July 6, 2017 | By Chris Holman
Have you ever asked yourself how wine kit manufacturers’ manage to get such high quality grape juice from the vineyard into your fermenter? This week’s edition of Craft & Cork will take you on the journey from vineyard to wine kit and show you how wine kit production varies little from commercial winemaking techniques.
The technology behind wine kit production has progressed significantly over the last 20 years. Everything from the quality of the juices and the components included in the kits, to the packaging have improved. But most importantly, wine kit manufacturers are focusing more of their efforts to ensure they are always using the highest quality juice – and this all starts in the vineyard.
Wine kit manufacturers are required to source grapes from vineyards in both the Northern and Southern hemisphere to ensure there is a constant supply of juice available throughout the year. Harvest in the Northern hemisphere typically lasts from September to November, which will maintain the supply of juice until April. Harvest in the Southern hemisphere will last from January to April, depending on the growing region, which will maintain supply until September or October. Although juice supply from these regions only occurs in a relatively short window, it allows for the production of juice and juice concentrate to continue year round.
Harvest can only start once the grapes have reached their optimum maturity. Harvested grapes are transferred from the harvester to a picking bin on a flatbed trailer where they are quickly transported to the processing facility to begin the juice extraction process. Up until that point, all activities are identical to what would be done to produce a commercial bottle of wine. This is where the wine kit production takes on its own unique set of processes.
When the white grapes arrive at the production facility they are pressed and treated the same as in a commercial winery, before being shipped to the wine kit manufacturer for packaging. It is the red grapes, however, that are processed slightly differently. When red grapes arrive at the production facility they are treated with enzymes to help extract maximum color, tannin, and flavor from the skins before being pressed off. Once the juice arrives at the production facility it is analyzed before being packaged to ensure that only the highest quality juice is put into a kit. Premium wine kits will also typically contain grape skins to contribute additional tannin, flavor, and color to the finished wine.
We have now concluded the wine kit production process and what a journey it has been! Now the fun begins! It is up to you, the winemaker to turn this juice into the wine that you desire. The greatest thing about wine kits is that you are guaranteed a fresh supply of juice year round and all of the juice adjustments are done by the manufacturer. Don’t be afraid to play around, have some fun, and embrace the art of winemaking.