I started getting interested in wine around 2005 when my friends and I would have dinner every Wednesday, aptly named “Wednesday Night Dinner.” During these dinners, we drank a LOT of wine, and I started to learn some things about it.
Around the same time, Gary Vaynerchuk started Wine Library TV, which expanded my knowledge of wine even more. One of the things Gary always says on his show is that you need to trust your own palate – just because a bottle of wine is $100 doesn’t mean it’s good. I took that message to heart.
I had previous experience brewing my own beer, and had been getting my supplies through a company that had recently started to sell wine-making equipment, so I thought, “What the heck? I’ll give it a shot.”
The fundamental ingredients in wine are the grape juice and yeast. The juice comes from a grape varietal which determines what type of wine it will be. The yeast causes fermentation but using different types of yeast will affect the subtle flavors and aroma of the wine. Choosing a yeast that complements the juice is something that only comes with experience. This is why most people stick with kits, it’s difficult to justify spending $80-$100 to make 6 gallons, spending 6-10 weeks making it, only to find out that your wine tastes like crap. It takes a special breed of person to go through this torment.
A kit is the best choice for a beginner because it consists of all the ingredients you need to make the wine of your choice, the difference is that someone who actually knows what they’re doing puts the kit together. That way, there’s no risk of ending up with a lousy batch. If you’re looking at making your own wine simply for the sake of reducing your booze costs, you may never need to move away from the kit.
The first couple of times I made wine, I used a Cabernet Sauvignon kit because I’m a sucker for red wine. It was as good as any bottle of table wine I’ve ever had and even at $100 for the kit, it works out to less than $3.50 a bottle.
If you’re like me, you feel the need to tinker with things. Making your own wine will satisfy that need in spades and can become a seriously fun hobby. This is really what making wine is all about, the experience of it all. Yes, the outcome is fun, but it makes it better to know that you’ve conquered the grape, mastering your own wine. I love this part of it, and I love making my own wine.