In the Cellar-

How to make a Fine Pinot Noir at Home

Final Measurements
Other wines

Equipment Required for Wine Making

The first vintage of Pinot Noir in 2004 from our vineyard was made with fairly crude equipment.

I used a plastic milk crate to remove berries from the bunches by rubbing the bunches over the open ribs in the bottom of the crate.

I then foot crushed the wine in a plastic lined grape bin and religiously removed all the green stems by hand

before fermenting the juice in 60 litre food grade plastic carboys with a screw top lid.

This worked well and we had a lot of fun.

The resultant wine was great too, and it would have improved with further aging,

however we finished the last bottle on Christmas Day last in 2010.

A more hygienic and potentially sustainable method of making high quality wine at home

is better achieved by using the equipment shown below.

Grape Press

These come in various sizes. I would suggest a 40 Kg press for those who are making a quantity of wine.

You can load up the press and use the packing blocks illustrated

to keep distance between the pressing ratchet and the top of the press,

so that when the grapes are pressed to dryness, the ratchet will still be clear of the press wooden slats.

A new press will cost between $ 800-900 in Australia.

You need to keep your press scrupulously clean.

Take the time to pressure wash it thoroughly after each use,

and before use make sure you scrub it well with a solution of potassium metabisulphite 56 g dissolved in 3.8 litres of water.

With a wooden press, do not rinse the solution off the press with water,

as this will allow an immediate recolinisation of the press with yeast and mould spores.

With stainless steel you need to rinse off the solution as it may cause pitting of the stainless steel if not rinsed.

The sulfite solution will give of a smell like burning kitchen matches,

which is characteristic of the smell of sulphur dioxide gas.

Crusher destemmer

This item was a blessing for us in our 3rd vintage.

I learned the hard way by foot crushing and hand removing all green material from the must in the first vintage.

In our second vintage we borrowed a grape crusher, but unfortunately it was designed for white wine

where you don't need to remove the berries from the bunch.

So this crusher cut the bunches into many pieces before crushing them,

which made the task of removing green matter from the must about 5 times more difficult.


The machine pictured has plastic fluted rollers which gently remove the berries from the stems

and eject the stems to the other end where they are collected in a bin.

The wine grapes fall into bins placed under the crusher. See the photo below.

These machines cost about $500 and are a huge saving of time and an exponential improvement in the quality of your must.




If you harvest more than 100kg of grapes per season, this piece of equipment is an essential.

They must be kept scrupulously clean.

You need to pull them apart to get at all the working parts to keep them in good order from season to season.

I mount mine on a metal table frame and place the plastic bins underneath.

A separate bin at the end catches the stems when the are ejected.

The must ends up with very little green material in it.

Remember you must sterilise this as well by brushing with the sterilising solution.

A spray bottle of sterilant solution ( 56gms potassium metabisulphate in 3.6 litres of water)

Food Grade Plastic Fermentation Containers

Any plastic you consider using in your winery should be food grade.

I have relied on glass and food grade plastic vessels for fermentation and processing of wine before bottling.

Glass is definitely better than plastic but it is heavier and is generally not available in the capacity you will require if you are making more than a few litres of wine.

Stainless steel is the best of all as it is easy to clean and does not impart any flavour into the aging wine.

The one pictured is a 20 litre container , which is fine for fermenting about 10-15 litres of wine in the primary ferment.

You will also need a range of larger ( 60 litre) and smaller (5-20 litre) vessels ( usually in glass) to see the full process through.

As wine must be kept air free after the primary fermentation the size of the container is important.


You will need a range of containers to cope with the quantity of wine you produce.

Have all these available and sterilised prior to your crush as you can never be certain what quantity you will have.

The smaller containers allow you to ferment small quantities of wine with which to top up the larger carboys during the aging process.

At this stage air is an enemy of the wine, so it is necessary to keep your containers 90% full after the primary fermentation.

Burette & flasks

I use a burette with stand recruited from a discarded school supply ( a good source if you know a science teacher), a 250ml grade flask

3 clear plastic cups labeled 1 2 &3 for wine samples and various other containers.

This equipment can be substituted by a syringe with capacity 15 ml if necessary.

