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Damson wineParsnip wineStuck brewMulled wine

Wine! "Make enough to go around"



New recipes, Wineintro and tips Country wine               Storing and ageing
Fruit Juice Wine recipes see
Fruit Juice Wines & More
The low cost to top quality wine Start here with Barolo
Stuck fermentation and how to restart them see Stuck Fermentation
A question of degrees Some typical wine drinking temperatures (°C).

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My aim is wine making is quality. The most expensive shop bought wine is expensive because of the labour involved, yet in home brewing the better kits tend to be easier. I use the best quality kits I can find and always make sure they have not added too many artificial ingredients. With wine you need to know when to drink it. White wines age quite quickly whereas reds take longer. Country reds usually take even longer. The problem with a few kit manufactures is that they are so obsessed with saying it can be drunk in x days that they forget to let us know when the wine will be at its best. This has changed for many kits today, which focus on today's more discerning wine drinkers. Wine drinkers have become a lot more sophisticated and so have the homebrew kits.



Great wine at the

 lowest cost possible

With quality & cost in mind look for the best quality kits. Kits that have pure grape juice of a variety you know and love. Beaverdale is the choice for me. They have a large variety of kits which cover an impressive range of wines. They use the real grape juice from the actual region making this an ideal kit. I choose Barolo grape variety, as this is a "yummy" wine. The woody wine kits have chips of oak which gives them an authentic hint of oak cask.


Paying a little extra for quality kits is worth it.


If you are lucky enough to have a local homebrew shops, then take advantage of it they are great places to discuss what is best for you and to seek advice on brewing.

I like the Beaverdale kits from my local home brew shop. With a Beaverdale kits you get the actual grape variety so you have the quality, now to achieve the low cost goal. This means we are going to cut equipment costs to the minimum.
* 1 x 4.5 litre fermented (glass demijohn)
* Demijohn cork & fermentation lock
* 6 empty wine bottles (Free)
* Plastic wine stoppers
* Thermometer (non mercury) (this is optional)
* Hydrometer (this is optional)
* Chem pro (this is recommended but optional)
 [I now use a steam cleaner to avoid any chemicals]

That is it for the equipment.

The kit has all the sugar you need in it so there is no weighing of sugar.
Clean the demijohn with Chem-pro (oops that was optional). So here is my alternative.
Sterilizing a Glass demijohn with no chemicals. Wash out with plenty of warm (not hot) water. Note these jars are not designed for heat and will break is subjected to a sudden rise in heat. What I do is dry & drain the demijohn then put the jar in the oven set at 30C for 5 minutes the raise it to 50C for 10 minutes and then raise it to 70C for a few minutes. Because I raise the temperature slowly and keep it low my jar have not shattered yet. I guess there is a risk here and no manufacturer would recommend this approach. I turn the oven off and leave the jar in the oven to cool down till it’s warm to touch. Bacteria do not like dry heat so this method is especially effective.

Now you have a sterile fermented and water (tap water or water from a water filter)
1) Add yeast to a cup of water at 40C-50C (oops no thermometer) well this is easy. Add boiling water to just under the half full mark then top up with cold. Add yeast pack wait 5 minutes and stir
2) Add the grape juice from the kit to the demijohn.
3 Add the cold water. The temperature of the final quantity should be 25C this is tricky without a thermometer. I added a cup full of boiling water carefully to the existing cold water. This all depends on the temperature of your cold water. If you not sure just add cold water.
4) Insert cork with attached fermentation lock.
5) Set Temperature control to 23-27 degrees C (oops no fancy temperature control gadget) so just wrap the jar with two tea towels instead.
As I am doing this in mid summer temperature control is not an issue. Yeast produce heat during fermentation. Wrap the jar in a couple of tea towels. This should help keep in the heat the yeast produces and they will regulate the temperature themselves.

