How To Make Wine For Your Reception

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Wine is often the first and last bev­er­age at a wed­ding: it starts the recep­tion, com­ple­ments the din­ner, and then fuels the par­ty after­ward. For some wed­dings, it plays a part in the cer­e­mo­ny itself.If you love wine and want it at your wed­ding, con­sid­er mak­ing a cou­ple of cas­es your­self.  Mak­ing your own for your wed­ding can be a unique group activ­i­ty and with the ingre­di­ents and equip­ment avail­able today it is sur­pris­ing­ly easy to make great wine.

Winemaking Kits

If you pic­ture wine­mak­ing as includ­ing scenes of har­vest­ing grapes at their predawn peak, pro­cess­ing them with unfa­mil­iar and expen­sive equip­ment and let­ting the juice fer­ment and age for months or years in oak bar­rels stored in a musty cave, know that there is anoth­er and much sim­pler want to make wine. Thus, the wine kits.

If you can fol­low basic instruc­tions for mak­ing soup, you can make aston­ish­ing­ly superb wine from kits.  All of the ingredients—not mere­ly the con­cen­trat­ed juice and yeast, but preser­v­a­tives, fin­ing agents to clear the wine, and even oak chips to give reds their tan­nins and vanil­la notes—are includ­ed in num­bered, pre-mea­sured pack­ets and accom­pa­nied by sim­ple and clear instruc­tions.

The con­cen­trates come from the finest grape-grow­ing regions in the world. But prob­a­bly the most sur­pris­ing aspect of the kits avail­able today is their rel­a­tive­ly low cost. What­ev­er qual­i­ty of wine you pre­fer, if you make it from a kit, expect to pay less than one-quar­ter of the price for sim­i­lar bot­tles pur­chased retail.

pouring wine at wedding reception styled shoot

For exam­ple, a bot­tle of Mer­lot from the Stags’ Leap Win­ery is about $45 a bot­tle. You can buy a kit to make a Mer­lot from the Stags’ Leap AVA in California’s Napa Val­ley, mean­ing the juice comes from the same geo­graph­ic area as the win­ery, for about $6.00 a bot­tle. The total effort to com­plete a batch of wine from a kit is about four hours spread over the 30 days it takes it to fer­ment and clear.

To make wine for your wed­ding recep­tion, you’ll need the kit, the equip­ment to fer­ment, clear, and bot­tle the end result, and the time to make it. Although near­ly all kits are designed to take a total of 30 days from start to fin­ish, I would plan on start­ing your batch wine at least three months before the wed­ding and prefer­ably six. You are going to have dozens of details when prep­ping for the wed­ding, and mak­ing wine should be enjoy­able, not one more item on a check­list to hur­ry up and fin­ish.

The Equipment

The basic equip­ment need­ed to make wine at home costs about $100 and can be pur­chased online or at a store that sells home beer brew­ing sup­plies. If you have a friend who is a home­brew­er, you already know some­one who has near­ly all of the equip­ment and expe­ri­ence need­ed to make wine. The only addi­tion­al gad­get a beer brew­er needs to make wine is a cork­er.

The equip­ment will include things like the tools nec­es­sary to mix and make the wine and a con­tain­er to fer­ment your con­coc­tion in. It may seem like an expen­sive upfront cost, but if you plan on mak­ing many bot­tles in the future, then the kit prac­ti­cal­ly pays for itself.

wine barrel wedding reception winery styled shoot

Types of Kits

For your recep­tion, buy a pre­mi­um or super-pre­mi­um kit that includes four gal­lons of con­cen­trate and makes six gal­lons of wine, which is about 30 bot­tles. The juice in these kits has been ana­lyzed in a lab and the nutri­ents and pH adjust­ed to the opti­mum lev­els. These wines age well, just like kinds made from fresh fruit. The kits also come with the basic instruc­tions you need and labels for the bot­tles. If you’re feel­ing cre­ative, design and print your own labels. This can make your wine a keep­sake as well as a bev­er­age to enjoy at the recep­tion.

Choos­ing among var­i­ous kits, espe­cial­ly if you shop the Inter­net, can be daunt­ing. A good approach is to deter­mine the vari­etal of wine you want to make, then use an Inter­net search engine to look for a “gold medal kit” of that grape type. Read the kit reviews, check the rat­ings, pick your man­u­fac­tur­er, then search on that man­u­fac­tur­er and wine kit name to find the best price. Note that some wine kit providers offer free or reduced ship­ping, so take that into account when com­par­ing prices.

The Process

While one or two peo­ple are all that’s need­ed to make wine from a kit, wine­mak­ing is also a great excuse to get togeth­er with your friends. Start­ing a batch of wine takes less than an hour so it can be an inter­est­ing project to tack­le before hav­ing a din­ner. Four or five weeks lat­er, it’s time to bot­tle and, espe­cial­ly if you designed your own labels, it’s very sat­is­fy­ing to bot­tle, label the wine, and add foil cap­sules to cre­ate a pro­fes­sion­al-look­ing pack­age.

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