Step by Step Winemaking - White 

When making white wine, only the fresh pressed juice is fermented. This article shows how to make 5 gallons of sweet or dry red wine....




To make 5+ gallons of dry white wine:

Click here for sweet white wines...

Crushuign white wine grapes white wine in carboys
  • Step 1 - Pick, crush and press about 2 bushels (80lb) of grapes such as Seyval, Cayuga or Niagara. We have a grape crusher-stemmer available at the vineyard but not a press. We do have mesh bags that the crushed grapes can be put in and squeezed - but a press is much better.
  • Step 2 - Put the juice in 5 gallon containers. At this point a carboy is preferred by anything will work - just make sure the top it loosely covered to keep out fruit flies.
  • Step 3 - Check and adjust the sugar level. This is done with a hydrometer and a sugar conversion chart. The sugar in the grapes will ferment into alcohol and the conversion chart will show you how much sugar (if any) to add. Fill your hydrometer with juice and read the "specific gravity" where top level of the juice is floating the hydrometer. For an example if the specific gravity was 1.074 (or 18 degrees balling) the must will ferment out to 9.9% alcohol. Read across on the chart and if you want a 11% wine you will add 2.5 oz/gallon sugar (or honey). This is a typical sugar level - our 80lb batch of wine will need (5 gallons x 2.5 oz/gallon) about 12-13 oz of sugar. Mix the sugar in reall good and re-check the gravity.
    (If you do not have a hydrometer, just add about 1lb of sugar and you will be pretty close.)
  • Step 4 - Add camben tablets (sulfite). Camben tablets will help keep your wine from browning and turning into vinegar. Crush 5 to 10 tablets and mix them into the must. Some people prefer not to use sulfites and this step is optional.
    I have never made a batch of wine without protecting it with sulfites.
  • Step 5 - Wait about 24 hours and add a packet of wine yeast. I like to use a cultured wine yeast such as Montreal whatever (a general purpose yeast) or Cote's de blanc - but you can experiment. Just sprinkle the package over the must and stir it in just a little bit. The reason for waiting the 24hrs is to let the sulfites reduce some of the wild yeasts and let the cultured yeast take over. I you do not use sulfites you can add the yeast on day 1.
  • Some winemakers do not like to add anything - sugar - sulfites- or yeast - The wine will still ferment ok, but you take a chance of low alcohol, browning, oxidation and vinegar creation.
  • Step 6 - The wine should start ferment in a day or two. Do not fill the 5 gallon carboy to the top or it will foam over after the fermentation starts. Lower the level about 1/4 but transfering some of the must into a smaller (such as 1 gallon jug) container. After a few weeks the fermetation will slow down and you can add the extra wine back in totop up the carboy.
  • Step 7 - 2 to 3 months later you can rack the wine. Take a siphon hose and siphon the clear wine from the original carboy to a new one, leaving the "lees" the dead yeast and debris on the bottom in the old carboy.
  • Step 8 - About 3 months later the wine will be ready to bottle.


To make 5 gallons of sweet white wine:

We will use the same instructions we used for the dry white wine above with some slight variations. I like to have a soft-slightly sweet finish in most of my white wines.


Things to keep in Mind...

  • You can mix and match any of the grape varieties to make some very unique wines.
  • Sometimes the fruitier grapes are better picked slightly underripe (such as Cayuga, Canadice, Niagara, etc.) - the flavor will not be as strong.
  • If you want a sweeter - high alcohol wine, the easiest way to do it is to start off with more sugar and keep adding it in small amounts throughout the fermentation. Eventually the alcohol will kill the yeast and leave some residual sugar. If you add too much at once the wine may be too sweet. At any time during the fermentation, taste the wine - if it is dry add sugar until it is sweet again. Repeat this until it does not ferment anymore.
  • Another way to make a sweet wine is to ferment the wine dry, sometimes using a yeast such as Cote des Blancs that does not like high alcohol. After the wine is stable, I sweeten it to taste, add 1 to 1.25 grams/gallon Potassium Sorbate, 2 cambden tablets per gallon and rack it. If it does not re-ferment I bottle it after a few months.
  • A third way to make a sweet wine is to sweeten the wine and then filter out the yeast cells with a wine filter and it will not re-ferment. A wine filter can be a usefull tool.


  • Another way to make a sweet wine - AND THE SIMPLEST - Is to sweeten it at the table.  I pour the wine in a glass, add a tsp of sugar or any artificial sweetener and taste.

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