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Old 04-06-2011, 09:07 PM   #1
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Default Can a kit satisfy my oenophilic wife?

My wife is a wine snob. There, I said it. Having grown up with a father who appreciates and buys good wine, and having worked for some of the largest wine distributors in the world, she knows good wine and will turn up her nose at those she doesn't like. Me, I'm pretty happy with a bottle of swill from the grocery store. I like wine just fine, but generally go for beer instead.

I've been brewing beer for a while and was just reading the latest Northern Brewer catalog and eyeing all of the wine kits. My question is how good are these? Do you think they could satisfy a wine snob? I'm willing to do the work to learn about how to make wine, put money/effort into anything I need to make it better, and have the patience to wait 2 years to drink it, but I'm concerned that she'd be disappointed at the end.

Is there a better way to make wine than using a kit? I've got all of the equipment and chemicals/nutrients already (from beer and mead), so do I need a kit?

Any opinions would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Old 04-06-2011, 09:19 PM   #2
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My wife is a wine snob. There, I said it. Having grown up with a father who appreciates and buys good wine, and having worked for some of the largest wine distributors in the world, she knows good wine and will turn up her nose at those she doesn't like. Me, I'm pretty happy with a bottle of swill from the grocery store. I like wine just fine, but generally go for beer instead.

I've been brewing beer for a while and was just reading the latest Northern Brewer catalog and eyeing all of the wine kits. My question is how good are these? Do you think they could satisfy a wine snob? I'm willing to do the work to learn about how to make wine, put money/effort into anything I need to make it better, and have the patience to wait 2 years to drink it, but I'm concerned that she'd be disappointed at the end.

Is there a better way to make wine than using a kit? I've got all of the equipment and chemicals/nutrients already (from beer and mead), so do I need a kit?

Any opinions would be appreciated. Thanks.
In general, no, a wine kit will not please a discriminating wine snob.

Just like with wine purchases, kits vary in quality from "ok" to very good. But you will NOT make a $200 bottle of wine with a kit. No way.

I have purchased $60 kits up to $180 kits. I'd compare the $60 kits (each kit makes 30 bottles, or 6 gallons, so you need a 6 gallon carboy!) to a $3-5 dollar bottle of wine. Enjoyable with a meal but more of a "jug wine" quality.

The next level of kit, maybe $90 or so, is better. I'd compare it to a $10-$12 bottle of wine. Good enough for most people with a meal, and non-discriminating guests will enjoy it.

The most expensive kits come with more juice (the cheaper kits have less juice, more condensed), and with wine skins to ferment on. I bought a wonderful tannat/merlot kit a few years ago, and it's really good. I'd say it makes a $25 bottle of wine as far as quality goes. The more expensive kits are designed for aging, and are usually just better in general.

We love wine with dinner, and my husband drinks it with other meals. (like breakfast and lunch actually). So, we drink about a bottle of wine a day. Since it's an "everyday" drink, like other people drink ice tea, we're fine with good cheap wine like Two Buck Chuck for many meals. Then, about once or twice a week, we have a "good" bottle. If your wife can't enjoy a $10 bottle of wine with a meal, she probably wouldn't go much at all for kits.

I make country wines as well- crabapple, chokecherry, etc, and these wines are actually better than many of my kit wines. Kit wines can have a "kit taste" to them. They still are very good, and I will continue to make kits, but I wanted you to be aware of that. It's probably because they used condense juice that is packaged and it loses some of the freshness that comes from fermenting before pressing.

You can buy frozen grapes and frozen juice. In my experience, those make pretty darn good wines but not as good as you'll purchase from an excellent winery. I have a very nice sauvignon blanc from frozen juice (from Midwest Brewing Supplies) and a decent pinot noir (three gallons, from five gallons of frozen grapes) that is better than ok, and is quite good actually, but certainly not going to be the same in quality as a fine wine.

Wines can take a long time to make, except for those cheaper kits which can be consumed in 6-12 months. If you're not sure that it's something for you, but you can give it as gifts, then you may want to try a medium/high end kit. If your wife says it's ok, then you've got yourself a wine. If not, you've got Christmas gifts or wine for yourself.
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Old 04-06-2011, 09:38 PM   #3
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Yooper,

Thanks for the good advice. I think if I could make something equivalent to a $25 bottle of wine or better that would be sufficient. The main purpose of this is to have an activity to do with her. She doesn't get into the beer brewing, so I thought this might entice her. If it means that I don't have to buy as much expensive wine all the better. Actually, because she used to work for a distributor we still get really good discounts a couple times a year, so it isn't that bad.

Any recommendations for brands of high-end kits? I'll probably make a cabernet or some other full-bodied red that can age for a long time. We have a tradition of drinking a bottle of wine from our wedding every anniversary. I've got the next 2 years covered, but then we'll be out and this might be a fun replacement. Aging time is not a problem.

If I do go with a high-end kit are there any recommendations/improvements that you'd recommend, or would you follow the instructions exactly?