The room temperature should not exceed 25C and should not be less than 16C

Let it ferment, Bottle it. Drink when mature. I am planning to have mine for the New Year 2000 (Y2K wine) it will of course be ready well before that but good wine appreciate a good maturing process.

Note: The kit has clear instruction which are easy to follow. I have made it seem more complicated than it really is.




Country wine making is a real skill. Making wine from grapes is far easier because grapes are perfectly balanced for wine making. Grapes have the right levels of acid, sugar, flavour, body so to make wine from them all you need to do is add yeast to the juice. Country wine making is more challenging as the acid, sugar, flavour and body have to be catered for in a well balanced recipe. The rewards can be tremendous because the diversity of flavours is immense. These wines range from the delicate flower wines such as dandelion, elder flower through to wines such as rose hip, parsnip and then to the full body wine like elderberry.

Blackcurrant and Blackberry social wine (Prize winner)
1.5lb (700g) blackcurrants (frozen)
1.5lb (700g) blackberries
2lb (900g) ripe bananas
12oz(350g) raisins
0.5pint (300ml) concentrated red grape juice
2lb (900g) sugar
pectic enzyme
2 tsp yeast nutrient
yeast (burgundy)
water to 1 gallon (4.5 litres)

Liquidize the blackberries, blackcurrants and peeled bananas. Mince the raisins and put them with the liquidized fruit in a fermentation bucket. Add 1.25lb (550g) of sugar dissolved in a little water, together with the nutrients, pectic enzyme and grape concentrate. Make the volume up to 6.5 pints (3.7 litres) with water containing 1 dissolved Campden tablet. Cover and leave overnight.
Twenty four hours latter add an active yeast preparation and ferment in the bucket for five days, keeping well covered and stirring daily. Then strain the liquid into a demijohn and fit an air-lock. Keep checking the Specific Gravity (S.G.) and "feed" the wine with sugar in small amounts (2 oz; 60 g) each time the S.G. falls to 1.005. When the sugar is used up (or fermentation has finished), Sweeten to S.G. 1.020 with extra sugar. Rack, stabilize and mature as normal.

Damson wine (Table, Dry, red) (Damson Destroyer) My auntie’s speciality
Damsons is one of the best fine you can make. I rate the following as the best fruits to make red wine. Grapes, Bilberries and Damsons.  The pectin in Damsons means its not easy to clear you will need pectin destroying enzyme and need to allow it to settle and racking off the liquid. This however should produce a red wine of character especially if it left to age for about a year. The wine really is wonderfully full bodied. It tastes more like a Shiraz than it does damsons. It is however distinctive and well worth the effort.
I remember when I was in my teens and my aunt gave me a glass of her finest Damson wine. We sat in the evening sun and chatted a while, two very different worlds meeting and interested in each others strange world. I was in my late teens reckoned I was street smart (Yea right) but I always dropped the act when I visited my Aunty (best behaviour time) To me she was this nice little lady that had been insulated from the world living in cottage in the middle of nowhere. No telephone and definitely no cell phone. After another glass of the finest house wine (I called it the Damson destroyer) my sweet little aunt sat back and rested knowing that she switched from stocks and unit trusts to a annuity at just the right time. As a teenager I had no money and could not drink two glasses of the Damson destroyer without talking even more rubbish than usual. My aunts doing just fine now and I have grown to really appreciate that of all the fruits in the UK that you can make wine with Damsons are by far the best. It produces a full bodied wine that is best when sweet. It is excellent on its own or for blending with other wines.
Damson plums 3lb (1.36kg)
Sugar              2.5lb (1.13 kg)
Yeast, (All purpose wine yeast)
Yeast nutrients
Campden tablets
Pectin destroying enzyme

