Getting Started in Country Fruit Wine Making ?

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Scooter68

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(Purely personal comments based on my 5 1/2 years on here and making Country Fruit Wine. I don't claim to be any sort of expert, I've just received my share of bumps and bruises and try not to make the same mistake twice)

By no means are these hard fast "Rules" but rather what I believe are best practices for new Fruit wine makers.

Please note that I make Country fruit wines only NOT grape wines. Practices vary, but only slightly .

This is not a detailed list but rather some guidance based on what I have learned:

Equipment and materials

1)
Have 2 Hydrometers, They break easily and if it breaks as you are preparing your wine, it forces you to guesstimate or rely on calculations that are tedious and may not be 100% accurate depending on how much your fruit varies from the 'normal' fruit of that type
2) Have a pH Meter (How expensive is up to you. BUT even the most expensive is worthless if you don't calibrate it properly. So you need those calbrating solutions/powder packets)
3) Gather not just 1, 3, 5 and/or 6.5 gallon carboys but also gather 1/2 gallon, 16oz, 12 oz glass containers that you can securely put an airlock on. (Hint think recycling centers) Kombucha bottles 16oz work nicely. Odd size containers are very useful in storing or aging smaller quantities of extra wine.
4) Check all your additives and make sure you know when to use them and what they do. Avoid products that contains sodium, like Sodium Metabisulfite and instead use Potassium Metabisulfite. (Why would you want to add salt to wine?)
5) Start with good quality fruit or wine base - Using pre-prepared "100% Fruit Juices" may not be giving what you think. Learn to read the list of ingredients. That Cherry Juice may in fact be Grape, Apple, Pear and some Cherry juice. So the result is a blended wine not a 100% Cherry wine in that case. No if you know that and are OK with that - go for it. Just remember the old phrase "Garbage in Garbage out" applies, a watered down juice will not product a solid tasting wine.
6) Oh, and don't skimp on the quantities of fruit. many online recipes will call for 3-4 lbs of fruit per gallon. THAT will give you a very 'light on the palate wine.' Just know that and a be aware. Go in with your eyes open and ready to have fun,.
7) Remember to get good cleaning supplies and know what they do. We Sanitize we do not Sterilize our equipment. So the proper products are important and some that sound great can adversely affect your wine. (Bleach - not good to use unless you are going to rinse, rinse, rinse, and then store the cleaned item for a while.
8) Get a couple of really LONG brushes and make sure they will really reach and clean those carboys and buckets. Don't think you can have too many brushes.

Ok Enough about gathering equipment - Now on to the wine making:

