Step by Step Winemaking - White - 5.0 out of 5 based on 4 reviews
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Step by Step Winemaking - White 

When making white wine, only the fresh pressed juice is fermented. This article shows how to make 5 gallons of sweet or dry red wine....




To make 5+ gallons of dry white wine:

Click here for sweet white wines...

Crushuign white wine grapes white wine in carboys
  • Step 1 - Pick, crush and press about 2 bushels (80lb) of grapes such as Seyval, Cayuga or Niagara. We have a grape crusher-stemmer available at the vineyard but not a press. We do have mesh bags that the crushed grapes can be put in and squeezed - but a press is much better.
  • Step 2 - Put the juice in 5 gallon containers. At this point a carboy is preferred by anything will work - just make sure the top it loosely covered to keep out fruit flies.
  • Step 3 - Check and adjust the sugar level. This is done with a hydrometer and a sugar conversion chart. The sugar in the grapes will ferment into alcohol and the conversion chart will show you how much sugar (if any) to add. Fill your hydrometer with juice and read the "specific gravity" where top level of the juice is floating the hydrometer. For an example if the specific gravity was 1.074 (or 18 degrees balling) the must will ferment out to 9.9% alcohol. Read across on the chart and if you want a 11% wine you will add 2.5 oz/gallon sugar (or honey). This is a typical sugar level - our 80lb batch of wine will need (5 gallons x 2.5 oz/gallon) about 12-13 oz of sugar. Mix the sugar in reall good and re-check the gravity.
    (If you do not have a hydrometer, just add about 1lb of sugar and you will be pretty close.)
  • Step 4 - Add camben tablets (sulfite). Camben tablets will help keep your wine from browning and turning into vinegar. Crush 5 to 10 tablets and mix them into the must. Some people prefer not to use sulfites and this step is optional.
    I have never made a batch of wine without protecting it with sulfites.
  • Step 5 - Wait about 24 hours and add a packet of wine yeast. I like to use a cultured wine yeast such as Montreal whatever (a general purpose yeast) or Cote's de blanc - but you can experiment. Just sprinkle the package over the must and stir it in just a little bit. The reason for waiting the 24hrs is to let the sulfites reduce some of the wild yeasts and let the cultured yeast take over. I you do not use sulfites you can add the yeast on day 1.
  • Some winemakers do not like to add anything - sugar - sulfites- or yeast - The wine will still ferment ok, but you take a chance of low alcohol, browning, oxidation and vinegar creation.
  • Step 6 - The wine should start ferment in a day or two. Do not fill the 5 gallon carboy to the top or it will foam over after the fermentation starts. Lower the level about 1/4 but transfering some of the must into a smaller (such as 1 gallon jug) container. After a few weeks the fermetation will slow down and you can add the extra wine back in totop up the carboy.
  • Step 7 - 2 to 3 months later you can rack the wine. Take a siphon hose and siphon the clear wine from the original carboy to a new one, leaving the "lees" the dead yeast and debris on the bottom in the old carboy.
  • Step 8 - About 3 months later the wine will be ready to bottle.

white grapes and wine


To make 5 gallons of sweet white wine:

We will use the same instructions we used for the dry white wine above with some slight variations. I like to have a soft-slightly sweet finish in most of my white wines.


Things to keep in Mind...

  • You can mix and match any of the grape varieties to make some very unique wines.
  • Sometimes the fruitier grapes are better picked slightly underripe (such as Cayuga, Canadice, Niagara, etc.) - the flavor will not be as strong.
  • If you want a sweeter - high alcohol wine, the easiest way to do it is to start off with more sugar and keep adding it in small amounts throughout the fermentation. Eventually the alcohol will kill the yeast and leave some residual sugar. If you add too much at once the wine may be too sweet. At any time during the fermentation, taste the wine - if it is dry add sugar until it is sweet again. Repeat this until it does not ferment anymore.
  • Another way to make a sweet wine is to ferment the wine dry, sometimes using a yeast such as Cote des Blancs that does not like high alcohol. After the wine is stable, I sweeten it to taste, add 1 to 1.25 grams/gallon Potassium Sorbate, 2 cambden tablets per gallon and rack it. If it does not re-ferment I bottle it after a few months.
  • A third way to make a sweet wine is to sweeten the wine and then filter out the yeast cells with a wine filter and it will not re-ferment. A wine filter can be a usefull tool.
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What do grape blossoms smell like?

Walking through the vineyard when it is in full bloom is a unique experience. The scent is slightly more subtle than other fruits. Each flower blossom will develop into a separate berry...
How do you propagate grape vines?

Grape vines are propagated by taking dormant shoots pruned off during the spring. These 3 to 4 bud long cuttings are planted in garden soil and grown one year. The next year they are ready to plant in your vineyard. They will be the same variety as the vine that they were taken from.

What time of the year should I prune my vines?

Grape vines may be pruned any time that the leaves are off and they are dormant. Many vineyards with huge acres of vines to prune may work all winter, but we prefer to prune in the spring. In the spring, any winter damage that has occurred will be visible and pruning adjustments will be made.

Do Michigan vines need to be grafted?

Most vinifera vines that are grown (such as Cabernet, Reisling, etc) need to be grafted on to a strong rootstock because they are not tolerant of the Phloxera louse, a pest that will kill the vines. Most all vines in California and any vinifera vine grown in Michigan are grafted for this reason.


Do grapes need a frost to ripen?

Absolutely not. There are early and late season varieties, an early season grape left on the vine until frost will be mushy and overripe.
Once a frost hits the vine and all the leaves are burned off, any further photosynthesis or ripening will cease...

How is our vineyard different than others?

I do not know any other vineyard that has more than 20 varieties of grapes and sells 100% U-PICK!

Since we are not a winery we do not keep the premium grapes for ourselves and sell what is left to local customers.

YOU are our only customers!

What is your favorite grape?

We get this asked of us all the time. Which grape makes the best wine, best jelly, best juice, etc. This is very difficult to answer & also varies from season to season. Many of our customers have very different tastes than we do.
My personal favorites as of April, 2007:


Do you recommend oak barrels for winemaking?
Oak barrels can be very useful in winemaking, but they can be problematic and I prefer glass carboys.

Oak barrels are excellent for large amounts of wine such as 55 gallons. The ration of air to wine is just right. When you use smaller barrels...
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