wine kits...my oh my

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Thor the Mighty

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ok so ive been brewing beer and cider for about a year and a half now and i wanted to move on to wine (and cheese!) making. Ive gone to many websites that offer wine concentrate kits and its the only way i can go right now since i dont have a vinyard and or wine press, so i was wondering if anyone out there has tried the per say kits and if they can give me some pointers on which varitals/companies/websites to choose from here are a couple ive considered:


http://www.northernbrewer.com/vinters-reserve.html

these "middle of the road" wine kits

OR

http://www.northernbrewer.com/selection-estate.html

these high end ones. obviously they will turn out better but i was wondering about the overal difference it makes to buy a kit thats a hundred bucks more than one that is just 70 or so. is it that big of a leap? thanks
 

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Well, I've made several of those "cheaper" kits. They are fine- probably like a $5-$7 bottle of wine, and good for drinking with dinner. They are meant for early drinking, and are low in tannins. They are called "30 day kits" but a couple of months to six months is more realistic for best drinking.

The higher end kits ($150) have crushed grapes skins, and are "bigger". They would be like a $15 bottle of commercial wine, to compare, I guess. They need some time to age, so should be best in 18-24 months.

The others, in the middle, would fall between those kits. They are all fine, depending on what your goal is. For everyday drinking, I found a Winexpert Vinter's Reserve Shiraz for $50. It's really fine. Not great. But like a bottle of $7 wine. Good for dinner, and we enjoy it. The valpollicella (same brand) was even a bit cheaper, and it was ok. It was thin, and light, but good for everyday drinking.

All of them make 6 gallons (about 30 bottles), so it really depends on what you are hoping to accomplish. An everyday easy drinker, or Christmas presents? That would be the deciding factor for me.
 
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Thor the Mighty

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sort of just to get a foot in the door ya know....say i dont have 6 gallon equiptment and i just used a 5gal carboy to do this. if i were to not add as much water to the concentrate would that spoil the recipe? i dont know if wine making is the same as beer making in that respect.
 

etp777

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I would start with one of the cheaper wine kits, and tweak it with a pound of golden raisins (if white) or a pound of sunamid Zante Currants (if red).

Add the required water, rack 5 gallons into carboy, put the other 3/4 or so of a gallon into smaller containers (couple magnums would work great).

Wait at least a month after bottling before yo uopen first, then have at it. :)
 

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sort of just to get a foot in the door ya know....say i dont have 6 gallon equiptment and i just used a 5gal carboy to do this. if i were to not add as much water to the concentrate would that spoil the recipe? i dont know if wine making is the same as beer making in that respect.
I think it wouldn't spoil the recipe, but wouldn't be very good tasting. A stronger wine isn't like stronger beer- a stronger wine would be "thick" and syrupy. You could use an "ale pail" if you have one, and then instead of racking to the carboy for secondary, put 5 gallons in the carboy, and 1 gallon in a glass Carlo Rossi jug. Both would need airlocks, and the 1 gallon jug takes a #6 stopper. The instructions also call for degassing- another reason not to put it all in one 5 gallon carboy. You'll have a volcano. (I used 2 three gallon carboys last time- it worked fine).
 

brelic

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sort of just to get a foot in the door ya know....say i dont have 6 gallon equiptment and i just used a 5gal carboy to do this. if i were to not add as much water to the concentrate would that spoil the recipe? i dont know if wine making is the same as beer making in that respect.
I'm new to this and that was my thought process too. I was looking at all the kits, and the major difference is in the amount of must or concentrate that you get. So, for example, the cheaper ones were 7.5 and 8.5 litres, whereas the really expensive ones were 17 litres. Now, all of these kits produce 23 litres of wine (about 6 gallons), the difference is how much water you add to the kit (and of course, better grade of grapes, expensive ones will have the skin, etc).

Forgetting the difference in the quality of the juice for a moment, I was thinking just like you were that "if I buy the cheap kit, can't I just put less water, and tweak the amount of the other ingredients to get a better - or at least fuller-bodied - wine?" The lady at the store told me "Not really" but then said "However, if you were to ask this question to me as Jennifer and not an employee of this store, I would say yes you can do it. It would be difficult because you'd have to re-measure all the quantities, but it can be done."

