While traditional winemaking is labor-intensive and involves using raw ingredients--freshly harvested grapes and fruits--that are crushed, pressed and de-stemmed; making wine from a kit is fast, simple and a great way to dive into winemaking or to try a varietal that is not available to you locally!
Wine kits have ingredients made from pure grape juice, that has had 30-70-percent of the water content extracted from the juice. That water is added back in during your winemaking process. Every kit includes specific instructions related to fermentation and maturation time; but in general kits with less juice are meant to be consumed sooner and those with more juice (and sometimes grape skins) can be aged longer.
Ready to make wine from a kit? The first step is choosing which kit you want to make. Wine kits include all the ingredients you need. Try a more common Merlot or Pinto Grigio or take the plunge with something different like Watermelon.
Then, gather some basic equipment (which if you are a beer brewer, you probably already have). Here is what you will need:
- Primary Fermenter: A food grade plastic bucket or glass carboy (6.5 or 7.9 gallon for a 6 gallon batch)
- Secondary Fermenter: A food grade plastic or glass carboy (6 gallon for a 6 gallon batch)
- Airlock and Stopper (Bung)
- Bottle Filler (wand)
- Corker & Corks
- A long spoon for stirring
- Siphon and tubing
- Thermometer/Temperature Strip
- Bottle Bush
- Hydrometer: Used to determine alcohol content and fermentation progress
- Sulphites: Used for sanitizing equipment and preserving wine
Now, you are ready to make wine from a kit! The winemaking process is four steps: Primary Fermentation, Secondary Fermentation, Stabilizing and Clearing, and Bottling.
1. Primary Fermentation
This is the initial fermentation, in which yeast convert sugars in grape juice or must to alcohol (wine) and carbon dioxide. For this first step you:
- Clean and sanitize all equipment.
- Mix bentonite In warm water until dissolved & add to the fermenter.
- Add juice to fermenter.
- Use warm water to rinse remaining juice from the bag.
- Top off fermenter to the 6 gallon mark with water.
- Test gravity of the juice and record results.
- If your kit contains additives like oak or elderflowers, add those now.
- Add in your yeast (pitch).
- Add airlock and let it ferment for 5-7 days.
2. Secondary Fermentation
After the 5-7 days of primary fermentation, you are ready to do it all again! Secondary fermentation, which is really just the process of moving your wine from one container to another, helps remove sediment and clear the wine, reducing the risk of off-flavors.
- After checking to make sure the gravity is in the proper range, sanitize your 6 gallon carboy.
- Siphon (rack) wine into the 6 gallon carboy.
- Add airlock and wait at least 10 days for fermentation to finish.
3. Stabilizing & Clearing
This is when you remove all particles from your wine, ensuring a clear finish.
- Check that wine is at its correct final gravity.
- Add metabisulphite & sorbate.
- Thoroughly degass wine for 2 minutes.
- Add a clarifying agent (such as chitosan, isinglass or superkleer).
- Add F Pack (if included).
- Degass another 2 minutes.
- Attach airlock.
- Let sit for at least 14 days.
At the end of this step, your wine is really to drink.
- If after 14 days your wine is clear you can proceed to bottling.
- Sanitize bottles in a sulphite solution.
- Fill bottles using a bottling wand.
- Cork filled bottles.
- Let sit upright for 3-4 days so that the corks may fully expand.
- After that, store your bottles on their side somewhere cool (like your basement).
- Then, the final step: drink it up, gift it and enjoy it!
Philly Homebrew Outlet has a full array of over 75 special order wine kits. You can browse our selection here.