1) Wash the fruit gently, and drain it.
2) Put the fruit in a pail (food grade plastic) and pour over it 1/4 gallon (1.14 litres) of boiling water.
            (NOTE do not boil the Damsons as this would release too much pectin)
3) Add 1lb (454g) of sugar and citric acid, stir until the sugar has dissolved and break up the fruit with a large spoon.
4) Add a further 1/2 gallon (2.3 litres) of warm water, then add the pectin destroying enzyme; cover the pail and stand it in a warm place, stirring daily.
5) After two days, strain it into a fermentation vessel, then dissolve 1 1/2 lb (454g) of sugar in hot water add this to the vessel.
6) Add the yeast and nutrients, then make up to 1 gallon (4.5 litres) with warm water and seal the vessel with an airlock.
7) When fermentation is complete, rack into a clean container, add one crushed Campden tablet and close the container with a bung or safety lock.
8) Rack every two months till clear

Click here for more on Damson wine

Date wine (Its a real powerful date for those with patience)
2 Kg dates
250 grams sherry type grape juice concentrate
25 grams acid (Citric or tartaric or malic - or a blend of the three)
1/2 tsp. tannin
1 Kg sugar
4 litres water
sherry yeast and yeast nutrient

Chop then boil the dates gently for 1/2 hour, when cool, strain and stir in the grape concentrate, the acid, tannin, nutrient and yeast.
The difficulty of date, wine as with flower wine, is the complete lack of acidity needed for the yeast to do their work. 25 grams is needed to make this up to the right acidity level. I prefer tartaric or citric acid.
Ferment as long as possible by adding 250g of sugar every 8 days and if necessary Finnish with extra sugar, so that the wine tastes sweet.
Keep for two years and serve this strong sweet wine like a cream sherry.

Apple or Pear wine
This is makes a lovely light white wine. Apples and pears make a really good base for brewing. Like grapes, yeast like their juices. I add lemons to raise the acidity as this is more suitable to the yeast.
This light white is very palatable and ideal for drinking with fish or pancakes.

4 lb pears
8 pints boiling water
To each gallon juice:
3lb sugar
juice from 2 lemons
1/2 oz. yeast
1 Cut the fruit into pieces - do not peel or core.
2) Pour over the boiling water, press well to extract juices. Leave for 4 days to infuse.
3) Strain off the juice and measure.
4) Add sugar and yeast and lemon juice and leave to ferment (bubble) in a warm place.
5) When bubbling ceases, stir well.
6) Leave it for a day or two
7) Strain through a flannel or very thick muslin into a cask, filling the cask completely. If the wine is not clear re-strain with thicker material and add finings to help clear the wine.
8) Cork and leave for 6 months.
9) Pour into bottles, cork and store in a cool dark place to mature for another few months at least.

Rice & Raisin
This is a medium wine that needs only the items you can easily by at the super market (excluding the wine yeast and wine filter of course).
The method used here makes two batches of wine, the second batch is a lighter wine. This not only allows you to have a variety for different taste but by blending the two you can home in on the balance you like best.
Rice (long grain) 5 lb (2.25kg)
Raisins 3 lb (1.5kg)
Sugar 10 lb (4.5kg)
3 Lemons
1 Orange (This can be substituted for the same quantity of pure apple juice)
1 cup of strong cold tea (Optional, this is to add the tannin normally found in wine)
Wine yeast and nutrient 2 oz 50g
Water 3 gallons 13.5 litres
Dissolve the sugar in some heated water taken from the 3 gallons. Now allow this liquid too cool and then pour over the rice and raisins (do not chop or mince the raisins). Then add the lemon juice and orange juice. (note you could use table spoons of citric acid instead). If you are adding a cup of cold tea do it now (no milk of course).  Now add the remaining water and sprinkle on the yeast and its nutrients. Sir ands leave to ferment in a warm room. Stir daily for 21 days then strain through a fine sieve into three 1 gallon (4.5 litres) jars. Fit air locks  and keep them in the warm room until fermentation stops. Filter the wine through a wine filter and it is ready to drink straight away. If you intend to keep the wine for more than a month or two then add 1 Campden tablet per gallon and leave for 9 months.
This is the good bit. Having kept the pulp of rice and raisin we are now ready to use this again to make a lighter wine.
pulp left over from above
Sugar 8 lb (3.5kg)
2.5 gallons water
2 Lemons
1 orange
1/2 cup of cold tea (Optional)
Dissolve the sugar in a gallon of hot water and pour on to the rice and raisin pulp left over from above. add 1.5 gallons of cold water plus the lemon & orange juice. If you are using cold tea add it now. Sprinkle on the yeast and its nutrients and follow the procedure as above.

