Kit Wine Taste

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facn1989

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I've heard of the mystical kit wine taste, but only recently started making wine and opened my first bottle from my first batch. It was a WE Vintners Reserve (mid-tier kit) and aged about 6 months. The wine wasn't bad, it's definitely drinkable (specially after decanting for a while), but it definitely has an off-putting smell and taste I don't get from commercial wine. Is this expected will all red kits, no matter how good the kit is?

I'm hoping I don't age my premium kits for two years to be sorely disappointed.

What's your experience?
 

ceeaton

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I consider a WE Vintners Reserve one of their lower end kits, with the exception of the Mist series kits (with the Selection series being mid-tier and the Eclipse and specialty kits being the higher end). That being said, it doesn't mean it won't taste good. At six months any red wine, without added sweetener in the process, is probably going to be closer to the rough end of the scale than the better end of the scale. Your idea of two years is a good start to get to where I believe the manufacturer intends the wine to be. Just think about the age of a commercial wine that you normally buy. Most are aged at least a couple of years.

For me the kit taste is what I believe is the concentrated flavor profile from making the kits. It just seems to be a more concentrated sugar that doesn't ferment out. It could be something else, that is just what it tastes like on my palate. Normally the red wines don't seem to have a "nose" to them until they age quite a bit (where as the all grape and juice bucket kits seem to have that from the get-go). I personally am gravitating towards all grape and juice bucket with added grape wines. Just seems like they are drinkable earlier in the process, and I need my fix, so early is good! (Just kidding, I try and age my wines until they are 18 to 24 months old before bottling, unless they are white wines or back sweetened reds).

That being said, I think the kits are the easiest way to source juice from places we normally can't get buckets or fresh grapes. If they come with skins maybe trying an extended maceration (there are a few threads on here with more info about that) will help alleviate any kit taste you can discern in your wines.
 
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Doug’s wines

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@facn1989 can you describe the aroma? I really don’t like the smell of young kit wine when it’s first opened. Seems like a cross between bread and sulfur which I now call bottle smell based on Tim V’s article below. Maybe it’s just a kit smell. I have been trying bulk aging to see if that gets rid of it, but don’t have any evidence yet. I have found the if I decant the bottle or leave the wine in the glass awhile it dissapears. Here’s the article I mentioned on aromas:

https://winemakermag.com/1454-troubleshooting-part-iii-aroma-wine-kits
 

Ajmassa

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Since it fades and disappears after being decanted it’s a great sign that it will also fade after aging. I Have had Same experience on most kits. And so far it has dissipated every time.
It’s hard to describe. Like a chemical rubbery undertone. I don’t know. It does seem to go away tho
 

salcoco

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is it possible you are sensitive to the taste of potassium sorbate? try a kit without using the sorbate and see if taste is similar.
 

ehammonds

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Best ways in my opinion to reduce this KT are: fermenting on skins while doing an extended maceration, aging in a barrel, and don’t drink for two years.
 

malfrune

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I had the same experience with the first wine kit I made, couldn't figure out why it tasted off. First was some of the off flavor I was getting was CO2, the second was from chilling the wine. I don't know what causes it, pectic enzymes maybe? but if I leave a bottle of wine from the first few batches I made in the fridge it clouds up and it changes the flavor (maybe more CO2 in solution from the cold?). Either way the same bottle served room temp, never chilled and allowed to decant a hour or two is excellent, chilled and poured right after opening is crappy.

Either way I got a all in one wine pump, degass under vacuum and filter 5 micron before bottling and HUGE improvement no more cloudiness if I chill a bottle and no more off flavors. If you don't want to spring for the pump yet he sells a "headspace eliminator" basically a check valve in a bung but you can degas using a cheap hand pump meant for bleeding brakes. Makes a huge difference by itself, I just don't think stirring/whips degas well enough.

