wine making equipment. Row of wine vats

Wine Making Equipment and Supplies

Whether you’re an experienced wine enthusiast or just getting started with making your own wine, learn about the wine-making equipment you’ll need to make the perfect bottle of vino. From grape presses to fermentation tanks, here are all the essentials and helpful tips along the way. Obviously, you won’t need all of this equipment, but this will give you an overview of what is available. Pour a glass of your best and read on!

Wine Making Equipment

Wine-making equipment refers to the tools, devices, and materials used in the process of making wine. These can include:

Fermentation Vessels

A wine fermentation vessel is a container or tank that is used to ferment grape juice or “must” into wine. Fermentation vessels come in different sizes and shapes. They can be made of various materials such as stainless steel, oak, or concrete. The most common types of wine fermentation vessels include:

wine vats and other equipment
  1. Stainless steel tanks: These are the most popular fermentation vessels in modern winemaking due to their durability, easy maintenance, and ability to control temperature.
  2. Oak barrels: These are traditional fermentation vessels that are used to add oak flavor and complexity to the wine. Oak barrels are also commonly used for aging wine after fermentation.
  3. Concrete tanks: These are large, egg-shaped vessels that provide a natural environment for the wine to ferment. The concrete allows for natural air circulation, which helps regulate temperature and promote the growth of yeast.
  4. Amphorae: These are earthenware vessels that have been used for winemaking for thousands of years. Amphorae provide a porous surface that allows for natural fermentation and oxygenation. This results in unique flavor profiles.

The choice of fermentation vessel can have a significant impact on the flavor, aroma, and texture of the resulting wine. Winemakers often choose different fermentation vessels based on the grape variety, the desired style of wine, and the winery’s budget and production capacity.

Crushers and Destemmers

picked grapes getting dumped into crusher

Wine crushers and destemmers are machines used in winemaking to crush and separate grapes from their stems.

A wine crusher is a machine that crushes the grapes to extract their juice. The crusher can be a manual hand-cranked model or a motorized version that operates with the push of a button. The grapes are fed into the crusher where they are squashed. The juice flows through a screen or filter into a container.

A destemmer, on the other hand, is a machine that separates the grapes from their stems. The destemmer crushes the grapes and then separates them from the stems. The stems are then expelled out of the machine. This process is important because the stems can add unwanted flavors to the wine.

Some machines combine both crushing and destemming functions, allowing winemakers to efficiently process large quantities of grapes. These machines are commonly used in commercial winemaking operations, but can also be useful for home winemakers who process large quantities of grapes.

Presses

antique picture of a grape crusher

A wine press is a machine or device used to extract juice from grapes or other fruits to produce wine. The press works by applying pressure to the grapes, causing the juice to flow out and separate from the skins, seeds, and stems.

Traditional wine presses consist of a large wooden or metal barrel with a screw mechanism that applies pressure to the fruit. Modern wine presses may be electric or hydraulic, and can be made of stainless steel or other materials.

The type of press used depends on the scale of wine production, with small wineries or home winemakers typically using smaller, hand-cranked presses. Larger commercial wineries using automated, industrial-sized presses.

Filtering Equipment

Wine filtering equipment is used in the wine-making process to clarify and stabilize the wine. It is a type of equipment that removes particles and sediments from the wine. Those materials can affect the taste, color, and texture of the final product.

Wine filtering equipment can vary in size and complexity, from simple gravity-fed filters to more advanced systems that use centrifugal force or membranes to separate the wine from impurities.

There are several types of wine-filtering equipment, including:

  1. Plate and Frame Filter Press: This is a mechanical device that uses a series of plates and frames to filter the wine. The wine is pumped through the filter, and the plates and frames trap the sediment and particles.
  2. Crossflow Filters: This is a more advanced filtering system that uses membranes to filter the wine. The wine is pumped through the membranes, and the pores in the membranes capture the impurities.
  3. Centrifugal Filters: This type of filter uses centrifugal force to separate the wine from impurities. The wine is pumped into a spinning chamber, and the sediment and particles are forced to the outside of the chamber.

Wine filtering equipment is an important step of the wine-making process It helps to ensure that the final product is clear, stable, and of high quality.

Aging Vessels

Certain types of fermentation vessels can also be aging vessels. Wine aging vessels are containers in which wine is aged to improve its flavor, aroma, and overall quality.

