If you grow your own muscadines, or you live in an area where they’re plentiful, consider learning how to make muscadine wine. These rich Southern grapes produce a sweet, full bodied wine that is full of the polyphenols the grapes are known for. Best of all, it’s a fairly easy wine to produce, even if you have no previous experience with wine making.
What Are Muscadines?
Muscadines are a form of grape that grows naturally in the Southeastern portion of the United States. In many areas it grows wild, but more and more people are beginning to cultivate it for its health giving polyphenols and its naturally sweet flavor.
Muscadines have a very thick outer hull with a juicy, sweet interior. They can be eaten raw, but the outer hull is so tough, that this involves biting or poking a hole in the hull in order to suck out the pulp from within. For many years they have been used primarily for making into jellies, jams, wine, and juice. Muscadine wine is a sweet tasting dessert-style wine that captures the flavor of the grape, and capitalizes on Southern tradition.
If you’re taking a course in beginning wine making, and you have muscadines growing near you, they make an excellent base for a first wine.
Equipment for Making Muscadine Wine
If you’ve taken any type of courses in wine or wine production, you’re probably aware that most major wine producers use state of the art temperature controlled equipment to ensure the outcome of their product. None of this is necessary for the amateur wine maker working with muscadines; most of the equipment you’ll need to begin on a small scale is very affordable and readily available. Only if you choose to begin producing your wine on a much larger scale will you need the fancy equipment.
To make muscadine wine, you’ll need:
- Fermentation vessels: This recipe produces a good deal of wine, so you’ll want to have two large 6-1/2 gallon buckets or water jugs available to work with. Ideally, whatever you choose to use will have a neck you can easily seal while still allowing some of the gasses produced during the wine making process to escape. Fermentation vessels are sold wherever wine making supplies are, if you choose to get something made specifically for the job.
- Rubber gloves: Muscadines are extremely acidic. When you’re handling the crushed grapes, always wear a pair of rubber gloves; handling the grapes barehanded could lead to irritation or sensitivity of the skin.
- Straining bag or large square of muslin: You’ll need to be able to strain the hulls and a large amount of the pulp out of your wine. A straining bag allows you to pour the liquid in and then squeeze the remaining out. A large square of muslin cloth will allow you to do the same thing.
- Hydrometer: The hydrometer is necessary for you to read the specific gravity of the wine. This will allow you to adjust your wine as you go, rather than trusting to chance.
- Titration kit: This can also be purchased with wine supplies. The titration kit will allow you to test your wine’s acidity levels. Remember that muscadines are particularly acidic, so testing is crucial to your success.
The Process of How to Make Muscadine Wine
The key to learning how to make muscadine wine is patience. While your wine will technically be finished in a few weeks to a month, the best muscadine wines are left to age for a minimum of three to four years before drinking. This will help mellow the wine and allow its flavor to develop. If you are making a large enough batch, you may want to sample some right away, some in a year, and some in a few years so you can appreciate the difference that aging makes to the taste and mouth feel of the wine.
Keep in mind that making the wine will require you to pay close attention to it for several days; don’t plan on being out of town or making the wine during a time when you are preoccupied with other activities. After the first week has passed, it will need to be racked every three weeks until it is ready to bottle. Making wine is an art that requires a lot of patience and diligence on the part of the wine maker; rushing the process will only harm the results.
- 6 pounds of fresh muscadine grapes
- 3 quarts of distilled water
- 2 pounds of sugar
- 1 Campden tablet
- 1 packet red wine yeast
- 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
- 1 teaspoon pectic enzyme
- Wash and destem the grapes. Take care to wear gloves at all times when handling the grapes to avoid their acidic interior.
- Bring the water to a boil and add the sugar. Boil for one minute, or until the sugar has dissolved into a simple syrup.
- Crush your grapes in a large bowl or bucket. You can use your hands, a potato masher, or large spoon; the key is to get as much pulp out of the hulls as possible. Remember that the hulls on muscadines are particularly tough, so this step will take a lot of force.
- Pour the crushed grapes into a straining bag and place the straining bag into your fermentation vessel. Add the sugar syrup to the grapes.
- Add the yeast nutrient to the fermentation vessel to begin promoting fermentation of the grape mixture.
- Cover your fermentation vessel for 12 hours.
- Add a teaspoon of pectic acid to the fermentation vessel. This is what will dissolve any solids in your wine and help to remove any sediment.
- Cover and allow it to sit for another 12 hours.
- Add 5 to 10 ounces of the wine to small container and add the hydrometer to test the specific gravity of the wine. It should be within 1.100 to 1.003. If necessary, add more sugar to adjust.
- Take a small sample of your wine in the container provided by the titration kit. Add one drop at a time of the sodium hydroxide. When the wine ceases to revert to its natural color after mixing with the sodium hydroxide, you have reached your acid level. Each drop equals 1 p.p.t. tartaric; your wine should not be higher than 7 p.p.t. tartaric.
- Add the wine yeast to the mixture and cover your fermentation vessel.
- Stir the mixture, squeezing the straining bag twice a day for one week.
- Check the specific gravity again; when it drops to 1.030 it is time to rack the wine.
- Transfer the wine to another fermentation vessel, straining it as you do so.
- Attach an airtight lid to the second vessel. Meanwhile, clean your first vessel and get it ready to use again.
- Wait three weeks, and then strain the wine back into the first vessel again. Repeat this every three weeks until there is no sediment left in the wine.
- Bottle and cork the wine. Allow it age a minimum of one year, with best results in three to four years before drinking or serving.
Enjoy Your Wine
Once you’ve learned how to make muscadine wine, you may want to try your hand at making other wines, such as blackberry. You may also want to take a course in wine pairings to learn what’s best to serve your muscadine wine with, or a course in becoming a wine connoisseur to truly learn to appreciate the wine that you have created. Wine making is a very rewarding hobby that can even turn into a small side business if you find that the results of your wine are well received. In areas where muscadines grow wild, it is often possible to gather them in large enough numbers to make several batches of wine a year. Try making your own muscadine wine, and enjoy the sweeter things in life.