Dr. GP is a man of many hobbies. As you know, birding is one of them, but another one of his many hobbies is to ferment things. Anything from cucumbers to okra to habaneros to cabbage…You name it, he wants to try and ferment it! He makes a mean kimchi and his pickled okra is one of my favorite snacks! As I love enjoying drinks made out of fermented grapes, I bought him a make-your-own-wine kit for Christmas. It was the perfect gift! He gets to make wine, and I get to enjoy the wine!
After some research into which company to buy from, I decided on the Merlot kit from Craft a Brew.*They have other wine choices, but I figured that if were to mess it up, it’s easier to mess up a Merlot and come out with something decent rather than something like a Cabernet which could end up undrinkable.
The initial kit ($60) comes with everything you could possibly need to make the wine: a one gallon jug, air lock, grape juice (from the Maipo Valley in Chile), funnel, caps, tube thing, yeast, additives, even Oak (etc…)! The only thing you need to supply are five empty standard wine bottles. Why five? After everything is said and done, the kit makes enough for about five bottles of wine! For the wine drinkers we are, that’s pretty east to have around!
From beginning to end, the entire process takes about four weeks. There are basically three steps:
1- Put everything together, wait 2 weeks while it ferments
2- Clean out some sediment, wait another 2 weeks
3- Bottle and enjoy!
The first step is mostly just putting everything in the jug. After using a sanitation powder to thoroughly clean the tools, add the juice, water, and yeast, oak. Then, let it sit at room temperature for about two weeks. I recommend not keeping the jug in your bedroom, like we did. During those two weeks, you will hear it bubble as it ferments. Dr. GP and I freaked out when we initially heard this noise, not knowing what it was.
After two weeks, the wine needs to be cleaned. Using a siphon, you have to transfer the wine into a large pot, rinse all the sediment out from the bottom of the jug, and then put it back. Get your muscles ready, because now begins about 10 minutes of stirring as other additives are being put in to clean the wine. Dr. GP got tired after about two of those minutes. Again, let the wine sit for two weeks.
Bottling time! This is the messiest step, as now you are siphoning a gallon of wine into five wine bottles. I recommend buying Wine Away Stain Remover, as that gets wine stains out of everything, including kitchen mats and towels! Cap it with the closures that they give you, and that’s it! You can drink it right away!
Now I bet you are all wondering, how did the 2018 Grape Pairings Estate Merlot Grand Cru Riserva turn out? Actually, much better than expected! We drank one glass right away. It was extremely fruit forward, full of cherries and oak. To be honest, it was almost too fruit forward and very one note…no complexity at all. However, an hour later, while still fruit forward and oaky, it became much more balanced with a slight element of baking spice coming through. The texture, both when first opened and an hour later, was very silky, which was rather nice, and had a full body. I enjoyed it a lot more after that breathing time. Is it the best wine we have ever had? No, but it’s a fun wine to drink!
The Merlot can easily be enjoyed on its own. It is so smooth! While I haven’t paired it with food yet, I imagine that due to its extreme fruit and oak flavors, and with its full body, could be enjoyed with almost anything savory. I would stray away from acidic meals, like tomato or barbecue sauces, but cheese/charcuterie plates, spicy foods, roasts, burgers, rotisserie chickens would all work!
Would I buy another recipe kit? Absolutely! Maybe next time, I’ll try a different varietal!
*I am not receiving any kind of compensation from Craft a Brew. All reviews and opinions are my own.