2012 Chilean wine

Our Chilean wine juice is in, we got 2 Cabernet Sauvignon,  2 Merlot, and 2 Syrah.   These wines come with every thing added, the idea is to bring up to room temp. and stir.  We took reading at that time and discovered the acid was low on all.  We adjusted all wines until we were content.  Here are the reading before and after for the three wines.

Cabernet Sauvignon: SG. 1.096, Acid .25, PH 3.8 added 5tsp of Acid Blend.  .375 Acid,PH 3.8.  Added 5tsp Malic Acid.  .50 Acid PH 3.8

Merlot:  SG 1.092, Acid .25, PH 4.2.  Added 5tsp of Acid Blend. Acid .375, PH 4.0. Added 5tsp Malic Acid. Acid .45, PH 3.8

Syrah: SG. 1.092, Acid .25, PH 4.4. Added 5tsp of Acid Blend. Acid .375, PH 4.0. Added 5tsp Malic Acid. Acid .475, PH 3.8

When your Acid is low your PH is high.  The average PH for a Red wine is 3.3-3.5 for whites 2.9-3.9.   Our Acid is still a little low, but were going to let it ferment out this way.  As it ferments the acid will come up into range.  After about a week we racked them into 5 gallon carboys. These are suppose to be six gallon buckets but they always fill them up to almost the top.  So we end up with 6+ gallons of juice per bucket and since we only use 5 gallon carboys we put the left over juice in our 6 gallon carboy that we have for beer.  Were calling this a Bordeaux Blend. A typical Bordeaux Blend consist of three or more of these grapes Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Frac, Malbec and Verdot.


We racked all of our Chilean wine and they are coming along nicely.  The Bordeaux we put into a 5 gallon carboy + 1 gallon carboy.  We will use the gallon one for topping off.  We also added sulphites to each one.  Next racking I’ll get an updated acid and PH reading.

Dandelion wine

It’s that time of year where I grab a cup of coffee and go outside and drink it while picking dandelions.  Most people consider dandelions to be a weed, but I like to make wine out of them. I’m hoping to do two batches this year, which means I need to pick 2,000 dandelions.  I will be using this recipe.  Like all recipes, you can use it as a base and add your own flare, or follow it step by step. I plan on doing  ours as a sparkling wine (more on this later).  Every one gives Dandelion Wine rave reviews and is amazed that it was made out of a weed that most people hate to see in their yard.

I got enough flowers for one batch so far.  I plan on doing another batch next week.  All you need is just the head of the flower.  The easiest way to clean them is to pull the petals forward and cut at the base on the petals.  You want to make sure you cut off the all of the stem and leaves.


First, boil the water then remove from heat and add petals. Steep for 2hours. Then strain it into your bucket.  The best way to strain it is by using your colander, just make sure you sanitise it first.  Don’t worry when you see the color of the juice, it isn’t going to be a nice yellow as you might think. Its more like a dirty brown.

My reading were as followed: PA 7%, SG 1.076 and Acid Test .30% TA.  I added another pound of sugar, melting it on the stove in 4 cups of must.  I also added 8 tsp of Acid blend.  My final numbers were PA 10% Acid Test .50% TA.  I’m happy with the numbers so I’m going to leave them.  The next day I added Lavin EC-1118.

So get out there and get picking!!!



Welcome LeeAnn

Please welcome LeeAnn to Frugal winemaking. She will be contributing content to this site. She has been making her own wine for over two years now. She is also an accomplished brewer and makes a pretty good beer. Please be polite and show her a nice welcome. Thank you.

Elderberry Valpolicello Wine Recipe

Last week I mentioned that I had a special recipe I was going to use with the last gallon of Valpolicello wine. After making the 6 gallon batch of wine from fresh juice, I rack the wine into a 5 gallon carboy. This leaves me with 1 gallon extra. I decided to make a second batch of wine using the left over wine in the bucket. I had a few pounds of Elderberries in the freezer and a couple of cans of Welches frozen grape juice. That was the basis of the recipe.

First, I use the same bucket that the original wine fermented in, I did not clean it out. When I racked the wine to the 5 gallon carboy, I left 1 gallon in the bucket. I then placed 7 pounds of elderberries in a nylon straining bag and placed that in a pot. I then mixed 8 pounds of sugar and 2 gallon of water in with the elderberries.  Then I added 2 cans of Welches grape juice. I did not boil the water, I just warmed it up to room temperature and added it to the bucket. I then added enough water to bring the bucket to 5 gallons. Next I added 2 teaspoons of acid blend for each gallon of wine for a total of 10 teaspoons. Since the wine in the bucket had yeast still in it, the fermentation started right away. I did not have to add any additional yeast.

