Making Wine at a Ferment-On-Premise Facility – A 3-Step Guide to Success


These days, as commercial wine prices creep upwards, many savvy wine drinkers are turning to a provincially- (or state-) licensed facility where they can “make” their wine. By so-doing, these wine lover’s save money, enjoy wine with way less additives, and participate in the process, usually, by starting and bottling their wine.

Compared to your local wine shop, the ferment-on-premise facility is more complicated – a hybrid of retail store and manufacturing facility. This 3-step guide will ensure that you select the right place… select the right wine… and enjoy both the experience and the results.

Step 1: Choose a clean, organized facility. Go well beyond your initial impressions of the business and ask to see the winemaking room. Is it clean? Are all the fermentation pails and carboys well organized? Do you see other customers’ orders in process? Do you see an inventory of wine kits to choose from?

If your answer to any of these questions is “no”, check out another operation before deciding. In particular, pay attention to cleanliness and organization.

A friend, Chris Boyce, would also tell you to check out the washroom – if it’s a mess, run!

Step 2: Understand the quality levels of wine kits. Most wines made at ferment-on-premise facilities start as “kits” that include grape juice and/or concentrate and other ingredients. Usually, a winemaking order will yield approximately 23 litres (6 US gallons) of finished wine or about 30 bottles.

Wine kits come in many different quality levels: A basic kit is 4-5 litres of grape juice concentrate of unknown origin, while an ultra-premium kit is 18 litres from a stated wine region (or, in some cases, a single vineyard). But, remember, each makes the same quantity – and there will be huge differences in the finished wines.

The store’s owner or employee should explain the difference in wine kit quality levels to you and explain each of the non-juice items that are included in each wine kit. Some red wines are fermented on wet grape skins, others on dried grape skins and some are not fermented on skins at all. There are different types of oak and other additives that should be explained to you.

Step 3: Make a wine style that you already enjoy. For your first made-on-premise winemaking order, choose a wine that you pour now. If it is a Cabernet Sauvignon, learn about the different Cabs that are available to you – and once you have decided, watch your wine kit being opened before your eyes. That way, you know you are getting the wine that you have ordered.

Finally, you will sprinkle the yeast package into the juice (also called the “must”, if you want to impress your friends) to start the fermentation and pay for your purchase.

Then, the intermediate winemaking steps will be handled on your behalf* and, a few weeks later, you will receive a call to arrange a bottling appointment. For this, you return to bottle your wine and personalize it with labels and shrink-wrap tops.

Depending on the wine you chose and your personal taste, you may choose to serve it fresh – or you may choose to bottle age it for a time. Either way, say “Cheers!” to enjoying terrific wines for less m

* * * *

* Regulations regarding customer participation vary by jurisdiction. Please check with a ferment-on-premise business in your province or state to know precisely what your obligations are as a consumer.


Source by Judy A. McFarlane