Making Quick Wine from Commercial Juice
There are numerous YouTube videos that explain how to make wine from commercial juice in the original bottle, using no special equipment. The claims are the “wine” is ready to drink in as little as a week.
Technically speaking, that is all true. The resulting beverage IS drinkable in 1 week’s time. However, it’s going to be raw and yeasty tasting, and certainly not pleasant. Even after a month, it’s not going to be much better. However, for folks interested in a quick-n-easy drunk, it works quite well!
This post explains how to produce a better quality product in 4 months, using minimal equipment and ingredients.
The following is needed to make a gallon of fruit wine. This is a minimalist list, including a few optional items.
Stainless Steel Cooking Pot — The initial volume will be 5 quarts, so the pot needs to be at least 8 quarts. Use stainless steel only; DO NOT use aluminum. A food grade plastic bucket also works fine.
Steel Spoon — Used to stir the wine.
Towel — Used to cover the pot during fermentation.
Gallon Jug — A 4 liter wine jug, like Carlo Rossi, is perfect. Also have smaller bottles on hand as initially there will be more wine than fits in the jug.
Balloons — This is a “minimal equipment” method, so we’ll use balloons to keep air away from the wine once it’s in the jug.
Siphon Hose (optional) — Food grade tubing is the best way to transfer wine between containers, but pouring works. It’s messier and there is more waste, but it works.
The list of ingredients is short:
- 5 quarts/liters 100% commercial juice that does not contain sorbate. Read the label first — sorbate is a preservative that prevents yeast from reproducing, so if it’s present, it makes the ferment difficult or impossible.
- 1-3/4 cups sugar
- 1 packet wine yeast. While baking yeast can be used, wine yeast will produce a better taste and the sediment will compact better. There are dozens of types of wine yeast — buy whatever is cheapest.
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient (optional). Juice is a poor environment for yeast to grow in, so adding nutrient makes the ferment go better. An 8 oz jar makes a lot of batches.
We are skipping Campden tablets/Potassium Metabisulfite as this wine is quickly consumed. Other additions, such as tannin, are skipped so the wine ages faster, and Potassium Sorbate is skipped as the wine is not backsweetened.
Starting the Wine
All equipment MUST be clean to avoid contamination.
In the pot, mix the juice and sugar, stirring well. The amount of sugar is a best guess to produce about 10% Alcohol By Volume (ABV). A stronger wine can be made, but this one will ferment well and will age quicker than stronger wines.
If using nutrient, stir it in.
Sprinkle the yeast on top. Cover with the towel and place the pot in a location where the temperature is 70 F to 80 F, and doesn’t vary much.
Starting on the second day, gently stir the wine once per day. Make sure the spoon is clean! Also make sure the towel stays clean, and place it over the pot after each stir.
Fermentation normally starts after 24 to 72 hours.
Fermentation is typically done in 7 to 10 days. The wine will start to foam, then when fermentation is done, the foam will go away.
Pour or siphon the wine into the gallon jug, leaving as much sediment behind. Put excess wine in smaller bottles, and put a balloon over the mouth of each container. Each container should be full to within 2″ or 3″ of the top.
Let the wine settle for 2 weeks. Any remaining fermentation will complete, and most of the sediment will drop.
Pour or siphon all containers back into the pot, leaving sediment behind.
Clean the jug and other containers, then put the clear wine back in, filling to within 2″ of the top. Re-attach the balloon.
Let the jug rest for 3 months.
Gently pour the wine off the sediment back into the pot. The wine is now ready to drink.
Air is wine’s enemy, so it’s best to bottle in smaller bottles. Leaving the wine in the jug and using it over time will oxidize the wine.
Serving the Wine
A BIG note: the wine is unsweetened and may not taste all that good. This is because fruit wines need a bit of sugar to enhance the natural fruit flavors.
Why is the wine unsweetened? Because we’d have to add potassium sorbate and potassium metabisulfite to prevent a new fermentation. The yeast still present in the wine would see that tasty sugar and start feasting again.
Instead, add sugar to each glass as it is poured. Folks can sweeten to their own taste.
Sugar syrup blends well — boil 1 cup water and stir in 2 cups sugar, stirring until clear. Let cool to room temperature, and refrigerate between uses.