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What kit to use for good Cabernet or Zinfindel?

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Alphadawg

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I am familiar with brewing beer and cider. My wife and I want to try a 5 gallon wine kit. What brands are considered better? Thanks!
 

Coffee49

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Winexpert kits in the 3 figure range are very good, but as we near Sept. Some fortified juices in 6 gallon buckets from California are a good first attempt. They may be just under 100. Winekits still offer a 5-6 month start to finish compared to 18 month juice run.
 
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Alphadawg

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Ended up using a kit from RJS En Primeur - a Cabernet from Australia with grape skins. This stuff sure ferments more aggressively than the beer and cider I am used to
 

Brooothru

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Ended up using a kit from RJS En Primeur - a Cabernet from Australia with grape skins. This stuff sure ferments more aggressively than the beer and cider I am used to
I've been making wine since early 70s. Kits, concentrates, fresh must, frozen- from-the-the-vinyard must. You name it. In recent years I've focused on kits since they produce reliably superior results. I did make that same RJS Aussie Cab in 2017, and it has proved to be one of the best wines I've ever made.

The RJS Aussie Pinot Noir is a close 2nd Place, along with Wine Expert Stag's Leap Merlot and Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel. All are 'three figure' $$$ kits and are well worth the effort, but don't rush them! I no longer do a primary/secondary fermentation, but instead just start with the printed Day 1 instructions and let it go until Final Gravity (0.996 or less) is reached, usually 3~4 weeks. Then rack to a 6.5 gallon carboy and treat with the sorbates, sulfites, and clarifiers. Wait 1~2 weeks and then rack to a 6 gallon carboy to bulk age (with oak spirals). Now comes the hard part: wait 6-9 months before bottling. Then wait about 2 months after bottling before cracking the first cork. You won't believe how good your wine turns out.

We have over 100 cellar wines from top French and domestic vintages dating back to the 1950s, but we seldom serve any since these "kit" wines, when handled properly, are more approachable and enjoyable (and affordable) than any $350-$800+ bottle.

Brooo Brother
 

bmd2k1

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I've been making wine since early 70s. Kits, concentrates, fresh must, frozen- from-the-the-vinyard must. You name it. In recent years I've focused on kits since they produce reliably superior results. I did make that same RJS Aussie Cab in 2017, and it has proved to be one of the best wines I've ever made.

The RJS Aussie Pinot Noir is a close 2nd Place, along with Wine Expert Stag's Leap Merlot and Lodi Old Vines Zinfandel. All are 'three figure' $$$ kits and are well worth the effort, but don't rush them! I no longer do a primary/secondary fermentation, but instead just start with the printed Day 1 instructions and let it go until Final Gravity (0.996 or less) is reached, usually 3~4 weeks. Then rack to a 6.5 gallon carboy and treat with the sorbates, sulfites, and clarifiers. Wait 1~2 weeks and then rack to a 6 gallon carboy to bulk age (with oak spirals). Now comes the hard part: wait 6-9 months before bottling. Then wait about 2 months after bottling before cracking the first cork. You won't believe how good your wine turns out.

We have over 100 cellar wines from top French and domestic vintages dating back to the 1950s, but we seldom serve any since these "kit" wines, when handled properly, are more approachable and enjoyable (and affordable) than any $350-$800+ bottle.

Brooo Brother
any recommendations for a good red blend?

Thanks in advance!
 

Coffee49

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Premier Cruz Portuguese duro tinto kit makes $30 bottles but I agree with any kit , double the time through the first 3 stages then let it sit 5 months before bottling, Even the country wines.
 

Kee

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I no longer do a primary/secondary fermentation, but instead just start with the printed Day 1 instructions and let it go until Final Gravity (0.996 or less) is reached, usually 3~4 weeks. Then rack to a 6.5 gallon carboy and treat with the sorbates, sulfites, and clarifiers. Wait 1~2 weeks and then rack to a 6 gallon carboy to bulk age (with oak spirals). Now comes the hard part: wait 6-9 months before bottling. Then wait about 2 months after bottling before cracking the first cork. You won't believe how good your wine turns out.
Are the sulfites, etc. in the kit sufficient or do you add anything additional? In other words, what you are doing sounds intriguing and I am wondering if there is any additional info I need before giving that method a try.
 

