Why are red wine kits disappointing?

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dlewisa

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I've been making the WineExpert kits (Vintner's Reserve, International, and Eclipse) and I really like the whites, but I find the reds pretty weak. I've done the Tempranillo, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and maybe another, but I can't recall. The cabernet is two years old in November and it's just so damn light tasting. Plus all of the reds have a sort of plummy taste to them. It seems to be diminishing in the older cabernet, but at bottling I find they're quite plummy and pretty much all taste the same.
 

Yooper

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I've been making the WineExpert kits (Vintner's Reserve, International, and Eclipse) and I really like the whites, but I find the reds pretty weak. I've done the Tempranillo, Cabernet, Pinot Noir, and maybe another, but I can't recall. The cabernet is two years old in November and it's just so damn light tasting. Plus all of the reds have a sort of plummy taste to them. It seems to be diminishing in the older cabernet, but at bottling I find they're quite plummy and pretty much all taste the same.
Maybe it's the brand of the kits you're using. To me, the Winexpert kits are "ok" at best, as they are drinkable but not complex at all. The Eclipse are supposed to be very good, but I've never tried them so don't know that for sure. I've heard that people describe a "kit taste" in the wine from Winexpert kits, but I'm not sure exactly what that means but I thought of that when you described a same plummy taste to them.

If you go with a premium or ultra premium red kit, I think you'd be happier. The "lowest" kit to start with is probably a Cellar Craft Showcase but I do like the En Primeur ones as well. I don't make many kits any more, especially premium kits, so I don't know of any current ones to recommend right now.
 

Cyclman

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+1 As usual, Yooper is spot on. Making a wine kit that works out to less than $3 a bottle, you're not going to get top quality.

I buy the $140 - $180 kits (Cellar Craft), still only $6 a bottle, and people rave about the wines. It is more money upfront, but I like to share a kit with neighbors.
 

ErinRae

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I make wine expert kits as well...but the higher level ones. I'll only make kits if there is at least 15 litres of grape juice or more. I prefer 18 litres. I think vinters is 10 to 12 litres of grape juice and then the rest water. The more water you have to add the lower quality taste ull get. With that being said ive definetly had some good kits and some not so good even at that level. Whites r always good so far.
 

RedCabbage

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I've tried some pretty foul wine kits. They are usually really pale and sour. I've found Beaverdale kits (not sure if they are available in the US) to be the best I have tried and they aren't too expensive.

A good rule of thumb is to assume that a 30-bottle kit is really only a 25-26 bottle kit and to use less water accordingly.
 
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dlewisa

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I've wanted to try the Cellar Craft brand, but I can't find anyone near that sells them. I'll have to order them from EC Kraus.
 

jstampler

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RedCabbage said:
I've tried some pretty foul wine kits. They are usually really pale and sour. I've found Beaverdale kits (not sure if they are available in the US) to be the best I have tried and they aren't too expensive.

A good rule of thumb is to assume that a 30-bottle kit is really only a 25-26 bottle kit and to use less water accordingly.
So this won't negatively effect the finished product? I have a kit that I'll be starting this weekend and I do normally prefer a stronger red. I'm kind of a beginner, this is my first kit I'll be doing by myself. Can I just use 3-4 liters less water than instructed and then follow the rest without any modifications?
 

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So this won't negatively effect the finished product? I have a kit that I'll be starting this weekend and I do normally prefer a stronger red. I'm kind of a beginner, this is my first kit I'll be doing by myself. Can I just use 3-4 liters less water than instructed and then follow the rest without any modifications?
I don't do that. The wine kits we are talking about, or at least the ones I am talking about, are pretty good quality and the acid adjustment is based on 6 gallons. The OG is correct with 6 gallons, too. You could try it, but your OG will be too high and the wine may not finish completely. If it's a cheaper Winexpert kit, that might work out fine but I wouldn't risk a $150 kit that way.

