This wine is made using one of the simplest recipes possible. All you need is juice, sugar and yeast.
For this version, I reconstitute three cans of frozen Concord grape juice concentrate, but you can use any bottled or frozen grape juice that does not contain preservatives or added sugars.
A warning: this tends to be a very aggressive, bubbling ferment! You may want to put your carboy in a place where you don’t mind sticky, sweet fruit juice seeping out of the airlock. You can set your vigorously fermenting jugs on a towel in the bathtub with the shower curtain closed overnight, or in a plastic storage bin if you have one large enough. If the airlock gets filled with bubbles and wine, simply clean it, sanitize it and replace it until the fermentation calms down.
- 1 gal (3.8 L) grape juice, divided
- 1 cup (200 g) sugar
- 1/2 packet (2.5 g) Lalvin K1-V116 yeast
1.) Gather and sanitize equipment: Gather your ingredients and sanitize your supplies. You’ll need a gallon (3.8-L) carboy, a funnel and a bung and airlock.
2.) Make the brew: Pour 1/2 gallon (1.9 L) of the grape juice into the carboy. Add the sugar to the remaining 1/2 gallon (1.9 L) juice in the original bottle, close it and shake it until the sugar is completely dissolved.
3.) Funnel: Use the funnel to pour the sweetened juice into the carboy with the plain juice. If necessary, top off the carboy with water until the must reaches the neck of the jug.
4.) Add the yeast: Pour in the yeast and cover the mouth of the carboy with a solid bung or with a clean hand. Shake the jug for a minute or two to mix in the yeast and add oxygen, and then recap the carboy with the bung and airlock.
5.) Ferment: Label the jug with the brew name and date and set it aside somewhere around 60 to 70°F (16 to 21°C) and out of direct sunlight. After a day or so you should start to see the bubbles appear and you can revel in the sound of the jug bubbling until it is done with its fermenting magic! As with the meads, simply check the airlock and watch how often it bubbles. You can tell fermentation is done when the bubbles have stopped and the wine has cleared. This usually takes about 4 to 6 weeks. Taste the wine again after that week or two and see how things are progressing. If the fermentation appears to be over and you are happy with the flavor, go ahead and bottle your wine. If it isn’t sweet enough, consider adding sugar syrup (page 143) or making a spritzer (page 139) when you serve it!
6.) Taste: Give your wine a taste with a wine thief or sanitized straw when you think it is done. It will probably be dry, as many of the sugars are eaten away during the busy fermentation. If that suits your palate, skip to step 8, bottling. For a sweeter wine, proceed to step 7.
7.) Rack, if desired: If you want a sweeter flavor, rack the wine to another sanitized jug with 1 cup (240 ml) of sugar syrup (page 143, 144 or 147) in the bottom of it. Put in a new bung and airlock and set aside the wine for another week or two, just in case fermentation restarts.
Tip: If you want to stop fermentation completely before adding sugars and back sweetening your wine, look into using potassium sorbate. This additive ceases the yeast's activity and lets you sweeten without the threat of fermentation starting again.
8.) Bottle: Once you are happy with the flavor, it is time to bottle! Sanitize your bottles, racking cane and caps or corks, if you need them. Set the jug on your counter and put the sanitized bottles at a lower level, either in your sink or on the floor. This helps the siphon to work more effectively. Put one end of the siphon tube in a bottle and the racking cane into the jug and try not to disturb the lees at the bottom. Fill the bottles up to the necks and then cap them. Rinse and label the bottles.
9.) Age: Put the bottles away, in a cool environment out of direct sunlight, to age for at least a few weeks before enjoying the fruits of your labor!
Recipe Notes: If you use frozen grape juice concentrate, reconstitute the juice in a large pitcher, following the instructions on the label. Add the sugar to the pitcher and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Then, transfer the sweetened mixture to the carboy. When I say “sugar,” I mean cane sugar. For a “clean” flavor, use white granulated sugar. For a richer flavor reminiscent of rum or caramel, use brown sugar, turbinado, demerara or piloncillo.
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Reprinted with permission from Artisanal Small-Batch Brewing by Amber Shehan, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019. Photo credit: Jen CK Jacobs.