The burette is far more accurate for your measurement.

See here for the titration process.




A funnel

An absolute necessity for pouring liquids into small openings to prevent spillage.

I have a small funnel as well placed in the top of the burette to allow easy pouring of the sodium hydroxide used in the titration.









A Drying Rack

I fine this piece of equipment invaluable in my wine making kitchen.

It allows me to wash items as soon as they are finished and to allow them to air dry overnight.








A bottlebrush


A bottle brush allows you to thoroughly clean the inside surfaces of bottles and flasks.

The tannins from wine build up on these surfaces, and as well as carrying unwanted yeast spores they discolour the glass surface.

A soak every so often in pink stain remover and a swirl with the bottle brush makes them sparkling clean again for their next use.





A set of scales

Not essential but handy when weighing accurately fine amounts of powdered chemicals used in wine making.

Again, if you have a contact with a school, keep a look out for replaced equipment.






Plastic gloves








Sterilising equipment

You need to keep your equipment scrupulously clean. Take the time to wash it thoroughly after each use.

I use a solution of potassium metabisulphite 56 g dissolved in 3.8 litres of water.

This is enough to sterilise wine making equipment.

When to Harvest

Although the numbers of measured sugar content, acidity and pH are considerations for when to harvest,

most important are the taste and look of the grapes, seeds and stems.

During The Tamar Valley's normally cool autumn, 4 to 7 days after the numbers are right,

some very intense aromatic flavours reveal themselves in Pinot Noir.

If you cut a berry open and inspect the seeds, they should be an even toasty brown.

Any greenness in the in the seeds is a sign of under ripeness or uneven ripening.

Similarly the stems should be showing a nice tan.

If you can catch these factors in your wine grapes you are picking at an optimum time.

Unfortunately in many seasons you will need to compromise due to weather or berry burst

resulting in wasp attacks or rain which dilutes the sugar levels.

As the sugar content of the grapes rises, the titratable acidity ( Tartaric Acid) falls and the pH rises.

Optimum harvest day occurs when these 3 factors are balanced.

To test Tartaric Acid see here.

Jeff Cox in his excellent book "From Vines into Wines" also suggests a method of determining ripeness

when Brix times pH - squared equals 260 for red wine grapes and 200 for whites.

Multiply pH by itself , then multiply by degrees Brix.

e.g. 24 Brix at 3.3 pH = 3.3x3.3x24= 261.36 or for whites e.g. 20 Brix at 3.2= 204.8

Both these levels are excellent for wine making, so as long as the seeds are toasty brown - GO for it.

You can use the table here to calculate your potential alcohol from the specific gravity of your grape juice.

Harvest Day

Having prepared all your equipment and sterilised it, you are now ready to pick your grapes.

It is wise to wear rubber gloves if you have experienced wasps in your vineyard as their sting is quite painful.

It seems also that some people have severe anaphylactic reactions to wasps stings,

so it is wise to have an anti- histamine cream available in case of stings.

Cut the bunches and drop them into a bucket, then transfer them to the crushing area.

Process the grapes through the crusher and add Potassium Metabisulphate (KBMS)10% solution to 50ppm by the table below:

or download a calculator here

Add ml of 10% stock solution

Must/wine 10ppm* 20 25 30 40 50 75 100
.397litres .07ml .13 .16 .20 .26 .33 .49 .65
.758l .13 .26 .33 .39 .53 .66 .99 1.3ml
1.895l .33 .66 .82 .99 1.3 1.6 2.5 3.3
3.79l .66 1.3 1.6 2.0 2.6 3.3 4.9 6.6
7.58l 1.3 2.6 3.3 3.9 5.3 6.6 9.9 13.1
11.37 2.0 3.9 4.9 5.9 7.9 9.9 14.8 19.7
15.16l 2.6 5.3 6.6 7.9 10.5 13.1 19.7 26.3


3.3 6.6 8.2 9.9 13.1 16.4 24.6 32.9
37.9l 6.6 13.1 16.4 19.7 26.3 32.9 49.3 65.7
94.75l 16.4 32.9 41.1 49.3 65.7 82.1 123.2 164.3
189.5 32.9 65.7 82.1 98.6 131.4 164.3 264.4 328.6

*The volumes assume 100 percent purity of the potassium metabisulphate (KBMS) and full strength of the stock solution.