I started this wine on 9/15/2011. PA was at 11.5% and TA was at .60%. I stirred it every day to mix the fruit into the wine. (As wine ferments, the fruit will float to the top and needs “punched down” in order to get maximum extraction of the flavors and colors.) On 9/22/2011 I lifted the bag of elderberries from the wine and let it drain. (Do Not Squeeze The Bag!) I then racked the wine from the bucket into a 5 gallon carboy for secondary fermentation.

There are a couple of things to keep in mind for this process. First, since the left over wine in the bucket is still fermenting, you do not want to do anything that will kill the yeast. I don’t add sulfite at this stage because I want fermentation to begin right away. I don’t pour boiling hot water into the bucket. I make sure the water temp is withing 5-10 degrees of the wine so as not to shock the yeast. Same thing with frozen fruit, bring it within 5-10 degrees of the wine must before adding it to the bucket.

Second, you can adjust the amount of fruit and frozen grape juice to suit what you have on hand. I used 7 pounds of elderberries because that was what I had in the freezer. I used 2 cans of Welches Frozen Grape Juice because, again, that is what I had in the freezer. Generally, I will use 8 pounds of fruit or 8 cans of Welches Frozen grape juice for a second run recipe. Mix and match as you see fit.

Well, that is one of the ways I stretch my wine. Using this method, I can make two batches of wine for a little more than the cost of one. Both of these wines should be done at around the same time, so I will be bottling 10 gallons instead of 5. That is how you make wine on a budget.


Basic Wine Making: Sanitization in Winemaking

It has been awhile since my last post, so I decided to do a series on Basic Wine Making.  I teach a wine making class here in Portersville, but for those of you who could not make it, I am going to go over what I teach in class. This is going to be a multi-part series starting with sanitization.

I have been making my own wine for over 12 years now. I started my journey making wine completely by happen-stance. One year, my father decided he wanted to make some pear wine because he had lots of pears from his fruit trees. One of his buddies decided to help him with this project. Now, my dad likes to jump right into new projects and since he had so many pears, he decided to make 55 gallons of pear wine! He got an old plastic 55 gallon barrel, put in the pears, some water, 25 pounds of sugar and a brick of bread yeast.

He stirred and stirred, it bubbled and fermented, this went on for a few weeks. After a couple months, we had this barrel full of nasty, vinegary, pear flavored concoction. It certainly was not wine. We had to dump this stuff down the drain.

After this first failure, I figured I would try to make a batch of wine. One of the first batches of wine I tried to make was a Strawberry wine. I did a little research on the Internet, borrowed an old crock pot, bought some wine yeast and tried to make strawberry wine. I boiled some water, added some sugar, added the strawberries, fermented it in a old crock pot, and it failed spectacularly. It was the most terrible thing I ever tasted!

For the record, don’t try to make wine in a crock pot that has been used to make sauerkraut… EVER!

Other than the fact that I should not have used a crock pot that had been used for sauerkraut, the other big mistake I made was not to sanitize my equipment. Which leads me to the point I am trying to make here.


I can’t stress this enough. Proper sanitation will solve 90% of your problems before you have them. Wine spoilage is almost always the result of not properly sanitizing something along the way. Make sure your equipment, buckets, carboys, siphon hose, and anything else that touches the wine are all properly sanitized. Sanitizing involves more than just washing your equipment with dish soap, so I will explain how to do it properly. In fact, you don’t want to use dish soap to clean your equipment, you want to use a clenser like B-brite.

There are 2 types of sanitizers that I have used in wine making. The sanitizers are Sulfite solution and Star San. Star San and Sulfite solution are no-rinse sanitizers. What that means is that you can use them with out rinsing the solution off the equipment with water. Star San is an acid based sanitizer and will not harm your wine. Sulfite is found naturally in wine and also will not harm your wine.

I mostly use Star San for sanitization now. I mix my Star San at 1/4 ounce per gallon, the directions say use 1oz for 5 gallons. Leave your equipment stand for a few minutes to give the sanitizer time to work. You do not have to rinse your equipment after using Star San. Another no rinse solution you can use is sulfite solution. You can make this by mixing 2 ounces of Potassium Metabisulfite into 1 gallon of water. You can then spray your equipment and give it a few minuets to work.

I clean my equipment with B-Brite after each use and then let air dry. B-Brite is an oxygen based cleanser. When I am ready to start another batch of wine, I’ll sanitize the bucket, spoons and any other equipment by spraying everything down with Star San. Then I will make my wine. After a week or two, I rack the wine out of the bucket. I will then rinse the dirty bucket with cold water. This will remove any sediment, fruit, and wine still in the bucket. Once the bucket has been rinsed, I will use B-Brite to wash out the bucket. I make sure to get B-Brite on every surface of the bucket, inside and out. I use it like dish soap and clean the whole bucket. To make a B-Brite solution, mix one table spoon into 1 gallon of water.