Summer fruits Social Wine
For 5 gallons (22.5litres)
12lb (5.4kg) redcurrants*
4lb (1.8kg) raspberries
4 lb (1.8kg) strawberries
2 cans (2kg) concentrated grape juice
11lb (5kg) sugar
yeast (Tokay) and nutrient
water to 5 gallons (22.5 litres)
(*The fruit should be very ripe to reduce acidity)
Crush the fruit into 3 gallons (14 litres) of cold water (hot water can be used if the fruit has been stored in the freezer). If you wish, 6 pints (3.5 litres) of rose petals may also be added at this stage. Add the yeast nutrients, pectolase and 5 dissolved Campden tablets. Cover and soak for three days. Then strain of the juices and wash the pulp with water  to get 4.5 gallons (20 litres) of must. The pulp can be used again to make a second batch of wine.
Dissolve the grape concentrate and 11lb (5kg) of sugar in the must and then introduce the yeast. Ferment in the 5 gallon (22.5liter) bucket for three more days, skimming off any pulp  which may have passed through the first straining, but otherwise keeping covered. Then transfer the wine to a 5 gallon (22.5 litre) fermentation vessel with an air-lock; the fermentation is conducted at a temperature of 18-21C (65-70F). Go through the normal fermentation and racking procedures.
If the wine is started in July or August, the fermentation will slow down as Autumn temperatures prevail. If you are lucky, the wine will stop bright and clear with enough sugar left in. Alternatively, of course, it may be fermented to dryness and then sweetened, but it does appear to lose some fruitiness if it goes dry.
This wine is best drunk at Christmas the year it is made when fresh and fruity, or after keeping it for eighteen months to two years. This also can act as a good base for blending country wines.



For Strawberry and loads more fruit wines please see the YoBrew magazine (PDF)

YoBrew 2013 Annual  Strawberry wine


Fruit Juice Wines & More

These are ideal for a first venture into wine-making after making kits, they also give very good results, use the minimum additional ingredients and can easily be adapted to suit any personal preferences, and some suggestions are included. Basic versions of white, red & rose are given below, they are designed by me, Peter Laycock, to generally give around 11-12% alcohol, 0.6-0.7% acidity and a tannin value of around 0.01% for white, less than 0.2% for red and rose wines somewhere in between. My calculations are based on an original volume of 4.7l, thus allowing for some losses through sediment, spillage etc. we should therefore end up with about the required 4.5l of wine, enough for 6 standard (750ml) bottles. I have tried these wines after maturing for 3 months and have found them all very rewarding, some wines tend to improve with longer maturation times. The fruit juices are the type found in supermarkets in 1l Tetra-Paks & should have no added sugar or preservatives (for this reason I tend to disregard anything with the word "Drink" on the carton) , the figures in brackets give the approximate amount of sugar per 100ml juice, given on the side of the pack.

White Wine

Calculations (approximate, for 4.7l original vol.):- O.G. 1078, F.G. 993, Alcohol 11.4%, Final acidity 0.6% & Tannin 0.01%.