If you're picking up a "kit taste" from the grape concentrate, making a wine up to less volume won't fix that.
 

scutiger

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I've never done a wine kit, but a friend of mine made one of the cheap red wine kits with the juice concentrate and I thought it was lacking in body. I'll be making my first kit in a few months, I've pre-ordered an all juice kit that comes with 6 gallons of frozen juice in a bucket for $99 from Vinemount Estates and I'm hoping that it won't have the low body of the concentrate kit I tasted before. I'll have to wait and see though.
 
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dlewisa

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I just opened a bottle from a winexpert red kit I did in 2012 and it's still got that kit taste. I've pretty much given up on the reds. I'll try a red from RJS or get some fresh juice from a store that offers it, but I can't keep making these disappointing red wines. They all taste the same. Should I do the whole thing in glass? I have been using a plastic primary for years and glass for secondary.
 
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Many of the higher cost red kits also have grape skins in addition to the juice. I find it makes a far superior product that the cheaper kits without the skins...
 

arigato

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I have made around 5-6 kits from Wine expert (Select Amarone, Valpolicella, Merlot, Eclipse Nebbiolo, Eclipse Forza) and another 2 from others (Chianti, Nebbiolo) vendors.

Generally speaking, the kit taste is something I noticed as well and is nothing more than youth. Red wines take time to mature, and no red wine kit is going to give you the best taste 2 months after you make it or even 6 months in my experience regardless of the series (low end to eclipse) just like real wine. There is only so much that we can do to speed up the maturity of the kit. The one white I made (Gurwertraminer Wine Expert) was good a month after, however.

My experience is that the reds taste similar when they are young, and the more expensive the kit, the longer it takes to mature, and the more aeration they need straight out of the bottle to open up like any red wine.

Some folks have given good advice already. Buy the kits with grape packs, with the most juice up front as possible. Those are always the best. The reds start to shine 18 months to 24 months after you are done secondary fermentation. I added extra French wood (medium toast) to the Merlot I mentioned above and only a year later can I taste the extra oak I added.

Weak body? Check your notes and take a look at the starting SG and FG. Weak body can be amended by adjusting plain table sugar through chaptalization to bump up the alchohol If the starting SG is low (check online for directions and amount). You can also add extra wood, and get the dried grape packs to add to the wine.

What commercial wine are you drinking? take a look at the ABV. If you are drinking 13.5-14% ABV wine, which isn't all that common for reds like "Apothic" as compared to commercial wine from 20 years ago, you will think your kit is low in ABV if its shooting for 12.5%.

A note on yeast - every one of the wine kits I have bought come with at least one Lavalin EC-1118 packet. The more complex Eclipses can come with an extra packet of more specialized yeast. If you are going to chaptalize, do it a day after the wine has started vigorous fermentation. You don't want to shock the yeast. EC-1118 yeast can be used to finish off any fermentation that doesn't finish or if you want a dry wine. Its a work horse yeast that is capable of 18% ABV.


As an example, right now I am making a Brunello di Montalcino from a San Giovese di Montalcino Legacy kit that didn't even come with oak chips (package says tannin extract in lieu of oak) or grape pack. Starting SG was targeting 12.7% ABV and I adjusted it up to 14% ABV or so. I bought this kit in Canada for about 80 American with wood and grape pack I am looking at less than $100. Not bad for 30 bottles.

Please note that Wine Expert is the same company as Legacy. In fact, many of the kit producers are the same company out of Canada and people don't even realize it.

These kits time wise are a deal. Brunello is traditionally a 4 year venture from grape to bottle as is Barolo and Amarone. On a side, note I have also started making beer. Waiting 6 weeks to make a decent lager is child's play compared to wine making.

What a fun hobby beer and wine making is.

AR
 

Mismost

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Most kits are for 6 gallons...make it to five gallons. You can always go back at the end add water if you feel it has too much body. This seems to work out better for me with the reds than the whites. I have a Chardonnay that is a "thick", which I like, it was made to 5 gallons...I open a bottle, pour a glass, and fill the bottle back up with water which my wife likes...thinner, less body.

