Generic "Getting Into Wine" Post

Hello Everyone,

I’ve been brewing beer for a few years now and lately my wife has been hinting that it would be nice to have some wine around the house, as well. This being the case, I was wondering if anyone would mind answering some 101 level questions I have about getting into the wine-making end of my brewing hobby:

  1. Just how good are the boxed wine kits out there? Allow me frame my question this way: My wife and I are both casual, novice wine drinkers and usually come home from the liquor store with a ~$15 bottle of something or other, maybe $30 for a holiday celebration. I’ve noticed that the higher-end wine kits sell for ~$160, which at 30 bottles per kit would put our return at ~$5 per bottle. Generally speaking, can I expect to make a ”15 bottle of wine” for $5 with one of these kits?

  2. How does water chemistry play into making extract/concentrate wine kits? As an AG brewer I’ve come to build recipe-specific profiles from RO water using Bru’n Water – is there an equivalent program for wine water or should the same precautions be taken? Would using all RO water be OK for these kits?

  3. Is there a recognized, one-stop, “How to Brew” equivalent out there online or in print for wine making?

  4. Is there a partial-mash equivalent for wine making, or does one go straight from making extract kits to crushing their own grapes?

  5. Are there any other big concerns in play for a home brewer looking at getting into wine?

On the whole, wine making should actually be easier for you to get into than beer was. There will be a little extra processing work on the back end, and time frame is much longer, but if you use kit wines it will be very easy.

#1 - don’t go cheep on the kit, it makes a huge difference.

#2 - Whites translate much better than reds as compaired to commercial wines.

#3 - aging good reds makes a huge diference.

For whites I would recomend anything listed as a six week premium kit (but again highest end does make a difference.

For Reds, Go for the very best right away. If you are a real wine guy they would end up being pretty nice daily table wine, but you may still want to go commercial to match with that tenderloin cut.

Don’t know which kits you have available, but I can vouch for anythinng from Winexpert or Global vintners. Cellar Craft’s Showcase Rosso Fortissimo in probably my favorite red kit out there. Winex has some new Eclipse series kits that should be great for whites, and most likely reds as well.

Water: Most tap water is fine- Filtered is good, but not usually necesary. Depends where you are I guess. As long as it is pretty good to drink it should work for wine.

You don’t need a handbook for kit wine. It will come with instructions that you as a beer maker will find very easy to follow.

FYI - when it asks you to degass your wine thoroughly - DO IT.

  1. There are some very good kits on the market. But, you get what you pay for.

2)FWIW I try to avoid soft water with my winemaking. IME some strains of yeast have produced less than stellar results with soft water.

3)Not really and not needed for kits.

4)Look for wine kits that contain skins. Most skin kits are very good kits.

5)My best advice is to extend most of the times that are recommended in the kit instructions.

Degas properly instead of doing the simple short degassing mentioned in the kit instructions.

If doing a sorbate addition, weigh the addition and add the proper amount according to ABV%. The higher the ABV% the less sorbate will be needed. As long as you keep the sorbate level below 0.182g/L you will not be able to detect the sorbate.

Plan on aging reds for a minium of 12 months and whites for a minimum of 6 months before consuming.

Thanks to you both!

I’ve since read in another another post that the two of you recommend topping up with wine. Do you do this with a similar homemade wine from your own cellar or do you purchase from the store? If store-bought, do you go with a lower price point or is there perhaps a specific criteria you look to?

If you need to top up just make sure to use a like wine and don’t buy the cheapest wine that you can find.

I would say topping up is only really necesary when aging in the carboy for a significant amount of time. Never had a problem keeping it for a few months without topping up. Another idea would be to downsize to a smaller carboy, say 20 l, once you have lost some of the original 23l volume. Again, only need to do this if you are aging in the carboy.

There can be something to be said for aging the whole volume as one, but these kits are all designed for bottle aging over the carboy. I usually keep wines for a few months in a carboy so I can rack 2 or 3 extra times and avoid filtering and sediment. Then I bottle and age accordingly. I have never had any significant oxidization this way. If you are keeping it in the carboy for 8 months or more, then yes you should probably top that up.

And just for a third reinforcement: Degass that wine!

