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How To Make Homemade Wine with Video

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How We Learned to Make Homemade Wine

Has it ever crossed your mind to wonder how to make homemade wine? To be honest, it never crossed my mind, until we received an invitation from our wine sherpa friend, Denny, to go with him to a couple of parties where, with a group of people, we would have the opportunity to crush our own grapes, and two weeks later, we’d press our grapes, and through that, we’d make our own homemade wine.

A first taste of the beautiful juice.

A first taste of the beautiful juice.

Now you may think that sounds crazy. It almost sounds like an invitation to make bad wine, and then have to look for a way to get rid of it, by foisting it off on friends as homemade Christmas gifts. But that’s not the way it hit us.

Because we’d tasted the wine Denny made, himself, at a previous party. And, dang, it was delicious! Made from Sangiovese grapes that had been shipped to TN from Lodi, CA.

And the events Denny described to us sounded like a lot of fun! We’d be making this wine with high quality grapes, with a bunch of Italians, using some guy named Ernesto’s father’s wine press! And it would be a community effort, with everyone bringing food to share.

My husband and I like to go back to the basics, and learn HOW food is made. That’s why I have so many posts about whole wheat bread baking, and sourdough bread baking, and how to roast your own coffee beans.

And, not having a drop of Italian blood between the two of us, we were pretty stoked that a bunch of wine-making Italians would welcome us to be a part of such a unique event. (Turns out they heard I can cook.) 

So I’m going to start out with an overview of what this process is like, by showing you a video. And once you have the general idea of just how much fun it is, I’ll explain the steps involved. Ready? Here we go! 



The Crushing Party

  We start with a whole bunch of bunches of Sangiovese grapes. 

Sangiovese grapes

This past year, our group ordered 3500 lbs. of Sangiovese grapes, from Lodi, CA. That’s technically way more than a butt load.

We load the grapes into a crusher that we crank.

I should start by telling you that all the equipment, and our hands, get cleaned using a sulfite solution to kill any bacteria that would cause the wine to spoil. But otherwise, this is very much a Natural Wine. We add no yeast, and no other sulfur or sulfites.

Grapes Being Loaded into Crusher

We load the Sangiovese grapes, stems, leaves, and all into the top of the crusher. The crusher is shaped like a square funnel with a porcupine like cylinder at the bottom. It spins as you crank it, and crushes the grapes. There is a tub underneath, to catch the crushed grapes and all their juices.

Sangiovese grapes being crushed by spinning comb of crusher.

The spinning comb-like cylinder at the bottom of the crusher crushes the Sangiovese grapes.

 Next, we de-stem and de-leaf the crushed grapes.

We gather around the barrel of crushed grapes and remove most of the stems and leaves.

We gather around the tubs of crushed grapes and remove most of the stems and leaves.

Then we dump those crushed grapes into big barrels lined with food grade plastic, to ferment for two weeks.

Next, we wait approximately two weeks.

During that time, Ernesto checks the sugar content of the barrels, and measures how the fermentation seems to be coming along.  So, after what’s usually two weeks, we have another party, the Pressing Party. 

The Pressing Party

We dip colanders into the fermenting barrels to pull out the grapes.

Next, we put those colander contents into Ernesto’s father’s wine press.

A picture of the press in its entirety, as we are loading the grapes into it.

A picture of the press in its entirety, as we are loading more grapes into it.

At the bottom of this picture, you can see the top of the press.  Move your eye upward, and you’ll see the blocks that give the handle on top more force. You push the handle to press the juice out of the crushed, fermented grapes.

Adriana and Lisa working the press.

Here, you see Adriana and Lisa working the press.

 Wine comes 0ut the bottom of the press, and pours into buckets

At the bottom of the press, out comes the beautiful juice.

At the bottom of the press, out comes the beautiful juice. That’s some hue, isn’t it?

A first taste of the beautiful juice.

A first taste of the beautiful lightly fermented juice.

We pour the juice in the buckets into large barrels lined with food grade plastic. 

Meanwhile, Back in the Press:   

The crushing process has left a cake of completely squished grapes behind. Some years, we have sent the leftovers to our local elephant sanctuary, but it’s also good for feeding pigs, or if you’re REALLY Italian, you can use it to make grappa. Grappa is a lot like Italian Moonshine.    Finally, the juice from the large barrels goes into individual carboys

Our host, Ernesto’s carboy.

A carboy is a five gallon glass jug. A carboy will go home with each family who contributed money to buy a share of the grapes. One carboy of grape juice ends up making around 24 bottles of wine. 

Guitar player at potluck

If Sinatra isn’t playing in the background, live musicians are. A true Nashville cat entertains the wine makers.

Pepe sings an Italian love song to the accordion.

Pepe sings an Italian love song to the accompaniment of an  accordion.

Ernesto grills Italian sausages and peppers and onions to contribute to the community potluck.

Ernesto grills Italian sausages and peppers and onions to contribute to the community potluck.

How We Make Homemade Sangiovese Wine Cup

Please: pin this on Pinterest, or share it with your wine loving friends elsewhere on social media.

But I Want My Own Wonderful, Small Batch Wines!

If you love natural, organic wines, from boutique, small-batch vineyards, but don’t have a group of Italians with their grandpa’s wine press beating down your door to come to their wine making party, I strongly encourage you to check out the California Wine Club. They offer excellent, boutique wines from select vineyards, at very reasonable prices. 

My husband and I ordered wine from them, and we were very, very happy with the caliber of wines they offered. I’m chomping at the bit to go to California and meet the owners. I think we just might have quite a bit in common. Check them out! Get 50% off First Month when You Join a Club Level. Valid 1/1/-3/31.

A Few More of My Posts About Wine

If you've read this post, then I know you're a fellow wine lover. Check out some of the other extremely helpful information I've shared about wine.

Martha Franco

Tuesday 18th of February 2020

What fun! I belong to a group here< "Les Amis du Vin", and we get together once a month for a wine pairing dinner. Usually 5 courses with accompanying wines! It's a blast! Wish I lived closer, I'd love to be a part of your wine making adventure!

Susan Williams

Wednesday 19th of February 2020

And *I* wish I could attend your "Les Amis du Vin" dinner and wine pairing event. What fun that must be!