Brooothru

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Are the sulfites, etc. in the kit sufficient or do you add anything additional? In other words, what you are doing sounds intriguing and I am wondering if there is any additional info I need before giving that method a try.
Since I bulk age red wine for a minimum of 6~9 months, I add 1/4 tsp NaMeta to help keep oxidation at bay. I also use oak spirals during bulk aging, sometimes in place of and sometimes in addition to any oak included in the kit. I almost never use the oak sawdust that comes with the less expensive wine kits. It works fast, but I don't, so why dump crap into your aging carboy when chips, cubes and spirals are so much better? Not that expensive and much better product.

The best advice in making wine from kits, especially red wines, is forget the optimistic timelines in the instructions. Take you time and make better wine.
 
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Coffee49

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Excactly, I have a French concord, Leon milot and chocolate red that have been on 2nd racking carboy for 8 months,will bottle in 3 months,
 

Brooothru

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any recommendations for a good red blend?

Thanks in advance!
RJS makes a red Italian blend called Rosso Grande. Comes in two different kits, one 18L and the other 16L I think. The 18L also includes grape skins which make a deeper, more complex finished wine. I've done both kits and the 18L is definitely worth the extra price, though both are very good wines. My wife is especially fond of it, and friends also universally like it.

I bulk age it for 6~9 months, bottle it and let it age in the bottle for at least another 4~6 months, and it is excellent to serve at that point without more bottle aging. I don't know how long it remains good (5~8 years maybe) since all the bottles get consumed in less than 3. It's that good.
 

szap

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Winexpert Private Reserve Old Vines Zinfandel has been one of my wife's favorite kits and I have made a bunch of different kits. If you are ordering online, check out Labelpeelers site and make sure to put the kit you are interested in into your cart to get the actual price. I have no vested interest in Labelpeelers. I have just found them to have the best prices.
 

Brooothru

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Winexpert Private Reserve Old Vines Zinfandel has been one of my wife's favorite kits and I have made a bunch of different kits. If you are ordering online, check out Labelpeelers site and make sure to put the kit you are interested in into your cart to get the actual price. I have no vested interest in Labelpeelers. I have just found them to have the best prices.
I've just recently started using them as well. Southern Homebrew has been my goto, and their minimum pricing listing is the same (cart first, pay second). Southern's service is solid and their prices are rock bottom, but the zonal shipping from Daytona is a real killer for me. Label Peelers is geographically much closer, so cheaper and quicker (usually 1-2 days). Then there's always Adventures in Homebrewing, Austin Homebrew, and Atlantic in Raleigh, NC, as well as my overall favorite MoreBeer since they opened their distribution center near Pittsburg (really close). The downside is that the more I order from them, the less I support my LHBS, and I'm big into buying local.
 

Brooothru

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I highly recommend this, if you can find it. I've tried many of the kits, expensive and cheap, skins, etc. This is the best one so far (made it twice).

View attachment 700770
How do you like it? IIRC it's a LE kit. I remember seeing it but not getting it, then it was gone. I bottled an Eclipse Sonoma Cab a few months ago after aging ten months on French Oak spirals. Might have to pop a cork on one tonight, rather than pulling a draught of that IPA from the kegerator. Definitely a First World dilemma.
 

szap

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I've just recently started using them as well. Southern Homebrew has been my goto, and their minimum pricing listing is the same (cart first, pay second). Southern's service is solid and their prices are rock bottom, but the zonal shipping from Daytona is a real killer for me. Label Peelers is geographically much closer, so cheaper and quicker (usually 1-2 days). Then there's always Adventures in Homebrewing, Austin Homebrew, and Atlantic in Raleigh, NC, as well as my overall favorite MoreBeer since they opened their distribution center near Pittsburg (really close). The downside is that the more I order from them, the less I support my LHBS, and I'm big into buying local.
I always compare labelpeelers and southern homebrew and usually when shipping is added in, labelpeelers comes out cheapest. I do order RJS kits from SHB. One site to checkout is Ritebrew. I wish I had a LHBS near me to use. Closest is 100 miles.
 

