About three months ago now, I mentioned that we had just bottled our first wine kit, a Gewürztraminer. Although it was called a 28-day wine kit, those are never really drinkable that early, not if you actually enjoy wine and can taste the difference. We’ve opened a couple of bottles since then, but I was a little disappointed… until last night when we opened another one with dinner. And now I know that a 4-week wine kit needs to age three months in the bottle. It’s turned fairly nice now, and this was the first glass from that batch that I really enjoyed and wanted to follow up with another of the same.

This one was an inexpensive kit, and a way of getting started again after about 15 years since my last experience with making wine. Since then, we’ve bottled another inexpensive kit, a Vieux Chateau du Roi that tasted very promising when we bottled it, but we’ll still give it some more time in the cellar before I start popping them open. This is a wine I quite like and it should age reasonably well for a cheap kit.

Yesterday we also started another kit, a Canada White Heron Chardonnay Style kit which is described as “a full-bodied, dry wine with a brilliant light gold colour and a complex fruity bouquet of pears, apples, and apricots. Excellent with cream soups, seafood, fowl, veal, and pasta.” This is another one of the kits that is supposedly drinkable fairly quickly, and the hope is to produce something light and fruity for summer drinking. To this end, I’ve got some fruit flavours ready to add to part of the batch when we bottle it in a few weeks, passionfruit and strawberry… probably a third of the batch each. This kit can be aged up to 2 years, but we aren’t planning to use long corks and don’t expect it to see the end of the summer.

Now that we should have covered off the short-term wine requirements and hopefully getting more comfortable with the whole wine making process, I’ve got a higher quality kit sitting ready to start, one that’s made completely from juice rather than concentrate. This one is a Barolo — not something I’m very familiar with, but it sounds like something I’ll like based on my conversation with the wine store owner. The official description reads, “From the Piemonte region of Italy, Barolo is world famous for its complex and robust flavours. A distinguished, full-bodied, rich red wine that is dry and tannic with aromas of ripe fruit and berries.” This one doesn’t make the four-week claim, rather recommends aging for four to six months minimum, with 6-12 months preferred and suitable for cellaring for up to five years.

I’m also expecting a phone call today to say that I have some fresh juice ready to pick up, a Müeller-Thurgau. For those who pre-order, the brewing shop I found recently brings in juice from California each fall, but they’re bringing some in this week at a discounted price, and I was able to place my order just in time. Unlike the other (concentrate or) juice kits, these ones are apparently all natural with no preservatives, and even include the grape skins. As I understand it, the juice is likely to have started fermenting when it arrives, so there’s no waiting to get started on this one. It will also be ready in 4-6 months, but should age longer and can be cellared up to five years as well.

I expect the quality of the wines to be improving as we work through all of the above, and perhaps I’ll squeeze in another kit over the summer. If the Müeller-Thurgau comes out nicely (or at least promising) by the end of September, I’ll probably order a couple more natural juice kits in the fall. Also in August and September, I hope to try experimenting with some recipes using local fruit (raspberries, strawberries, apples, maybe saskatoons) or whatever else we might find on sale (blueberries, blackberries) to make a few gallons of fruit wines.

I’ve even taken a couple of books from the library on this… bottom line, it looks like I was possibly in need of a new hobby. One of the reasons I haven’t been on that keen on pursuing wine making before is evident in the eclectic nature of the above list and the fact that it sounds like a lot of wine just for us (though we’ll probably give some away)… I like to have some variety in my wine selections rather than drinking the same “house wine” all the time. This way by building up the cellar, I’ll at least have some options when I go to select a bottle. It’ll certainly take up more space though!

My gaze is now starting to drift in the direction of the beer kits. I did one of those with my brother about 15 years ago as well, and one step involves boiling hops. I understand it’s optional, but that it’s recommended and it does make the difference. My wife isn’t keen on it because she doesn’t like the smell, so I’ve suggested buying a Coleman camp stove so I can do that step outside on the patio. We’ll see what happens.

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