The other thing I did was throw out the instructions in the kits. I use the bentonite at the beginning, and the metabisulphite at first racking but throw out the chitosan and sorbate (unless you're gonna back sweeten the sorbate isn't needed) I primary for a week or two, rack to the 6 gallon, add oak, keep applying vacuum every day until it stops off gassing, and forget about it for a few months, then filter and bottle. Have much clearer and better tasting wine even before filtering.
 

colorado_wade

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I bottled my first kit, which was an En Primeur Super Tuscan back in January of 2017, and when I tasted it at that time, I figured that it was just a waste of time. It was bottle aged for around 6 months prior to bottling, but it still smelled and tasted like something I would never drink. Finally this last weekend, I decided to open a bottle to see if 15 months of bottle aging helped, and man was I surprised. The smell was phenomenal! My wife and I just looked at each other like "What the...?" We did not expect it to smell sooooo good. Then we tasted it, and we were blown away. We had also opened a $35 bottle of Chataneuf du Pape, that we were having with a cheese platter, and I much preferred the super tuscan to it. I've had very high end super tuscans like Sassicaia and Gaja, and this really wasn't that far off. Where it lacked was on the finish. The finish was a bit shorter than a high end wine, and it still had a hint of K-meta after taste. It was subtle, but it was there. I think after another 9-12 months in bottle, this will be incredible. I guess the lesson is that these kits...at least the high end ones need to age. I had almost completely given up on wine making based on a pre-mature tasting, and now I'm sold again. I have 2 more kits in carboys that have been aging over a year, and didn't think I was going to bottle based on that early tasting, and now I'm excited to bottle them, and see how they develop.

I agree with malfrune...the all in one wine pump is a must have!!
 

pillswoj

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I bottled my first kit, which was an En Primeur Super Tuscan back in January of 2017, and when I tasted it at that time, I figured that it was just a waste of time. It was bottle aged for around 6 months prior to bottling, but it still smelled and tasted like something I would never drink. Finally this last weekend, I decided to open a bottle to see if 15 months of bottle aging helped, and man was I surprised. The smell was phenomenal! My wife and I just looked at each other like "What the...?" We did not expect it to smell sooooo good. Then we tasted it, and we were blown away. We had also opened a $35 bottle of Chataneuf du Pape, that we were having with a cheese platter, and I much preferred the super tuscan to it. I've had very high end super tuscans like Sassicaia and Gaja, and this really wasn't that far off. Where it lacked was on the finish. The finish was a bit shorter than a high end wine, and it still had a hint of K-meta after taste. It was subtle, but it was there. I think after another 9-12 months in bottle, this will be incredible. I guess the lesson is that these kits...at least the high end ones need to age. I had almost completely given up on wine making based on a pre-mature tasting, and now I'm sold again. I have 2 more kits in carboys that have been aging over a year, and didn't think I was going to bottle based on that early tasting, and now I'm excited to bottle them, and see how they develop.

I agree with malfrune...the all in one wine pump is a must have!!
I have had many high end kits that need two years to come into there own, when you think about it how many commercial reds have you had that were less then 2 years old and worth drinking? I know I haven't had one and most reds I buy are at least 3 year old.
 

Sunsanvil

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We've been having kit wine made for us for about a decade now. Frankly, and in all sincerity, we cannot stomach typical commercial wine anymore (in both taste AND cost). We generally stick to Premium kits, such as Vinco Showcase (formerly known as Sommelier Reserve), Passport, and most recently a WE LE, plus the odd Traditional Vintage level. All aged a minimum of 6 months with most bottles enjoyed between 1 and 3 years of age.

When we go to a restaurant or friends house and have a glass of... pretty much anything up to a Wolfblass Yellow, it just taste watered down and uninteresting to us now. The exception being an obscure red my sister brought back from an Italian organic Agritourismo, which was a religious experience by the way (but thats a separate tale).

All that to say that after 20 kits or so I really dont know what the "mystical kit wine taste" is, other than maybe the taste of a wine rushed to consumption? Any bottle of kit wine sampled before the 6 month mark is likely to disappoint, and if a person cant wait for a year then I'd say they were in the wrong hobby. :)
 
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LouisCKpasteur

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I've made nine kits - seven reds and two whites without being able to discern the so called kit taste. I'm not doubting anyone who claims to taste it...it may be that just don't have the best palate. I do agree that aging, especially on the premium kits, is important. I'm also something of a lazy ass which translates into minimal intervention, adherence to the kit instructions, and wine that ages because I'm to lazy to bottle it. I'd venture to say that there is wine being made from kits by all sorts of folks that is qualitatively better than 90 percent or more of the stuff people were drinking hundred years ago. A commercial Stag's Leap district Merlot is not being bottled and drunk five months after dropping the yeast - I just can't fathom why anybody would think a kit should be different - except that maybe the kit makers bear some responsibility "if you're going age your wine for more than month add". This IF implies a choice where there really isn't one. I mean, there is a choice, but really, there isn't.
 