I make some good wines from really cheap kits by reducing the volume, adding in rasins, currents, zests, oak, fruit packs, and more sugar...i shoot for 13+% ABV, extend the time lime lines, forget the calendar. Then tinker...if it needs more oak, add it. Seems flabby, adjust the acid. I have a carboy sitting over here that is six months old, I just added a blueberry flavor pack to it and it seems to be what I was looking for.

That said...I also make the more expensive big skin kits to...you do get what you pay for. I like to make a cheap kit, then an expensive kit...some for drinking quick, some to lay down for a while. The big kits get better over time, but even early on they are pretty dang good!
 
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dlewisa

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I've made probably 6 red kits, maybe 6 white kits and the only ones I've found good are the whites. When I say good I mean comparable or better than ones I buy. The reds have never been that way. I've tweaked acid and tannins and let them sit. Some of them are going on 5 years and still have that taste to them. Not faint either, though in some of the older ones it has attenuated. I've wondered if I should switch cleaners (currently use One step) or maybe try using nothing but glass from primary to the end.

I did read somewhere that when the kits are dehydrated it can create some kind of cooked sugar that maybe only some people can taste. Who knows.

I have done a kit with skins. It was a tempranillo. It was no better than anything else. Maybe I'll open another today and check it has to be 3 years old now if not older.

I typically drink pinot noirs and cabernets. Blends. I think I'd be happy to get something on par with a cheap Woodbridge pinot noir.
 

beernutz

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The best red kit I have ever made was the RJS En Primeur Super Tuscan because it was universally praised over at winemakingtalk. That batch is now 26 months old and is incredibly good but unfortunately I only have 6 bottles of it left. It was definitely worth the extra money--I think I paid around $180--for RJS's top-of-the-line kit in that variety at the time.

For some unknown reason RJS decided to stop offering the Super Tuscan variety as part of their En Primeur line. I bought the RJS Winery Series Super Tuscan and made it a little over a year ago hoping it would be nearly as good but it is very different and frankly not to the level of the En Primeur when it was a year old. It was a cheaper kit as I think I paid around $120 for it but I would gladly fork over another $60 to get to the level of the En Primeur again.

I was so disappointed that for my next Super Tuscan I didn't even consider something from RJS. So in my limited experience with red kits, you definitely do get what you pay for.
 

beernutz

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I think RJS is trying to pull a fast one with the names in this case. I think they have merged their top of the line En Primeur products with what used to be their next to the top Winery Series line. I think that is the previous Winery Series Super Tuscan that RJS has tagged with the En Primeur name. Thanks for the heads up though. I will post this over at winemakingtalk to see if anyone knows for sure whether this is the old En Primeur or the old Winery Series.
 
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dlewisa

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One odd thing I've found out recently about my disappointing reds is that if you open the bottle and recork it with a tasting cork or some other temporary closure the wine seems to improve after several days. I'm tempted to open some bottles to get them a little air exposure, maybe mix them around in a bottling bucket, then then rebottle and see what that does for them.
 

72Chevelle

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Many of the higher cost red kits also have grape skins in addition to the juice. I find it makes a far superior product that the cheaper kits without the skins...
this has been my experience, I have done kits with nad without the skins and the ones with really are much better. Also they all tasted watery or really weak until around a year old so don't give up hope on the one you have now.
 

BeerSmith

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Just my two cents but I got an eclipse Zinfandel kit recently and was disappointed that it had EC-1118 yeast in it which was not appropriate to the style.

winexpert and others love to use this yeast because it ferments fast and drops quickly, but it is also highly attenuative and may thin out or accent the wrong flavors in a good red wine.

So I'm swapping it for some 71b which is better for a Zinfandel. I wonder if some of the body and flavor issues you are asking about may be yeast related.
 
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