You can calculate the amounts needed for any given quantity of must by summation of the values in the table above.

e.g. 40 litres of wine = 37.9 @ 50ppm = 32.9ml

+ 1.895l @ 50ppm = 1.6 ml

+ .397l @50ppm = .33ml

Total = 35ml approx

I add this to the must in smaller quantities using a pipette as soon the must quantity justifies it.

This stops oxidation of the juice and kills any natural yeast present so you then get to decide which yeast will colonise your must.

Saigner & Cold Soak

After de-stemming and crushing, and adding KBMS to the grapes,

with the juice drawn off that will have a slight blush having been exposed to the must for an hour or so

I draw off about 10% of the juice after 3 hours to intensify the concentration of skin to juice ratio,

thereby intensifying the colour and the skin aromatics extracted.

I make a Rosé from the juice drawn off by fermenting this separately.

After extraction of the 10% of juice, the must is kept cool at about 12 degrees centigrade in my cellar for 3 or 4 days

before the yeast is added. The lids are screwed on the vats lightly to keep out unwanted bacteria.

This cold soak allows maximum extraction of the skin pigments to give colour and flavour without the presence of alcohol.

If you have difficulty reducing your must to this temperature

you can place a bag of ice in the must to reduce the temperature.

Make sure the bag has no holes in it or you will end up diluting your wine as the ice melts.

Alternatively you can purchase some dry ice (frozen C02)

which will act as a barrier against aceto-bacter

( vinegar bacteria) as it melts.

Strain of Yeast and Nutrients

Various strains of yeast promote different characteristics in the resulting wine.

I use a general purpose wine yeast, Red Star Premier Cuvee

and have had great success with this as it is suitable for sparkling wines as well.

You will also need to add a yeast nutrient to the must 12 hours prior to adding the yeast.

This supplies the must with nutrients essential for the growing yeast.

Without it you stand the chance of having an unhappy yeast and possibly a "stuck" fermentation.

Primary Fermentation

Ideally the temperature of the must needs to be brought up to about 200C before adding the yeast.

To achieve this in some areas, you may need to place an aquarium heater in your must

and regulate the thermostat to achieve a temperature of 200C.

We are now ready to re hydrate the yeast.

To do this I add equal parts of warm water at 38-400C ( not above 43 or below 35) and juice from the must

to make a quantity of liquid equal to 5 to 10 times the weight of the dry yeast to be re hydrated.

I use .25 gms of yeast per litre of must.

SO in a must of 40 litres I re hydrate 10 gms of yeast in 100ml of liquid ( 50 ml Water +50 ml of must).

Sprinkle the yeast on top of the liquid in a shallow plastic container and stir evenly until you get an even creamy liquid.

The surface area of the liquid is important to allow the liquid to cool at the correct rate.

Leave the yeast re hydrating in the liquid for about 20minutes then check the temperature.

It should be no higher than 30 0.

Before adding the yeast to your must check the temperature.

It should be no more than about 100C different to that of the must.

This allows the yeast to be introduced without a temperature shock that could affect the viability of the yeast.

When you are ready, pour the yeast liquid into the must and stir in evenly.

Remember to keep the must at about 200 to allow the colonisation rate of the yeast to be at an optimum.

As the yeast multiplies,( after about 12-24 hours) the temperature of the must will rise

and a thick crust of berries will float to the surface.

It is important that you keep punching this down regularly every 4-6 hours

to prevent the berries from drying out and from bacterial infection.

As the fermentation gets underway, the must will give off carbon dioxide

which will protect the wine from oxidization as CO2 is heavier than oxygen.

You do not need to exclude air from your primary fermentation because of this.

The CO2 being given off will do this for you.

Follow the progress of the sugar conversion to alcohol regularly with your hydrometer.

As the sugar in the grapes is converted to alcohol,

the hydrometer reading will drop from say 1.1010 (24 Brix) at the start to 1.000 at the finish

and even lower 0.992-0.995.

