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Ahhhh wine! I love wine so much. My husband knows that I love DIY projects (obviously) so for Christmas he picked me up a wine making kit. This has now become our project. Every month or two we try a new batch of wine. It’s not the simplest DIY project as there are a lot of steps, but we’ve discovered that by using a kit, it can be very manageable. And it’s fun to do together!
Think you might be interested in learning to make wine?
Make sure you’re willing to do the following:
- Be patient. Wine making takes time. Kits usually take 4+ weeks before you have wine to drink. Some kits take less time than others so you can shop accordingly.
- Be detail oriented. This requires carefully reading and following directions.
- Have a consistent environment. No huge temperature fluctuations. We keep ours in a basement room off the floor because it’s the most consistent environment in our house (and away from the kids). You don’t want the area to be too cold or too hot.
- Be timely. I set alarms on my phone so we don’t miss time line to move on to each step.
Is it worth it? YES! The strawberry merlot, our second batch of wine, is awesome and it’s way more affordable to make your own (more on that below). It’s also interesting and fun. It isn’t super time consuming once you’ve got the hang of it. It is a lot like following a complicated recipe where it takes time and concentration, but when you’re finished you have a fabulous reward. And really… most of the time involved is waiting for it to “cook” (or ferment in this case).
|This is how I lay my wine bottles to dry.|
- You NEED to sterilize everything. There’s a special powder you buy and mix with water. Very simple. I upcycled a water jug to make this mix.
- Hand mixing during the degassing stage didn’t work well for us. I recommend getting something electronic so you won’t end up with gassy wine. Our first batch had a ton of fizz and I think that’s the reason.
- You need a LOT of wine bottles. 30 bottles per batch of wine. Those huge bottles from the store account for 2 bottles worth of wine. So I upcycle allllll my wine bottles to reuse for making wine. I ask my friends to keep their empty bottles for me. I also check on freecycle for free wine bottles. Yes, you can buy empty bottles but they get to be expensive. And yay for saving the environment by reusing items!
- Removing the labels on some wine bottles is a pain in the butt. I soak mine in a water/soap solution in my sink for as long as I can… then I peel off label. Goo Gone spray seems to remove the residue okay… I’ve tried some DIY options and eh. Not super impressed. The nice thing is that once you’ve got 30-60 wine bottles in use, you can easily rinse and reuse for your next batch. I am quite generous about gifting wine to friends who give me back my cleaned off bottles. Haha. Total deal breaker if my bottles get tossed. Oh- and to wash, I just use soap and hot water. I let dry upside down in my drying rack. Then when we go to use the bottle, I use my sanitizing solution.
- You can only make ONE BATCH per initial wine making kit that you have… but I think if you timed it right, you might be able to overlap the batches a bit. I haven’t attempted it yet.
- You’ll want some wine racks… 30 bottles of wine is a lot of wine and they are better off stored on their side.
- It’s really easy to spill wine while bottling. I had the worst time not overflowing the darker wine bottles because I couldn’t see how far I was filling them very easily (dark basement issue). I may put a better light in there to help when bottling, but it’s nice to have some rags or paper towels nearby to wipe up any spills. Or you can just lick the floor. Your choice.
There’s always the possibility that a batch won’t come out well. It happens. Our first batch was Cabernet Sauvignon and it tastes like champagne bubbles in Pinot Grigio. I am not fond of the bubbles at ALL. My husband likes it though. I do, however, enjoy it mixed with sprite as a sangria. So you can sort of play with it so it doesn’t go to complete waste. Or cook with it.
Community Wine Making
I’m hoping in the future that a couple of my friends will start making their own wine as well. It would be awesome to swap bottles and have group tastings where we can try different kits and see what we’d like to make next. If I can get two other friends into this, I’d eventually love to do group batches where we each make 30 bottles of our wine, and we each swap 20 out (10 to one friend, 10 to other). We all would leave with 30 bottles total of wine, but three different kinds. It sounds like fun!
Below are some affiliate links to the equipment necessary to make your own wine. I’ll try to mention how the prices compare to a local vendor we use- but so far I’ve found Amazon has comparable prices on most things. The trick is some Amazon companies (other vendors) understandably charge a lot for shipping heavy items.
The thing I like about buying via Amazon though is that I can see reviews- the guys who work in our local store are really knowledgeable but haven’t made every type of wine on their shelves. It’s really nice to see if someone hated or loved a wine.
These are affiliate links- purchasing via these links comes at no cost to you, but using them helps support my blog. Thanks for helping!
- Initial Setup: You only need one of these. Ever. Unless, of course, you want to have more than one batch of wine brewing at once. The setup I’m linking below is $99 plus shipping (or it is at time I posted this), which is slightly less than what my husband paid in the store ($136). It comes with a lot of great stuff to get you started. Most of it is reusable so it’s mostly a one time purchase.
- Wine Kit: These are essentially your grapes and pouches to add into the concentrated juice at different stages of the process. All the ones I’ve seen make 6 gallons or 30 bottles of wine. You obviously can’t reuse these.
- Labels: Optional but nice if you’ve got more than one batch of wine. You could buy stick on chalkboard labels and write on them with chalkboard markers, or you could get regular labels. I’ll link a couple options below. They’re also nice if you plan to give wine as gifts.
- Corks: You get some corks to start off in your initial setup kit. You’ll eventually need more. You can’t reuse corks. The ones I’m linking below are, I believe, a better deal than what I found in our local store.
- Wine Rack: You need one to store your wine and you need to be able to hold 30+ bottles of wine. The one I’m linking below is my dream wine rack, but I don’t own it. There are definitely less expensive options for wine racks, but I just drool over that one.
- GooGone: Helpful for removing old labels from wine bottles.
- Wine Whip: Used for degassing wine. I just picked one up and haven’t had a batch to use it on yet, but I know we needed something that would work better than hand stirring- which DID NOT WORK.
- Graduated cylinder: We remove a small amount of wine to this and test for specific gravity using this. It is hard to do (and read) when your wine is in the carboy so this makes it easier.
- Sanitizer/No Rinse Cleanser: Your kit will likely come with some of this, but if you do a few batches then you’ll need more when it runs out.
Note: I’ve made the Strawberry White Merlot above and it’s GREAT. It’s listed on Amazon at time of this post for $117 (free shipping) though and it was $66 at the wine store.
Cost of Wine Making
I’m going to give an approximation of the costs of wine making using kits. These are based off the Amazon pricing on this stuff because it tends to be consistent with store. And I’m going to leave off stuff like labels, goo gone and the wine racks because many people are already going to have these or not necessarily need them (the labels).
Initial start up (one time costs): Start-up kit ($99), wine whip ($12), graduated cylinder ($12)….