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Old 04-06-2011, 09:43 PM   #4
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From my experience nothing you can make will satisfy your wife, wine snobs will never rate home made wine, no matter how good.

On the other hand if you have a wife who is a wine snob, and will appreciate your efforts, then you are a lucky man and I envy you.

Greg

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Old 04-06-2011, 09:43 PM   #5
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Yooper,

Thanks for the good advice. I think if I could make something equivalent to a $25 bottle of wine or better that would be sufficient. The main purpose of this is to have an activity to do with her. She doesn't get into the beer brewing, so I thought this might entice her. If it means that I don't have to buy as much expensive wine all the better. Actually, because she used to work for a distributor we still get really good discounts a couple times a year, so it isn't that bad.

Any recommendations for brands of high-end kits? I'll probably make a cabernet or some other full-bodied red that can age for a long time. We have a tradition of drinking a bottle of wine from our wedding every anniversary. I've got the next 2 years covered, but then we'll be out and this might be a fun replacement. Aging time is not a problem.

If I do go with a high-end kit are there any recommendations/improvements that you'd recommend, or would you follow the instructions exactly?
I did a really nice Cellar Craft kit a few years ago, but it was a "limited edition" so it was a once-in-a-lifetime kit. If I was buying a kit today, I'd get this one, I think:
http://www.brewmasterswarehouse.com/...cella-classico
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Old 04-06-2011, 10:09 PM   #6
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I saw the En Primeur kits and was thinking about that. They seem to be one of the most premium brands. I have a birthday happening in a couple weeks so I may ask for one of those kits. Our anniversary is also in the beginning of May, so maybe we'll make the wine then. Should be fun. As always, thanks for your great advice.

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Old 04-06-2011, 10:34 PM   #7
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I guess I'm just a wine hick. I made a Barolo kit that was better than any $75 bottle I've ever tasted. I don't think I've ever tasted a $200 bottle though, so no comparisons there. I will say that the white wine kits I've done are just good, simple wines comparable to $10 - $15 bottles that I used to buy.

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Old 04-07-2011, 03:45 AM   #8
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If you have the means and desire, you could start with a fresh grape and do the full deal. Being a wine person, your wife might enjoy the real nuts and bolts of it. I think Northern Brewer does a grape buy in and you can pick them up in Milwaukee but you need to order in advance. I also heard during harvest time somewhere in downtown Chicago there is a kind of flea market with fresh juice, I think by Regina. http://www.reginagrapejuice.com/retailers/index.html

My parents are wine people and they used to drive to downtown from central IL to pick up juice and/or grapes, and made some pretty damn good wine out of it.

I just think fresher is better if you're worried about making a top notch wine, personally if I can make a good wine for cheaper than I would normally buy and have a fun hobby then I'm a happy camper.

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Old 04-09-2011, 03:12 PM   #9
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Speaking as a wine maker: In my opinion, you can make very good wine with a kit, but it does require some wine making know how. If you're competing with cheap wine, it's easy. I don't think those winemakers are putting a lot of thought and energy into crafting the best wine in the world. If she's used to drinking highly crafted wines, it's not just the ingredients you're competing against, it's the knowledge, craftsmanship, marketing, and high end capabilities of these makers. If you're just beginning the hobby with wine, you have a very high bar to reach.

Speaking as a husband: You're in a no wine situation dude. It's like the "does this dress makes my butt look big" question. There's no easy way to come out on top. The only way I can see you being successful on this mission, should you choose to accept it, is to have her lead the way with it. If she "feels" that the kit wine is hers..... that she made it.... that she owns it..... then she'll have a bias towards it instead of against it. She'll approach it with an open mind and will understand the value of what she put into it. If she doesn't like it, no harm done, she doesn't make it again (and you're not to blame). If she does like it, you guys have a great hobby to do together.
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Old 04-09-2011, 03:30 PM   #10
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Speaking as a wine maker: In my opinion, you can make very good wine with a kit, but it does require some wine making know how. If you're competing with cheap wine, it's easy. I don't think those winemakers are putting a lot of thought and energy into crafting the best wine in the world. If she's used to drinking highly crafted wines, it's not just the ingredients you're competing against, it's the knowledge, craftsmanship, marketing, and high end capabilities of these makers. If you're just beginning the hobby with wine, you have a very high bar to reach.

Speaking as a husband: You're in a no wine situation dude. It's like the "does this dress makes my butt look big" question. There's no easy way to come out on top. The only way I can see you being successful on this mission, should you choose to accept it, is to have her lead the way with it. If she "feels" that the kit wine is hers..... that she made it.... that she owns it..... then she'll have a bias towards it instead of against it. She'll approach it with an open mind and will understand the value of what she put into it. If she doesn't like it, no harm done, she doesn't make it again (and you're not to blame). If she does like it, you guys have a great hobby to do together.

And speaking as a wife, I agree, that's great advice!
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