How to Make Muscadine Wine
Wine can be made out of many materials grown on the farm from peaches to berries but, for most people wine comes from the fermentation of grapes. Many people have grapes growing in their backyard for making wine and of course in this part of Texas we are lucky to have native grapes growing wild in the countryside just waiting to be picked. Before the grape varieties of Europe were brought over and planted here, there were already many native American varieties of grape vines growing an abundance of grapes. One such native American variety is the Vitis Rotundifolia, or as it is locally known as the muscadine.
I made a batch of muscadine wine at the end of summer and bottled it a couple of days before Christmas. The recipe and instructions below describes how I made 6 gallons of wine which will fill 30 wine bottles.
36 pounds of grapes
36 pints of water
12 pounds of sugar
3 teaspoons of pectic enzyme
¼ teaspoon of potassium metabisulphite
1 package of yeast
I use a clean and sanitized primary fermenter which is basically a 7.5 gallon food grade plastic container that comes with a lid. This size of container allows me to make up to 6 gallons of wine at one time. Inside of this container I add 10 pints of water. To the water I add 12 pounds of sugar which I stir in well with my large 28 inch long food grade plastic spoon. Next, I add pectic enzyme and potassium metabisulphite. I blend these ingredients in well.
I washed the grapes, remove stems, leaves and any moldy or badly bruised grapes. I decided to crush the grapes to aid in the extraction of the juice, so I used a potato smasher to crush the grapes in small batches. Next, I got a nylon straining bag and placed it inside the primary fermenter where all of the other ingredients had been added. I then put the 36 pounds of grapes inside of the nylon straining bag and tied the top of the bag.
At this point I covered the primary container. It will stay in a corner in my kitchen because it will need to be in a handy place because I will have to be checking it daily for the next few days. In 24 hours I will add yeast. I will also eventually add more pints of water. At this point there just is not enough room for the other water needed. I will add it when I finally remove the straining bag of grapes.
After I add the yeast I need to spend the next few days giving it a daily stir, pressing the grape pulp lightly to aid in the juice extraction, and checking the specific gravity of the wine. To check the specific gravity I use a wine thief. A wine thief is a hollow plastic tube with a hole in each end. It is used to remove a sample of wine from the container. Once I have my wine sample I drop in the hydrometer to read the results. The hydrometer is used to measure the specific gravity in the wine. The hydrometer is basically a glass thermometer like instrument that is used to monitor the progress of the fermentation. When the hydrometer reads 1.030 I will remove the grape straining bag and move the wine to a carboy.
This is what the wine looks like on day 2 before I add yeast.
About 5 Days Later:
When the hydrometer reads 1.030 remove the grape straining bag. To remove the grape straining bag requires a second pair of hands to do the job. My husband holds the straining bag that contains the grapes over the primary fermenter. As he does this I squeeze the bag with both hands to get out all of the juice. Since the bag is quite big with so many grapes, I have to use another method to help extract the maximum amount of juice. I place a medium size pot upside down in a large pot. I then place the grape straining bag on top of the upside down pot. I then add the lid and waited several hours until the grape juice had empty out of the straining bag. I then discard the leftover grape pulp.
Placing grape filled straining bag on an upside down pot inside of a larger pot so that grape juice can run out of straining bag.
Next, I siphon the wine from the primary fermenter to the secondary fermenter. My secondary fermenter is a carboy. This is called racking the wine. To siphon or rack the wine you need to let gravity help you to do the work. I put the primary fermenter on top of my kitchen counter and the secondary carboy on the kitchen floor right below. I use a siphon hose to move the wine from the primary fermenter. The end where the wine will come out of the siphon hose goes into the carboy and the other end that has the siphon pump is submerged into the wine in the primary fermenter. I hold this end a little from the bottom of the fermenter. I then pump it about two times and then gravity takes over and moves the wine from the top container to the carboy container on the floor. I want to pump as little as possible because I do not want to get oxygen into my wine.
Siphoning Wine into the Carboy
Once I rack the wine, I fill up the carboy to about within 2 inches of the airlock rubber bung with water. This is the rest of the water I needed to make the wine that could not fit into my primary fermenter at the beginning of the wine making process because there was not enough room in the container. I filled the rubber bung halfway with water. I then attach the airlock rubber bung to the top of the carboy.
I am attaching a brew hauler so that I can move the wine. A brew hauler is a sturdy polypropylene material that creates handles for the carboy. Once that the wine, 6 gallons of it, is in a carboy it can be quite heavy to lift. The brew hauler gives you a good grip on the carboy to let you more easily move it, but it is still pretty heavy.
