Everyone knows that good grapes make world-class wine. But in recent years, the quality of kit wines has improved enough to impress even the most dedicated fresh-fruit purist.
Besides offering first-time winemakers an easy introduction to the hobby, kits offer experts a chance to makes wines from grape-growing regions around the world. Some varietals simply aren’t grown in North America, or are grown in quantities too small to supply the home winemaking market.
The wine-kit boom began in the 1970s, when high-quality kits first emerged from California. Although state law called for a minimum 51 percent content for a wine kit of any stated variety, many manufacturers were providing 70 percent. This means that in a Chardonnay kit, for example, 70 percent of the juice or concentrate is made from pure Chardonnay grapes. The higher the Chardonnay content, the more varietal character in the finished wine.
Buying The Kit
There are four main types of wine kits: pure juice; fully concentrated grape juice; partially concentrated grape juice; and kits that combine juice and concentrate.
The approach to making wine from these kits is similar. The only difference is that the pure-juice kit requires no additional water. These kits are the most expensive due to juice’s comparitive purity, costly transport (it weighs more than concentrate) and storage requirements (it should be refrigerated).
Just a Few Must Haves
- Wine bottles and corks – for a 5 gallon batch of wine you will usually take 24-25 750ml bottles and corks. Bottles are sold in dozens or just save some used bottles and be sure to clean and sanitize thoroughly. Have a few extra corks on hand in case you break one.
- Green Bottles for red wines (they are light sensitive)
Clear Bottles for white and blush wines
- Air lock – fits in the hole in the lid of primary fermenter. The airlock is filled with water to let the natural gases escape your wine and keep any outside contaminants from entering your must.
- Primary Fermenter – 26 Litre (7US gallon) plastic pail with a tight fitting lid that has a hole in the center. Used to make and ferment the wine “must”.
- Siphon Hose and Clip – clear plastic hose 3/8 diameter about 5 ft long. Siphon is used in wine making to transfer wine from one fermenter to another, then to transfer wine into bottles. Clip holds siphon in place attaches to carboy.