Many people are hesitant about trying consumer made wine because of concerns about the quality. They may have had a good willed neighbour, who made wine in his basement by crushing grapes or buying fresh juice, give them a bottle that they ended up pouring down the sink. There is a scientific explanation for this: TOTAL DISSOLVED SOLIDS (TDS)! When you crush grapes, the juice that is produced is quite cloudy. That’s due to the TDS that are floating around in the liquid. Some of these TDS are removed during fermentation and clearing, but some are not. These TDS create a double-edged sword. On the one hand they are what is responsible for giving the wine its unique characteristics. On the other hand they are also responsible for that “green” taste that young wines have. The best way to deal with these TDS are to let them age, mature and even drop out of the wine, which produces the best and most expensive bottles in the world. This is why that wine from grapes your neighbour gave you was undrinkable (by anyone except the person who made it). The level of TDS was high enough that the wine needed to be aged for several years, not several months, just as the bottles in the stores do.
Enter the consumer made wine kits. These kits are made from crushing grapes as well, but because they are coming from around the globe, they are concentrated prior to shipping. The concentration process (low pressure, room temperature, evacuation) removes some of the TDS. In fact the least expensive kits available, which are concentrate only (usually 5-7 litres), display very little varietal character: you’d have a hard time to tell a Shiraz from a Merlot. Because of the very low level of TDS they are ready to drink much sooner. The next level of kits are from 9- 10 litres in volume (called 4-week kits) and include some fresh juice with the concentrate to add a little more varietal character. They’re still light bodied and ready to drink soon, but with a little more flavour. The 15 – 16 litre kits (6-week) are over 50% fresh juice. Much higher levels of TDS and great varietal flavours, but they really need a few weeks or months to mature because of the TDS. The cream of the crop is the kit that has 18 litres of juice and concentrate plus 2 litres of crushed grape skins (8-week kits). Fermenting on the skin pulls out the most TDS, giving the wine full bodied complex flavours. They also need several months to a year to mellow. If you take a test sip of these wines at bottling time you’ll get an idea of how your neighbour’s wine from grapes tasted in it’s youth.
Now here’s a little motivation to try consumer made wine. You can make $180 to $410 per hour doing it! Well, not really make, but save. 30 bottles of easy drinking wine from the store will cost you about $300. Invest about an hour of your time to make it yourself for $120, for a saving of $180 per hour. Full-bodied wine will cost you about $15 per bottle or $450 per batch of 30 versus $160 to make it yourself for a saving of $290 per hour. Complex wine will cost about $20 per bottle, $600 per batch versus $190, for a savings of $410 per hour. Where else can you make that kind of money?
Blog provided by: Ray Vezeau, owner of Chateau Vezeau Wines, a ferment on premises winemaking facility in Brooklin. www.ChateauVezeauWines.com