Tips for making wine using a homemade wine kit. These kits make it easier to get started with wine making.
This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, I may receive a commission from the sale. This does not impact your price for the product. This post was originally published May 2, 2015, but has been updated.
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?
The thing is … wine making isn’t for everyone. It’s a pretty scientific process and you need to follow directions carefully.
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.
- Have the space for the setup: I found that the supplies and wine bottle storage take up quite a bit of room.
- Be clean. It’s very important to have everything sanitized and clean when you’re working on making wine.
Is it worth it?
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).
I’ve found that red wine is much more complicated to make and have it come out successfully. If you exclusively like red wine, you may have to prepare yourself for an additional difficulty level.
All of the wine we’ve made has still had some carbonation in it – it works for white wine, but not for red.
And for some reason, our reds have been worse.
We did a winery tour and apparently they don’t degas their wines the same way that you do in a kit – they use chemicals to help degas the wine vs. the wine kits which require vigorous stirring to help reduce the amount of carbonation.
That fizziness is a pretty common effect of fermentation from what I’ve noticed … although I make kombucha too and I wish I had as much success getting carbonation with our kombucha as I did with the wine (wink).
You also need to keep in mind that the huge wood barrels used by wineries have a purpose AND some let wine age longer. You’re skipping that with a home setup.
Tips for Making Wine from a Kit
Tip 1: 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.
Tip 2: 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!
Tip 3: 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.
Tip 4: 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.
Tip 5: You’ll want some wine racks… 30 bottles of wine is a lot of wine and they are better off stored on their side.
Tip 6: 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.
Tip 7: 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. We ended up buying a wine whip… it seemed to help some.
What to do when wine making fails
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. I have a fabulous recipe for culotte steak with red wine sauce if you’re interested.
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!
Wine Making Equipment
Below is a list of some of the equipment necessary to make your own wine. If it’s easier, you can also view all of these items on Amazon from my storefront (I don’t sell the products myself, it’s just a place for me to put together a bunch of products I like).
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. I’ve made the Strawberry White Merlot 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.
- 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 attachment for a drill: Used for degassing wine.
- 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.
How much does it cost to make wine from a kit?
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 Cost
Start-up kit ($99), wine whip ($12), graduated cylinder ($12)….
Grand Total Start Up: $123
Wine kit (let’s say $90 per kit), corks (18 cents per cork with Amazon price)…
Grand Total Cost for 30 Bottles: $95.40
Cost per bottle (excluding start up): $3.18
Now note… cost per bottle including start up comes to $7.28… assuming that you only ever made one batch of wine. Also, these wine kits range in price.
Rewarding when you’ve got a great batch of wine.
But not super awful if you mess up. I was totally not on board when we first got the kit and saw all the work involved, but now that I’m enjoying a glass of strawberry merlot every night I’m ready to run with this! I can’t wait to try something new! Oh and it’s SO MUCH FUN to give wine as a gift.
Other Wine Related Blog Posts
Learn how to make a balancing wine bottle holder.
If you have extra wine bottles, learn how to cut them down for use as a planter or candle.
Decorating using old wine corks.
Learn about getting wine delivered to your house each month.
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Leave me a comment and tell me- What’s your favorite type of wine?
Sunday 3rd of May 2015
My husband has made wine at home a few times. We got the supplies from a local store that sold the wine making materials. Some batches came out great, some were just okay. It's a fun process though!
Sunday 3rd of May 2015
Yeah I like that I can check the reviews on Amazon, but there's not a ton of reviews for most of these. I wish there was a better way to see reviews (with tips) for these kits because it would be INCREDIBLY helpful in making a good batch.
And of course, you will have mixed results depending on what you like for wine. :) Someday I'd like to try to start with my own grapes.