A) Read a lot on here and good books about home wine making. Look for "Best Practices" guidance and avoid the shortcuts for the first couple of batches. Some of those come with potential cost to your wine quality.
B) AVOID YOUTUBE videos, - they are loaded with unproven 'shortcuts' and outright bad guidance. The few good ones out there are hard to recognize for a newbie. I use the approach - If 15 people and the books tell you one way to do something, be very wary of that "New Exciting Wine making process."
C) Gather and check your supplies before you start. The only supplies you don't need to have on hand before starting are Bottles, corks, corker and labels.
D) TAKE NOTES about all the steps and measurements as you do them. Especially the SG and pH just BEFORE you pitch the yeast. Also take notes on progression of the ferment and aging process.
E) Oversize your batches to allow for the loss of volume due to lees. Check on this site for approximate losses folks experience with each type of fruit. That oversizing will provide you a safety margin and provide you additional wine for topping off and a little taste testing along the way to bottling day.
F) Don't rush to pitch the yeast - once you have the wine ready - Let it set overnight if at all possible. If you have properly prepared the wine must it will keep over night easily unless the room is hot. After that overnight wait retake your SG and pH measurements. (TA can be done with pH meter too if you prefer that measurement) Know what your expected ABV will be if the batch ferments all the way dry. An ABV over 13.5 might not be the best route for your first batch of wine.
G) DON'T ferment in a carboy, Use food safe plastic bucket and cover it with a cloth cover. You can tie a cord around it if you have nosy pets. And active fermentation can produce a LOT of foam very quickly. (See Foam Fountain in 'J' below.)
H) Stir the must daily for until the SG is approaching 1.020 and Take the SG reading once a day for your first couple of batches - THAT's how you know how well the fermentation is progressing
I) Start with a wine variety that is something simple, read about experiences folks have had with that type of wine. For example: Watermelon or persimmon wines are a very difficult wines to get right. Blackberry, Apple, Blueberry, are pretty good starting wines. At least be aware of what to expect that may be unique to the wine you want to make.
J) Transfer to a carboy when 2 conditions are met 1) Foaming has died down and the surface is starting to have just scattered collections of foam. 2) When the SG is below 1.020 or even 1.000. If one of these conditions is not met, there is a significant risk of spilling out foam after you rack the wine in to the carboy, Known as a foam fountain or wine volcano. Not fun cleaning that up and it's a waste of wine. When doing this you will be leaving the fruit pulp and most of the gross lees behind. (NOTE: Some folks call this "Secondary Fermentation" or Second phase of fermentation. In reality it's all the same fermentation the fermentation often slows somewhat as the yeast approaches it alcohol tolerance limits or has less food [Sugar] to consume.)
K) Fermentation takes as long as it takes* . When the SG reading hasn't changed for 3 days your ferment is either finished, If below 1.000, or stuck/stalled if well above that number. *(I've had batches ferment all the way dry in less than 3 days and I've had a few take 3 weeks to finish)
L) Once fermentation has finished get your wine off of the any remaining gross lees (Unless you are doing a sur lei ferment. If you don't know what that is, you probably should not be attempting it yet.)
M) You get it off the lees by racking into a carboy and putting in your proper dosage of K-Meta into the carboy first. If you want to dissolve it first fine, a couple of ounces of wine or water works great. Normally the action of the wine flowing into the carboy will dissolve and mix it into the wine as it goes.
N) The above "M" was your first Post Fermentation racking and you will need plan to rack again normally in 10 days to 3 weeks to get rid of the remaining large quantity of lees. After that second racking the amount of lees should be much smaller and may amount to nothing more than a dusting but remember NOT to suck that dust over into the next carboy.
O) Rack the wine every 3 month after your second racking and at each racking add the correct dosage of K-Meta
P) Now you are into aging the wine. Except for white wines and some of the more delicate fruit wines aging in bulk is commonly done for 9-12 months.
Q) Questions? - Hey this is the place to ask and try to stay ahead of the game. I didn't get into a LOT of areas but some good time spent reading posts on here and asking some question will help you succeed in this hobby. Plan ahead - Asking about when to pitch the yeast after you have already prepared the wine, might lead to issues. We love to help folks but this forum is not a "Monitored" 24/7 help desk. It might take a day or two for answers. Rmember to browse around on this site. There are many sections including the Country Fruit Winemaking and the Recipes forums. Scads of information and not that hard to locate with a little time. On and one last thing about time. Wine making is a hobby for those willing to play the Long-game. Great wine doesn't happen in 6 weeks. (If you don't have patience - this is probably not the hobby for you)

I'll end this epic post with my personal take on how wine progresses:
At 6 weeks - yeah it's "Wine"
At 6 -9 months - You can see it's potential now. (Ah it's young but starting to resemble something good)
At 12 months - Enjoyable (Ok That's pretty doggone decent)
At 18-24 months - Something you can be proud to share ( I shoulda made more of this - Hey Bill want to tastes something really good
After 3 years - WOW This is GREAT (And you say to yourself - "NOBODY is getting any of this unless they are really REALLY good friends.")
Oh, and good luck having any of your first batches last 3 years unless you have a great deal of self-control.
 
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Scooter68

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Thank you. There's so much you learn in the first few years and it pains me to see folks repeating somey of the mistakes I've made and they surprise me with some things I would never have tried to do. (Good & Bad)
 

Rembee

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Thank you. There's so much you learn in the first few years and it pains me to see folks repeating somey of the mistakes I've made and they surprise me with some things I would never have tried to do. (Good & Bad)
This is so true! I agree whole heartedly. Heck, I've been making country wines now for better then 15 years and I'm still learning lol. I started out in 2004. Had plenty of mishaps the first 2 years and became discouraged and walked away for awhile from the hobby.
Then I came across Jack Keller. His method of wine making changed my whole way of approaching the hobby. He explained methods in the same way that you did at the start of this thread. Kinda opened my eyes and I've never turned back since lol
 

JustJoe

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Scooter says -

I'll end this epic post with my personal take on how wine progresses:
At 6 weeks - yeah it's "Wine"
At 6 -9 months - You can see it's potential now. (Ah it's young but starting to resemble something good)
At 12 months - Enjoyable (Ok That's pretty doggone decent)
At 18-24 months - Something you can be proud to share ( I shoulda made more of this - Hey Bill want to tastes something really good
After 3 years - WOW This is GREAT (And you say to yourself - "NOBODY is getting any of this unless they are really REALLY good friends.")
Oh, and good luck having any of your first batches last 3 years unless you have a great deal of self-control.

