Making Wine From Grapes With (Almost) No Equipment

Don’t buy the expensive equipment

I buy wine grapes through my local homebrew shop in 100 lb lots, which is enough to make five or six gallons of wine. They take customer orders, arrange to buy the grapes from growers, and provide the use of their equipment. They will do all the work, so I can just show up with two empty 5-gallon carboys and go home with two 5-gallon carboys partially filled with juice. I like making wine, though, so I usually roll up my sleeves and go to work. I lug boxes of grapes to the crusher-destemmer, turn the hand crank to crush the grapes, put the crushed grapes into the press, collect the juice, then go home with two 5-gallon carboys partially filled with juice.

Reds can be alluring, but whites are easier

Red wine is all about the skins and, unlike kits, you can ferment a must of crushed grapes (in which case you’ll be taking home a primary fermenter full of crushed grapes rather than carboys of juice). This is a great way to make red wine, but there is a problem when it comes time to press. My local homebrew shop will let you use their press, for no additional charge, but you have to bring your fermenter back to the shop to do it. That’s a hassle I’d rather avoid, so I usually buy white wine grapes.

An easy way to make it good, and a hard way to make it better

Red or white, it’s a good way for amatures to make wine from grapes. Crusher-destemmers and presses are expensive, so the use of their equipment makes this a good deal. And making wine from grapes is easy; I’ve made very good white wine by just pitching yeast into the juice, with no adjustments at all. It’s an easy process with good results, but it also reinforces my decision to grow (some of) my own. I can’t help wondering how these grapes were grown. Were they harvested at their peak or at a convenient time for the grower and retailer? How much time had passed from harvest to crush? If the wine is good, how much better could it be if I harvested the grapes at their peak, processed them, and pitched the yeast all in one morning? My bonsai vineyard may produce enough grapes this year for me to find out!

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