sealPurdue News

November 26, 2002

Homemade wine ingredients run gamut from onions to grapes

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – More people will greet holiday guests this winter with a sweet-smelling home brew.

With the increasing number of wineries popping up across Indiana, the number of home winemakers also has increased. "People visit wineries, see winemaking as fun, and discover that winemaking is actually very easy," said Ellen Harkness, Purdue University wine technologist.

Harkness said to get started, select any fruit or vegetable, just as long as it has some sugar in it. This could include strawberries, grapes, or even carrots, tomatoes, or onions. Then you need a primary fermenter, usually an open plastic pale or a five- to six-gallon jug, some good commercial yeast and knowledge about adjusting the sugar to obtain the right amount of alcohol.

Nathan Dilger of Mariah Hill, Ind., just finished making his first batch of homemade blackberry wine. Curiosity got the best of him when he saw his boss making wine.

"I wanted to see if I could make it too," he said.

Dilger had a large amount of fresh blackberries from this past summer and made them his main ingredient.

Next came the task of fermenting the berries. Dilger said he found this to be simple, except for having to remember to stir it every day to prohibit molding.

After four months of dedication, Dilger said his blackberry wine was sweet tasting and smooth drinking.

Unlike Dilger, some of the more experienced winemakers take their wines to a competitive level. About 20 percent of the contestants in the last Indiana State Fair International Wine Competition entered wine made in their homes, Harkness said.

There is a limit to the amount of wine that can be produced at home. One hundred gallons of wine is allowed if there is at least one 21-year-old person. That amount can go to 200 gallons if there are additional people in the household over the age of 21.

Purdue's Department of Food Science developed a publication, called the "Home Winemaker's Guide," in response to calls seeking more information on winemaking. The publication is authored by Richard Vine, a professor of food science, and is available by contacting Harkness. The publication number is FS-1 and costs $10.

The guide gives instructions and charts to help the beginning winemaker and also explains the equipment needed to make homemade wine.

Other resources available include courses and workshops, which can be found on the Web. Several Indiana wineries sell winemaking supplies and offer advice to amateur winemakers – Easley Winery, in Indianapolis; Butler Winery, in Bloomington; and Andersons Orchard & Winery, Valparaiso, are excellent sources, Harkness said.

For those with business ventures in mind, three Purdue experts have released the second edition of "Winemaking: From Grape Growing to Marketplace," a guide to help manage small- to medium-sized wineries.

"This guide deals with the technical aspects of winemaking and basic considerations of wine marketing," Harkness said.

Harkness edited the book along with Vine and Sally Linton, Purdue Department of Food Science marketing and public relations specialist.

The book has a variety of charts and graphs to assist winemakers in calculating adjustment during the winemaking process, as well as a wealth of information about grape growing, building wineries, managing wine production operations and wine marketing techniques.

"Winemaking: From Grape Growing to Marketplace" costs $80 and can be ordered from Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers online. The book's ISBN is 0-306-47272-4.

Writer: Michelle Betz, (765) 494-8402,

Sources: Ellen Harkness, (765) 494-6704,

Nathan Dilger, (812) 937-2819

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes,;

Related Web sites:
Indiana Wine Grape Council

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