A Pressing Engagement

Making your own wine can be a satisfying and rewarding experience. Pressing your own fruit or otherwise extracting juice for your wine can make it even more so, but it can also mean extra work. It is certainly easier to buy frozen concentrate at the grocery store, or a complete kit from your local wine and beer supply shop, than it is to press your own fruit. Extracting your own juice, however, will yield more personal satisfaction as well as lending greater variety and individuality to your wines.

The first consideration in choosing your fruit, of course, is what you like. Next come availability and price. If you can get the fruit that you like at a price you can afford, then you are firmly on the way to a wine that you can fully appreciate and be proud of. Small shops, roadside stands, and U-Pick fields are often good places to get better prices. Or maybe you have a tree or bush in your back yard. Shopping for a fruit toward the end of its season sometimes helps also.

Pick out any really bad fruits or berries and wash the remainder well. If you are using berries, which do not need to be peeled, rinse with sulfite at this time. Peel the fruit or remove the greenery if necessary. If working with large fruits like apples or pears, cut the fruit into smaller pieces and remove the cores. Freezing the fruit at this time and thawing just prior to pressing will break down the cell walls and facilitate juice extraction. Citrus fruits should be sectioned before freezing.

If you happen to have a fruit press, your job is much simpler. Just follow the instructions for your press and skip the next three paragraphs. While a fruit press is a bit of an investment, if you find that you are going to make a large amount of wines from fresh fruits, it might be worth the initial cost to purchase one.

For those of you who do not have a press (and at the moment I am among your ranks) a blender is the next best thing. After thawing the fruit, put it into the blender and run at low speed. Do not blend to the point of liquefying the pulp as this will add a bitterness to your wine. Citrus fruits, berries, and other juicy fruits can be put into the blender on their own. Pears, apples and fruits that do not lend themselves to easy juicing should have some warm water put in the blender along with the fruit.

It is now time to add the pectic enzyme according to the instructions on the package (mine says "at least l/2 teaspoon per gallon"). After allowing a day or so for the breakdown of pectin, you should press the fruit

Pour the fruit and accumulated juices into a colander or strainer, and catch the juices as they run through. Using a large spoon or spatula, press on the pulp to force as much juice out as can be done easily. Next, put the pulp into a fine cheesecloth or nylon bag. Squeeze the bag to press the remaining juice from the fruit. Soak the fruit in some warm water and repeat the process.

From this point on, the procedure is the same as it would be when using prepared juice or a kit. Use a hydrometer to check the specific gravity of the juice. For a regular table wine, the reading should be about 1.100 (potential alcohol 13.4%). If the specific gravity is too high, dilute the juice with water. In almost all cases, however, the reading will be low-between 1.020 and 1.040. In these cases, the specific gravity must be raised by the addition of either sugar or honey to the proper level. (I personally prefer honey, but this may be the mead maker in me. You should experiment yourself, and see what you and your friends like most.)

At this time, any other additives which the juice needs prior to fermentation should be added. Grapes are the only fruit which naturally contain all of the nutrients needed for yeast to grow strong and healthy. For any other fruits, some additives are usually necessary.

Acids and tannin are the most common additives. Fruit acids can be purchased at wine and beer supply stores, or one to two ounces of lemon juice per gallon can be added to juice of low acid fruits. (Do not add acid to citrus fruits or strawberries!) Tannin can also be purchased in powdered form. Another source of tannin is spices, which may be steeped in the warm juice overnight (I often use cloves, cinnamon and ginger, myself-these work very well in apple wines and mead).

Once the must (treated, unfermented juice) has been prepared you should remove 8 oz. and warm it to between 90 F and 95 F. Next, add the yeast to it. This should be set aside as a starter solution for your wine. Add sulfite to the remaining must; cover it and allow it to sit for twenty-four hours.

The next day, when the starter solution is fermenting steadily, add it to the bulk of the must and ferment until done (no more bubbles) in a covered, but not airtight, container (an airlock is best, though not absolutely necessary). When all fermentation is completed, siphon the wine off the sediment which will have formed on the bottom of the bottle or carboy. Sulfite and cover it and allow it to sit. In two to four weeks, a layer of sediment will have again formed on the bottom. Siphon the wine and sulfite it again.

Repeat this last step as necessary every one to three months (each time it will take longer and longer for the sediment to settle out) until the wine is sparkling clear. Siphon the wine into bottles and label them. In this way, you get a sparkling clear wine with no sediment without having to resort to filters or artificial fining agents. Another benefit of using this method for clarifying your wine is that the wine has aged long enough and is ready to drink without any further ado.

Two wines which I have made at least partly from fresh fruits and which have been.well received at the Brewers and Vintners Guild meetings at Pennsics are my Strawberry Wine and my Triple Berry Wine. For the Strawberry Wine I used about one and a half gallons of fresh (slightly overripe) strawberries and 5 pounds of sugar. After extracting the juice from the berries the volume was brought to 8 liters with sugar and water as necessary. This produced two gallons of wine. In my Triple Berry Wine I used about a gallon of blackberries, which yielded 48 oz of juice. I then added 80 oz of raspberry/cranberry drink and 2 cups of sugar. This was enough to yield one gallon of wine.


Adams. John E An Essay on Brewing, Vintning and Distillation, Doubleday & Co., Inc. 1970.

Kucik, Priscilla aka Mistress Prisilka od Cervany Kamen, "Starting Your Wine: The Basics," Bottle and Cup, Issue #2.

Restall, J. and Hebbs, D. "How to make Wines with a Sparkle," The Amateur Winemaker, 1977.

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This page last updated on March 2, 2001