Until it reaches this level it is not fully fermented so be patient.

Small residual sugar levels (3-5%) will result in a sweeter wine.

You can use the calculator here to see how your wine is progressing.

Stuck Fermentation

Should a fermentation "stick" or cease before completion, it is difficult to restart.

The problem usually occurs due to temperatures being too high during fermentation or to insufficient yeast nutrients.

I have recommended keeping the must temperature at 200 Celsius prior to introducing the yeast.

Once fermentation gets under way you will find that the temperature will rise naturally with the activity of the yeast.

You should withdraw the heater if you are using one and monitor the temperature of your must twice daily,

or every time you punch down the cap.

Make sure you punch down the cap before taking this reading as the temperature within the cap will be higher than the liquid below.

Ideally the temperature should be between 18 and 280C.

Higher temperatures than this could cause your fermentation to stick.

If your fermentation sticks, the following procedure is recommended:

  • Cool or heat your must to 200C (680F)
  • Add a fresh, actively growing yeast starter ( Red Star Premier Cuvee is particularly known for its reliability in restarting a stuck fermentation)
  • Add a yeast nutrient
  • At the time of re-inoculation, aerate the must by stirring or pumping over two to three times daily for 1 to 2 days.
  • Fermentation should resume.
  • If after several days fermentation has not restarted, try a second re-inoculation.
  • Whilst waiting for fermentation to restart make sure you keep the wine at the proper temperature- 200 Celsius.
  • Pressing
  • After 7-10 days your wine should have reached a hydrometer reading of between 1.0010 and 1.0006 and colour extraction is complete.
  • At this stage you can press the juice off the skins using a basket press or by squeezing batches of must through through several layers of washed cheesecloth.
  • A basket press is by far the most efficient method and will result in optimum wine extraction.
  • Without a basket press you will only achieve a yield of about 50% of the original grape weight you have picked.
  • Using a press will return you as high as 70%.
  • Line the press with a section of plastic fly screen to prevent grapes entering the pressed juice.
  • Load the press up and allow the free run juice to flow from the press into a container.
  • I generally apply a little pressure to the press then wait for the flow to stop.
  • The juice so extracted is free run juice and will be lower in tannin and less astringent.
  • I keep this separate and blend it with the pressed wine at a later date.
  • You don't have to do this, but a wine that is heavily pressed will have a higher tannin content and therefore will require more bottle aging to evenly distribute the tannins in the wine.
  • From this stage you need to exclude air from your wine with an air lock.
  • Ensure your containers are 90% full.
  • I use 60 litre carboys for the storage of pressed wine supplemented by 15 litre & 20 litre glass carboys.
  • Each is fitted with an airlock containing 10 ml of 10% sulphur dioxide solution to prevent any insect infection.
  • One trick for filling a carboy that is not quite full is to immerse a bottle of water in the carboy to raise the level.
  • The weight of the water will displace the wine and raise the level to exclude air.
  • Be careful here! I am NOT recommending that you add water to your wine, simply use the water container to displace the air in the container. Sterilise it first before adding to the wine.

Secondary Fermentation

The natural acids present in your wine are largely tartaric acid, lactic acid and malic acid

Malic acid is a stronger tasting acid than tartaric acid and there is usually a higher presence of this in the wines of cooler district.

The process used to convert this malic acid to lactic acid is called malolactic fermentation.

It is accomplished by the introduction of lactic acid bacteria of the genus Leuconostoc.

I usually introduce this bacteria at this stage in the wine making before primary fermentation is fully completed,

as the higher temperatures during fermentation are most suitable for the leuco bacteria to work effectively.

See here for a video clip of the process.

Several factors can either encourage or inhibit malolactic fermentation.

Malolactic bacteria have complex nutritional requirements for growth.

These nutrients are either naturally present in wine or released into the wine by the yeast cells during alcoholic fermentation.

Thus bacterial growth is enhanced the longer the wine is left in contact with the lees (the dead yeast cells) or inhibited if the wine is separated from the lees soon after alcoholic fermentation.
Other factors that inhibit bacterial growth are :

  • temperatures of lower than 160C
  • a high presence of SO2
  • a lower pH than 3.3

For these reasons I introduce the malolactic bacteria before the finish of the primary fermentation

and before the daily air temperatures go much below 18 degrees.

