How To Make Wine From Your Own Grapes

If you have your own grape vine, it’s possible to make wine from your grapes, although results will vary depending on whether they are actually wine grapes, or more likely, grapes for eating. Grapes should be ready to harvest from mid-September, although you will need to judge for yourself if the grapes are ripe, or if they are in danger of going over.

The basics of wine making are; harvesting, juice extraction, fermentation and bottling. Some of the equipment you will need includes:

First of all you will need to harvest your grapes. A ripe grape will be firm but with some give and should taste ripe, sweet and preferably a little acidic. If they are ripe, give them a good wash and remove all the stalks. Discard any which are rotten or feel very soft.

Extracting the juice

The next stage is to extract the juice, which is done by pressing the grapes. Do not put them through a blender or juicer as you can damage the seeds, releasing tannin which will make your wine very bitter. The traditional way to press grapes is by putting them in a large sterilised bucket, cleaning your feet very well and then treading on the grapes to crush them. You may not feel like going to this extreme, so an alternative is to pulp them using a rolling pin or potato masher, or even just crush them by hand. Whatever method you use, the purpose is to crush the grapes without damaging the seeds.

How much juice you end up with depends on how good you are at crushing your grapes, but as a rough guide, 1kg of grapes will yield up to 1 litre of juice, so for a demijohn, you will need a minimum of 5 kilos (11lb) of grapes.

If making red wine, you should ferment on the pulp as a majority of the wine's colour will come from the skins. White wine is generally fermented as juice only, so discard the pulp. Once you have crushed your grapes, it’s a good idea to kill off any wild yeast, bacteria and other bugs within the pulp and juice mix, so crush up one campden tablet per gallon (5 litres) of pulp/juice and give the mix a good stir. Cover the mixture and leave for a minimum of 24 hours, to allow the campden tablets to do their work and disperse.

Checking the sugar content

Typically, grapes grown in the UK have a low sugar content, so may need extra sugar or grape juice concentrate to be added. To establish the sugar content, take a sample of the crushed juice, place it in a trial jar and take a hydrometer reading. The ideal reading will be between 1.080 and 1.090, but you will often find it is more likely to be around 1.040, or approximately half of what is ideally needed. If you do need to add sugar, then you can work out how much by using this table:

Hydrometer readings and sugar content of wine

Specific gravity

Potential alcohol  %

Grammes of sugar per litre

Specific gravity

Potential alcohol  %

Grammes of sugar per litre





























































So, for instance, if you have 5 litres (1 gallon) of juice, with a reading of 1.040 and you want to add sugar to bring the reading up to 1.090, you can calculate the sugar required using the following formula:

(Sugar required – sugar present) x volume in litres

So in this case: (240 – 107) x5 = 665g, so 665g of sugar need to be added to 5 litres of juice.

Fermenting Red wine

Once 24 hours has passed, it’s time to add the yeast. You can use a general purpose yeast, a yeast designed for a specific style, such as burgundy  or an all-purpose red yeast. It’s also recommended that you add yeast nutrient, which will enable the yeast to start fermenting more quickly and give you the best yield. Simply stir in the correct amount of nutrient and yeast, directly onto the juice and pulp mix (called the must), give it a stir and cover.

After a day or so, the mix should start fizzing and froth will appear on the surface of they must. This is the most active stage of fermentation and will last about a week or so. Keep the mixture at 18-22°C.

Fermenting white wine

After 24 hours, strain the juice into a sterilised fermentation vessel, discarding the pulp, using muslin, a straining bag, or funnel with a built-in filter. You can use a general purpose yeast, a yeast designed for a specific style, such as Bordeaux, or an all-purpose  white yeast. It’s also recommended that you add yeast nutrient, which will enable the yeast to start fermenting more quickly and give you the best yield. Simply stir in the correct amount of nutrient and yeast, directly onto the juice (called the must), give it a stir and cover.

Straining & secondary fermentation of red wine

After a week, it is time to separate the pulp from the juice. Use a muslin straining bag (boil it for 5 minutes to sterilise it first), or a sterilised kitchen strainer and a funnel, straining the juice into a sterilised demijohn. If using a muslin bag, give it a good squeeze at the end, to extract as much juice as possible. The demijohn should be filled to within two inches (5cm) of the neck. Fit a bung and airlock to the demijohn and half-fill the airlock with water. Allow the must to ferment out at 18-22°C, which will take another 2-3 weeks.

Secondary fermentation of white wine

After about a week, the most vigorous fermentation will usually be over and a sediment will have formed. At this stage it is desirable to siphon the wine off the sediment, into a clean, sanitised secondary fermentation vessel. Leave to ferment for a further 2-3 weeks.


After 3 weeks, all fermentation should have completed, with no more bubbles rising and no fizzing at the surface of the liquid. If there is still signs of activity, then leave it longer. If fermentation has stopped, then it’s time to rack (transfer) the wine off the sediment, into a clean, sterilised demijohn, using a sterilised piece of siphon tubing. A racking cane with a sediment trap will help you transfer the maximum amount of wine, without sucking up any sediment. Take a hydrometer reading and make a note of the finishing gravity (FG).

You can now work out the alcohol content of your wine, using this formula: Alcohol by volume = (Starting Gravity – Finishing gravity) x 131.25

Leave the wine for two to three months, by which time a second sediment should have formed. Rack off the sediment into a clean, sterile demijohn. The wine may have started to clear at this point, but if not, move it somewhere cool to continue clearing. If it hasn’t cleared after 2 months, then it will need some help in the form of finings.

Adjusting for taste

Many wines will ferment out dry, in other words, the yeast will use up all the available sugar, turning it into alcohol. Before bottling, you should taste your wine and determine if it is to your taste, or if it is too dry. Some hydrometers come with markings indicating the level of sweetness, but if yours doesn’t, then use this as a guide:

If you wish to sweeten your wine, then you will with either need to ensure there is no more active yeast around to restart fermentation, or use an artificial sweetener. If using sugar, to prevent fermentation starting again, use fermentation stopper (Potassium Sorbate), sometimes called wine stabiliser. Add a small amount of sugar and re-taste. Keeping adding small amounts of sugar until the desired amount of sweetness is obtained. Remember, you can sweeten a dry wine, but you can’t make a sweet wine drier!


Once your wine has cleared, it is time to bottle it. A full demijohn will fill 6 standard wine bottles. Sterilise all the bottles, corks or caps and your siphon tube. Siphon carefully into each bottle, leaving any sediment behind in the demijohn. If using corks, allow the bottles to stand upright for 24 hours, before storing on their sides. Corks must be kept in contact with the wine, to ensure they stay wet, otherwise they can shrink and allow oxygen into the bottle, which will spoil the wine.


Your wine may be ready to drink at this stage, but most wines will benefit from being allowed to mature. How long is up to you, but most home brewed wine will benefit from at least one year’s ageing.

I hope you found this guide useful. You can find all the equipment, additives, yeast, etc. that you need to make wine on the wine making section of the site.