Traditional Italian Wine Making

  • Crush the grapes through the crusher and into the fermenting bucket. Put the lid on to transport. Remember that fermentation can start quickly and blow the lid off.
  • When home put the fermenter in a warm place and stand it on some newspaper as insulation. Outside the house is too cold, a warm kitchen is ideal. Remove the lid and lay it loosely on top.
  • Fermentation may take one, two or three days to start. The grape skins will rise up when fermentation starts, keep covered with the lid. If you are concerned about slow starting check that that the temperature is between 20c and 24c. if not raise it up to this and stir well. During fermentation break up the fruit cap each day, turn bottom to top and stir well, then press it down. I use a stainless steel potato masher for this.

Italians call fermentation the “boil” because fermentation can be so vigorous. Maintain a fermenting temperature of 21c to 25c.

  • When the skins have been in for 6 days do not stir or press down again. Leave it alone for 24 hours. The fruit cap and solids will then have risen to the top and the sediment will have sunk to the bottom. All you need to do is to open the tap and the young wine runs out. Fill the demijohns (Italians call any size glass fermenter a demijohn) fit an airlock and ferment in the usual way. A second run can be made if required by adding water +1 kilo of sugar per gallon to the pulp and starting again.
  • Traditionally fermentation in the demijohn or barrel was left for forty days, however it is best to rack and stabilize as soon as possible by adding potassium sorbate and campden. Then leave to settle and rack it into clean containers and keep in a cool place. Using chemicals is not in keeping with Italian tradition but is strongly recommended.
  • Bottle your wine before Easter or rack it again if you are storing it in bulk. Don’t forget to store it at 10C to 15C (50f to 60f) and keep it in the dark.
  • You can usually start drinking the wine when it is 6 months old. It is probably best from 12 to 24 months. In some vintage years it can be drinkable for 5 years.

Additional notes for making Italian White Wine.


  • The grapes are crushed, and the pulp is then pressed in the wine press and the juice is run off into the fermenter.
  • Leave standing for 8 to 12 hours for the solids to settle out (if it starts fermenting in this time, rack and carry on) then rack it off into a demijohn with an airlock. Keep the temperature at 18C to 22C. Add yeast if fermentation has not started in 3 days. Then carry on from note 5 above.

Comments from Italian friends

Pascquale of Cipullo say’s

“The crushed grape should be stirred twice a day bringing the bottom to the top. Ferment on the pulp for a maximum of 7 days. Fermentation will start the next day or the day after. If you leave it in a cool place it may take 3 days to start but it will start. I keep mine in a cool garage. The temperature is halfway between the house and outside. It usually takes two days to start off.”

Delivery drivers comment

Drink the wine quick. Bottle and seal well before Easter. The last two years the wine has not lasted well. Some years ago the wine lasted at least 4 years.

DON’T FORGET THAT IN TRADITIONAL ITALIAN RED WINE MAKING AFTER THE INITIAL 7 DAY FERMENT ON THE SKINS THE FRUIT CAP IS PUT IN THE PRESS AND EXTRA JUICE IS PRESSED OUT AND ADDED TO THE BULK OF THE WINE TO ADD MORE COLOUR AND BODY.

By Richard Burns.

Any queries on making wine from Italian grapes phone Paul on 020 8644 0934

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