October 23, 2018

How to Switch From Homebrewing to Wine Making

Got a few batches of homebrew under your belt but feel like trying your hand at wine? An easy thing with these few additions.

If you already have a brewing starter kit with a six-gallon carboy (i.e., Northern Brewer's Starter Kits all Contain one), then the list of add-ons is quite short:

1. A wine kit. Aseptically-packaged varietal grape juice (Merlot! Malbec! Syrah! Chardonnay! Pinot Grigio! Zinfandel!) from great vineyards the world over. These are user-friendly, complete (they include yeast, finings and clarifiers, plus oak for most reds and some whites), and they make great wine for about $2-$5 a bottle.

2. A big bucket for primary fermenter. (don't forget a lid!) Wine kits yield six-gallon batches, so we need a 7.9 gallon primary; the six-gallon carboy you already own will be used as the secondary fermenter.

3. A corker and corks. If you are just dipping a toe in the winemaking water or plan to only make a batch or two a year, you can get by with a handheld corker. A bench or floor corker is the weapon of choice for the large-volume or frequent winemaker (and they can also cork those nifty 750 ml Belgian beer bottles!). Use #8 corks with a handheld corker, and #9 corks with bench or floor models.

4. Wine bottles. Just as with beer bottles, buy new or scrub and reuse empties - you'll have at least a few weeks to collect 'em while the wine ferments and clarifies.

5. Stirring technology. Because the must (think of it as wine wort) needs to be mixed before fermentation and degassed after fermentation. All you really need is a long spoon or paddle that can be sanitized; optional but highly recommended is a hand drill-mounted device like this, which for our purposes is like a very, very fast and efficient spoon.