With the rise of in-home winemaking kits and cheaper wine making equipment, it is tempting to ask if you can make good wine at home?
Most people can easily make a good bottle of wine at home that can compare to store bought bottles, however home-made wine will not compete in quality to top vintages produced in the world.
The winemaking process, at least the basics of it, can be deceptively cheap and easy in small batches, and materials, equipment, and knowledge to make wine can be found in premade kits or online. This article will discuss the pros and cons of in-home winemaking, as well as the best ways to make wine at home.
The Myths of Homemade Wine
Just like commercial winemaking, there are many misconceptions surrounding the quality, viability, and even legality of homemade wine.
Beginning with the legal side of homemade wine, it is perfectly legal for Americans to make their own wine or beer without a license, so long as they keep it under 100 gallons a year and do not sell their wine. So long as you keep your winemaking operation small and do not try to monetize it, you are perfectly within your rights making wine at home for friends and family.
A more damaging myth is that homemade wines taste bad and spoil easily, neither of which is true. Homemade wines can easily compete with most off-the-shelf vintages, and as long as they are fermented, bottled, and stored properly a bottle of homemade wine will last just as long as professionally made.
The idea that making wine at home is too expensive and time consuming is also a complete fiction. Wine kits, wine grapes, and wine juice can readily be bought in stores for less than $100, depending on how advanced you want your materials to be, and some kits can create a finished bottle of wine in less than a month.
These myths all stem, in part, from the mystique of unobtainable sophistication and mastery surrounding the wine industry. And while many vintners are experts in their craft, modern access to winemaking materials and knowledge means that wine enthusiasts can create excellent brews in their own backyards without extensive training or expensive equipment.
The Pros of Homemade Wine
There are many benefits to making wine at home that make homemade wine equal to, if not greater than, store bought wine.
The first and most prominent of these is how inexpensive it is to create and maintain your own stock of wine. While the initial cost of equipment and materials is more than a bottle, most kits average around $50. These kits contain enough ingredients for five or more bottles of wine, and the equipment can be reused to create even more wine after the fact.
In the long term creating your own wine at home is far less expensive than shelling out $15 to $30 dollars for every bottle you buy. If you, your family, or your friends enjoy a lot of wine then a winemaking kit can save you a lot of money in the long run.
Homemade wines also give you the chance to experiment with different processes and flavors, just like cooking meals. Most vintners keep to strict formulas to keep their winemaking consistent, and experimenting is a big investment for them. You, on the other hand, are free to tinker with your winemaking process however you see fit to create new and exciting flavors.
Of course, you can also look up flavors you already enjoy and recreate them at home, provided you can find the right ingredients. Most kits already come with a few premade recipes and you can find more recipes in winemaking and recipe websites to expand your wine making repertoire.
Wine making can also be an excellent hobby or to bond with others. Making your own wine requires just enough time, effort, and skill to be interesting without requiring constant work and attention. At the same time sharing wine with family and friends, and discussing how you made it, is great for starting interesting conversations.
In short, the benefit of homemade wine is an inexpensive way to create your own stock of personal, even experimental wines, giving you a fun hobby and something interesting to bring to parties.
Why You Shouldn’t Make Homemade Wine
While there are numerous benefits to homemade wine, there are reasons that professional vintners exist.
The first and most obvious issue is a lack of consistency, as at-home winemakers often do not have the experience and equipment of commercial vintners. This means that, especially in the early stages of learning to make wine, the quality and quantity of wine created in each batch is no doubt going to vary from batch to batch.
A lack of access to wine grapes can also be a problem, as many wine kits come with either juice or juice concentrate, and grocery store grapes are not the same as wine grapes. Juice, especially juice concentrate, lack some of the natural chemicals found in wine grapes, especially those found in the skins, seeds, and stems which add to wine’s body and flavor.
There are also some pieces of equipment or techniques that are more expensive or just beyond the capacity of home winemaker. Oak aging barrels, secondary fermentation, wine fortification, these require more materials and skills than you’ll find in a winemaking kit, so any homemade wines you create will lack these professional touches.
At the same time, while homemade wine might be cheaper to make it requires far more time and effort than buying a bottle from a store. Even the fastest homemade wines can take weeks to ferment, and many require additional aging to reach their peak. Professionally made wines are not only premade, but often pre-aged for customer convenience.
In essence the shortfalls of homemade wine are lacking the training, materials, and equipment of professional vintners, while having to put in weeks of work just to create each batch of wine.
Is Homemade Wine Right for You?
At this point you may be asking yourself if you should take up the fine art of in-home wine making. There are many benefits to creating your own wine at home, but based on the type of wine you like and how often you drink it may not be for you.
Homemade wine is best for people who enjoy or share wine regularly and are looking for a less expensive way to keep larger amounts of wine on hand. The ability to create gallons of wine in one batch and reuse equipment to make more batches means you will have plenty of wine to share with friends and family.
Making wine at home is also good for people with an inquisitive streak, since making wine at home allows you to experiment and play with new wine flavors. Making new and unique wines at home is not only a fun hobby but a great way to test new concoctions if you are curious about how wine is made or have a few ideas of your own.
If, however, you are more of a casual drinker or prefer high quality vintages, then homemade wine may not be for you. Home winemaking equipment is designed to create large batches in a matter of weeks, and lacks the subtle, professional finesse of the oldest vintages. So if you do not drink regularly or have a refined palate then continue to buy your wine instead of brewing it.
A Few Tips for Making Good Wine at Home
If you want to make your own wine at home there are a few tips to keep in mind to make the process smoother, easier, and safer.
The first and most important piece of advice is to do your due diligence and make sure you have all the materials, equipment, and knowledge you need to make wine. There are preset winemaking kits, online tutorials, and free recipes that will give you the tools and techniques you need to make quality wine, so be sure to use these resources.
After you’ve completed your research make sure all of your winemaking equipment is as clean as possible. Before and after every completed batch be sure to thoroughly but gently clean all of your equipment and empty bottles. This will not only keep your equipment safe but let you reuse all of your materials for much longer.
Next, be sure to read and follow all directions carefully, since making wine is not exactly a forgiving process. Any mistakes or mis-measurements you make may not appear in wine for weeks until the batch is done. As such wine making is very much a measure twice, add once type of hobby and following directions closely is essential.
If you are looking for grapes to use in your first batch it might be better to start with grape juice or juice concentrate since these are easier to work with. Wine grapes need to be crushed, juiced, and filtered, with additional deseeding and destemming depending on what type of wine you are making. Premade grape juice is readily available and much easier to work with.
Last, but certainly not least, the key to becoming an expert in-home winemaker is the same as becoming skilled at any hobby; practice. If you are persistent in making wine you’ll learn all the skills and tricks you need to not only create great vintages at home, but have fun making wine as well.
With homemade wine kits and other equipment on the rise many are asking if it is really possible to create good wine at home.
The answer there is a resounding yes, as with a little time, patience, and persistence anyone can create quality vintages in their own home. While these wines may lack the professional touch of the most expensive vintages, they can easily compete with most store-bought wines while being less expensive, and more fun, to make in the long run.