’t bubbled over into the airlock.

Step Five: Siphon to a new Fermentation Vessel

After about 2 to 4 weeks in the “primary fermentation,” siphon the wine into a clean brewing vessel, leaving the sediment behind.  This helps clarify the wine, and oxygenates the liquid to reinvigorate the yeast. Reinstall the airlock into this vessel and set aside again.  Check on your wine weekly to ensure that there is still water in the airlock and it hasn’t evaporated.

Step Six: Secondary Fermentation

At this point, a “secondary fermentation” will start, lasting 2 weeks to 2 months depending on the batch and ambient temperature.  This helps refine the wine, and though fermentation is slower, secondary fermentation is where much of the flavor develops.

Step Seven: Bottle

Once the secondary fermentation is complete, it’s time to bottle.  The wine is complete when it has stopped bubbling, and no bubbles go through the airlock for about 5 minutes.  Use the sciphon to pull of the finished wine into bottles, leaving the sediment behind. Fill your bottle of choice (a recycled wine bottle or grolsch) and seal.  Allow the wine to age at least 2 weeks before drinking, preferably 2 months.  In corked wine bottles, your wine will store for 10+ years, but with grolsch bottles be sure to drink it in 6 months to a year.

If you run into trouble, this troubleshooting guide from Northeast Winemaking is a helpful resource for figuring out how to address issues.

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Ashley Adamant
Ashley lives in a solar and wind powered home in Vermont with her husband and two young children. She writes about gardening, foraging, DIY and all things off grid at Practical Self Reliance. Use the social links above to connect with Ashley and follow her blog!

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