2l White grape juice (15.9g sugar)
1l Apple juice (11g sugar)
525g sugar dissolved in approx. 0.5l water
5ml (1tsp) pectic enzyme
2.5ml (½tsp) nutrient

The sugar is added to approx 0.5l water in a pan and heated to dissolve the sugar. When cool, all the ingredients are added to a demijohn, the yeast being the final ingredient, make up to about 4l with cold water, fit an air-lock with some water in. Ferment at room temperature for a few days, after the initial volatile fermentation has subsided make up to about 4.7l with cold water. When fermentation is complete the wine can be fined in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions and then bottled, alternatively you may wish to rack it onto a crushed Campden tablet in a clean demijohn, allowing the wine to clear & mature in bulk before bottling. Personally I like to mature my wines in bulk for about 3 months, even more for reds, resulting in less sediment in the bottle.

NOTE:- I like to hold back 1 carton of grape juice until the S. G. of the fermenting wine has fallen to around 1010 (not critical) thus enhancing the bouquet & taste of the finished wine, the starting volume should be reduced to 3.5l to cater for this. I regularly make this wine, nick-named Grapple, as I really enjoy it, different types of juices produce different tastes & so it is never boring. Adding 6-12 strawberries, raspberries or similar also adds to the fun.

Apple wine could be made using 3l apple juice, omitting the grape juice, increasing the sugar to 630g gives similar parameters. Elderflowers tend to go well with apple wine, you could add two florets or 15g dried elderflowers but err on the side of caution as too much can be overpowering.

Red Wine

NOTE:- When red grape juice is produced, it is difficult to extract the colour from the skins (red grapes produce white juice), hence artificial colour is sometimes added. Unfortunately these colours can look un-natural, and, worse still, they can be unstable and precipitate out of the finished wine. It may be pertinent to replace the grape juice with 500g concentrate & 1 litre of apple juice, the sugar should be increased to 560g.

A fairly light red coloured wine with quite a full flavour.
Calculations (approximate, for 4.7l original vol.):- O.G. 1078, F.G. 993, Alcohol 11.3%, Final acidity 0.61% & Tannin 0.13%.

3l Red grape juice (15.9g sugar)
500g sugar dissolved in approx. 0.5l water
5ml (1tsp) pectic enzyme
2.5ml (½tsp) nutrient

Make using the same method as the white wine.

1l of grape juice could be replaced by 1l apple juice giving O.G. 1076, F.G. 993, Alcohol 11%, Final acidity 0.6% & Tannin 0.09%, an extra 25g sugar will produce 11.4% alcohol.

Rosé Wine

Calculations (approximate, for 4.7l original vol.):- O.G. 1078, F.G. 993, Alcohol 11.4%, Final acidity 0.6% & Tannin 0.05%.

1l Red grape juice (15.9g sugar)
1l White grape juice (15.9g sugar)
1l Apple juice (11g sugar)
525g sugar dissolved in approx. 0.5l water
5ml (1tsp) pectic enzyme
2.5ml (½tsp) nutrient

Make using the same method as the white wine.

Maturation time is a big factor for beer & wine making, all the above juice wines should be drinkable after 3 months, additional time may make some subtle but small improvements but when recipe designers tell you to wait a year or so, they generally mean it. Usually this is for strong wines made with fruits rather than juices etc. I found this to be true with my GingerIII and Elderberry (a heavily modified CWE kit).


You may have guessed that this was my third attempt at a Ginger wine, the first used 50g root ginger – not strong enough, the second 75g – not strong enough so this time I used 100g & a few extra ingredients not used previously. The results were a little disappointing, it was quite strong (ginger & alcohol) but not all that pleasant & so I forgot about it. I “found” it again after 2 years & thought I may as well give it another try. The transformation was quite amazing

Calculations (approximate, for 4.7l original vol.):- O.G. 1100, F.G. 993, Alcohol – very high! (15%+) Final acidity 0.62% & Tannin 0.01%.