So, there you have it. I don't know how good it would be, how well it would turn out, or if she's ever even tried it. But she said there's no reason it can't be done.

That being said, I think I'll stick to the recipe for my first batch ;)
 

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Well, you'd just have to adjust your sulfite probably because you don't want to over sulfite your wine. You'd have some issues with body, though, and taste. I would just make it as is- either find a larger carboy, use two smaller carboys, or use the ale pail.
 

CBBaron

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Nearly all of the wine kits have wine grape juice concentrate in them. The more expensive use slightly less concentrate then add a considerable amount of fresh juice to the kit. And the best kits also include crushed grapes. All of the kits will result in very similar original gravities. If you were to use less water with a cheaper kit you would get a higher OG that would either result in a very different type of wine.

I would not recommend varying from the instructions included with these kits unless you really know what you are doing.

As for the kits, I made a Vintners Reserve Mezza Luna Red wine last August. It is quite drinkable now. It compares to the less expensive Cabernet wines I find in the store. I'd say it compares favorably with the $6-$8 wines I have had. Maybe even the $8-$12 wine. I don't think it will impress a wine snob though, however I don't really appreciate the differences between a good wine and a great wine so it works well for me.

I would suggest going with the $100+ wine kits if you want to give these as gifts. Pick up a 6gal carboy with the order, its a small cost considering the price of the kit. Plus you will reuse it.

Craig
 

janzik

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My wife and I have done 3 of the Selection Estate kits. 1 of them is still in progress. So far we've done a Chianti, a Pinot Grigio and currently have a Chilean Cab blend going. We were impressed with how good they came for the minimal effort that it takes to make them. I would like to get more involved with the process rather than dumping the juice bladder into the bucket and dumping some chemicals in, but for now it still is enjoyable enough to keep doing. Being an intermediate wine connoisseur, I can for the most part, tell what is swill, what's an entry level bottle and what an expensive bottle tastes like (In my budget, anything over ~$80 (w/o restaurant markup) is expensive). This may not impress the wine snob, but I'm not looking to. I'm looking to make a decent tasting wine that I can enjoy with my friends and family. And so far, these kits have done just that.
 

Wing Nut

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I make these all the time, I have made the range and I can tell you there is a big differance. The expensive kits make some very good reds, I have had a few wine snobs comment on the "well balanced flavors" of my Veux chateau d'Oc. I would recomend following the directions exactly. A 6 Gal carboy is cheap!

Wing nut
 

HomerT

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I'll ditto the others. Even within a brand there is a difference. My wife and I have made several Selections, ranging from the Selection Original to the Selection Limited Edition. The lower ones make great table wines....the higher end ones make wines you would be proud to bring to a party or give as a gift.

-Todd
 

Hurricane09

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I've been making wine for years (beer virgin until recently), and find that if you buy anything less than a 10L (of juice) kit then it gets iffy. 10L and above and you usually end up with something quite drinkable right after bottling - of course they get better with age (but who can wait?). Go for the medal winners - they will usually advertise this in the literature available in store, and do the basics at first. We make about 90% reds and we like the any Merlot and Shiraz.
 

summersolstice

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I agree with the above poser and many or the others. I've made a least a couple of dozen kits and I'd recommend beginning with a Wine Expert 10L World Vineyard kit of whatever varietal you like best. The whites are ready much sooner than the reds. ALthough they're drinkable in 5-6 months, the reds really need a year to come into their own. Some of the bigger 16L kits need a couple of years.

I also agree on the suggestion that you add a pound of raisins or Zante Currants to your recipe to add body. Other than that, follow the directions closely, don't try to use less water, degass the crap out of it when it's time, and sulphite it properly.

You might want to consider starting out making a country wine (fruits, etc) to get the basics down. Country wines are inexpensive, you can make one gallon batches, and recipes are plentiful (Google Jack Keller).
 

etp777

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If you're going for a straight varietal (Just Merlot, Jus tCabernet, whatever), th eextra cost can really be worth it. As an inexpensive batch of merlot grapes for a cheap, small kit will genreally be pretty uninspiring. The blends tend to be better at cheap end because they can balance out the deficiencies beteween the grapes. Course, taht's a whole other discussion on how new world wineries have convinced us that pure varietals are the only way to go, while centuries of winemaking have shown that almost all the worlds best wines are blends.
 
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