There are several types of vessels that can be used for wine aging, including oak barrels (traditional vessel for aging wine and does add flavors), stainless steel tanks (popular for white wines), concrete tanks, or amphorae (often used in natural and biodynamic winemaking).

The choice of wine aging vessel depends on the winemaker’s goals for the wine and the specific characteristics of the grapes used.

Bottling Equipment

bottling and corking

Bottling equipment for wine refers to the machinery and tools used to fill, cap, and label bottles of wine. The most common types of bottling equipment for wine are:

  1. Bottle filler: This equipment is used to fill wine bottles with the appropriate amount of wine. There are different types of bottle fillers, including gravity fillers, vacuum fillers, and volumetric fillers.
  2. Corking machine: This machine inserts corks into the bottles after they have been filled. There are different types of corking machines, including manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic.
  3. Capsuling machine: This machine applies a capsule (also known as a foil) to the top of the wine bottle. The capsule helps to protect the cork and wine from contaminants.
  4. Labeling machine: This machine applies labels to the wine bottles. Labeling machines come in all types, including manual, semi-automatic, and fully automatic.
  5. Case packer: This equipment packs the filled and labeled wine bottles into cases for shipping.
  6. Conveyor system: This system moves the wine bottles from one bottling station to the next during the bottling process.
  7. Rinser: This equipment is used to rinse the bottles with water or another sanitizing solution before filling them with wine.
  8. Depalletizer: This equipment is used to remove pallets of empty wine bottles from the shipping pallet and feed them into the bottling line.

The bottling equipment for wine helps wineries to efficiently and effectively package their wines for distribution and sale.

Testing Equipment

There are several types of testing equipment used in the wine industry to assess the quality and characteristics of wine. Some common testing equipment used for wine include:

hydrometer
  1. Hydrometer is a device that measures the density of liquids and helps in determining the alcohol content of wine. This is the most common tool.
  2. Refractometer measures the refractive index of wine, which is related to sugar content, and can help in determining the potential alcohol content of wine.
  3. pH meter measures the acidity of the wine, which is an important characteristic that affects the taste and stability of wine.
  4. dissolved oxygen meter measures the amount of oxygen dissolved in wine, which can impact the aging process and shelf life of wine.
  5. Titration equipment is used to measure the concentration of various chemical compounds such as sulfur dioxide, which is added to wine as a preservative.
  6. Spectrophotometer measures the intensity of light absorption by wine samples, which can help in determining the color and other chemical properties of wine.
  7. Gas chromatography equipment is used to analyze the chemical composition of wine, including the presence of volatile compounds such as esters and aldehydes.

These pieces of testing equipment can help winemakers to assess the quality and characteristics of their wines, and make informed decisions regarding the production, storage, and blending of wine.

Wine-Making Supplies

The main ingredient used in winemaking is grapes but you can also use different types of fruits to make a variety of other types of boutique wines. Wine-making supplies that you may need can include:

Yeast

yeast

Yeast plays a crucial role in winemaking as it converts the sugar in grape juice into alcohol through the process of fermentation. Yeast, a specialized type of fungus, feeds on sugars and produces carbon dioxide and alcohol as byproducts. In wine making, yeast is added to the grape juice to initiate the fermentation process.

There are two main types of yeast used in wine-making: wild yeast and cultured yeast. Wild yeast is naturally present on grape skins. Some winemakers allow the fermentation to occur spontaneously with these yeasts. However, this method can be unpredictable and may result in off-flavors and aromas.

Cultured yeast strains, on the other hand, are selected for their specific characteristics and are used to control the fermentation process. They can produce wines with consistent flavors and aromas. They can also improve the efficiency of the fermentation process.

During the fermentation process, yeast produces alcohol and carbon dioxide as it consumes the sugar in the grape juice. The alcohol content of the wine will depend on the amount of sugar in the grape juice and the yeast strain used. When the fermentation is completed, the wine is typically aged in barrels or tanks to develop its flavor and aroma before being bottled and sold.

Sulfur Dioxide

Sulfur dioxide (SO2) is commonly used in winemaking as a preservative and antioxidant. It helps prevent spoilage and oxidation of the wine. It can also inhibit the growth of unwanted microbes such as bacteria and yeasts.

