Making wine for a living is a noble pursuit, and there are numerous ways to get into it. Old World countries of Spain, France and Italy have centuries-old traditions of winemaking handed down through generations. New World countries may not have the history, though it is certainly common for wisdom and skills to be exchanged between peers.
Formal wine education
Today, most professional winemakers go through formal education and training, at specialist oenology schools such as Montpellier SupAgro in France, Hochschule Geisenheim University in Germany or the University of California, Davis, in the USA. These courses teach viticulture and oenology to the highest levels, and students are expected to invest a lot in terms of time, money and energy. Graduates are Masters of Science, Masters of Engineering and more. It is a noble pursuit, but it’s not an option for everybody. One (relatively) affordable option is to enter the world of home brewing or home wine making.
Get started: A wine making starter kit
There is a distinct group of people that enjoy making wine at home. Assuming that you don’t have own your own vineyard or have a state of the art winery in your basement, the easiest way to do this is by buying wine kits: Red wine kits, white wine kits and even sparkling wine kits are all out there for the taking. Before you dive in, though, seasoned home winemakers suggest that you invest in a wine making starter kit. Expert sites such as Northern Brewer say that the wine making starter kit is perhaps the most important investment that a home winemaker will make. The exact contents of these kits can vary, but a good starter kit will include:
- A fermenter (at least a primary fermenter, perhaps a secondary fermenter too)
- Cleaning and maintenance equipment
- Thermometer and other equipment to monitor progress
- Bottle filler (and possibly bottles too)
- Corks and corking equipment
Any decent wine making starter kit will include the above at a minimum, and should also include a range of other complicated-sounding scientific components. Crucially, any good wine making starter kit will include an instructional guide or DVD to walk you through the process. The experts say that it really isn’t as complicated as it may sound!
For those that are interested in taking this route, there is no shortage of quality providers. Get Googling and we wish you the best of luck. For those that don’t have an all-encompassing desire to turn their living room into a wine lab, we will suggest a few alternatives that are in keeping with the home wine making spirit!
What to buy instead of a wine making starter kit: Château de Valandraud
Wine is big business, for sure, but not all wine is made in large factories and processing plants. In fact, most good wine is not. Most self-respecting makers of quality wine would be appalled at the use of giant tanks and other industrial-style equipment. Some winemakers take this even further, and perhaps the most famous example here is Jean-Luc Thunevin of Château Valandraud in the St. Emilion region of Bordeaux, France. Thunevin and his wines are inextricably linked with the so-called “Garagiste” wine movement, typified by a very small-scale labour-intensive model of actually making wine in one’s garage. The resulting wine is truly small batch and highly distinctive. It’s not cheap, but a bottle of Valandraud will cost you about as much as that wine making starter kit would have, so keep that in mind!
- Château de Valandraud 2005 is one of the outstanding wines of an outstanding vintage, and was awarded 95 points by Robert Parker. Fair warning: The quality of the vintage and scarcity of the wine mean that this will probably cost you more in the region of two wine making starter kits!
- Château de Valandraud 2004 is from an underrated vintage, but still packs a 91+ point score from Robert Parker and is something of a bargain at this price!