100g fresh root ginger
2l White grape juice
250ml Apple juice
50g fruit juice (optional, yeast may be added directly to the must)
550g white sugar + sweetening
320g Demerara sugar (white will do)
1 large banana (150g flesh – not critical, 2 can be use)
2 tsp cinnamon
Zest from 1 orange or lemon (or both)
5g acid (tartaric, citric or malic)
5g pectic enzyme
Yeast & ½ tsp nutrient

Re-hydrate the yeast in about 50ml warm water, after 15 min add the 50ml fruit juice (orange in my case, at room temp). The thinly chopped ginger is boiled in about 900ml water for 10 min with the cinnamon, zest & Demerara sugar added at the end, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour into a clean bucket & when cool, add the sliced banana(s), apple juice, acid, pectic enzyme, nutrient & yeast. Cover & ferment in a warm place for about a week, stirring about twice a day. The 550g white sugar is dissolved in water to make about 0.8 l and, when cool, bottled for use later.

Strain the liquid & “wash” the leftovers into a demijohn, make up to about 1 litre, add the Bentonite,1 l grape juice & about half the sugar solution. Add the remaining grape juice about a week later. The rest of sugar soln. is added when gravity drops to around 1010.

The sweetening sugar is best added as a strong syrup, so keep an eye on the volume of your wine. If this sugar is gradually “fed” to the wine whilst it is still fermenting, a high alcohol content will be produced, after the yeast “gives in” the sugar will add sweetness to the wine. My finished wine had a gravity of around 1006, but you can go up to around 1020 or more, depending on your preference.

Rack when fermentation is complete, make up to about 4.6l (you may be slightly over, don’t worry). Bulk mature for at least 6 month, racking when clear. After bottling, keep in a cool darkish place for at least a year before sampling, if you’re not too keen on it, wait another 6 months & so on.


1)  If, like me, you prefer a very strong ginger flavour, about 130g root ginger may be better.

2)  ½ tsp cayenne pepper may be added, I have seen several recipes using it.

3)  The cinnamon gave the wine a slight but noticeable aroma but no discernable taste, 3 tsp may be better, but be careful, too much could be overpowering.

4)  You may have noticed that most of the quantities/ingredients are not critical. Other ingredients such as cloves & cowslips can be added (if it’s good enough for Crabbie’s then it should be good enough for us). I would, however, avoid using any (green) food colourings as they may be unstable & precipitate out.

Elderberry – An exercise in kit modification.

I fancied trying a Port style wine, Alan Spree, from Doncaster Home Brew Supplies had no suitable kits but suggested I try the (now unfortunately defunct) CWE Country Classic Elderberry Wine. Initially I dismissed this idea but returned a week later to buy a kit, thinking I could modify it to obtain some of the desired properties.

Additions to the kit were: 1 litre each of Cranberry & red grape juice (replacing 2 l water), 2 tsp sodium bicarbonate (to reduce the acidity), a large banana to increase the body, a sachet of oak granules and 250g of “Summer Fruits” (strawberries, raspberries etc.). About 600g of sugar in solution was “fed” to the wine when the gravity fell somewhere below 1010, when fermentation ceased the sugar solution was used to sweeten the wine. My final gravity was about 1009 but I think most people would settle for around 1020.

I bottled the wine after bulk maturing for 3 months (4 – 6 would possibly have been better), the first bottle opened 6 months later. It tasted, not surprisingly, like a strong elderberry wine, a bit slightly disappointing. After a year it had completely transformed into a highly enjoyable, complex wine, each sip taking you on a changing “journey” of tastes. Incidentally, the wine had little in common with a Port as I intended, this was not a problem however.

I always had a high regard for CWE kits but what amazed me with this was the yeast – it gave over 17% ABV!

You can design your own recipes or modify other recipes if you download my calculators from this site, YoBrew - Free Beer and Wine calculators

Click here for Parsnip wine recipes

Storing and Ageing of fine wine

Storing your wine

There is an odd feature called bottle sickness which has been observation by wine makers that no matter how well aged a wine is if it is transferred to a new bottle this bottle must age at least a month before opening or the taste is not quite right. I am not sure of the chemistry here but this is a rule I keep to.