Brooothru

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I always compare labelpeelers and southern homebrew and usually when shipping is added in, labelpeelers comes out cheapest. I do order RJS kits from SHB. One site to checkout is Ritebrew. I wish I had a LHBS near me to use. Closest is 100 miles.
Ouch, 100 miles. My closest LHBS is about 15 minutes, and at least 5 more within a one hour drive. I must live a charmed existence. (hint: I do!).

Brooo Brother
 
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I've just recently started using them as well. Southern Homebrew has been my goto, and their minimum pricing listing is the same (cart first, pay second). Southern's service is solid and their prices are rock bottom, but the zonal shipping from Daytona is a real killer for me. Label Peelers is geographically much closer, so cheaper and quicker (usually 1-2 days). Then there's always Adventures in Homebrewing, Austin Homebrew, and Atlantic in Raleigh, NC, as well as my overall favorite MoreBeer since they opened their distribution center near Pittsburg (really close). The downside is that the more I order from them, the less I support my LHBS, and I'm big into buying local.
I've bought from Southern Homebrew "in store" before. Kit prices in the store were high, but I got them to sell me for their internet price. That only worked once. Next time, they said no (gave me a good deal anyway).

I think they sell under their cost and make the profit on the shipping.
 
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How do you like it? IIRC it's a LE kit. I remember seeing it but not getting it, then it was gone. I bottled an Eclipse Sonoma Cab a few months ago after aging ten months on French Oak spirals. Might have to pop a cork on one tonight, rather than pulling a draught of that IPA from the kegerator. Definitely a First World dilemma.
Fantastic. Had all the complexities and "not dry / not sweet" taste I like in a cab.

Here it is in the bottle on my counter.

1601598998627.png
 

Brooothru

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I've bought from Southern Homebrew "in store" before. Kit prices in the store were high, but I got them to sell me for their internet price. That only worked once. Next time, they said no (gave me a good deal anyway).

I think they sell under their cost and make the profit on the shipping.
We travel to your part of the state once or twice a year (though not 'this' year) to visit our daughter's family in St. Pete. I keep trying to convince SWMBO'd that we need to cross over to the east side 'early' on the trip back home instead of taking I-4 to Jax before heading north on I-95. Sure could haul some 'supplies' in the motor home and save $$$$ on shipping. So far she isn't buying what I'm selling.

Brooo Brother
 

Brooothru

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Southern Homebew is very close to the big lighthouse over there (can't remember the name of it). Might be a good excuse to visit.
Great 'suggestion', I'll see if she bites. Haven't been to the Space Coast in awhile either. Our daughter-in-law here in the D.C. Metro area is a NASA contractor and can get us some special access at the Cape. It's beginning to sound like "Road Trip!"
 

bmd2k1

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RJS makes a red Italian blend called Rosso Grande. Comes in two different kits, one 18L and the other 16L I think. The 18L also includes grape skins which make a deeper, more complex finished wine. I've done both kits and the 18L is definitely worth the extra price, though both are very good wines. My wife is especially fond of it, and friends also universally like it.

I bulk age it for 6~9 months, bottle it and let it age in the bottle for at least another 4~6 months, and it is excellent to serve at that point without more bottle aging. I don't know how long it remains good (5~8 years maybe) since all the bottles get consumed in less than 3. It's that good.
Hope you don't mind if I pick your brain/experience a bit more as I prep for my first Wine Kit adventure.

- Curious if you use the yeast provided with the kit or if you have a favorite yeast you utilize? (I've really come to like D47)
- which toast French oak spirals do you prefer? (2 per 6gal batch?)

Thanks again for the feedback & insight!
 
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Brooothru

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Hope you don't mind if I pick your brain/experience a bit more as I prep for my first Wine Kit adventure.

- Curious if you use the yeast provided with the kit or if you have a favorite yeast you utilize? (I've really come to like D47)
- which toast French oak spirals do you prefer? (2 per 6gal batch?)

