Making Wine at Home: Grape Selection

This is Part 2 of the Wine Making series.

Which Grape Should I Use?

One of the most common questions with regards to making homemade wine is which grape (varietal) to use. After a lot of research, dozens of questions and many conversations with friends and experts in the field, I learned that there are certain varietals which are better suited to make homemade wine. Everyone agreed that using a blend of grapes would produce the best results at home and most people agreed that Zinfandel and Syrah were the best choices due to their intense fruit flavor and especially for their resilient nature; those two grapes can withstand the rougher handling and simple equipment associated with homemade wine. They also suggested adding some Tempranillo, Malbec or Cabernet Franc to give the wine more structure.

For the final blend I decided to use:

  • 45% Zinfandel (Sonoma)
  • 45% Syrah (Sonoma)
  • 10% Cabernet Franc (Napa)


Purchasing Grapes / Finding a Supplier:

I am lucky to live near one of the most reputable grape suppliers on the East Coast – Prospero Wines, and they are extremely helpful to all novice wine makers. From October to November, they carry an outstanding selection of grapes from all over the world, most coming from Napa and Sonoma.

** Grapes average $35 to $45 per case, and one case of grapes will produce 12 bottles of wine.


During those two months, shipments arrive every day at Prospero and you are free to stroll around the warehouse sampling all the super-ripe grapes. This is the only way to determine quality. Taste the grapes, examine them and look for bruises, impurities and insects…it’s pretty logical…if the grapes taste good and look healthy, you’re good to go! Grapes are perishable, especially late in the season when they are most ripe, so make sure you begin the wine making process within 2 days of getting the grapes home.

Here’s a picture of my wine-making partner surveying the raw product.

I think it’s important for me to note that you’re not going to produce a world-class wine here. Don’t expect Tignanello or Screaming Eagle or even a simple bottle of Mondavi. You will, however, be able to produce a wine that you can be proud of and have an enriching and fun time in the process.



Stop back next time when I’ll discuss the importance of cleaning and sanitizing.

Part 1 can be found here: Getting Started


© Giovanni Cucullo 2010

2 thoughts on “Making Wine at Home: Grape Selection

    • I am in New York….my apologies, perhaps I should have mentioned that the wine making took place in late October. I’m finally getting around to posting all of the info and photos. I’ll edit the post to reflect that.
      Be well my dear.

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