I used to use a sulfite solution to clean my bottles prior to bottling. I would fill the bottles with the sulfite solution, give them a couple minuets to soak then pour the solution from one bottle into the next. I would leave the bottles wet to add a little sulfite to the wine to keep the wine from spoiling. The one downside is that sulfite solution has a bad sulfur smell. I have switched to Star San to sanitize my bottles. Now I check the sulfite levels of my wine while it is bulk aging. I will go over this in more detail in a later post.

This concludes the first post in the series Basic Wine Making. I hope you understand how important proper sanitization is to Wine Making. It will solve 90% of your problems before you have them. In the next post, I will go over the equipment used in Wine Making and each items purpose.


Dandelion Wine

Spring is here and that means that Dandelions are starting to bloom. Most people don’t like Dandelions growing in their yard, but I look forward to them. It means I can make Dandelion Wine! This is a recipe I make every year and I usually make 2 batches. The best way I can describe how Dandelion Wine tastes is that it tastes like a Chianti Wine. A few things to keep in mind when you make this wine. Make sure you pick your Dandelions from a yard that has not been sprayed with any kind of chemical, you don’t want that in your wine. Pick medium to large dandelions in the late morning after the flowers have fully opened. You only want the head of the flower so you need to remove the stem and any leaves. The inner pedal leaves are fine, but you must remove all of the stem, this is important. I just pinch off the stem when I am cleaning the flowers, some people use scissors. Sometimes Dandelion Wine is hard to get started fermenting. If it has not started fermenting 3-4 days after pitching the yeast you may need to vigorously rack it into another bucket. By “vigorously rack” I just mean shaking the end of the hose the wine is coming out of a little bit to introduce air into the must. Sometimes the yeast just needs a little shot of oxygen to get started. My Dandelion Wine takes a while before it is ready to bottle. I usually start it in April\May and bottle in December\January, so be patient. If you are ready to get started making Dandelion Wine, use the recipe below. It is for a 5 gallon batch of wine.

  • 1000 Dandelion (about 2 Walmart bags full of dandelions)
  • 5 gallons of water
  • 8 lbs sugar
  • 10 tsp. Acid blend
  • 5 tsp. Yeast Nutrients
  • 1 1/4 tsp. Tannnin
  • 5 Campden tablets, crushed
  • 1pkt. Champaign yeast (Lalvin 1118)

Bring 2 gallons of water and your dandelion petals to a boil, remove from heat and steep for 2 hours.  Strain water through a colander to remove petals and pour it into your primary fermentor.  Add your remaining water, sugar, Acid Blend,Tannin, and Yeast Nutrient. Take an acid reading, your acid should be between .55% to .65% TA.  Take the PA reading, it should be between 10 and 12%.  Add Campden Tablets after the must has cooled to room temp. 12 to 24 hours after the Campden Tablets,  pitch the Yeast. Ferment and rack as normal for wine. Enjoy!

Selecting Yeast

Selecting the proper wine yeast for your wine is as important as deciding what kind of wine you want to make. Different yeasts will add different characteristics to wine and some have different uses. I’m going to explain what I look for in a wine yeast and some of the ones I use for my fruit wines.

First, I use dry wine yeast for my wines. There are liquid yeasts available, but I have not used them. Lalvin yeast is the brand I use the most. Red Star is another company that makes wine yeast. For this article, I’m going to review some of the Lalvin wine yeast that I use.

Lalvin EC1118 – A quick fermenting high alcohol tolerant yeast that has neutral effect on flavor and aroma. It can ferment up to 18% alcohol wines. This is my general purpose yeast. I use it in my dandelion wine and recommend it to beginning wine makers when they are first starting to make fruit wines. You can’t go wrong with this yeast.

Lalvin D47 – A moderate fermenting yeast that is good for bringing out the flavor and characteristics of the fruit. It also is good for wines where you want malo-lactic fermentation. Lalvin recommends this yeast for white and blush wines. I use it in my Elderberry wine to bring out the fruit flavor and encourage malo-lactic fermentation.

Lalvin 71B – A moderate fermenting yeast that is good for bringing out the aroma or esters of the wine. Lavin recommends this yeast for young reds and this is my second choice for my Elderberry wine.

Lalvin K1V-1116 – A moderate fermenting yeast good for fruit wines. This is the yeast for problem wines. It can tolerate low nutrition musts, like fruit musts. It can tolerate high SO2 levels, like in blueberry musts, and it can restart stuck fermentations. If you are having a problem with your wine fermenting, this is the yeast to use.

There are many more types of yeast that I did not cover. I use these four varieties on a regular basis because they have worked well for me. All of these strains will tolerate low nutrient levels which is common in fruit wines. I use each of them for different situations based on my experience. If you are just starting out with wine making and are not sure what yeast to use, pick Lalvin 1118. If you are having problems getting your wine to ferment, choose Lalvin 1116. The rest are for when you are ready to take you wine making to the next level.