Personally, I have a severe patience deficiency so my solution was to make a LOT of wine. My first year I made 5 gallons and the last bottle was gone about the time I should have been thinking about bottling it. Next year I made 25 gallons - a little of that made it to 18 months from start of fermentation to the end of the last bottle. Since then I have made at least 40 gallons each year and the 2+ year old wine is very good.
 

BernardSmith

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Really good approach to country wine making. I might add three thoughts;
1. Country wines don't really age as well as red grape wines and I think that that is because they may not be able to inhibit oxidation in as robust a way as red grape wines given the lack of tannins that are inherent to the fruits used. When you crush and press grapes you extract tannins from the seeds (and stems?) in ways that mango or pineapple or apple wines may not possess.
2. Relatedly, fermenting extracted juice rather than the fruit itself may not always produce the quality of wine possible as we are ignoring the skins and seeds of the fruit that those who focus on grapes have access to. And,
3. Country wines may be flavor rich or flavor thin depending on whether we dilute the expressed juice with water or use water for cleaning and sanitizing. There are some fruits whose natural acidity might suggest the need for some dilution (orange wine, for example), but even here perhaps the flavors might be better highlighted using the zest of the fruit rather than only the juice.
 

Scooter68

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Good points Bernard - I always prefer to start with the actual fruit, fresh if, or if need be frozen, and lastly prepared wine bases. Would prefer to NEVER use pre-mixed grocery store juice as I question that if will really be full strength and not diluted are blended with other juices. For most fruit not having the skins and pulp limited the extraction of all the characters of that fruit.
The one thing I do with most of my wine base or prepared juice concentrates is to use less water than the label recommends. e.g. For my tart cherry wine I use 4 bottles (Each supposed to make 1 gallon) for a 3 gallon wine batch. That way even if I actually start out at a volume of 3.5 gallons, I should be getting a much better flavor.
 

BernardSmith

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I think that there are juices bottled that are 100 percent of the named juice. Certainly, my local natural food store sells some of these premium brands, but it is impossible to know (in my opinion) whether the fruit picked is at the peak of ripeness and if so, why are they being turned into juice and not sold to five star restaurants?
 

Scooter68

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I think that there are juices bottled that are 100 percent of the named juice. Certainly, my local natural food store sells some of these premium brands, but it is impossible to know (in my opinion) whether the fruit picked is at the peak of ripeness and if so, why are they being turned into juice and not sold to five star restaurants?
Yes - The source is a key part of the solution. Reading the label is the key of course. And for those fruits sold at health food stores or by companies touting the product as a "Health Food" are more likely to be higher quality. Of course they also know that the fruit that has reached the "Peak of Ripeness and flavor" is also not going to ship well to stores or restaurant. (For those fruits that continue to ripen after picking) so using them in juice solves that problem form them. The fruit can even have cosmetic 'blemishes' and still be be perfect for making juices.
I'm far more likely to buy from those sources than from grocery stores regardless of how prestigious the brand name, they still are focused on their bottom line so adding water or blending other juices is fair game as long as they stay within the bounds of federal and state laws.
 

winemanden

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I like what Scooter says "be very wary of that "New Exciting Wine making process."
Not just in wine making, you can see it regularly in stores and supermarkets. New Improved Recipe. If the recipe was good in the first place, why would you want to improve it?
Too many people repeat things without trying them out for themselves. It's easy to ask about it on forums such as this.
 

Scooter68

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ADDITION TO THE LIST OF EQUIPMENT/MATERIALS in the leading post of this thread.

9)
A large funnel (Some come with a nylon filter insert which can be useful) AND an assortment of Stainless Steel strainers. These are handy for filtering out the fruit pulp that gets out of the fermentation bag or if you forget to put your fruit in fermentation bag. Have multiple strainers because they will clog up as you poor. I try to put the strainer into my funnel and then swap it out as I am pouring the wine lees from the fermentation bucket .

