So it’s been longer than 28 days since I started making this wine, but I finally got the wine bottled, and I even tasted a bit of it with a few friends. So why did I take a bit longer than anticipated? And more importantly, is it any good and would I buy a kit like this again?
So I started the process of making this wine on 22nd February and I bottled it, a little over a month later on 31st March. The main reason that I took a bit longer than the 28 days I thought it would take is just that life got in the way. This is just the way things go in home brewing and 99% of the time, an extra week is not going to do any harm. I should also point out that, as my basement is at a slightly less than optimal temperature, it was worth spending a bit more time in both the primary and secondary fermenters anyway.
After a bit longer in the primary, I transferred the wine to the secondary fermenter, leaving it slightly longer than recommended again. Then I transferred to back to the primary for degassing and clarification. After all that was done, Sunday was finally bottling day, hooray!
The first step was, of course, to clean and sanitise everything I was going to be using that would be in contact with the wine: The bottles, the auto-syphon, the corks, and (as always) I gave my hands a good clean too. Remember, a clean hand is a happy hand. You do want your hands to be happy don’t you?
Then it was time to get down to business. Bottling wine is so much easier than beer. There is no priming to be done because you do not want any carbonation, and a one gallon batch into 750ml bottles means there’s only six bottles to deal with. I had never used my corker before but it turned out to be no harder than getting caps onto beer bottles.
Once all the wine was in I ended up with 5 full bottles and one around 2/3-3/4 full after all of the losses left behind in the two transfers between fermenters. I also got some fancy thermocaps which I put on using my girlfriend’s hairdryer. They were very cheap so its okay. I finished the bottle with a masking tape label to really give it that really professional feel.
Not all of the bottles were filled so I took the 2/3 full bottle round to a friends place to taste alongside a game of Pandemic Legacy Season 2 (which I will write about at some point in the future). So what was the verdict? Well there are some qualifiers to bare in mind here. First of all, taking the not quite full bottle, means taking the bottle with the most dregs from the fermenter in so it was not clear. Second, the wine had been bottled for a couple of hours and the flavour may change considerably with age. Third, we also took a nice bottle of wine over as well, in case you were concerned that I was being a cheapskate.
Was it any good? Well… no, not really. After seeing some good reviews online for the California Connoisseur Pinot Noir kit, I thought that the Merlot kit was bound to be amazing too. Maybe I did something wrong. Maybe all of the people that said the other kit is good are wrong. Maybe it will age like a fi… I guess like an okay wine. But maybe it just isn’t very good. Beyond that there’s not really much to say, it is drinkable but it tastes like a very cheap Merlot.
So was it worth it? The kit cost EUR 20 and was marketed as a 6 bottle kit. However, the kit only produces enough grape juice concentrate for 6 bottles which sounds fine but in reality it is unlikely that you will be able to transfer all of the wine between fermenters with no losses. I was able to get 5 full bottles and about 2/3 of another bottle filled which isn’t too bad but, if I was more worried about contamination, I would have also discarded the hydrometer reading samples, leaving me with considerably less. So let’s call it 5 bottles meaning a price of EUR 4 per bottle (plus cork).
So would I pay 4 euros for this wine in a shop? No. At least not after the first time. If I were living somewhere where wine is more expensive then maybe… but probably not. I would say that the going price for wine of this quality where I live is around 2-3 euros per bottle. I really hope this wine gets better with age and, on the bright side, it could hardly get worse. I’m going to store the remaining five bottles in my basement for a few months and have another taste once I’ve worked up the necessary courage. I’ll post again if the experience is different enough to warrant it. As things stand, I really can’t recommend this kit, which is a shame because I really did want it to be good.
Any thoughts or comments? Think I just did everything wrong? Maybe you’ve tried one of these kits out for yourself? Why not tell us all about it in the comments below?