When you first get started with making your own wine it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of decisions you have to make. I recommend you start simply with a wine kit.
Starting with a kit reduces the amount of equipment you need to purchase or rent at the outset. The process is also limited to that of making wine and does not include tasks such as finding grapes, pressing them, or any else besides the actual chemistry of making wines.
Choosing which wine kit to make is also an important decision which is influenced by several factors. Here are just a few things to think about.
What Do You Like to Drink?
Choose a varietal that you enjoy! This is first and foremost because you’re about to make 30 bottles of wine. No one wants 30 bottles of wine they don’t like.
Wine kits have been designed such that they all follow just about the same process. There is some variability but by in large kits are all relatively the same once you get going. Fortified wines do have a bit of extra work that must go into them, however, the kit manufacturers have made the process as simple as possible.
Just like anything else you spend your money on, you usually get what you pay for. An inexpensive kit will be of good quality while a more expensive kit will be of the highest quality.
Many of the grapes that go into these kits come from the same vineyards that produce grapes for commercial wineries. This is why you might see on your Zinfandel kit that this particular vintage won this medal or that one at some point. Pros are using the same raw materials to make their wines.
Depending on your budget you may have to start with the inexpensive kits given that you’ll be purchasing equipment as well. No worries, start where you can. These days a wine kit can produce good results provided you follow the directions.
How Much Patience do You Have?
Time is both the best ingredient for a great wine and the hardest to give. After you’ve spent the time and effort researching kits and equipment, then fermenting the wine, you’ll then have to let it age.
Some wine kits take longer than others to mature. Many are designed for early consumption (four to six weeks from starting fermentation) while the more sophisticated ones take longer to reach their peak flavor. White wines can be made and consumed fairly quickly while reds need more time.
Don’t pick up a kit that needs a year or more of aging for your first winemaking experience. The return on investment is just too long unless you have unparalleled patience. Start with something you can make and consume fairly quickly. That way you’ll get a sense of how much you enjoy making wine.
Another idea is to pick up a kit that is ready to drink quickly and right afterward start another kit that takes a bit of time to age. This way you’ll get the experience and 30 bottles of wine to consume while your next batch is aging.
Lastly, ration the number of bottles you consume. This is difficult, I know, but set aside 15 or 20 bottles to drink the first year. Spread the rest out over the next three to five years so you get an idea of how your wine changes over time.
Choosing a kit comes down to your own personal preferences. If your favorite varietal takes two years to mature and you’ve got unlimited patience then by all means go for it. However, if you’re like me, you’ll want something that is ready to consume fairly early yet has the potential to age for up to three years. This and my budget led me to this kit (affiliate link).
Go with your gut on this one. When you see “the one” kit that just feels right, go for it.