Black grapes in a ceramic plate on an old board in the garden.

For the wine connoisseur, nothing beats the perfect bottle of vino… Except, perhaps, the satisfaction of creating it yourself! Homemade wine is making a comeback, and it’s easier than you think. While you might want to pick up a book or two on the subject in order to reach an expert level, we can get you started on a wine-making adventure with a few basic tips right now.

Grape choices. The type of grapes used will greatly influence the end results for your homemade wine. And this is where many amateur wine makers make their first mistake.

Unfortunately, you can’t simply choose your favorite type of wine and grow the appropriate grape. Theoretically this is possible, but grapes are fairly choosy about their environment. So, if your favorite grape happens to be one that cannot tolerate our environment here in Southern California, you will be fighting an uphill battle.

Luckily, many types of grapes do grow well in our climate. Vitis vinifera is a long-standing favorite among wine-makers, for its variety of flavor and historical authenticity. This family of grapes encompasses those grown for Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Zinfandel wines. Luckily this grape happens to grow well in our climate!

Or, if you want to skip the growing phase of wine-making, you can simply purchase grapes from a wholesaler.

How many grapes do I need to grow? How much wine do you want to make (and drink)? Crop yields will depend upon a variety of factors, such as weather, soil conditions, and your cultivation skills. But generally speaking, you will need about 20 pounds of fruit to create one gallon of wine. Plan your garden accordingly!

Harvesting your grapes. This is the key to good wine. You need to harvest your grapes at just the right time, when the sugar levels are optimal. Squish a handful and measure the sugar with a device called a hydrometer. When the sugar level reaches 22 degrees Brix, and the grapes taste ripe and sweet (but slightly tart), it is time to harvest them.

From here you will follow standard instructions for the wine you have chosen to create. Just remember that a clean environment is key to avoid potential contamination.

For more advice on building a grape arbor, give us a call. We can help you select the right spot on your property, and get you started on what might become your new favorite hobby.