Doug’s wines

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I agree that wine is usually better with age, however there are many places around the world where wine is drank and appreciated young. Often referred to as “new wine”. Probably the most famous is Beaujolais a region that I find quite beautiful, but personally can’t stand :peeBeaujolais Nuveau. Funny. I like Moulin a’ Vent Cru / reserve with some age on it, but Nuveau ain’t for me. I do know people who like it though.....
 

facn1989

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Thanks @Sunsanvil that's good to hear. I will age my premium kits 2 years before touching them and in the mean time making some low end kits to age about 6 months until I get a full rotation going. For $3/bottle I'm happy with the results, but still feel there's some off smell/taste.
 

pillswoj

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I agree that wine is usually better with age, however there are many places around the world where wine is drank and appreciated young. Often referred to as “new wine”. Probably the most famous is Beaujolais a region that I find quite beautiful, but personally can’t stand :peeBeaujolais Nuveau. Funny. I like Moulin a’ Vent Cru / reserve with some age on it, but Nuveau ain’t for me. I do know people who like it though.....
Funny, the one time that I had a Beaujolais nouveau it tasted exactly like an unaged kit wine - not something I enjoyed or will ever try again. I wonder what happens if you leave one of those Nouveau's in the cellar for 2-3 years, does it turn into good wine?:a1
 

cmason1957

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Funny, the one time that I had a Beaujolais nouveau it tasted exactly like an unaged kit wine - not something I enjoyed or will ever try again. I wonder what happens if you leave one of those Nouveau's in the cellar for 2-3 years, does it turn into good wine?:a1
No it doesn't get better. I did this accidently one time. It was a 2, may 3 year old Beaujolais Nouveau, my wife and I both spit it out, it was terrible. I don't recall if it had gone to vinegar, but it wasn't drinkable. Now a non Nouveau can take a couple of years of age.
 

jsiddall

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Here is my recap on this subject after reading dozens of threads on this years ago when I was getting started in kits. My first 3 kits were Cellar Craft Showcase and RJS Winery Series, all reds with skins, so I should have been in for a real treat. Instead, more than 4 years later I still have much of those first 3 batches left. They all taste strange. Early on it was a distinct banana flavor, and kinda musty, some had a candy like flavor. All were unenjoyable, but not in a way I could identify as one specific fault. Regardless, I can immediately pick them out from a lineup of commercial wines, usually by the aroma alone. They improved a lot over they years but none became great.

Since then I have made many other kits and all were at least good, some very good and a couple excellent. Some I cannot distinguish as kits, though most have a mustiness that somewhat masks the true fruit flavor. Most of the time it is subtle and the wine is still good but very few align to the true varietal aromas and flavors of a wine made from grapes. To me this is "kit taste".

For the record I have entirely stopped using sorbate now but I made a number of kits early on that had the sorbate and it didn't seem to have a significant effect on the flavor. Some people claim sorbate adds a candy type flavor, and that might be true. What I will recommend is for dry wines just leave it out. The downsides far outweigh the benefits.

The other thing I recommend, at least if you like oak, is a barrel. It rounds out the flavors and adds some good oak that seems to masks some of the kit flavors. I like oaky reds anyway so for me this always makes kits better.

Finally, let them sit. Kits wines seem to take longer to become nice than grapes wines. Maybe they have further to go, as I find most grape wines taste better at 2 weeks than kits at 2 years! Either way, I have never had a red kit that was very good younger than a year. 2 years is better. Beyond 3 I have not seen much further improvement.

So what went wrong with the first 3 batches? I honestly don't know as those were made at a large FOP. My guess is they were fermented too warm/fast. Maybe they needed more nutrient. I just don't know. Regardless I have largely switched to wine from grapes. In general they just taste better for not a lot more cost. I still make occasional kits when the price is right and the varietal grapes are not readily available.

Hope that helps!
 
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Zintrigue

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I've heard of the mystical kit wine taste, but only recently started making wine and opened my first bottle from my first batch. It was a WE Vintners Reserve (mid-tier kit) and aged about 6 months. The wine wasn't bad, it's definitely drinkable (specially after decanting for a while), but it definitely has an off-putting smell and taste I don't get from commercial wine. Is this expected will all red kits, no matter how good the kit is?

I'm hoping I don't age my premium kits for two years to be sorely disappointed.

