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We believe you should enjoy your home brew hobby and will try to help you as much as we can. Our range of home brewing kits have been developed over 30 years of trading and we have lots of practical advice. We stock most homebrew wine kits including Selection, Vintners and Beaverdale as well as Hambleton Bard. We stock most homebrewing kits for homemade beer including Tom Caxton, Geordie and John Bull.
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Type of Kit
There is no doubt about it, the more you pay the better the wine. Well it's certainly the case with any kit bought from us The volume in the kit is also an indication as to how good it is. The more of the grape juice the better the result. Needless to say, it's also the type of grape juice we use that adds to the quality of the wine. There are many different ranges that we recommend with total confidence. There is as wide a choice of grape varieties (Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz etc) and wine styles (Liebfraumilch, Beaujolais, Australian Reserve etc) in Wine Kits as there is at Wine Merchants
Vintners Reserve: New range we have introduced. Contains 7.5 liter's of fresh grape, concentrate grape and sugar. Makes up some fabulous wines which have approx. 12% ABV. Optimum drinking time; whites 3-12 months, reds 6-18 months. The best selling wine kit in the world.
House of Beaverdale: Our most popular and longest established range. The popularity of this product just keeps on increasing. Made from grape concentrate and sugar. The special bags used for packaging allow the product to be totally fresh - all 5.5 liter's. ABV is 12% and optimum drinking time for whites 3-12 months, reds 6-18 months. The UK's best selling sugar inclusive wine kit.
With all these home brew kits it's important to realise the biggest improvement is during the first 4 weeks of keeping. It's much slower over the next few months. All these ranges we strongly recommend to you, don't be passed off with inferior (cheaper!!) products, it's just not worth it. Remember you'll probably have to drink 30 bottles, and when you work out the price difference per bottle, is it really worth it? The making time and bottling time is just the same. Work out the cost per bottle of your wine kit. A £45 kit is only £1.50 per bottle.
Picking out your favourite wine style
will also help
to ensure you enjoy your homemade wine.There is as wide a choice of
grape varieties (Chardonnay, Merlot, Shiraz etc) and wine styles
(Liebfraumilch, Beaujolais, Australian Reserve, Port, Sherry etc) from
Wine Kits as there is are from the off licence! Wine
It is important that all the home brewing equipment that comes into contact with the wine is clean and sterilised. If it's not then the wine can become infected. Don't use bleach or sodium metabisulphite, they are not effective for quick sterilisation and can leave bad after tastes. Most sterilisers need rinsing after contact with clean water. It's important to do this
Most homebrew manufacturers recommend a temperature in their instructions which is frankly too high. This is normally because if it's hotter than is needed not much can go wrong - except it ferments out quicker. However, we have proved over the years that if you can maintain a constant temperature of between 17-20 degrees Celsius (63-68F) in the long run, your wine will certainly taste much better. Why don't we recommend this in our instructions? Well for the same reasons given above, and people are impatient. They want everything yesterday. So if you can maintain a constant (it's no good being too hot one minute or too cold the next) temperature we recommend you follow these guide lines.
We are constantly being asked what difference does water make to the wine? Lets think about it for a minute. Would you drink water that wasn't clean? Well why not add the cleanest water you can to the wine? We would away recommend you run it through a water filter to remove any impurities. If you haven't got one, then boil it. Failing that taste it first and if it's good (not full of chlorine) then use it. If it's no good then don't do it today do it another day.
Through much research we have found that it is of increasing benefit to transfer the homemade wine when the gravity reaches 1010 (1005 - 1015 is perhaps more realistic). We would recommend the initial fermentation is done using a fermentation container with a large opening. A bucket is ideal or alternatively a fermenter with a large top (which can be left loosely placed to avoid anything dropping into the wine). The advantage of this is that firstly it allows the carbon dioxide given off during fermentation to escape, and release itself from the wine quickly (an airlock with a small opening doesn't allow this to happen). Secondly, the larger surface area of the opening allows the yeast to grow more gradually (creating less frothing problems). This is then a great benefit when it comes to degassing and clearing. The carbon dioxide is not trapped in the wine. The advantage of the transfer at 1010, is that it removes the wine from the dead yeast cells. If the wine has oak chippings or elderflower then this also drops to the bottom of the container. Life is then much easier with clearing and filtration.
We do strongly recommend that a glass
carboy is used
at the 1010 transfer, as the slower fermentation (from 1010 to the
finish gravity) can take some time, and the wine does benefit from
glass. There is also less chance of infections. Whilst it's exciting
making wine, don't spend all your time looking to see what's happening.
Don't keep opening the container, this destroys the blanket of carbon
dioxide gas protecting the wine from oxidation and contamination.
Many people ask why it is necessary to
carbon dioxide from the wine. If the wine is left long enough this will
come out naturally, but in the case of home-made wine it is advisable
to aid this by shaking the container until this is all gone. It is
almost impossible to clear the wine with finings until this is done.
You can purchase a "Ritchie" degasser which will make this very easy.
The degasser fits onto any battery power drill and simply stirs the
It makes a messy job easy.
We always recommend syphoning your wine off the sediment (when the wine is in the bucket and reaches a gravity of 1010 - see transfer above). The next time is when the finings have been added and wine is clear (bright). Syphoning is important, as using the wrong equipment will mean dragging the yeast cells which have formed at the bottom of the container. This is only important when the wine is clear. It is also important to make sure the syphon tube is long enough to reach the bottom of the empty container you are syphoning into. This will prevent air getting into the wine which can introduce infections. A 'U' tube attached to the syphon tube will also help, as this rests above the sediment allowing you to draw off the clear wine. We highly recommend the "Ritchie" auto syphon. This a super bit of kit, and works with a simple backward and forward movement, requiring no additional suction.
