Winemaking can become a mystifying experience for anyone familiar with its noble history. Perhaps one would have an advantage if he/she lived in the South of France and was able to buy grapes from some of its famous vineyards, but more and more, wines made from domestic grapes are winning competitions all over the world, namely those from the Napa Valley region of California. Wild grapes, Domesticated grapes, and various other fresh fruits and vegetables can produce very exceptional wines. Whether a Frenchman would turn his nose up at our wine is the furthest thing from our minds. The objective of American winemakers is to produce wines that we enjoy, usually created from locally available ingredients. The misconception that many winemakers have is that they intend to make the strongest wine possible, sacrificing quality. Anyone can easily make wine by following a simple recipe from Grandpa or one printed in a book written by whomever, but that doesn't make him/her a winemaker and his/her wine won't necessarily be good. The amount of sugar called for in most recipes, no matter the source, will produce more alcohol than the yeast is capable of working off. Therefore, the resulting wine is likely to be extremely sweet with a "hot" alcoholic aftertaste that could require extensive aging to be enjoyable. So try to be true to the style you are producing, without increasing the sugar just for the sake of strength. One must realize that making fortified wines is not necessarily our intention.
Commercial wine yeast will ferment up to 11-12 % alcohol; therefore, producing a wine within the alcohol tolerance of the yeast will allow you to maintain complete control of the wine’s sweetness. The resulting wine, when fermentation is completed, will be dry - lacking sweetness. That should always be YOUR first objective, to make a dry wine. That allows YOU to stabilize the wine; after which, you may add the necessary sugar that will bring the wine up to the level of sweetness that YOU desire. If the wine is not stabilized first, the yeast will eventually reactivate enough to blow out the corks or become effervescent (carbonated).
Suggested below are alcohol ranges that are easy to achieve and allow you to maintain control of the finished product, producing a wine that is true to its intended style.
white wines 9-12 percent
rose wines 9-12 percent
red wines 10-13 percent
fruit wines 9-12 percent