New Wine Makers Guide: How Long Does Homemade Wine Last?
Are you interested in trying to make your own wine, but aren’t sure how long you’d have to drink it? Find out how long homemade wine lasts in the following article.
The US is geographically the largest wine-consuming country in the world, and we are currently in the largest growth period of the wine industry in history!
If you’ve caught the wine-bug and are considering making your own, you’re definitely not alone. But winemaking can be as complex as the varieties of wine that exist!
Whether you’re considering making your own batch of homemade wine for a special occasion, or as a new hobby, time is a major consideration. Unlike beer, wine not only requires a period for fermentation, but needs, and benefits from bottle aging.
So, how long do you really need to make your own bottle of wine from start to finish?
Homemade Wine Lasts Just as Long as Commercially Made Wine, If…
There’s really no difference between the shelf life of wine made from a winery, or your own home, if the wine you make contains preservatives, such as sulfites and your bottles are properly sanitized.
Sulfites are naturally found in wine made from concentrate. They can be added to wine made from fresh fruits through the use of potassium metabisulfite, in powder form or tablet form (Campden tablets) twenty-four hours prior to adding yeast to your must during the vinification process, and then again before bottling.
Simply put, sulfites are food additives that help preserve the freshness of the wine.
However, many people are foregoing the use of sulfites because of growing consumer interest in natural, organic lifestyles. Which is fine, however, wines without preservatives, just like any food, have a shorter life expectancy.
Cleaning your wine bottles properly will also contribute to how long a bottle of wine lasts.
It’s pretty simple, if bottles are dirty when you cork them, there’s a greater chance that mold and bacteria will grow. If a bottle is properly sanitized, there won’t be anything in the bottle to promote the growth of unwanted organisms.
How Long Does Homemade Wine Take to Ferment?
So, when you’ve got your winemaking process down pat, how long will it take the recipe you’ve mixed together to become alcohol?
The first, and most important, step is the fermentation process, which happens when the yeast eats sugar, either in the fermentables or that you’ve added, and converts it into alcohol. Fermentation takes roughly two to three weeks to complete fully, but the initial ferment will finish within seven to ten days.
However, wine requires a two-step fermentation process. After the primary fermentation is complete, a secondary fermentation is required. The wine is transferred off the lees (yeast sediment) from the first fermentation, and into a clean carboy (glass or plastic bottle the same size of your batch), which helps to let the wine finish anaerobically fermenting, naturally clear, and bulk age. The secondary fermentation process can take anywhere from three months to a year. How long it takes depends on many different factors, such as the fermentable you used, the temperature you’re storing the carboy, whether you want it to clear naturally or with the help of a clearing agent, and how you want to finish your wine.
After bulk aging in the secondary fermenter, aging continues in the bottle!
Do You Need to Age Homemade Wine?
Most people are aware of the wine’s aging process. Older bottles from great harvest years are coveted and can cost thousands of dollars.
The shorter the amount of time you let your wine age, the more intense the flavor profile will be. So, if you’re looking to produce a smooth or delicate flavor profile, you’ll want the bottle to age longer.
Some people are OK with only aging a bottle of wine for two weeks, while some prefer six months to a year. It really depends on the type and style of wine you made.
If you’re new to this process, larger batches of wine will yield multiple bottles enabling you to open and taste one or two at different points in the aging process. What’s also great about larger batches is that even when the wine has reached your desired profile, you can leave one or two bottles from the batch to sit even longer and further develop for years, just to experiment. Note taking is highly recommended for future reference.
So, How Long is Homemade Wine Good For?
Without extra steps, your homemade wine can stay shelf stable for at least a year. If you store it out of light, in an area without temperature fluctuations, and add the extra sulfites before bottling, the longevity can increase to a few years.
Some wines age better than others, and after the five year mark, the wine can start to become a little less desirable. Drinking these wines in the first three years after making them is best.
Homemade wine does benefit from having some time in the bottle before you enjoy it, at least a month for white wines, and two months for red wines after bottling. This way, the wine has had time to get used to being in the bottle, and mellow out.
Are you ready to start making and bottle aging your own wine? Get help from a team who’s well-versed in winemaking! Contact us for supplies, to purchase a wine making equipment kit, to answers questions, or anything else you need!