One of the things on my “Todo” list for the December holidays was to make my own wine. Yes, really…. well, at least legally. One thing that is definitely noticeable about prices in Canada (I don’t think Ontario is the only province) is that prices for alcoholic beverages are, well… high… primarily because of the cost of taxes on alcohol. Having come from Arkansas, where I remember being able to buy a beer for a buck (yes, I know it was domestic (American), but it was still a beer), it is disconcerting to have to spend three or four times as much to quench my thirst downtown.
Now, I have no problem with taxes: they help to pay for universally used items (like roads and police and museums) and to redistribute wealth fairly effectively. But right now Canada’s taxation system is less than… progressive. Taxes on alcohol also prevent people from getting too drunk to be functioning members of society. (I don’t earn enough to be able to drink like I did in the States.) But I do like a drink with a meal, and so we’ve been looking for ways to do so economically. We’ve done some home brewing of beer, and had a great time doing so. Our beer might not be as consistent with regards to taste as more commercial brands, but it still has as good quality. (Though we did have to finish it in 2-litre bottles because we’ve not had time to invest in a full rack of bottles yet.)
Then we discovered “The Wine Butler”. It was through a Groupon, actually, so our first visit was a particularly good deal: normally $199 for ~30 bottles of wine works out to a fairly good deal on the regular price (< $7 per bottle), and the Groupon was less than half that cost. (I’m sure they did the “Groupon” just to get some advertising and word out in the city… and it worked.) I suppose the drawback is that you end up with 30 bottles from the same batch (your batch), so they’re all the same… which could be either great or (possibly) awful. But the risk is minimal. My father used to make his own wine, and it was pretty good: especially if left to age for a bit. And that was a much more random process. Since this is directed by professionals and uses their equipment and ingredients, I expect it to be even better.
I had actually thought this was a fairly new process: but as I’ve talked about it, more of my friends have done it… sometimes years ago. I thought we were discovering something new, but it’s simply something we’ve not come across yet.
The experience of brewing was a blast… though quick. This being our first time, we wanted as much information as we could, and all our questions were answered. And when we were ready, they took us to our “batch”: a ~20 litre (5 gallon?) carboy marked with our name and all ready to process. The guy who was in charge of our visit asked us who wanted to proceed: I said that Tim could do it, so he gave Tim the packet of yeast, and Tim poured it in the readily positioned funnel… and that was it. They then put the carboy in the back (the racks visible in back were quite extensive) and call us in 6-8 weeks to do the bottling. Again, we use their equipment to bottle, cork and label the final product, so it will take about an hour. We’ll probably pay to buy their bottles (~1/bottle), which we can then reuse on subsequent visits.
I’ll keep you informed with the process as it unfolds.