Because malolactic bacteria can reactivate in warmer temperature that follow in November, I never bottle my red wine before December after testing for the presence of malic acid.

The danger of bottling wine before malolactic bacteria has been starved is that further fermentation will result in the emission of carbon dioxide which will make your wine spritzig at best or blow the bottle and make one hell of a mess in your cellar.

Another reason for leaving the wine until December before bottling is that I like to use minimal SO2.

The presence of SO2 in concentrations of 100ppm or more will inhibit malolactic concentration, however I do not like the use of this chemical other than at 50ppm during crush.

I never have a problem in the wine going off through bottle age. I don't keep it more than 4 years.

Aging and Racking

Now that your secondary fermentation has been started your wine must be kept free of air to develop optimum flavours.

Exposure to air during racking the wine will not affect it greatly as long as you don't splash it about.

Siphon the wine from the secondary fermentation unit into another container

after about 3 weeks after the introduction of the malolactic bacteria.

Be careful you keep the flowing end of the siphon immersed in the wine to minimise the introduction of air.


Be careful when you get to the bottom of the secondary fermenter that you don't suck up large amounts of yeast in an endeavour to get all of the wine out.

At this stage it is better to sacrifice a little wine to get most of the yeast out.

Fit your plastic racking tube to a stick so that it's end is above the sediment in the bottom of the container.

This way you will avoid disturbing the dead yeast cells accumulated at the bottom of the container.

Once you have filled the container to at least 90% of its capacity, replace the airlock and leave your wine undisturbed for at least a month to settle down.


A balanced flavour of french oak adds a very special quality to a red wine.

The purchase of oak barrels is usually not an option for home wine makers

as few make enough to fill a barrel and most would not afford the cost of a new barrel or even a second hand one.

Second hand barrels are usually well used before they become available and as the wine has previously penetrated the wood thoroughly,

most of the oak flavours have been extracted.

It is possible to get them re shaved by a cooper, but I wouldn't bother with this .

For the home wine maker there is a better option; the purchase of oak chips from a home brewing supplier.

These french oak chips are usually sold in 1 kg or 500gm pkts

and can be easily immersed in the wine in stockings, to allow the flavour to be extracted by the wine.

Use fishing line to suspend the stocking in your wine as it is thin enough

to allow an air tight seal when the stopper is refitted to your container.

About 1gram of chips per litre for 3-4 weeks will impart a noticeable oak flavour to your wine.

Taste the wine each week and remove the chips when you are happy with the flavour.

Cold Stabilisation

Leaving your wine to stabilise at a temperature of 120 C or less over the winter months

will cause the potassium bitartrate ( a product of the reaction between potassium and tartaric acid in the wine) to precipitate out,

clarifying the wine to a certain extent and making the wine more stable once it is removed.

The wine needs to be racked at least 2 more times before considering whether to fine it before bottling.

Keep the temperature of the wine as cool as you can and stable so that the maximum amount of potassium bitartrate will drop out.

You can then rack the wine of this and clarify it even further.

If the wine is not racked, the formation of tartrate crystals when the wine is cooled before serving will make the crystals drop out and present a not so good looking wine in the glass.

I have recently purchased a Buon Vino Wine filter.

For quantities up to 30 litres, this machine makes a special job of filtering the wine in 2 stages.

Quantities of 60 litres or more put a bit too much strain on thie small motor in this piece of equipment.

For more information visit the Australian retailer's site (Ibrew from Queensland).

If you use this machine you will need to purchas e a supply of No2. (medium) and No 3( fine) filter pads, as they are not always readily available when you want them.

Making Sparkling Wine

Once you have gained a little experience in the winemaking process, you may widh to undertake the challenge of making a sparkling wine. In a cool climate district this requires grapes of a lower degree of ripeness, so in most years you will achieve this before wasps or changing weather patterns stop you from making an acceptable table wine with an alcoholic level of 13.5% or more. See here for instructions on how to make a sparkling wine.









This page was last updated on 15/12/2012