Homemade Wine on a Budget? Skeeter Pee!
Updated: Jul 21, 2020
Making wine at home can save you a lot of money, and is a great way pass the time while social distancing. Traditionally wine is made from fresh grapes (red wine) or fresh grape juice (white wine & rosé). In reality, wine can be made from all sorts of things though. When a wine goes off the beaten path and away from grapes it is called a "country wine". Country wines can be made from various fruits, flowers, herbs, and vegetables and there are many books that are chocked full of recipes. Today we are going to veer into the world of country wines with this tasty Lemon Wine or "Skeeter Pee".
This is an old recipe that I have made and adjusted over the years. When complete, the end product falls somewhere between a crisp riesling and a hard lemonade. The low pH of a homemade lemon wine allows it to age gracefully for many years, while developing more and more character. I recently opened a five year old bottle, and was extremely impressed with the wine quality.
The real beauty of a homemade lemon wine is the price though... at around $10-$15 per 6 gallons it can't be beat. At this price range, you can experiment a bit with very low risk to the wallet... (Lemon-Lime wine? Lemon+Black tea wine?). As we are a couple months away from summer, it is a great time to start a refreshing crowd pleaser of a wine like this.
-Racking Cane and Bottle Filler
-pH Meter (optional, but recommended)
-Hydrometer (Optional, but recommended)
-Seed Heater Mat (optional)
-6 or 7 gallon bucket
*Note: This is all pretty standard stuff that you will use frequently when winemaking and would come in most starter kits.
- 3 Quarts of 100% Lemon Juice from Concentrate
- 10 lbs Sugar (+1 to 2 lbs more if back sweetening)
- Lalvin EC1118 Wine Yeast
- Yeast Nutrient
- Pectic Enzyme (optional)
- Potassium Metabisulfite or Camden Tablets
- Potassium Sorbate (If back sweetening, which I would recommend doing. DO NOT ADD BEFORE FERMENTATION)
1. Dissolve 10 lbs of sugar in three gallons of warm water. Add directly to carboy.
2. Add 2 3/4 quarts of lemon juice.
3. Add water until carboy is filled to about 5.5 gallons.
3a. If you have a pH meter, pull a sample from the carboy and add 10% water to it. Measure the pH of the sample. If the pH is above 3.0 , add remaining 1/4 quart of lemon juice to carboy. If pH drops below 2.8, fermentation will be difficult to start.
4. (optional). Add 3tsp of pectic enzyme. This will help break down pectin in lemon juice, and assure that the wine will be crystal clear. If you do this step, wait 4-6 hours before moving on to step 5
5. Add 3tsp yeast nutrient to carboy. Stir vigorously.
6. Add 2tsp wine tannin to carboy. Stir vigorously until dissolved (easier if dissolved in juice sample before adding.
7. Create a yeast starter. Hydrate your yeast in warm water and increase the volume of the starter by about 50% every 10 minutes by adding juice mix from carboy.
8. Add yeast starter to carboy. Do not stir in. A little air will help the yeast multiply.
9. Place the airlock on the carboy. An alternate option is to place a loose towel over the carboy at this time.. Air is not your enemy yet.
10. Keep the carboy warm by using seed heater and loose towel wrapped around carboy, or by placing the carboy in a warm area. Because this wine is difficult to ferment, a temperature of around 80°F helps tremendously. The lemon smell is very stable, so there is no need to ferment cold for aroma retention.
-Monitor the status of the wine. Expect to see bubbling starting around day two or three. By day four, the wine should be bubbling vigorously. Gently swirl the wine once a day to loosen up any yeast that may have settled. Smell the wine once a day (don't be afraid to remove the airlock to smell at this stage... it really isn't needed yet.