How to Make Simple, Homemade Peach Wine
The Old Peach Tree
Before We Get Started...
I want to tell you how to make peach wine, but first I have to tell you a short story. Bear with me.
We have a little orchard with over 30 young apple trees that don’t bear fruit yet, one old cherry tree, one old pear tree, and one old peach tree. This peach tree is one of the saddest excuses for a fruit tree I’ve ever seen. In fact, I spent my first winter here swearing it was a plum tree—David believed it was a peach, and he turned out to be right.
I was roaming around our little orchard some time ago after doing some mowing with the brush cutter and saw, to my surprise, peaches on the peach tree! This was the first time in three summers I have seen this thing bear fruit.
By my reckoning, there were two dozen peaches on that tree.
I picked one, even though I knew the fruits weren’t ripe yet. I bit in, and despite the hardness of the flesh, it was the most delicious peach I’d ever tasted. It tasted like “peach flavoring” wants to taste.
I skipped off to find David and tell him about the peaches and to let him have a bite (I finished the peach before I found him though, oops). I raved about these peaches for about 20 minutes, with visions of peach wine, peach cobbler, peach preserves, and pancakes with peaches dancing in my head. David recommended that we wait a week or so for them to ripen. I agreed.
Well, about a week later, I returned to the tree in the middle of a thunderstorm, afraid the rain and wind would knock all of the peaches off the tree… only to find that the peaches were gone. All of them! I couldn’t even find one measly peach on the ground!
Deer, squirrels, raccoons, maybe even my goat; somebody got there before I did.
The lesson? I should have picked them when I had the chance and made wine.
Or built a fortress around the orchard—either way.
How to Make Peach Wine
And now for the recipe!
Things You Will Need
- 1 clean and sanitary plastic bucket for primary fermentation
- 1 glass or plastic bottle, 1 gallon size, for secondary fermentation
- 1 knife for cutting
- 1 plastic zipper-close bag, some cheesecloth, or a nylon bag
- Measuring cup(s)
- 1 small container for yeast starter
- 3 pounds fresh peaches (not overripe, but a little under ripe is fine)
- 1 pound sugar (Alternative: 1 pound of sugar for every pound of fruit)
- 1 cup orange juice
- 1 tablespoon yeast (wine or brewer’s yeast is best, but I guess baker’s yeast will work)
An Overview of the Process
Here's a quick glimpse at the five phases of making this wine:
- Making a Yeast Starter
- Preparing the Peaching
- Making the Wine
- Secondary Fermentation
- Aging the Wine
Phase One: Make a Yeast Starter
This will help get the fermentation going in the peach wine much faster than if you added the dormant yeast directly to the peach juices.
In a glass or small container, pour about ½ cup orange juice. Pitch the yeast into this. Let it sit in a warm place out of direct sunlight for a few hours or until you see foaming action. When the OJ stops looking like OJ and starts looking frothy, your yeast is active and ready to go!
Phase Two: Prepare the Peaches
Wash the peaches thoroughly under running water. Remove stems and leaves. Cut away any bruised or discolored portions.
It’s important to make sure that you wash the peaches, and don’t include any damaged or otherwise strange-looking pieces in your must. (“Must” refers to the unfermented mixture of fruit juices and sugars.) Bruises are breeding grounds for bacteria, and you don’t want that in your ingredients.
I don’t use campden tablets, which contain a chemical that will kill bacteria and wild yeast if added to the must. You may choose to use one if you like; if you do, let the must sit for 24 hours before adding the yeast. Personally, I don’t believe in putting any chemicals in my homemade products, especially the ones I’m going to consume. Kind of defeats the purpose for me.
Phase Three: Make the Wine!
- After you’ve cleaned up the peaches and disposed of undesirable sections, you should quarter the peaches and remove the pits.
- Put the cut-up peach pieces in the plastic bag, cheesecloth, or nylon bag (whichever you chose to use) and squeeze over the bucket. If you're using the plastic bag method (like I did because I was out of cheesecloth), simply squeeze the juice out of the peaches as best you can and dump all of the bag’s contents straight into the bucket.
