You might have heard some flack about muscadine wine recently. Some might tell you it’s just a “get drunk quick” wine with too much sugar. Others look down upon it for being too cheap. However, if you like wine with strong, aromatic qualities, or sweet wine made with ingredients indigenous to America, muscadine wine is worth a try.
What is Muscadine Wine?
It’s interesting to note that the wine grapes used for making muscadine are larger than other wine-making grapes, with tougher seeds and skins. These grapes have become an integral part of Southern jams, pies, grape juice, and fruit butter. The only reason muscadine wine is so sweet is that long-ago winemakers added a lot of sugar to create an authentic grape flavor. Still, those methods are changing to make the wine more palatable.
Homemade Muscadine wine also has plenty of purported health benefits. The grapes’ skins are thick and full of antioxidants and are thus more resilient to disease. They contain a lot of potassium, calcium, Vitamin C, and fiber. However, how much sugar you put into the homemade wine might lessen those benefits a bit.
Muscadine wine should not be mistaken for Scuppernong wine. While they are both made from the same grape, Scuppernong comes from young, bronze muscadine grapes boiled in sugar before adding them to vodka.
Unlike many wine varieties, you can chill all types of muscadine wine. Red, white, and dessert varieties of muscadine wine have intense flavors, so chilling them can improve them. It might also mask some of the more robust sweet flavors.
Luckily, our classic muscadine wine recipe does not require you to remove the skin or seeds from the grapes before you mash them. You’ll need one quart of mashed grapes, which will require about 4 pounds of whole grapes. If you like, you can also create this recipe with blackberries.
NOTE: All the equipment used for making wine should be thoroughly sterilized and cleaned. If anything has dirt or bacteria on it, the fermentation process won’t go well. You can use boiling water to sterilize your equipment, but Campden tablets work just as well.
- A food-grade basin or capacity brew bin
- Two demijohns, each at least a gallon, and made of glass or plastic
- Fitted airlock and bung
- Large funnel
- A vinyl siphon tube at least 3 feet long
- Rubber kitchen gloves for sensitive skin
- One quart mashed fresh muscadine grapes or 4 pounds of grapes. Make sure the fruit is fresh and not dried out
- 3 quarts of water (filtered)
- 6 cups granulated sugar
- 7 grams of active dry yeast (1 ¼ ounce)
- Wine stabilizer, such as potassium sorbate
Mash the grapes. You can do this in a few different ways. If you have sensitive skin, wear rubber kitchen gloves for this step.
You can place the grapes into a plastic bag and smash them with a meat tenderizer. Try putting some sharp knitting needles between your fingers and jab at the grapes. Or you can place the grapes in the freezer until their skins crack off, leaving the pulp behind to defrost in the bag. Never use food processors.
Bring some water to a boil and allow it to cool. Dissolve the 6 cups of sugar in the water. Use a large and sanitized bowl for this step, ensuring that you completely dissolve the sugar before moving on.
Add mashed grapes to the sugar-water mixture. Sprinkle the active dry yeast over the top, but DO NOT stir.
Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Place the bowl in a cool location between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Let the mixture sit for 24 hours, and then stir it well with a wooden spoon.
Cover the stirred mixture once more and place it back in its cool setting space.
Stir the mixture every day at the same time for one week.
Strain the liquids into another clean bowl using the straining bag. Make sure this new bowl has an airlock for best results.
Fill the bowl with water to the top of the container.
Let the wine ferment for a week in its cool space. You might notice the mixture bubbling for the first several days. Once the bubbling has stopped, so has the fermentation process.
After the first week of fermentation, there should be bubbles on the bottom of the container and foam at the top. Strain the mixture to remove all those bubbles, and use the funnel to drain the wine into a glass or plastic demijohn. If the liquid doesn’t reach the bottle’s neck, add some filtered or bottled water and a teaspoon of sugar.
Fit the bung and airlock to the bottle, and let the demijohn sit in a cool, dark place for three weeks.
After three weeks, the fermentation activity should have slowed down. The liquid should be a clear ruby color, with maybe a little yeast and fruit sediment.
Now, strain the demijohn and place the mixture in another clean container. Doing so will leave the yeast layer and sediment behind.
To strain the first demijohn:
- Place it on a flat surface, with the second empty demijohn standing flat and upright below the first.
- Remove the bung and airlock.
- Lower the siphon tube into the wine until it’s above the still sediment layer.
- Suck on the free end of the tube until you taste waste, quickly sticking that end into the second demijohn.
Top the newly racked wine with additional water and a single teaspoon of sugar. Put the airlock back on, and leave the wine to ferment in its cool, dark place for three more weeks.
NOTE: You might need to do this a couple of times since the muscadine grape has tough skin and a deep color. Make sure you wait three weeks between each strain.
Pour the wine into glass bottles with airtight caps and store in a fridge.
Muscadine wine might not be the most popular wine out there, but people with a sweet tooth might enjoy it. With the right equipment and a hefty amount of patience, you can make drinkable wine right at home.