Sure, you can study at the most respected winemaking school in the United States, UC Davis, with its 100-plus-year-old viticulture and enology program. Or you can head over to Fresno State, another top winemaking university. Can homemade wine secrets match up to the professionals?
But what if you’re just getting started or are looking for a few seasoned-pro secrets for homemade wine to add to your arsenal, without the full-on degree?
Luckily, there are many easy tricks to improve your winemaking process at home. We’ve put together five of our favorites to help make your wine taste incredible. Read on and then sip on!
1. Find the Hidden Grape Gems
The fruit is everything, and unless you already have a fabulous vineyard on amazing soil and the time and money to harvest, we suggest taking a gander around for some hidden treasure troves of grapes.
Bigger vineyards sell leftover grapes after they harvest what they need. Small growers sell grapes as well. Inquire locally at vineyards themselves or through wine clubs. It gives you a chance to try different grapes and learn about quality.
2. Master the Art of Fermentation
To keep unwanted yeast and toxins out during fermentation, your airlock lets carbon dioxide out and stops oxygen from getting in. One trick we love is to use glycerine rather than water in the airlock. It doesn’t evaporate and occurs naturally in wine so if some gets in, it’s okay.
3. Promote the Good Yeast
Yeast has a huge impact on the taste of your wine. Some can really enhance flavor while others make it simply taste bad. Spend time discovering and supporting the growth of the good yeast.
4. Create a Fruity Homemade Wine Masterpiece
The homemade winemaking process warms the hearts of many because it is a creative endeavor. It’s a science, too, but the art of it is the fun part!
Give yourself the freedom to experiment with different grapes and blends and also try a variety of fruit. We’ve seen boutique varieties at state fairs such as Raspberry-Zinfindel and Blackberry-Merlot. Experiment with flowers and herbs. Experiment with fruits no one’s heard of and invent a new wine!
Here’s a real time saver for your fruity adventurous homemade wine spirit: use a fermentation bag to control pulp for first fermentation. Hang the bag filled with crushed fruit in the wine then take out before you rack. Drain it and toss the pulp. This draining can help make a homemade wine more like a professionally-made product.
5. Make Sure It’s Ready and Cleared to Bottle Up
Your wine needs to be clear before it’s ready to bottle. Here’s a great tip to make sure it’s ready: if you have it in a vessel that’s not clear, take a sample and put it in a clear glass.
Then, turn off all the lights and shine a flashlight. If the beam is clear (the light isn’t milky or murky), it’s good to go.
If it’s a dark wine, it might appear a bit diffused. If your wine doesn’t clear after fermentation, it means it’s still fermenting. This may be due to extra sugar. You can check this with a hydrometer.
Once clear, it’s time to bottle up! Enjoy choosing the bottle and a nice cork. The aesthetics are part of the fun too.
Enjoy Your Artistic Masterpiece
Now that you know a few of our favorite homemade wine secrets, you’re ready to make them your own. So find some vintner grapes to up your wine quality, try a variety of fruity flavors, experiment with flashlights and yeast to get it just right, and choose bottles, corks, and labels that make your wine look like the artistic masterpiece that it is.
Next tip: Show off! Invite your friends for a delicious meal. We’re thinking Italian, specifically Sicilian, goes nice with reds.