The wine needs to ferment more. Fermentation is complete once the specific gravity has reached 1.000, which should take about another 3 weeks. The temperature for fermentation can vary. Some ferment at 55 or as high as 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The lower the temperature the longer it takes to ferment. What are more important than the temperature are the temperature fluctuations. The temperature needs to be constant because the yeast really cannot handle much wide variance in the temperature; hot one day, cold the next. If this happens the yeast will go dormant. I let my wine ferment in my refrigerator on the warmest setting.
Another 3 Weeks Later:
Once the wine reaches a specific gravity of 1.000 I stabilize the wine. To stabilize the wine I added 1 ½ teaspoons of stabilizer to the bottom of a clean and sanitized carboy. I put the empty carboy on the floor and move the grape wine filled carboy to a counter. To siphon or rack the wine you need to let gravity help you to do the work. I used a siphon hose to move the wine. The end of the siphon hose where the wine will come out of goes into the empty carboy and the other end that has the siphon pump is submerged into the wine. I hold this end a little from the bottom, so as to not suck up any of the sediment. I then pump it about two times and then gravity takes over and moves the wine from the top container to the carboy container on the floor. I want to pump as little as possible because I do not want to get oxygen into my wine.
Once I rack the wine. I fill the carboy up to about within 2 inches of the airlock rubber bung with water. I make sure that the rubber bung is filled halfway with water. I then attach the airlock rubber bung to the top of the carboy and place it into the refrigerator.
Racking the Wine, again.
The Sediment Left at the Bottom of the Carboy after Racking the Wine
Racking the Wine and Aging the Wine:
I siphon the wine about every 3 to 4 weeks until the wine in clear for bottling. I usually rack the wine 4 times. I let the taste of the wine, the clarity, and the aroma help to dictate to me when it will be ready to bottle. I felt that the muscadine wine was ready to bottle at 4 months.
Bottling the Wine
I set my wine filled carboy on top of the counter and let it warm up just a bit because it has been sitting in my refrigerator and for sugar to dissolve better it should not be so cold. Since I am sweetening the wine at bottling time I will need to add ¼ teaspoon of potassium sorbate per gallon of wine. Potassium sorbate keeps the wine from refermenting in the bottle with the sugar I am adding to the wine. I put this potassium sorbate at the bottom of the large 6 gallon food grade bucket. I insert the siphon hose into the carboy and the other end into the bucket, and then pump it twice. Then the wine starts flowing. As the wine flows, I am stirring the wine with my large plastic spoon so as to mix in the potassium sorbate. I then add ½ cup of sugar and stir in as well. After the wine empties into the bucket, I let it stand covered for 15 minutes and then I taste the wine. If I like the wine then I will bottle, if not I will add more sugar making sure to blend in well. I add small amounts of sugar at a time, taste, and then add more if needed. You can always add more sugar, but once it’s added you can’t take it out.
Siphon Muscadine Wine into Primary Fermenter to Sweeten the Wine
I ended up adding only 1/2 cup of sugar to my muscadine wine at bottling time. This measurement should by no means be a guide for you in your own winemaking. Making wine should be made to your taste, which is definitely one thing I have learned over the years of making wine and visiting wineries. You are the one making it and most likely will be the one drinking it. Make it to your taste!
Once my husband and I are content with the taste of the wine it is time to bottle it. I then place the large bucket on the counter. I insert the siphon hose into the bucket and the other end into a wine bottle, and then pump it twice. Then the wine starts flowing. I let the wine fill up to a tiny bit over the neck of the wine bottle. I use the funnel to fill up bottles that seem a little low in wine, so that the amount of wine in each bottle is a bit more uniform. Once all of the wine bottles are filled up I cork the bottle. Then I wipe down the bottles with a clean paper towel that is lightly spritzed with diluted bleach to wipe off any accidental spillage of wine on the bottle.
Cork the Muscadine Wine
Labeling Muscadine Wine Bottles
Once I have the wine in the bottles I need to label it so that I will know what type of wine it is. Also labeling the wine bottles dress up the wine and makes it look more attractive.
I use a hair blow dryer is used to heat the foil shrink wrap so that it shrinks to conform to the bottle. Once the bottles have the foil shrink wrap it is now time to put on the labels. I use different sizes of masking tape tubes as a guide to evenly lay the wine labels on the bottles. I place the bottle inside of the masking tape tube and use the top edge of the tube as my guide to lay the bottom edge of the wine label. I want the labels to lay flat and smooth against the bottles, so I smooth the wine labels with my fingers working from the middle of the label towards the outside edges. This method allows me to have a smooth label with no wrinkles or air bubbles.
Adding Foil Shrink Wrap and Wine Labels to Wine Bottles
Storing Muscadine Wine
Once all of the labels have been applied it is now time to store the wine until I am ready to consume it. I do not have a wine cellar instead I store the wine in a hall closet. I emptied out the closet and added shelves to hold the wine at a laying down position, so that the wine cork stays in contact with the wine. It is amazing to see all of the wine bottles ready to be enjoyed.
The Wine Cellar
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