30.4.13

Saving Money: Tips and Hints for Making Wine at Home

By Ed




Robin and I enjoy, with many meals (rarely breakfast 😉) , about a half bottle of wine. Were we to buy from a store, this would easily run a more than $30 a week.  $120 a month!  


Clearly, we don't buy it from a store.


Since university, we have made our own wine. At that point it was a Costco kit, brewed in our small apartment's kitchen/dining room/foyer, and bottled one afternoon using a beginners siphon method that left Robin sleeping one off and me hung over at a night class. Not exactly sure how much made it into bottles that day.


We've evolved since then (in so many ways.)


This post is my home wine making tips and break the cost down for anyone thinking about turning their basement into a wine cellar.




The kits I have made are as varied as the types of wine in the world. I have made concentrates ranging in quality from the aforementioned $30 Costco kit all the way up to $80+ kits with oak and elderberries in little pouches that you sprinkle in at the right time. I have made reds, whites and coolers.



The kits I use right now are all juice and kept chilled till ready to ferment. Simply stir and leave at room temp and they turn into wine. Truthfully, there are more steps than that, but the kits you make will likely be different anyways.


My current vintages come from the same place I buy my beer kits, for a number of reasons:
  • It is just convenient to one stop shop all my home brew needs. 
  • While they are not cheap, they are not crazy expensive either.  
  • Since they are basically big buckets of grape juice that begin fermenting as soon as they reach room temperature, I don't have to add anything or mess around with something that may contaminate the wine. 
  • They are pretty good - especially now that I am figuring out the tweaks and time frames to get the best out of them.


The house red and white, turning from Welches to Wolf Blass.

You may elect to buy smaller boxed wine kits. I have enjoyed these too and when it comes to fitting something in your car, or having it delivered, small boxes of concentrate are tough to beat.


Home Wine Making Tips:

Here are my tips gleaned over the years. They are few, but should be consistent across whatever kit you make:

Sterilize, sterilize, sterilize!
  • As with Beer, wine can turn into some unholy monster if you add some unfriendly germs or bacteria into the equation. Near the end of their fermentation, the alcohol content keeps most evils at bay, but be extra sure that your beginning equipment is clean and tidy.

Your concentrate kit is only as good as the water you add.
  • If you use stinky, chlorinated tap water to bring your kit up to 23 litres, you will likely get some chlorine taste in your final wine. (One reason why we use the juice kits - no water needed.)  

  • If possible, run your water through a decent filter pitcher or system or use bottled water.  But, this definitely adds to the cost, so if you want to keep it cheap and simple, just measure out the amount of water you need into your sterilized pail, cover it and let it sit overnight. Much of the smell and taste will dissipate and leave you with water that is ready to use.

Adding one of these home water filter systems isn't that costly, and will make wine and beer concentrate kits much better.


Adhere to Time Frames suggested by your kit.
  • I have rushed a few in my day - it was a weekend or a free evening and I wanted to get the next step completed - but the best kits are always the ones I have left as long (or longer) than the suggested times. 

  • I rarely am able to keep the wine in bottles for the suggest 6 months to a year, but at least when it gets into the bottle, it has rested as long as it was supposed to.


Looking to add complexity to the flavour? Ask your Wine-Guy.
  • Wine kits often include things like oak powder or some other additive to bring out nuances. But it is likely inevitable that something made in a food grade pail will come out with less personality than something aged in an oak vat in Napa for a year. 
  • I liked the Oak flavour my father-in-law had with a batch he had made and since my kits didn't include any oak, I talked to my local wine kit retailer about buying some. His suggestion was waaaay more oak than any kit I had ever bought, but it was cheap and I figured, "What the heck".  My favourite are "heavy, toasted oak cubes".
  • I was very surprised and happy to find that the reds I made with Oak tasted more like the expensive store-bought stuff I was trying to replicate. 
  • Next step: Elderberries or whatever other additives he'll suggest for my $50 kits.


No, not a leftover image from our mulch post; these are toasted, French Oak chips. They cost about $6 and make 20litres of Shiraz taste amazing.


$50 is my kit price point now (using the fresh juice). I get anywhere from 25-30 bottles out of that, so my price per bottle is $2-$3 if I factor in corks and oak.


When it costs that little, it actually is in the same price range as juice or milk to drink at a meal, so it's not so opulent a choice. (We actually aren't big fans of wine, we just drink it for the cost savings. And the kids need the milk to grow strong bones. Yup, only drinking all that wine because it is best for the whole family. Really.)  Disclaimer: The previous statement was not endorsed in the slightest by my dietitian wife.



Any other home vintners out there?  Anyone making it from fresh grapes?  If you've got questions - leave them in the comments - I'd be happy to answer!


4 comments:

  1. I love a good glass of wine but don't indulge enough to warrant making some BUT I really want to- my hubby doesn't drink it so I will only have a glass occasionally at my sister's.
    But I quite enjoy your brewing posts- you nicely simplify the process so that others may be encouraged to try it.
    My dad started making wine when I was a preteen but I didn't drink (obviously) or like it until I was much older (he had quit making it by that time). I wish he was still making it so I could taste test and pick his brain.
    He mostly used concentrate but once make it with grapes that he mashed by hand with a potato masher. And he experimented with different berries off our trees- crabapple and current and the like. He was really into it for a while, trying oak and making blends. I did like to go down and ask questions while he was racking.
    I remembered that he told me that you don't really age wine from concentrate- it will start to deteriorate after a year. Is this different for wines made from juice?

    ReplyDelete
  2. Thanks for the compliment - my goal is to try and make it sound accessible, so I'm glad it is coming off that way.

    I have been told that homemade wine (concentrate kits and juice) has a longer life than a year, so it is possible recent kits have evolved a bit. Mine rarely make it that long, but most serious makers won't open a bottle until it is at least 6 months old mark. A year of aging seems to be standard from my reading (again mine never make it that far).

    Many suggest you have it consumed before it reaches 2 years old, although I have read some aging for 5 years or more with success. For us the durability question is moot. When the summer winds blow in, like today, and a bottle is open on the porch there is no way that it is going to go bad.

    Cheers,

    ReplyDelete
  3. Love your blog- stumbled upon it looking for road trip food ideas and ended up browsing through lots of stuff. I'm from Ottawa so it's nice to find something so relatable (no currency conversions or grocery substitutions required). Thanks for the brewing ideas- I bought a beer brewing kit recently and have also been thinking about doing wine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Glad to hear you enjoy the blog Amy, and best of luck with your brewing and (potential) wine-making. I have another Brew-At-Home post in the hopper for the near future.

      Ottawa Area has access to the Festa-Brew kits (I looked up a couple sources for my parents who live in the area). What type did you end up with?

      Delete

We love hearing from you! If you have a moment, leaving a comment would make our day.

Featured Post

Host a Complete Backyard BBQ on a Tight Budget