Wine Making From Kits
This week’s “the more you know” segment will change gears from beer to wine. We often get asked the questions “is making a wine kit hard?” and “how long does it take to make a wine kit?” The answers to both of those questions are "No" and "It Depends." Guests often get excited at the first answer and look puzzled at the second, that’s because not all wines and kits are the same.
Making a wine kit from one our Wine Expert kits is simple and easy because the kit has all the ingredients in pre-measured amounts that one needs to make 6 gallons of wine (30 bottles). Some of the ingredients you’ll encounter, and their function are listed below
Juice Bag: The grape juice has all the fermentable sugars that the yeast feed on to make alcohol. The vast majority of the wine’s flavor and complexity is also derived from the grape juice.
Wine Yeast: 1-2 Yeast packets depending on the kit. Yeast is what eats and converts the sugars to alcohol.
Oak: In select kits you will find packets of oak. Oak will impart beneficial flavors and colors into the wine. Oak also helps to balance some of the rich flavors found in wines like chardonnays.
Bentonite: This is a fine clay in powder form that helps clarify the wine during fermentation
Metabisulfite: Stops yeast action and is used in stabilizing the wine before clarifying. Metabisulfite can also be used as a sanitizer for winemaking equipment in higher concentrations, however, your kit will not include enough for use as a sanitizer, but AHS does.
Potassium Sorbate: Stops all remaining fermentation action and fully stabilizes the wine. Sorbate is used in conjunction with metabisulfite for wine stabilization.
Finishing Fining Agent: Depending on the kit this will be either an isinglass pack or chitosan pack. Like bentonite these agents help clarify the wine into the sparkling beauty you sip from your glass.
Additionally, very clear step by step instructions are included with every kit. Anyone can make a great wine using the wine recipe kits at AHS if they are willing to follow instructions and exercise a little patience. I know that last bit is hard, I can never wait to taste my fermentables before they’re finished, but it's worth the wait. If you're still not convinced of how easy it is to make your own wine, then check out our video below
Wine kits do not take a long time to get into the bottle. It is in fact more than possible to have a wine in bottle at 4-6 weeks from start. However, the catch that you’re looking for comes in the form of aging the wine. There are benefits to aging and following the recommended guidelines ensure your wine will always be delectable and desired by your friends. But, a remarkable amount of the improvement can be obtained within the first 1-2 months of bottling and as such it is possible for you to have a delicious wine within 3 months of starting. Packaged wine making juices tend to make wines faster than making wine using fresh fruit juices because there is generally no pulp or skins involved (with some very specific exceptions). That being said Wine Expert has some very specific aging recommendations from which you can get the best possible flavor.
Island Mist: Island mist kits are fermented from a grape base and sweetened with a fruit juice. These wines are ready within just a few weeks of bottling.
Speciale Kits: These kits can vary depending on the type of wine being made. A standard dessert wine could be ready with as little as 2-3 months age time, whereas a chocolate raspberry port may take 4-6 months.
Vintners Reserve and World Vineyard: It is recommended that these wines age from 2-5 months after bottling. The aging process allows tannins and other flavors to mellow meld into one another so as to be pleasing to the pallet. The difference between the two kits are that World Vineyard kits have juice that is sourced from specific regions (i.e. Chilean Merlot, Spanish Tempranillo), whereas the Vintners Reserve will source right type of grape, not necessarily by a particular region.
Gallon World Vineyard kits: Have all the same requirements for fermentation and aging as a 6 gallon world vineyard kit.
Selection Kits: Wine Expert strongly recommend that these wines be aged up to a year in order to enjoy the best possible flavors. While they will be ready to drink in as little as 3-4 months, they will be best at 12 months or more. This has to do with the quality of the juices in the juice bag. Selection kits are a step above the rest in that they rely on purer grape juices that are sourced and/or blended from very specific locales within a given region. The quantity of juice is also more than what will be found in a World Vineyard or Vintners Reserve Kit, meaning less water will be used, which results in a longer age time.
Eclipse Kits and Limited Edition Kits: These kits are the highest quality wine kits produced on the market, bar none. They will take 16-18 months age time to achieve the best results. Eclipse kits include the most pure juice of any level kit and the highest quality ingredients. The grapes used in these kits are often sourced from specific vineyards (i.e. Eclipse Lodi Ranch 11 Cabernet Sauvignon)
I know it’s hard to age a wine for this long, especially when you’ve put the time and effort and money into making a Selection or Eclipse Kit. I’m not saying you can’t start to drink the fruits of your labor at 3-4 months, it will be a very good wine, but at 12-18 months it will be a phenomenal wine. I recommend saving 1/4 to 1/2 your batch bottles and then start a new batch. This way you can enjoy your wine at its best, but you can start to enjoy it as it's maturing.
In addition to a wine making recipe kit and being prepared to age it, you will need a wine making equipment kit and wine bottles in order to make your nectar of the gods. We offer several levels of kits to get you started. Or if you’re a brewer of beer already, all you need to do is get an additional 7.9 gallon fermenter, corker, corks and a 6 gallon carboy.