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What to consider going AG (All Grape)

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Mike

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I've been brewing my own beer for about 3.5 years now. I started brewing with extract kits, but within about 6-12 months, I had switched to all grain and have been doing it every since. For those unfamiliar, some of the main advantages of AG brewing include:
  • lower costs per batch from buying ingredients in bulk
  • more control over the process
  • a higher quality product
  • more pride in the final product based on an "I made it from scratch" concept

The main disadvantages are:
  • much more (expensive) equipment required
  • a more involved process/longer, more strenuous brew days

I started making wine about a year ago and have made 3 kits thus far with 2 more to be bottled shortly. I'm now interested in what is entailed in making the same jump in winemaking that I made in homebrewing; going from extract kits to making the product from scratch. Briefly speaking with some fellow winemakers at my LHBS, it seemed like the cost of raw grape juice was about the same as buying kits. Additionally, the turn around is much longer for wine made from scratch. Those two things kind of turned me off to the idea.

I'm hoping to get the thoughts of people on here regarding the pluses and minuses of going "all grape" (is that what's its called in winemaking?). Are the two statements above about cost and turn around true?

Thanks!
 

rawlus

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both methods still retain the same aging calendar for the most part.
using grapes there are a few added equipment costs - crusher, press
many grape users make much larger batches than 6gal at a time in order to maximize the potential of their equipment investment, this means larger fermentation tanks and storage vessels. more raw material costs, etc.
grapes usually must be done at specific times, waiting for a better time may risk good fruit, kits are unaffected by this.
substantially more lab work is required for grapes - you will need to be comfortable with and have the equipment to do acidity testing, SO2 testing, PH reading and determining correct amendments to adjust any of these during the process.
with a fresh product, you're more on your own but for many that is what makes the difference as the resulting product is more "one of a kind" than that from a kit. depending on the quality of the fruit (which can often be affected by price) you have the potential to produce wines that rival commercial alternatives. but again, there are more balls to keep in the air if you will in order to make that happen. kits are, for the most part, set it and forget it.

i am sure others will chime in with some wisdom too.
 

Sacalait

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I've bought some canned juice but aside from that, the fresh fruit method has been a way of life for me. So so true that this method is much more labor intense and the results are not always predetermined as with kits. As for cost, for me it's a no brainer since I either produce my own fruit or obtain it for little on nothing. It's the joy of producing a product that's mostly one of a kind... bragging rights.
 

Mike

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My LHBS offers to crush/press grapes for $2/box. They also offer juice in 6-Gallon buckets and grapes in 36 pound increments. Assuming both of these are considered "all grape", why do they sell them in those two forms?

What about the cost of premium kits (I paid ~$120 each for my last two) vs. grapes/juice plus other ingredients to make a batch? Also, when you guys say "fruit", are you referring to grapes or other fruits used to make different wines?

Is there a book (like "How To Brew" for those who brew) that is a must-read for those interested in learning more about winemaking?
 
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cpfan

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One pro for All Grain beer making is the ability to make pretty much any style.

One con of non-kit wine making is the inability to make many styles. For example, our favourite white has been a German Gewurztraminer. While we can probably get G'wine grapes or juice in our area, it won't be from Germany.

PS, most of the kits that I make are AG (All Grape). The exception would be the Mist kits.

Steve
 

arcticsid

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Steve, we talk in here alot about buying juice. Is it possible to take dehydrated grapes, or any other fruit for that matter, rehydrate them and come up with a viable product. Not dried, dehydrated?
Troy
 

Mike

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Thanks Steve. Can you explain what all grain kits are? Are you just talking about kits with skins?
 

Sacalait

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When referring to fruit wines it's considered all fruits other than grapes.
 

cpfan

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Steve, we talk in here alot about buying juice. Is it possible to take dehydrated grapes, or any other fruit for that matter, rehydrate them and come up with a viable product. Not dried, dehydrated?
Troy
Troy,

I'm not sure what difference you think there is between dried and dehydrated. I have seen recipes for raisin wines, but have not tried one.

I'm not aware of a ready source for dehydrated wine grapes (and a recipe).

Personally, wine kits are so readily available to me, and I enjoy the results, that I haven't done much outside that realm. Last winter I made three 1 gallon batches from various grocery store juices. I've got plans for a couple more this winter.

Steve
 

Mike

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Steve: My question was in response to this comment you made in which you refer to "all grape" wine kits:

PS, most of the kits that I make are AG (All Grape). The exception would be the Mist kits.
 

cpfan

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Thanks Steve. Can you explain what all grain kits are? Are you just talking about kits with skins?
Mike:

You're the one who started out talking about "All Grain" beer making.

If you meant what I meant by "All Grape" kits, the better kits are usually all grape juice or grape concentrate with no sugar added. To me, that's all grape. Not just the ones with skins added. Probably just me being a little ornery.

Steve
 

Mike

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I don't think my confusing "all grape" nomenclature probably is helping! When I say "all grape", I'm referring to no kits at all, but rather making wine from buying raw grapes and pressing, etc. them yourself.
 

kiljoy

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Mike,

If you grow grapes or have access to them, go for it. If you have to buy them, you might as well buy juice. One thing I may suggest; go to your local winery, not the LHBS. My local winery sells bulk juice every year at harvest time. I get a newsletter that states which juices will be for sale, at what times, and how much $$. Of course, my winery is only about 15 minutes away.
 

Mike

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Interesting thought killjoy. How much do they charge you for the juice for a 6 gallon batch?
 

kiljoy

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Sorry Mike, I don't think I have the newsletter anymore. I had pleanty of my own grapes this year, so I didn't pay much attention. I'll see if I still have it when I get home.
 

smurfe

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Mike, a book called From Vines to Wines would be a good read for you if you enjoyed How To Brew. It covers basic winemaking from grapes very well. THe process isn't much different than from kits except you will need to be able to test the juice for pH, acidity etc and make adjustments. You will have more solids than kit wines so clearing may take longer. It still is basically the same process fermentation wise. Just choose a yeast and use oak cubes or staves for your oak profile and you are good to go. All juice is always the way to go if it is available over a concentrate kit.
 

Wade E

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OK, your going to need a press most likely. You can get the grapes at that store and have them crushed right tere and destemmed but unless your doing a white wine t=you dont press them until you have fermented on the grapes. So that is going to require getting a press or bringing all of that bak down to the shop to press it and then back home again unless they also rent that stuff which would be the better way to go. Personally I dont think a fresh juice bucket is anything better then a kit, maybe a little chepaer but you still have to buy the oak, fining agent(if you a re going to use 1) Making wine from grapes will(should) take the more time compared to making wine from kits as there is much more solids that must settle out .
 

Russ Stewart

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In response to kiljoy, I bought juice from a vineyard in Sandusky, Oh this fall - Firelands Winery. I paid $5.50/gal for Catawba and Niagara juice, and $12.50/gal for Gewurtz and Riesling juice. I made wine from these juices last year, also, and it came out very good.
 

kiljoy

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Russ,

Small world. That's the one I live by and get the newsletter from. Did you drive up to get it or did they ship it? Sidney is about 3 or 4 hours from here.
 

kiljoy

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OK, found the newsletter. I doubt they would mind the free publicity.

Jiuce COsts.jpg
 
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