(I have this exact strainer set but not this exact Funnel. This funnel looks interesting the filter would clog up quickly and if you could have 2 or 3 extra that would help.)

1614097326873.png 1614097439993.png
 

my wine

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(I have this exact strainer set but not this exact Funnel. This funnel looks interesting the filter would clog up quickly and if you could have 2 or 3 extra that would help.)
I need a bigger funnel than what I have. I also have that same strainer set and I've used one of the strainers in my current funnel. It let me squeeze juice out of the fruit.
 

Scooter68

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Would this be large enough? They also have an 8" one as well. Sure there are others around too. I don't use the strainer because it gets clogged to quickly and if i try to remove it all the strained gunk goes down the funnel that's why the strainer is better for me.

I'm sure other have this one too found it also at Midwest supplies and that's all the further I searched.

1614110494904.png
 

Granrey

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While, I have mostly being inspired to this hobby by the YouTube videos. I do have my criticism towards them in certain things.

One of them seem to be real lack of understanding of what they are doing.

Disclaimer: the video below is not to offend anyone, neither the host.

For instance in the video below you will see the host taking a hydrometer reading on every juice prior fermentation and I think is because he did not add sugar later. Otherwise, he would have taken the reading after adding sugar, which seems to be what everybody does.

Then he goes to explain how these juices should have the same reading country wide.

However, my criticism is. The sugar content is already mentioned on the box.

The 4 juices he tested were:
Can Pineable= 1.048
Cherry Juice=1.05
Welch Grape= 1.068
Apple Juice= 1.05

For instance, If you see the ingredients of Welch juice (online). it tells you it has 42g for every 0.250L. meaning the sugar density is 42/0.240=168g/L. for this number the hydrometer reading should be 1.063. This can be found on tables.

Comparing them all (Hydro vs Box):

Can Pineable= 1.048 vs 1.04
Cherry Juice=1.05 vs 1.042
Welch Grape= 1.068 vs 1.063
Apple Juice= 1.05 vs 1.035

the differences can be attributed to hydrometer readings (temperature, user error, other substances), errors on the label, etc.

Back to beginning there are lots of videos on YouTube in which the hosts have their mind set on how much sugar to add per litre of juice (maybe the experience). They don't bother to read the label for sugar neither take a hydrometer reading prior adding sugar to know the sugar they have already and how much more to add. They only do hydrometer reading after adding the sugar.

The funny thing is that they add the sugar then become a bit surprised when the reading does not match what they were expecting.
 

my wine

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I have a can of red raspberry juice. I was considering combining with another fruit to make a wine and I looked for some ideas here. Searching WMT I noticed many made black raspberry wine but not red. Has onyone made red raspberry wine? How was it?

Has anyone made red raspbarry and another fruit? What did you use and how did it turn out? Thanks!
 

Scooter68

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I'll admit - I have watched one or two but that was it. The second one, I lost track of all the poor practices being "demonstrated."

But this is one You Tube Video that is really cool. If I bought my wine bottles, I'd probably seriously consider this product.

 

Scooter68

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I have a can of red raspberry juice. I was considering combining with another fruit to make a wine and I looked for some ideas here. Searching WMT I noticed many made black raspberry wine but not red. Has onyone made red raspberry wine? How was it?

Has anyone made red raspbarry and another fruit? What did you use and how did it turn out? Thanks!
Yes - I did but I used a can of Vintner's Harvest Red Raspberry wine base - meh, not impressed by it. So mild compared to Black Raspberry and especially Wild Black Raspberries. I did make a "Triple Berry" Wine with Red Raspberries but it only had about 1.5 lbs of them. They were obviously overpowered by the Wild Blackberries and Wild Black Raspberries.
 

Ivywoods

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Yes - I did but I used a can of Vintner's Harvest Red Raspberry wine base - meh, not impressed by it. So mild compared to Black Raspberry and especially Wild Black Raspberries. I did make a "Triple Berry" Wine with Red Raspberries but it only had about 1.5 lbs of them. They were obviously overpowered by the Wild Blackberries and Wild Black Raspberries.
Wild black raspberries are awesome but hard to come by for me. Have you used the golden raspberries? I don't have enough of those to make wine, but might be able to combine them with another fruit.
 
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