As you go along with the winemaking process there may come a time when you have a batch of fruit that you think would make a great batch of wine. If you do not have a recipe available you may be tempted to begin throwing some things together and creating your own wine recipe. If you have been making some wine for some time, this is not normally a problem as long as you may sure you include important additions such as sugar and yeast. There are a few important guidelines to keep in mind; however, in order to make sure that everything turns out well.
First, you will need to take into consideration how much produce must be used. If you have only made grape wine in the past you may be tempted to believe that you will be able to use the same amount of any other kind of produce that you use when making grape wine. This is not the case. The main reason why you may not be able to use the same amount of certain types of produce as grapes is the fact that some types of produce are stronger than others.
The goal is to make sure that you achieve balance in your wine. If you are using a produce that is very strong and/or contains a high amount of acid then you will need to make sure that you balance that with some water for dilution purposes. Generally, the stronger the fruit; the less of it you will need. If you used the same amount of elderberries to make a batch of wine as you use to make grape wine, you will likely end up with a batch of wine that is practically undrinkable.
In order to make up an average five gallon batch of wine; however, you will need to add enough water to constitute five full gallons. If you are using wine grapes, you typically do not need to add any water at all to make up your full five gallons. On the other hand, if you are using something like ginger root, which is a much stronger flavor, then you will need to use a good bit of water because you will typically be using less of the actual produce.
You will also need to decide how much, if any, sugar you need to add to your developing recipe. With a lot of produce, you may not actually need to add any sugar because the produce may have enough of its own to support the fermentation process. If you are not sure whether the produce you are using needs to have any sugar added, use a hydrometer to test the juice. This is a very simple and easy to use device that contains a scale referred to as the Potential Alcohol. This scale measures the potential amount of alcohol that can be produced from the juice in terms of percentages from zero to twenty. This will give you a good idea of how much alcohol can be produced from the sugar level that is already present in the must.
For example, if you get a reading of 4 on the hydrometer then you know you have enough sugar to produce 4% alcohol content in your wine. This is not enough alcohol for most people; so you would need to add some sugar. If you wanted to increase that level to around 12% then you will need to begin adding sugar gradually and testing at intervals until you test it and the hydrometer attains a reading of 12. In most cases, one pound of sugar will raise the alcohol level by approximately 1%. Do keep in mind that it is usually not a good idea to try to produce a wine that with an alcohol content of more than 13%; however, because higher alcohol contents could interfere with the stability and balance of the wine.