What's your experience?
Goodness, now I'm going to be keeping a nose out for this. Honestly I've never noticed such a thing from a new bottle, and I think the most I've paid is $80 for a WE vintners reserve.The kits usually say that the wine is meant to be drank young, and so I do. When I open my bottles after a mere 3 months aging I always get distinct aromas of flowers, leather, fruits, etc. Very pleasant, and honestly I find them comparable to store-bought. I mean, for a $40 kit, a Fontana tweaked down is rather lovely.

I will say that the musty cardboard smell was a problem in my first wine, and it was a result of too much oxygen when degassing (kit says to stir vigorously for a few days. Bad bad bad). But after that hard lesson I've been very careful not to oxygenate.

So I suppose now I'm wondering if, since I haven't noticed a kit taste, either my palate is terribly poor or I'm doing something different than everyone else. Like LouisCK a few posts up, I'm lazy and let my kits sit until they need obvious intervention. Total Wine nirvana over here.
 

Doug’s wines

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I’ve done a few tweaked Fontanna’s and they don’t seem to have as bad of an early taste / smell to me for some reason and I’m attributing it to added fresh fruit maybe. It’s still there, just not as strong however every Eclipse or En Primier smells and tastes pretty off to me while young so far. Hoping that ages out as many have suggested it will. Every palate is different and I can only guess that some people smell different things different ways so what’s offensive to one, may not matter to another. Also I smell it in other wine makers kit wines, so I don’t think it’s my specific process, however I’ve yet to do / try one without the additives yet so perhaps I will try that.

As for Beaujolais Nuveau, no it doesn’t improve with age. The drinking window is 2-6 months and after that it’s a risk to be more likely vinegar than its normal self. Definitely made to be drank young. As @cmason1957 noted, there are Gamay noir Beaujolais that are desinged to age and as I mentioned before, Moulin-a-vent is my personal preference of terroir although there’s a few Brouilly’s that I like too. They are pretty readily available at the wine store and usually fairly inexpensive. I will say that if you ever have a chance to go to the Nuveau release festival in Beaujolais in November, go. It’s one heck of a wine party and a great time to be in a very beautiful area of France! I happened to be there by accident a few years ago and it is on my list to revisit soon.
 

LouisCKpasteur

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Just listened to professor (a history of wine as commodity class) read from an 1895 document by an English importer chastising his Australian exporter for the taste of his wine - the faults being inferred did not sound like spoilage - but this English exporter was adamant that the wine needed to be aged at least two years, the implication being that if the Aussies didn't, he'd be importing no more. It was kind of funny. I idly thought maybe this Aussie wine was Lindemann's Bin No. 1 or something.
 

brianpablo

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I've had a series of unpleasant aromas and flavors associated with all of the wine kits I've done, and I'm not entirely sure if it's kit taste or something else that I'm doing wrong. The first kit that I can definitely say I didn't screw up was an Eclipse Lodi Old Vine Zin. It overall tastes decent, but still has some quirks that I don't care for, Like all the kits I've done, it smelled absolutely fantastic on the first day, then by the second or third day it's putting off some really nasty aromas. I opened up the fermentation bucket of the Zin to do a gravity sample when a friend happened to be at my house, he asked me "Are you fermenting noni?" in reference to the notoriously stinky fruit that's sometimes described as "cheese fruit" or "vomit fruit." That batch has now been sitting for almost six months and has improved a lot, but it still has what I would describe as a very strong aspartame-like aftertaste. I'd still describe it as respectable table wine that's worth about the $6 a bottle the kit cost (it's on the higher end of things). But it definitely has more off flavors than even cheap commercial wine. I've got a Chardonnay that's clearing right now, it has the exact same off flavors and smells. The kits do have sorbate, though these flavors seem to be appearing very early on the process for sorbate to cause.

Part of the problem is that I'm drinking it too quick. Since I'm more of a homebrewer and relatively new to wine, I haven't adjusted my timeframes and am still drinking things more or less the same way I would with beer. So maybe another year or so will knock off some of those flavors. The other thing is that I live in South America, so I have to haul these things over the Caribbean via a courier service. That means the kits are sitting on a boat that's probably not got much in the way of serious temperature control, and then probably sit in a hot customs warehouse for a while. I can't imagine that's doing good things, and I can't really do anything about it, so if that's the culprit then I'd either have to put up with it or ditch the hobby and stick with beer. I'd appreciate any thoughts on this.
 
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