Storing, maturing and volume
I would have thought that keeping my wine in a bottle or demijohn makes little difference but this is not true. The larger volume of the demijohn (4.5 litre 1 gallon) improves ageing and is preferable to just ageing in the bottle. I now mimic the wine makers but on a smaller scale. A wine maker that is going to age a red for 3 years will age the first 2 years in a vat and then 1 year in the bottle. If I plan to age a red for 1 year then the first 8 months will age in the Demy-John and the final 4 months in the bottle. I guess the volume helps smooth out temperature changes and it is said that random collisions of the compounds that help ageing are more likely in larger vessels. There are lots of mysteries in wine making.

Sealing, and storing
If you are keeping your wine for a year or less then you really do not need real cork in fact as long as the seal is air tight it’s ok. The only wine that should be stored on its side is still wine sealed with a cork. This keeps the cork moist and stops it drying out letting in too much air and even spoiling bacteria. Bottles sealed by other air tight methods such as plastic corks, crown cap ... should be kept upright and champagne with a cork can also be kept upright. I love corks and will always seal my wine with corks even if I cannot prove that it is that beneficial for wine less than 3 years old. Beyond 3 years in the same bottle and the cork is beneficial allowing in an important and yet chemically almost insignificant amount of oxygen. Corks that are intended to last many years must be of excellent quality and longer than the standard inch to prevent it failing to keep its air tight seal..

Storing conditions for fine wine
I take great care brewing Barolo with the Nebbiolo grape juice from the right side of the Barolo region of Italy and so when I store this I really want thing to be as perfect as possible. I care for these as much as my few but very select aged wines. Ideal storage would be an unheated basement but I do not have this. I could get a high end temperature control unit but I do not have this. I have been very fortunate in having the pantry dedicated to my wine and this pantry somehow always keeps cool throughout the year.

Fine wine storage table

Environmental condition



Light / Dark
(Very important)

Keep the light out.

Light bleaches out the colour and in time ruins the balance of the wine. Never accept wine from a shop that has been displaying your wine in the full sun especially if you are selecting a specialist slow moving wine that may have been there for weeks.


Keep it constant throughout the year.
(No sudden changes & No draughts)
Keep it 12 C - 15 C .
(The range is important but most important to avoid sudden fluctuation.)

Correct ageing of wine is a slow process and if kept too cold the change will be too slow and if kept too warm the change is too quick and the aroma does not form its complexity instead it matures too quickly and out of balance. Temperature fluctuation ruin the balance of the wine and must be avoided. Use bubble wrap if you suspect drafts and changing temperatures.


Keep your fine wine away from any source of vibrations. No keeping your wine near the washing machine.

It is thought that the slow joining together of simple compounds to form complex colour and aroma compounds is hampered by the vibrations. Bubble wrap can help eliminate vibrations.

(Not so important)

Not bone dry or soaking wet. Some people are more specific and say 80% humidity

This is not that important but clearly ultra dry and it can effect your cork. Ultra wet and you will have a mouldy and label and may be a mouldy cork.

The ageing of fine wines:
Sitting next to my carefully home made oaky Barolo sits my 1997 Barolo from my favourite wine merchant. Looking at the above table of conditions its clear to me that wine does not travel well. How can you be sure the van from Italy can control the temperature and avoid vibrations. My home made wine however travels by hand about 20 feet in its entire life. What happens to the wine when it is left to age and why is the Barolo at its best at year 5 or more. The answer is down to some very slow and complex chemical reactions. This can be generalized as alcohol and acid being converted to esters and phenols becoming more complex compounds, slowly resulting in a more subtle, complex and aromatic drink.

