Smart Dog WineryTM

a smart dog can sniff out a good wine

Start in the middle - Starting with kits

Or the advantages of starting with kits.  Reading about wine making can make it can seem a daunting task to start with several hundred pounds of grapes and hope to turn it into a good wine.   And it is, but you can make a very good, even award winning wine by starting part way through the process.   This is where wine concentrate kits come in.

Both skip the crushing/destemming and pressing stage (frozen must still requires pressing).  The concentrate kits generally advertise that you can have a drinkable wine in four (4) weeks (actually generally takes a while longer, but will get to that in a bit).

Making a good wine at home is not difficult, but it does take time.  Rushing through steps can turn a potentially good wine into something that is totally undrinkable.  Starting with a kit can teach you a lot of the basics.

What comes in a typical kit?

The wine kit will included most of the following the following:

·        Grape concentrate/juice

·        If it is a red wine, it may contain a packet of dried grape skins

·        Yeast

·        A packet of Bentonite (type of clay) - helps yeast activity and removes proteins.

·        May contain oak granulars, elderberries, elderflowers, essence bottle, reserve bag

·        A packet of Potassium Metabisulphite - used to prevent oxidation & improve shelf life.

·        A packet of Potassium Sorbate - used as an anti-microbial agent to prevent re-fermentation.

·        A packet of Fining Agent - removes proteins, which results in a clear stable wine

When you first open a kit look for the specific instruction leaflet for that kit.  Read it and make sure you got all of the components for that kit.  For some wine styles, you may be supplied multiple packages of the same ingredient (e.g. yeast, bentonite, oak, fining agent).  For your first wines make sure you follow the instructions and use all the ingredients in the steps outlined.  Later you can start changing things (on subsequent kits).

The equipment I listed in Getting Started (I) are generally required, but the following are needed as a minimum.

·        Primary Fermentor - A food grade plastic container calibrated to 23L. (6 US Gal.).

·        Secondary Fermentor - A glass or plastic carboy to hold 23L. (6 US gal.) and will fit a fermentation lock.

·        Fermentation Lock & Bung - Fits into the carboy, and is half-filled with water or sterilizing solution. Allows CO2 to escape and prevents oxygen and spoilage organisms from entering the wine.

·        Siphon Hose & Rod - Approximately 6ft long flexible, food grade tubing with a rigid plastic siphon rod.

·        Hydrometer - Used to check Specific Gravity of your wine at different stages of the fermentation process.

·        Wine Bottles - 30 x 750ml and corks

 Four days over four weeks and about 12 hours to your first wine.

The following is a general overview of a typical kit process.  I strongly suggest you keep good notes and perhaps pictures as you go along so that you either repeat it or change it as you desire,

DAY ONE - WEEK ONE – about Four hours

1.     Clean and sanitize the primary fermenter, lid, wine thief, hydrometer and stirring spoon. Rinse well with warm water four times. Place primary fermenter on a table or counter.

2.     Pour four litres of warm water into the primary fermenter. Add contents of Bentonite packet and stir well for two minutes. NOTE: There may be some undissolved Bentonite after stirring for two minutes. This is normal.

3.     Holding the bag of grape concentrate upright by the neck, carefully remove the cap. NOTE: The snap cap on the bag is easily removed with a standard bottle opener.

4.     Empty the bag of grape concentrate into the primary fermenter. NOTE: The natural sugars in the concentrate may crystallize and become solid. This is normal. The crystals will dissolve when mixed with water and stirred.

5.     Fill empty bag with warm water and pour into the primary fermenter.

6.     Add cool water to the primary fermenter up to the 23 litre level.

Primary Fermenter

7.     Stir thoroughly for two minutes with the stirring spoon. This is important for proper fermentation.

8.     Measure the Specific Gravity using a hydrometer and wine thief. The Specific Gravity should be 1.085 to 1.090 or higher. If the Specific Gravity reading is lower stir liquid again for two minutes. Record the date and Specific Gravity.


9.     If oak is included in your kit, add now. Stir well.

10.  Sprinkle contents of wine yeast pack over the surface of the liquid.

11.  Cover the primary fermenter with a loosely resting lid or a lid fitted with an air-lock (half-filled with water) and stopper.

12.  Leave wine to ferment in a warm place (approximately 20°-24º C or 68°-75º F) for seven days and until the Specific Gravity is 1.010 or below.

DAY SEVEN - WEEK TWO – about two hours

1.     Measure the Specific Gravity using a hydrometer and wine thief. Record the date and Specific Gravity where indicated above. The Specific Gravity should be 1.010 to .990. If not, wait a day or two.

2.     Clean and sanitize syphon hose, racking tube and carboy. Rinse well with warm water at least three times.

3.     Syphon the wine from the primary fermenter on a table or counter to the carboy on the floor, leaving the sediment behind. This will leave a space in the carboy. Do not top-up the carboy at this time. See tips for details on syphoning.

4.     Fit the fermentation lock (half-filled with water) and stopper into the neck of the carboy. Place the carboy on a table or counter. Leave for 11 days until all fermentation is over and the Specific Gravity is .996 to .990.