In addition to its preservative qualities, sulfur dioxide can also affect the flavor and aroma of the wine. In small amounts, it can enhance fruit flavors and aromas, while higher amounts may produce a pungent or sulfurous odor.

Winemakers carefully control the amount of sulfur dioxide added to their wines to achieve a balance between preservation and flavor. The amount used can vary depending on factors such as grape variety, winemaking techniques, and storage conditions.

Sulfur dioxide is important in ensuring the quality and longevity of wines, but must be used judiciously to avoid negative effects on the wine’s sensory characteristics.

Oak Barrels

oak barrel

Oak barrels play an important role in winemaking, as they can enhance the flavor, aroma, and texture of the wine. The use of oak barrels can add complexity, depth, and character to the wine, and can also help to stabilize and clarify the wine.

During the aging process, wine is stored in oak barrels, which are typically made from French, American, or Hungarian oak. The oak can add a range of flavors and aromas to the wine, including vanilla, spice, toast, and smoke, depending on the type of oak and the level of toasting or charring applied to the barrel.

Oak barrels also allow for a controlled amount of oxygen to enter the wine, which can help to soften the tannins and create a smoother texture. The porosity of the oak allows for a gradual exchange of gases between the wine and the environment, which can lead to subtle changes in the wine’s color, flavor, and aroma.

The use of oak barrels is an important part of the winemaking process, as it can help to create a more complex and nuanced wine with a wider range of flavors and aromas.

Sugar

Sugar plays a crucial role in winemaking as it is the source of alcohol in wine. During the fermentation process, the sugar is basically the food for the yeast. As it consumes the sugar in the grape juice, it changes that sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide. The amount of sugar present in the grape juice determines the potential alcohol content of the wine.

Winemakers can also manipulate the amount of sugar in the grape juice before fermentation through a process called chaptalization. This involves adding sugar to the grape juice to increase the potential alcohol content of the wine. Chaptalization is commonly used in cooler climates where the grapes may not fully ripen and may not contain enough sugar to produce a wine with the desired alcohol level.

In addition to its role in alcohol production, sugar can also influence the taste of the wine. Wines with higher levels of residual sugar will taste sweeter, while wines with lower levels of residual sugar will taste drier. You can always choose to leave some sugar in the wine you are making in order to balance the acidity and tannins and enhance the wine’s overall flavor profile. You decide how your wine will taste.

Acid

Acids play an essential role in winemaking, contributing to the flavor, aroma, and stability of the finished product. During winemaking, grapes naturally contain acids such as tartaric, malic, and citric acid.

The acids in the grapes help to balance the wine’s sweetness and contribute to its overall flavor and aroma. They also help to preserve the wine by inhibiting the growth of bacteria and other microorganisms that might still be present.

Winemakers can also adjust the acidity of the wine during the wine-making process by adding acids such as tartaric or citric acid. This adjustment is important because wines that are too acidic can be harsh and unpleasant to drink, while wines that are too low in acidity can lack structure and may spoil more easily.

Acids play a crucial role in winemaking, helping to create a balanced, flavorful, and stable finished product.

Enzymes

Enzymes play an important role in winemaking, as they are responsible for catalyzing many of the chemical reactions that occur during the fermentation process. Some of the specific roles that enzymes play in wine-making include:

  1. Breaking down sugars: Enzymes such as amylase and invertase are used to break down complex sugars into simpler ones that yeast can use as a food source.
  2. Promoting fermentation: Enzymes such as zymase are responsible for converting sugars into alcohol and carbon dioxide during the fermentation process.
  3. Enhancing color and flavor: Enzymes such as pectinase and protease can be used to break down plant materials in the grape must, which can help to release more color and flavor compounds.
  4. Clarifying wine: Enzymes such as pectinase and hemicellulose can help to break down the cell walls of fruits and vegetables, which can improve the clarity of the wine.

Overall, many enzymes are essential in winemaking, as they help to optimize the fermentation process and improve the quality of the final product.

Pectinase

Pectinase is an enzyme that is important in winemaking. Pectin is a polysaccharide found in the cell walls of fruits. It can be particularly abundant in grape skins. Pectinase breaks down pectin into smaller molecules. These molecules can help to release the juice from the grapes and improve the extraction of color and flavor compounds.