Thanks again for the feedback & insight!
First, it's not clear from your question if you've ever made wine before or if this is just your first kit wine. If this first kit wine is in fact your first attempt at making "a" wine, them I'd highly recommend using only the ingredients included in the kit and follow the instructions sheet closely.

If you're a more experienced wine maker just getting into kit wines, you can still stick to the basics without freelancing unless you have a specific goal in mind.

Specifically some deviations from the norm I've done are now becoming the rule in kit instructions, like no longer doing secondary fermentations. I just let it ride for about 3 weeks before lifting the lid on the fermenter. I no longer see any need to taking periodic gravity readings. It may be fermented out in 8-10 days. But I know that it'll be done in 3 weeks. Nothing bad is going to happen if it stays on the lees for 3 weeks, so why mess with it? Plus you'll get settling of the yeast and other solids that will increase the final volume that doesn't get thrown out with the trub.

EC-1118 is probably the most common yeast you'll find in kits. I have used it probably 95% of the time until recently. I've made (or am currently making) 16 wines in the last 12 months but started having some issues with the fermentations fully attenuating. I started pitching 2 sachets of dry yeast NOT rehydrate. My experience was that I had quicker onset of fermentation when I did NOT rehydrate. I've had no issue with full attenuation since. I also broadened the yeasts I used since I was now buying additional yeast strains rather than just pitching the EC-1118 single sachet that came with the kit. I pitch 2 identical strains rather than mixing strains. Great Fermentations. AHS and MoreBeer all have many different strains on their websites, so do some research and find ones that fit the style you're vinting. I've had very good results with V1-1116 for reds and Premier Cuvee for whites, but there are literally dozens to choose from.

Oak is style dependent as well as a matter of taste. West Coast and Aussie wines seem to favor American Oak. There's nothing subtle about it. Hungarian oak is a notch down, and French oak is smoother still. I usually prefer French medium or light toast, but I'll use any if it's appropriate for style. I use either cubes or spirals for aging and chips if oaking is used during fermentation. Chips are least expensive for the short exposure time of fermentation and provide more surface area (more nucleation sites for yeast), cubes and spirals work better for extended aging periods. If the kit includes "sawdust" oak, I toss it in the trash and use store-bought chips.

For clarifiers I prefer keiselsol and chitosan which are commonly found in kits. Sometimes you'll find isinglass or other fining agents, but I prefer k&c, and keep a liter of each in my supplies. It works quite well and quite quickly, and doesn't strip body and flavor, at least IMHO, as some people feel it does in beer.

Have fun with your wine production. I've been vinting my own wine since the mid 70s, longer than I've been brewing beer, and still enjoy the hobby and sharing with friends and extended family. It's not that difficult to produce excellent table wine, when you take the time to learn the craft, that can be enjoyed on a frequent basis without breaking the budget.

Brooo Brother
 

bmd2k1

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First, it's not clear from your question if you've ever made wine before or if this is just your first kit wine. If this first kit wine is in fact your first attempt at making "a" wine, them I'd highly recommend using only the ingredients included in the kit and follow the instructions sheet closely.

If you're a more experienced wine maker just getting into kit wines, you can still stick to the basics without freelancing unless you have a specific goal in mind.

Specifically some deviations from the norm I've done are now becoming the rule in kit instructions, like no longer doing secondary fermentations. I just let it ride for about 3 weeks before lifting the lid on the fermenter. I no longer see any need to taking periodic gravity readings. It may be fermented out in 8-10 days. But I know that it'll be done in 3 weeks. Nothing bad is going to happen if it stays on the lees for 3 weeks, so why mess with it? Plus you'll get settling of the yeast and other solids that will increase the final volume that doesn't get thrown out with the trub.