DAY 18 - WEEK THREE – about two hours

1.     Measure the Specific Gravity using a hydrometer and wine thief. Record the date and Specific Gravity where indicated above. The Specific Gravity should be .996 to .990. If not, wait one more week.

2.     Syphon the wine from the carboy on the table/ counter to a clean carboy on the floor, being careful not to disturb the sediment. If another carboy is not available, syphon the wine into the primary fermenter. Clean the carboy and syphon the wine back into the carboy.

Sipon primary to secondary

3.     Sanitize the stirring spoon. Rinse with warm water three times.

4.     Using a clean container, mix contents of metabisulphite packet and sorbate packet in 125 ml of cool water. Add mixture to the carboy of wine.

5.     Add contents of the Kieselsol packet to the carboy of wine.

6.     Stir the wine vigorously for three minutes with the handle of the stirring spoon. Stir hard enough to create foaming on the surface. Repeat this step at least 6 times over a 24 hour period. Attach the fermentation lock after each stirring. It’s very important to carry out this step to de-gas the wine. Otherwise, the wine may not clear well

7.     After all the stirrings have been completed, add the contents of Chitosan packet. Stir gently for 30 seconds.

8.     Add clean room temperature water or a similar finished wine into the neck of the carboy to within two inches of the bottom of the fermentation lock.

9.     Place the carboy on a table or counter to allow the sediment to settle and not be disturbed at the next stage when syphoning. 9. Leave the wine to clear for 10 days.

DAY 28 - WEEK FOUR – about four hours

Bottling Wine is brilliantly clear. If not clear, you can wait another week. You may wish to filter the wine before bottling, but I have found that by letting it clear it self by settling generally works.

1.     Sanitize the carboy or primary fermenter, syphon hose, racking tube and bottle filler. Rinse well with warm water three times.

2.     Syphon the wine from the carboy on the table or counter into another carboy. If another carboy is not available, syphon the wine into the primary fermenter. Be very careful not to disturb the sediment on the bottom of the carboy. It’s helpful to secure the racking tube at the neck of the carboy with a clamp or clothes pin. If desired, wine may be filtered before bottling.

3.     At this point, you can sweeten the wine to your taste. Make a prepared sugar syrup by boiling one half cup of water and one cup of white granulated table sugar. Cool the syrup, then gently stir small amounts of the sugar syrup into the wine until the desired sweetness level is reached.

4.     Sanitize wine bottles, rinse well with warm water three times.

5.     Place the carboy/primary fermenter of wine on the table or counter.

Bottle Filling

6.     Syphon the wine into bottles on the floor, leaving about 2.5 cm (1 inch) space once corks are inserted.


7.     Insert dry corks using a corker.

8.     Apply wine bottle labels and shrink wraps.

9.     Keep bottles upright for seven days, then lay bottles on their sides in a cool area (13º to 18º C, 55º to 64º F) for aging. Avoid extended aging of wine if stored above this range.

10.  Although palatable immediately, for optimal taste, age the wine for at least a few weeks before consuming.

While your wine is now ready for drinking, allowing it to rest in bottle for at least another four to six weeks is a good idea. 


As a winemaker, there are important factors to keep in mind when making quality wine:

1.     CLEAN & STERILIZE ALL EQUIPMENT AND BOTTLES: Clean stained or dirty equipment using Stericlean and rinse thoroughly prior to sterilizing. Failure to properly sterilize all equipment and bottles may result in an unsuccessful wine. To sterilize equipment dissolve 50g of metabisulphite in 4L (1 US gal.) of water (retain for future use). Be certain to rinse all traces of sterilant from your equipment and bottles before proceeding. Corks may be sterilized by soaking 5-10 minutes in sterilizing solution.

2.     Use a good quality drinking water to make your wine, including tap water, spring or filtered water. Avoid heavily chlorinated water or softened water.

3.     Use a hydrometer to accurately gauge the progress of fermentation.

4.     When racking, try not to splash the wine to minimize the incorporation of oxygen into your wine. Care must be taken not to mix the sediment with the clear wine at the bottling stage. Should this inadvertently occur it will be necessary to let the sediment re-settle for a few days before proceeding. Using a rigid plastic racking tube and clamp in conjunction with the siphon hose is very helpful.

5.     Fill wine bottles so there is 2.5 cm or 1 inch of air space between the wine and the cork. Avoid excess air space in the bottle as this will lead to spoilage and oxidation in the bottled wine.

6.     After corking the bottles, keep bottles upright for seven days to allow corks to properly seal against the bottle neck. After seven days, bottles should be stored on their sides to keep corks moist.

7.     The ideal temperature for storing your finished wine, is 13º to 18º C (55º to 64º F). If you don’t have a cool place to store your bottled wine, avoid aging it for a long time.

This is not an all inclusive guide, but covers the main points in makig your first kit wine.

     MoreWine ingredient kits

     Adventure in Homebrewing ingredient kits

      Nothern Brewer ingredientkits

MIke Albrecht, P.E.

Or my excursion into winemaking

Kit sources

     MoreWine ingredient kits

     Adventure in Homebrewing ingredient kits

      Nothern Brewer ingredientkits

If you have any questions or would like more information please contact me at::