During the wine-making process, pectinase is typically added to crushed grapes during maceration. This allows the enzyme to break down the pectin and other cell wall components. It helps to release more juice and improve the efficiency of the pressing process. Pectinase can also help to clarify the wine by breaking down any pectin and other complex molecules that might cause cloudiness or haze.

In addition, pectinase can also improve the aroma and flavor of wine by breaking down glycosidic bonds between aroma compounds and sugar molecules, releasing volatile aromatic compounds. This can enhance the fruity and floral notes of the wine.

Pectinase is an important enzyme in winemaking, helping to improve juice extraction, clarify the wine, and enhance its aroma and flavor profile.

Overall, many enzymes are essential in winemaking, as they help to optimize the fermentation process and improve the quality of the final product.

Fining Agents

Fining agents are substances that are added to the wine after fermentation. They help clarify and stabilize the wine. The main role of fining agents in winemaking is to remove unwanted particles and molecules from the wine. These can affect its appearance, aroma, and taste.

During the winemaking process, various solids and organic compounds such as yeast cells, proteins, tannins, and pigments can be present in the wine. These unwanted substances can cause cloudiness, astringency, bitterness, and other off-flavors in the finished wine.

Fining agents work by attracting and binding with these unwanted substances, causing them to settle to the bottom of the container or be removed through filtration. Some common fining agents used in winemaking include bentonite clay, gelatin, isinglass (made from fish bladders), egg whites, and activated charcoal.

It is important to note that the use of fining agents in winemaking is optional and not all winemakers use them. Some winemakers prefer to let the wine naturally clarify and settle over time or use other methods such as cold stabilization or filtration.

Tannins

Tannins play a significant role in winemaking, as they contribute to the color, flavor, and structure of the wine. Tannins are naturally occurring compounds. They are found in the stems of grapes as well as the seeds and skins. Tannins are also found in the oak barrels that are often used to age wine.

During the winemaking process, tannins are extracted from the grape skins and seeds during the fermentation process. This extraction is crucial for red wines, as the tannins give the wine its characteristic deep color and provide structure and texture to the wine, which helps it age well.

Tannins also affect the taste of wine. They can contribute to the bitterness and astringency of the wine, and they help to balance the sweetness of the wine. In white wines, tannins are less important, as they are typically made without skin contact and have a lighter body and flavor profile.

Tannins are an essential component of wine, and winemakers carefully consider the type and number of tannins present in their grapes. They look at how they can be manipulated during the winemaking process to create a wine with the desired flavor, color, and structure.

Malolactic Bacteria

Malolactic bacteria play an important role in winemaking by converting the sharp-tasting malic acid present in grape must or wine into softer-tasting lactic acid. This process is called malolactic fermentation (MLF) and is a natural process that occurs after the primary alcoholic fermentation.

The conversion of malic acid into lactic acid can help reduce acidity levels in wine. This gives it a smoother, creamier texture and reduces its susceptibility to spoilage. Additionally, it can contribute to the development of desirable flavors and aromas in wine, such as buttery or creamy notes, which are often associated with MLF.

Winemakers can encourage or prevent MLF by controlling the temperature, pH, and sulfur dioxide levels during the winemaking process. If they want to encourage MLF, they may inoculate the wine with a malolactic culture of bacteria. If they want to prevent it, they may add sulfur dioxide or cool the wine to discourage bacterial growth. The decision to encourage or prevent MLF depends on the desired style of wine and the winemaker’s personal preference.

As You Make Wine

wine being poured into a glass

Investing in high-quality winemaking equipment and supplies can greatly enhance the winemaking process and ultimately result in a better-tasting wine.

From grape crushers and presses to fermentation tanks and bottling equipment, there are numerous options available to suit the needs of any winemaker, whether they are a hobbyist or a professional. Additionally, proper sanitation and storage techniques are crucial to maintaining the quality of the wine and extending its shelf life.

Becoming a successful winemaker is more than just buying the equipment and producing wine. Winemaking is a business and because of that, you need to adhere to best business practices. This includes having a business plan as well as a marketing plan. These two documents will give you a better start toward a successful small business than anything else that you do.

By selecting the right equipment and supplies and adhering to best business practices, winemakers can ensure the production of a consistently delicious and enjoyable product for years to come AND make a living from it.

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