EC-1118 is probably the most common yeast you'll find in kits. I have used it probably 95% of the time until recently. I've made (or am currently making) 16 wines in the last 12 months but started having some issues with the fermentations fully attenuating. I started pitching 2 sachets of dry yeast NOT rehydrate. My experience was that I had quicker onset of fermentation when I did NOT rehydrate. I've had no issue with full attenuation since. I also broadened the yeasts I used since I was now buying additional yeast strains rather than just pitching the EC-1118 single sachet that came with the kit. I pitch 2 identical strains rather than mixing strains. Great Fermentations. AHS and MoreBeer all have many different strains on their websites, so do some research and find ones that fit the style you're vinting. I've had very good results with V1-1116 for reds and Premier Cuvee for whites, but there are literally dozens to choose from.

Oak is style dependent as well as a matter of taste. West Coast and Aussie wines seem to favor American Oak. There's nothing subtle about it. Hungarian oak is a notch down, and French oak is smoother still. I usually prefer French medium or light toast, but I'll use any if it's appropriate for style. I use either cubes or spirals for aging and chips if oaking is used during fermentation. Chips are least expensive for the short exposure time of fermentation and provide more surface area (more nucleation sites for yeast), cubes and spirals work better for extended aging periods. If the kit includes "sawdust" oak, I toss it in the trash and use store-bought chips.

For clarifiers I prefer keiselsol and chitosan which are commonly found in kits. Sometimes you'll find isinglass or other fining agents, but I prefer k&c, and keep a liter of each in my supplies. It works quite well and quite quickly, and doesn't strip body and flavor, at least IMHO, as some people feel it does in beer.

Have fun with your wine production. I've been vinting my own wine since the mid 70s, longer than I've been brewing beer, and still enjoy the hobby and sharing with friends and extended family. It's not that difficult to produce excellent table wine, when you take the time to learn the craft, that can be enjoyed on a frequent basis without breaking the budget.

Brooo Brother
Great info...thanks. I've made a straight concorde wine a handful of times with great success (plus a bunch of ciders and beers over the years)....this will be my first kit vino adventure. Looking into the red blends as those are what we tend to drink these days.

Cheers!
 
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Alphadawg

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Just bottled the RJS kit. It was surprisingly good, even at this stage. I previously separated 1 gallon and added some bourbon soaked oak cubes for about 4 weeks. It was good too - although I wish we had used a little more bourbon and a few more cubes. Rented a floor corker - game changer! Soooo much easier, especially with the 28 bottles we did. Now I just have to stay patient and let this bottle age for a bit
 

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Don't drink that Aussie Cab all at once! As good as it is now, it'll only get better. You may've thought your 'work' was done, but now comes the hard part: not drinking it for a year or more. Just keep telling yourself, "The best is yet to come."

Couldn't agree more with the floor corker. I literally wore my first one out after 4 or 5 years of heavy use. The one I've got now (and have been using for close to 10 years) is an all-metal Portuguese model with brass jaws. That thing's a beast. Makes short work of the bottling chore. I've easily (?) done 8~10 cases several times in a single session without missing a beat. A year or so ago I thought the corker was getting ready to crap the bed, but a quick disassembly of the iris and a light lubing with technical grease and she was back chewing up and spittin' out properly corked bottles. Definitely one of the best investments I've made on the wine side of home brewing.
 

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My Italian floor corker doesn't owe me a dime, I clean it with a sulfite mixture after every session. Drilled two 1/8" holes for and aft on the bottom, drains nice, dry in sun with paper towel in opening. A wine maker pays 10% less than wholesale for his or her small batch wine.
 

Brooothru

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My Italian floor corker doesn't owe me a dime, I clean it with a sulfite mixture after every session. Drilled two 1/8" holes for and aft on the bottom, drains nice, dry in sun with paper towel in opening. A wine maker pays 10% less than wholesale for his or her small batch wine.
Good idea for weep holes in the bottom plate. I usually shoot a squirt of StarSan spray every 10 bottles or so to keep the iris jaws sanitized and lubricated, and then run a section of paper towel through the mechanism. Small weep holes would let any fluid drain out. Cool.

Brooo Brother
 

bmd2k1

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What kind of H20 are folks adding to your grape juice to get it up to volume?

We have well water here that's pretty dang good and I've used it for brewing beers. I typically filter it thru our Brita first....just in case.

Cheers!
 
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