Immediately after purchase, remove 1/2 gallon of juice from carboy or bucket. Be sure to cover and refrigerate for later.
Next add the yeast. To pitch yeast heat non-chlorinated container of water to above 100 degrees F, and allow to cool to 100 degrees +/- 3 degrees and then add yeast. Allow yeast to set 10-15 minutes before adding to juice. You will notice activity “boiling” within 24-48 hours.
Early fermentation can be somewhat violent but after the obvious boiling has stopped the mixture still ferments for several days and at this time you should add back the juice you removed after allowing it to reach room temperature.
Hydrometers are helpful in determining when your fermentation has stopped but are essential for stopping fermentation at specific residual sugar levels. This is done by adding Potassium Sorbet at the desired level but can also be done by allowing the fermentation to finish, then adding potassium sorbet and adding sugar.
We can assist you with these calculations if desired.
Red wines and dry wines are allowed to finish fermenting until the wine is essential at zero Brix.
Depending on style of wine you wish to achieve, you may decided to add Oak Spirals or some other form of oak and age the wine for 6 months or longer. This is often done with the French blends and can be done with less oak for Italian blends or with Pinot Grigio for a Chardonnay type notes. Rosé and white wines can be enjoyed within a couple months of fermentation.
It is very important to keep the water level in the air lock to the appropriate height as fermentation slows and eventually replace it with a closed stopper for storage.
Siphon hoses work much better for removing the wine from the container without disturbing the lees so much. Lees is the dead yeast and byproducts at the bottom of the container. It is possible to carefully and slowly pour off the good wine (called racking) without mixing the lees back in but less wine is often realized. The more times you rack the wine the clearer the final product will be but the less wine you will have.
It is important to note that if the air level in the carboy is too great, you risk contamination and off flavors. Some winemakers choose to keep a variety of carboy sizes or to keep extra wine on hand to raise the level.