The chemistry of the process of wine ageing

Phenols + Phenols  More complex Phenols
Alcohol + Acid  Aldehydes Esters
Esters + Esters  delicate and more complex esters

Phenols (e.g. Tannin)
Tannin and other phenols are found in the skin of the grape and to some degree tannin is obtained from the oak during oak ageing. Tannin is also in country wines in tea, raisins, elderberries and to varying degrees in fruit. Phenols like tannin give the wine its colour and have a somewhat a bitter taste. The long slow process of ageing allows the phenols to combine together to form more and more complex compounds. As they join together the colour changes from red through dark reds and finally to a coffee red brown. Beyond this the complexity of the compound is such that is too large to remain dissolved in  the wine and it precipitates out as a brownish deposit (as with very old wine). The taste changes as well due to the initial bitter taste of the tannin being smoothed out by this process. Very high tannin wines are unpleasant to drink young but they usually age very well and after 5 years in the case of my Barolo they are very pleasant. I have some elderberry wine which is extremely high in tannin and at present is only drinkable if accompanied by a strong cheese such as Danish blue in  a few years I reckon it will have aged well and will be a bit more subtle.

Esters give fine wines their lovely delicate aromas. I first came across esters in chemistry where we made some unsubtle pear drop flavour. Esters are the result of the marriage of alcohol and acids during an oxidizing reaction. This oxidization takes minimal amounts of oxygen and will happily takes place in sealed bottles. A cork is a very good air tight seal letting in such a minimal, almost negligible, amount of oxygen that it matches the incredibly slow nature of the reaction taking place.

Alcohol + Acid Aldehydes  Esters
Esters + Esters  delicate and more complex esters

The pear drop ester in chemistry class took minutes to form, in wine this reaction must be done very slowly, gradually and evenly for the productions of the correct balance of complex and delicate esters present in aged fine wines. When this is done too quickly (e.g. storage temperature to high) then the esters do not become as complex and the balanced of esters is noticeably wrong to the trained pallet. The esters instead quickly form less subtly simpler esters but not as simple and crude as the pear drop esters in chemistry.

How do you know how long to age a fine wine?

This is tricky but the main thing that tells you is the quantities of Tannin, alcohol and acidity of the young wine.

Low tannin will not keep for long as in most white wines
Very high tannin will have to age before it is drinkable
High alcohol and high tannin as with certain port, results in  a drink that can mature over a period of 50 years.
Low acid will not form the aged aroma but this is less likely as the fermentation process needs acid conditions.

Colour is the best sign of correct ageing. This is why I often keep my reds in clear bottles. Sure I keep these bottles in the dark all the time but there is no real harm in briefly taking the bottle out and looking at the colour through the clear bottle much as a wine taster does with his glass. Alas people are so used to seeing red wine in coloured bottles that it look strange seeing red wine in clear bottles. People then think I know nothing about wine and quietly inform me of my error. You see coloured bottles are to keep light out when the wine is in the shop, but my home-made wine never leave the house and only see light for the briefest moment when I inspect it or when it is being served.

Some typical wine drinking temperatures (°C).

These figures are a rough guide only, they should only be regarded as “typical” as there are many exceptions. I have collated the information form various sources & cannot vouch for their accuracy or whether a degree or three deviation makes any discernable difference. As these figures are based on dry wines, deduct 2 degrees for sweet & 1 degree for medium wines.


Temp °C


Temp °C



Pinot Noir






Barolo (Nebbiolo grape)


Port, Madeira, Sherry






Burgundy - Red




Burgundy - White




Cabernet Sauvignon








Chablis (Chardonnay grape)








Champagne, Cava, Sparkling wines






Sauvignon Blanc


Chenin Blanc
















Grenache - Red


Tinta Fina


Grenache - White




Lambrusco Red




Lambrusco Rose




Lambrusco White








Lombardia (White & Rosé)


Zinfandel Red




Zinfandel White (Rose)












Simplified guide




Champagne, Cava, Sparkling wines










Pinot Blanc




Pinot Grigio


Port, Madeira, Sherry


Pinot Gris


Rubbish wines


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