Not all home brewing kits have the same fining agents. Some only give one sachet of finings, others two sachets. Follow the instructions carefully which are given with each kit. Some will ask you to shake these well, others will ask you to gently add this. This is important. There is no reason why the wine should not be superbly clear once the finings have been added and left to work.
Is it necessarywith homebrewing? We always recommend that this is only done to give the wine a polish. The home brew kits we supply are all designed to produce a clear wine. This should always be achieved before the wine is filtered. Don't use a filter to clear the wine. The pads will block up quickly and will not be effective. You must also be careful not to introduce air into the wine at this stage, this can again cause infection and oxidisation. We only recommend two filters, the Vinamat and Buon Vino Minijet. The Vinamat works on the wine being transferred to a pressure chamber which is then pumped through two pads. The Buon Vino Minijet is similar, but is automatically pumped through several pads. This makes life very easy and can also be used as an automatic pump for those of you who find it hard to lift 23 litres of wine. Both filters will do up to 75 litres (maybe more) of wine on one set of pads (depending on the clarity of the wine), so once purchased they work out to be very economical. The filters are not cheap, but if it's good (and they are) you wouldn't expect it to be anyway. There is a strong feeling amongst several experts that a filtered wine should be left at least 4 weeks before drinking
Bottling And Storage
When the wine is ready to drink you have several options as to what to do (never leave it on the yeast). Firstly you can leave it in the fermentation container. If this is glass it can be left for any length of time. If it's plastic it shouldn't be left for more than 1-2 weeks. Glass is the best and as a general rule the larger the container the better it will mature. However it's important to make sure the container is full, don't leave an air gap of any size at the top because again there is a chance of introducing infections.
Secondly, the wine can be stored in a glass demijohn. This is
much our preferred option. The demijohn should be full and have a
plastic safety lock fitted. This allows the wine to breathe, but will
not allow air to get into the container. The wine matures well stored
this way, but also when you are ready to drink the wine you can then
transfer it into a "Ritchie" useable plastic wine dispenser. This has a
small tap fitted and you can draw off what you want. It's a collapsible
bag and will not allow air to get into the wine. It can also be stored
in the fridge (great for white wines), and once empty can then be
Thirdly, you can bottle the wine in any size glass wine bottle. These can be corked and stored. Alternatively you can do any combination of the above. Always keep the wine away from sunlight, especially direct sunlight, as this can cause oxidation. The ideal storage temperature is 6o-12oC
Over the years the quality of corks have deteriorated and it
increasingly difficult to get good quality. The type of corks that are
available and recommended are:
Plastic Stoppers: Fine for using if the wine is going to be drunk in less than 6 weeks. They do not look very nice from a presentation view point. Store bottles upright.
Waxed Corks: These come with a coating which means the corks should not be soaked prior to use. We recommend a light rinse to remove any likely dust.
Untreated Corks: These need to be soaked prior to use and are not as easy to insert as the waxed ones.
Both waxed and untreated corks come in varying grades. Also buy the best corks for storage over 6 months.
Silicon Corks: These have only just been made available and require a good corking machine to insert. It's unlikely you'll be able to use a hand corking machine, but it is possible to buy a Floor Standing Corker.
A lot of people like to present their wine in a very commercial way. It's possible to buy many different labels, some are ready gummed, and others need sticking. The gummed ones can be put on simply. For labels without glue we recommend a "pritt" stick, or alternatively you can use milk. Don't laugh! Place a small amount in a saucer, then dip your finger into the milk and rub this along the edges of the label. It will stick it to the bottle. It also makes it very easy to remove when you've finished the wine. We always recommend that once you have finished a bottle of wine, you rinse it out and place a plastic stopper in the top. This really makes life easy when you come to doing your next batch and prevents mould forming in the bottom of the bottle.
Shrink tops are available in a variety of colours and you can also get them with a gold band around them. When applying the shrink, place this over the bottle top and with one finger pushing this down, rotating the bottle in the steam of the kettle. The top will then shrink down and fit snugly onto the bottle. Be careful with the steam as this can burn you.
One of the secrets to producing good quality wines (as well as buying a good quality Ritchie wine kit with lots of grape juice) is to store it for a good length of time. We give guidelines at the start of the leaflet. All will taste good even after they are just made but they will improve considerably with keeping. So you can't have too much stock. There is no substitute for time though, do yourself and the wine justice by having plenty on the go!
We often get asked why don't you do a Cabernet/Shiraz or a Cabernet/Merlot in all our ranges? As you can imagine it would ba a nightmare for our retailers to stock them all. However, many of our customers get enormous pleasure from blending their own wines, and have great fun experimenting. We actually recommend up to one third is blended but it is very much up to your taste. Have a go and if you find any combination you are particularly delighted with let us know
Many people ask us how do I work out my alcohol levels? The best way is to take the starting specific gravity, from the finishing specific gravity and divide this by 7.36, i.e. 1080 - 990 = 90 divided by 7.36 =12.23% ABV. The other option is to acquire a Ritchie Vino meter. This is a simple device you can pour a small sample of wine into which will give an ABV reading. It's simple and quite useful as a guide. Price is under £5.
It is important to make sure the wine is served at
temperature - this will help the bouquet and taste. White wine and rose
should be served at 10oC, and red wine at room temperature. It also
helps considerably if the red wine is opened at least 1 hour before
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