Source for skins/grape packs and what about raisins

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Hi. I am new to winemaking. I have long wanted to get into the hobby, and the recent lockdown was enough for me to finally take the plunge. I have my first kit started, an Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, and now it is in the carboy clearing. That means I have an open primary fermenter. I want to buy another kit. My wife is a fan of Australian Shiraz, so I thought I'd try that. Based on my limited knowledge, it sounds like kits with skins are generally superior to those without. Looking at some major kit manufactures, it seems my cheapest option with skins is the En Primeur kit for about $160 shipped, but I could get a Winexpert World Vinyard for $100 shipped, which has no skins. Granted, I know little about what I'm doing, but it seems if I could get a Shiraz grape pack for less than $60, then I may be able to have a similar kit at a discounted cost. I have looked through some old threads and found a couple sources for skins, but these don't indicate any particular varietal:



These may even be the same product. It seems many of the grape skin providers of the past are no longer in business. Does anyone know of any other good sources of grape packs, perhaps with a selection of varietals? And would adding third-party skins likely improve the cheaper kits? And what about raisins as an alternative? My biggest goal in this endeavor is to save myself money, so I'm looking to maximize my bang for buck.
 

sour_grapes

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Welcome. Your user name made me laugh out loud.

My opinion is that, yes, adding a skins pack to a non-skins kit will improve that kit. (You may need to be a little careful that you don't wind up with too high of an initial SG, and hence a high ABV.) I don't know if it would be better or worse than a kit shipped with skins, which generally have a larger volume of juice, too.

Unfortunately, I am unable to help you find another source for a skin-pack. The Mosti Mondiale one in your first link is the only one I knew of.
 
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Glad you enjoyed. I also just realized I misspelled Quentin. :p Too late now I guess! That is a good point about the kit volume. I had completely overlooked that. Seems the more expensive kits have higher volumes, so I may assume the quality of makeshift kit might not reach that of a more premium kit. Something to consider. I guess I also need to consider a change in methods that take the skins into account, perhaps with two weeks in the primary fermenter with the skins and a longer time-till-bottling. I do worry I am shooting myself in the foot a little in that, from what I've gathered, kits with skins take longer until they are drank. I don't want to wait too long before I see the rewards of my hobby. That said, I'm not that picky with wine and will drink a jug of Carlos Rossi if you put it in front of me. This might beg the question why I even care about making a better wine. I suppose just because I can.
 

Ajmassa

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Drink the cheap stuff and try to let the higher quality stuff age as long as possible! And toss those instructions timelines in the trash- they are giving you the absolute minimum time till bottled. And many of the steps are a byproduct of this rushed process which is obviously more appealing to consumers. But any way ya slice it- age helps.
Minimal options out there for skins packs. And no varietal specific packs I believe. But that really doesn’t matter. That mosti mondiali pack is fantastic. I’ve used it a few times. It’s about 9lbs. And if your kit has no skins- then 100% use it. Hell, use 2! The more grape skins the better. Don’t sweat the abv bump- many people are adding sugar to get to around 1.100 anyway. Just record the SG before & (few hours) after.
There’s also a few small items you can do that differ from the instructions to improve the wine too. So don’t hesitate to post more questions- just make sure you post BEFORE taking action.
 
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Thanks for the input. So I ended up finding a better value in a kit that has skins included this time around (Okanagan Meritage), but I certainly will be buying some skins to improve the cheaper kits I end up getting. I will definitely not hesitate to ask questions. I have so much to learn, I'm already enjoying the hobby, and I haven't even had my first drink yet. I appreciate everyone's help.
 
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salcoco

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the intent of the grape skins is to add tannin to the wine. there are alternative. powdered tannin for fermenting and at post ferment are available . visit scottlabs.com also morewinemaking.com has tannin. I have good luck adding 4 oz of dried elderberries, a good tannin source, to my fermentation. wine needs to be aged about a year to benefit.
 
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Great. I am particularly interested in elderberries/elderflowers, because they grow abundantly in my backyard. Might I assume that fresh would be better than dried, but I might need 4x as much? I also just happen to have ordered a food dehydrator and vacuum sealer, so dried will be an option for me as well.
 

salcoco

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I am not sure how much fresh elderberries need to be added to get the tannin level you need. if to much the tannin will smooth with age it would just take longer.
 

mhopkins

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Okay, I am a bit off topic, as this is not about a kit. On a whim, I decided to make a 6-gallon batch with Welch's grape juice - store bran, but 100% grape juice without the additives often found in store-bought juices. Used oak: 1/2C French oak, medium toast and 4.5C American oak, untoasted. It's been aging since March 6. the nose is nice. And the finish is not bad. But between is AWFUL! Kinda tends toward a port flavor profile, but not good. Rather than tossing the batch (which was always a plan B) I am thinking to puree some dates and add to the carboy. Let is sit a couple of months and see how it turns out. That said, I am wide open to any advice, counsel, ideas.
Or, maybe this post doesn't even belong, since I am not working with a kit?
 

Rocky

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Okay, I am a bit off topic, as this is not about a kit. On a whim, I decided to make a 6-gallon batch with Welch's grape juice - store bran, but 100% grape juice without the additives often found in store-bought juices. Used oak: 1/2C French oak, medium toast and 4.5C American oak, untoasted. It's been aging since March 6. the nose is nice. And the finish is not bad. But between is AWFUL! Kinda tends toward a port flavor profile, but not good. Rather than tossing the batch (which was always a plan B) I am thinking to puree some dates and add to the carboy. Let is sit a couple of months and see how it turns out. That said, I am wide open to any advice, counsel, ideas.
Or, maybe this post doesn't even belong, since I am not working with a kit?
Mark, when I have a wine that if find sub-par and I am not sure what to do, I make a Sangria (either red or white) out of it. Adding a variety of fresh fruits like oranges, lemons, pineapple etc. and some club soda covers a multitude of sins. This time of the year, it is a real refresher.
 

mhopkins

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Mark, when I have a wine that if find sub-par and I am not sure what to do, I make a Sangria (either red or white) out of it. Adding a variety of fresh fruits like oranges, lemons, pineapple etc. and some club soda covers a multitude of sins. This time of the year, it is a real refresher.
Thanks. I may just have to resort to that strategy.
 

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