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I have a friend named Nate. The first time I heard about him, I was told he was brewing beer in his bathtub.

I was intrigued.

Nate also makes wine.

Nate is also a scientist. This lead me to believe that wine making is over my head. But it turns out it’s not really.

I spent some time with him this Fall while he made a batch of wine for his cellar and decided I’d give you a little “how to.” Nate recommends you also get a good book on wine making in addition to my sketchy tutorial. I’m not sure why he suggests that. Did you think I wouldn’t do it right Nate?




Hello Nate, are you there?

Here goes!

Step 1: Pick the grapes (200 pounds in this case)

Step 2: Crush and de-stem the grapes

Some people add diammonium phosphate, which is a yeast fertilizer. You use different kinds of yeast depending on the kind of wine you’re making. The fermenting happens faster when you use cultured or store-bought yeast. The problem is that sometimes you get a less interesting wine in the end so some people use naturally occurring ambient yeast.

Step 3: Primary Fermentation

Let the buckets ferment. These buckets did for two weeks. The naturally occurring yeast on the grapes will begin fermenting in about 2-3 days. You can smell it and you can see it bubbling. By about the 5th day it was fermenting vigorously in this case. This will vary depending on the temperature.

A raft of grape skins and seeds float to the top and you’ll punch it down daily.

You can start to smell the alcohol. Sometimes you’ll see fungus, which you can skim off.

Here you add sulfites. Sulfur protects damage to the wine by oxygen, and helps prevent organisms from growing in the wine. This allows the wine to “last longer” which lets it age and develop complex flavors. If you didn’t add sulfites, the wine would turn into vinegar in a matter of months. With natural yeast you might shoot for 30 parts per million free SO2.

The longer it spends fermenting, the more spicy flavors you will get. The danger is that it will begin to taste like stems. (Or rather, extract too much tannin).

Step 4: Pressing phase

Pour the grapes into a press. Press and let the juice pour out into buckets. There are different sized presses depending on how many pounds you are pressing.


Test with a hydrometer and see what the percentage is.

The grape here was originally at 23.5 brix (some California cab or zin grapes will get to 26-28). An equal volume of grape juice will weigh 9% more than an equal volume of water. It should become less than 0% which means you get almost all of the sugar out. (Alcohol weighs less than water).

Throw the grapes in your compost pile.

Step 5: Secondary Fermentation

The grape juice will be in secondary fermentation for about one month. A layer of “lees” will form at the bottom–dead yeast and other fibrous bits. Let it all float down to the bottom, yeast bodies aren’t the tastiest things in the world.

Step 6: Racking

Pull all of the wine off the top using a siphon.  Put it in a glass carboy or an oak barrel.

Then you’ll add oak chips. If you have an oak barrel to add the wine to, that’s the best option. But oak chips is the second best. Oak powder is another option, which works even faster but probably doesn’t produce the best taste of the three options.

The wine will be with the oak for a year and will suck the “oak essence” out of the chips or the barrel.

Step 7: Bottling

Siphon all of the juice off of the sediments into a bucket. If you use a bottler, it will suck exactly 750 ml out for you, otherwise you’ll have to measure.

Then you cork it and label it and then you wait another year.



  • Ilke
    Posted November 28, 2010 at 5:39 pm

    Cheers is the word!
    We have been brewing beer at home and toying with the idea of wine making for a while. I guess it really does not take up much space at home other than those carboy buckets and two glass containers. How many bottles did you guys get out of 200 lbs of grapes?

    • Post Author
      Posted November 29, 2010 at 5:11 pm

      I believe he gets 60 bottles from that batch!

  • OliePants
    Posted November 29, 2010 at 9:28 am

    This is amazing! Ah! Makes me want to do the same in my carpeted 700 sq ft. apt, but I'm guessing I have to hold off! 🙂

    • Post Author
      Posted November 29, 2010 at 10:06 am

      Actually, I'm told he's done it in is 600 sq ft apartment before, so I think it's do-able! You just have to clean up the mess and put plastic down!

  • Trish
    Posted November 29, 2010 at 9:50 am

    Fascinating. Thanks for breaking it down into simple terms.

  • Kristian Russell
    Posted November 29, 2010 at 10:50 am


  • Wine Tour
    Posted December 10, 2010 at 4:44 am

    Being a proffessional chaufeur in the Napa Valley, CA and I work for <a href="” target=”_blank”> I get to go to a lot of wineries in Napa, Sonoma and have lients do Wine Tasting Tours. I have never seen a more precise article on Wine Making. Thanks

    Buzz Vieau

  • Tom
    Posted December 14, 2010 at 7:32 pm

    Wow, looks delicious.

  • Rachel
    Posted December 29, 2010 at 8:17 am

    This looks like so much fun! I'm impatient to hear how it turned out!

  • nana
    Posted September 29, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    wow. I’m so trying this.

    • Post Author
      Posted September 30, 2012 at 7:11 am

      Let us know how it works out!

  • Francesco Rizzaverde
    Posted February 27, 2015 at 3:17 pm

    We have been making about 70 gallons of wine a year since my father-in-law was a child in the 1940’s. We have never used any chemical additives of any kind. We follow nearly the same process with some variation. We crush grapes with stems and allow them to ferment in an oak barrel for 24-36 hours before pressing. The grapes are pressed multiple times to insure all juice is extracted. Juice is TRANSFERRED to large glass carboys where it is allowed to ferment naturally in a cool environment of about 50 degrees. After 4-7 days the fermentation and “boil over” has stopped. It is firmly corked where it sits for no less than 4 months. Drafting wine off the top of the carboys as we need it into serving bottles. This process has been done in Italy for hundreds. if not thousands of years and uses no chemical intervention of any type. 99% of our grapes are Napa Valley California grapes usually of the Muscat or Zinfandel families. I applaud your website for its great overview of home wine making. It TRULY is a dying tradition here in America as many of the original family IMMIGRANTS begin to fade away.

    • Georgia Pellegrini
      Posted March 12, 2015 at 7:54 am

      Amazing! Thank you for sharing. Would be wonderful to try your wine someday!

    • Frank
      Posted October 14, 2015 at 12:29 pm

      Great article. I make red wine as described in your article but with the exception that i do not add any cheMicals of any kind (i.e. SulFites). I agree with francesco that Adding anything to your wine is not necessary. The way francesco described how to make wine is the same exact way my cousin from the “old country” DESCRIBED in making white wine. It is a misconception that if You do not add sulfites It will turn to vinegar because i don’t add them and have good tasting wine i made from two years ago. I Also never tried the oak chips bu i think i will this year

  • Dee
    Posted July 26, 2017 at 8:31 am

    Do you have any idea what breed of grape he used? Those look like concord grapes but there are so many options. And was the final product sweet or more like a merlot? I WANT TO PLANT MY OWN GRAPES to produce more of a shiraz wine to be used to make sangria.

    • Moses Mogotsi
      Posted July 8, 2019 at 11:04 pm

      I have been eager and keen to taste my own home made wine,and later brew for commercial purpose.Please kindly help me to reach my dreams.Thank you cheers!

  • Manama cupscupio
    Posted June 13, 2020 at 6:47 am

    Would you help me how to make wine

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