When I decided to get into doing wine I did this:

http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/reques65.asp

Wine from Welch’s concentrate. I did it a little different. I bottled it in martinelli’s bottles with caps and bottled it early, so it’s sort of a lightly carbonated sangria.

But this is a great way to get your feet wet at a low cost. It makes a serviceable table wine and if you don’t tell people they won’t know the difference.

I personally always tell them what it is because I like the look on their faces before and after they try it.

Anyway, if you find Welch’s on sale, you can usually do a 6 gallon batch for around $25 or so. Nice way to see if you enjoy the process as much as doing beer without spending $100-150 on a kit.

+1 to the jackkeller.net site.

I got started in wine with a 1 gallon setup kit as a gift. I haven’t done the Welch’s grape yet, but I have done a spiced apple mead using frozen concentrate and honey I got at Aldi that turned out great. I’m actually hoping to up the recipe to a 5 or 6 gallon batch.

I’ve done a handful of kits, and they’ve been pretty good. My wife prefers her wines a little on the sweeter side, and we’ve done a couple of the “island mist” kits which we’ve gotten a lot of great feedback from. Not in the same ballpark as a big red, which is what I prefer, but really good for what they are.

Currently, I prefer using the alexander’s grape concentrate, frozen juice conentrate, and frozen fruit. You can make a good wine with any combination of the above, and you get more control over the process than with a kit. I’ve brewed many extract beer recipes and am looking to move into all grain this spring, but from what I’ve seen the wine is easier and tends to be more forgiving. It is a longer aging process, and at each racking, you have an opportunity to taste it and make small adjustments if needed.

There are some decent books, but a lot more variation than with beer. That Jack Keller site has a lot of info.

What kind of wine do you typically buy? White/Red, dry, sweet, grape variety?

You can do an inexpensive wine with any frozen concentrate as long as it is 100% juice. Use the jack keller website as a guide.

I have done fruit punch wine and cranberry wine in addition to the Welch’s.

This is what made me buy premium kits for my first 2 wines, with that much time invested the additional investment seemed pretty minimal.

This is what made me buy premium kits for my first 2 wines, with that much time invested the additional investment seemed pretty minimal.[/quote]

The flip side of that though is that the less expensive wines definately do not need that type of aging time. None of them will improve much after 3 months. I usually tell people with the cheeper kits to give reds 2 months and whites 1 month. Just start drinking them. They are not going to get that much better.

I still recomend going for the best stuff right away though. A few of the premium kits drink well enough young to make them worth the extra money.

Another Newbie question regarding the aging of wines.
Without having oak casks or the like to age them in, do they have to be aged in glass, ( bottles or carboys), or could they be aged in a corny keg, ala “beer conditioning” and aging style?

[quote=“Stealthcruiser”]Another Newbie question regarding the aging of wines.
Without having oak casks or the like to age them in, do they have to be aged in glass, ( bottles or carboys), or could they be aged in a corny keg, ala “beer conditioning” and aging style?[/quote]You would have no problems bulk aging in stainless just keep it stored under gas.

10-4! :smiley:

Dan, Please DO top off - and do not let a lot of surface have access to air. use water, or a similar decent wine. I have used water for kits and never an issue. They plan that into the actual winemaker and that came from the source. I do top off with a wine for wine made from grapes from my vineyard. or you water t that down.

Thanks, Everyone. I did go ahead and top off (to within a couple of inches of the top) with some pinot grigio. K-9, it’s good to know that topping up with water is actually figured into the plan.

FWIW I’m not a fan of topping up with water. IME the difference is noticable.

Dan, I am so I do not recall or cannot find the actual info stated by the head guy at WE, but I think he said that they plan on a max of 1 quart of water added as needed. so the ratio of concentrate to water is all figured in. looking back i think i did 2 higher end pinot noir kits that I added another pinot noir i had to top off. but other than that i never worried about it.

p.s. - not trying to argue or open a can of worms; just trying to help out.

It’s all good! Everyone’s input is appreciated.

Actually just got a memo from winex this week. They are actually eliminating the top up with water line from their instructions. After years of not budging from their position, they are finally admitting that it can very well have a significant impact on the wine.