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A Beer Brewer Tries Making Wine

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

I’m going to take a shot at making wine this year. The books I have been reading say to pick good grapes, at the right time, and let nature take its course. I’m not planning on adjusting with sugar or acid, but I will takes notes on the original brix, fermentation length etc.

Getting Grapes:

September-October is grape harvest time. This year is late in Oregon.

Unfortunately for the home wine maker, getting access to good grapes can be a challenge. A local club was ordering grapes from California. I’ve been getting decent results searching craigslist and have a few options lined up. The local home brew stores also have bulletin boards with postings.

If the local grapes don’t come through the other option is to buy a kit. They yield more consistent results, but it is sort of like using malt extract in beer. I have read the aroma is flat from the kit because of the pasteurization process. There can also be a ‘kit flavor’ that some people detect as a flaw. I have grape starts out back and they will be bearing fruit in a few years. I want to get good at the whole process end to end.

Cost Breakdown:

A 6 gallon batch of wine requires approximately 100 pounds of grapes (the range varies pretty widely and that is a conservative estimate).

In the end I hope to get 30 bottles of wine (2.5 cases).

Pinot Noir grapes from a reputable grower off mature vines are running $1.00/pound. With yeast (Assmannshausen), Malolatic yeast (Wyeast), corks, and campden tables, the total for the batch is ~$120. That means I’m looking at $4.00 per bottle – not that economical compared to 2 buck chuck. However, a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir goes for at least $10 and usually more. It will be 18 months before I know how this panned out.

Extra Equipment Needed:

If you are already brewing beer, there is not much extra equipment to deal with. The grapes will be crushed and de-stemmed at the vineyard. I’m using a 7.5 gallon bucket I already have for the primary fermentor. A fruit/wine press is on the way (I’ll be talking more about this in an upcoming article). The only additional item I needed was a warming device (FermWarp, $40) which wraps around the fermentor and keeps the temperature around 85F where the wine yeast perform optimally.

I already had a corker from a batch of mead I packaged in wine bottles.

More on the subject of wine to come (new category added). Brewer’s Friend has beer at heart and is mostly about beer and will stay that way! Wine is like a cousin, not a muse.

  1. 2 Responses to “A Beer Brewer Tries Making Wine”

  2. Got the grapes crushed, yeast starter is on the way. 117 pounds of grapes came out to about 11 gallons of must (I’m doing red wine so that includes the skins). Must is like wort, what you have before the yeast go to work.

    It was REALLY fun to pick the Pinot Noir grapes. I went out about an hour’s drive from my house into the countryside and met some nice people who take their grapes very seriously. Even got a free sample of some delicious home made wine, I’d guess it was out of a $30 bottle.

    Speaking of taste, the grapes tasted a lot sweeter than I expected. The clusters are tightly packed, nothing like the fat watery grapes in the grocery store.

    I noticed the time it takes to brew a batch of beer, and the time it takes to harvest and crush the grapes is about equivalent. I was expecting the grapes would go faster because no boil is necessary.

    Getting the sulfite concentration right is a new issue to deal with. Also, I’ll need to add a little bit of sugar to correct the low Brix (SG).

    More to come on this subject in the near future.

    By Larry on Oct 22, 2010

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  2. Sep 5, 2011: Wine Making Overview | Brewer's Friend

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