- If you are using cheesecloth or a nylon bag, tie it off and place that in the bucket, as well.
- Pour in ½ cup of orange juice. Hold off on the yeast starter for now.
- In a separate container, mix ½ gallon water with 1 pound of sugar. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Alternatively, you could boil the sugar and water together. This will help the sugar dissolve. If you choose to boil it, you can pour the boiling water over the peach and orange juice mixture, but NOT over the yeast. The heat would kill your yeast. So, if you boil the water, make sure it has cooled down considerably, to at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit, before adding the yeast starter.
- Add the sugar-water solution to the bucket.
- Mix it all up.
- Now, add your yeast starter to the bucket.
- Give the must a little stir.
- Cover the bucket with some plastic wrap or cheesecloth. The goal here is to keep out flies and other nasties. When you're finished wrapping, set it aside somewhere out of direct sunlight for one week.
Phase Four: Secondary Fermentation
After your young wine has fermented for one week, you should transfer it to a more attractive and safe one-gallon glass jug or bottle for secondary fermentation; food-grade plastic will work, too.
There are two methods to complete this transfer:
- You can siphon the mixture out of the bucket using plastic tubing. This is called racking. To do this, place the secondary fermentation vessel (the glass or plastic jug) on the floor and the wine bucket on a chair, table, or counter above the jug. Insert some plastic tubing down into the bucket, but not to the very bottom, and suck on the other end. Get ready to put the other end of the tube in your secondary fermenter, because the wine should start flowing. This useful little skill can take a few tries to master, but it’s certainly not difficult to do.
- If you don’t have plastic tubing, the simpler method of transfer would be to pour the young wine out of the bucket, through some cheesecloth to strain it, and into the secondary fermentation vessel.
Let the wine continue working for at least three months before tasting it. If you like, you can rack the wine a couple more times during this period. The point of racking is to move the wine off of the sediment that inevitably collects at the bottom of the jug.
When the three to six months have passed, you should bottle your wine. At this point, you really should rack it with plastic tubing so that the sediment that has collected in the bottom of the secondary fermentation container doesn't end up in your final product. You can rack all of the wine into one bottle or separate it into several bottles. You can use new wine corks or sanitized old ones to seal your bottles. Properly sealed, large Mason jars also work for bottling.
Very young wine (one-month-old or less) can often taste and even smell "vinegar-y," especially if it is very dry.
If you taste your wine before it is three months old, don't be too surprised or alarmed by how it tastes. More than likely, you have not made vinegar, especially if you used a yeast starter.
If your wine has truly gone to vinegar (which can result from unsanitary equipment and the introduction of certain bacteria that can get ahead of the yeast), you will know it after aging doesn't improve the taste. Don't be too hard on yourself if it happens—vinegar is useful, too!
Peach Wine in Secondary Fermentation
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Phase Five: Aging Your Peach Wine
The recommended aging period for peach wine is 6 months, but no one will judge you for drinking it sooner! To be honest, I have never managed to age any home-made alcoholic beverages for the full recommended time. It all depends on your taste, so taste-testing is certainly in order.
To age your wine for the recommended 6 months, wait three months from the time you moved it into the secondary fermentation container. Rack the wine into a bottle or bottles, and set the wine up on a shelf somewhere out of your sight (and out of direct sunlight). Try to forget that the wine even exists. Mark your calendar, set a reminder on your cell phone, tell a friend to phone you, or otherwise remind yourself in six months that you can finally drink the fruit of your labors.
And of course, enjoy!
Questions & Answers
I have an ornamental peach tree. I have used the fruit before for jam. The fruits are small, with thick skins, white firm meat, not juicy. Could I bypass the squeezed phase, and let the destoned fruit sit instead with the sugar water?
Yes! You can ferment straight from whole or halved fruit. Be extra vigilant about headspace in primary fermentation. You may also want to strain the must through cheesecloth and let it settle before the first racking, and you may find you have to rack extra times to get a very clear wine.Helpful 11
What is "racking"?
Racking is when you siphon liquid off of sediment, in this case, using tubing to remove wine from all the bits of peach and yeast.Helpful 8
© 2012 Rachel Koski