Grape Juice:When is a pail of grape juice not a pail of grape juice?
When it’s a pail of grape must (look for this designation on the pail).
A pail of grape must is grape concentrate that has had the water added back into it, (just like you do at home).
It is very difficult to tell how much concentrate went into a pail of grape must.
Access to Grape juice is a fairly rare occurrence and available only during harvest season. It will be shipped flash frozen (unless you live near a vineyard), this prevent the start of fermentation. In the off season, only frozen juice is available and it’s very expensive.
Grape skin kits: enPRIMEUR & Cru INTERNATIONAL
Ranging between 12-18 liters in liquid volume, with an added package of grape skins, these kits are made with high-quality grape juices. Grape skin kits have the highest levels of dissolved solids, but this makes for a drinkability trade-off issue when newly bottled. While the grape skins add phenomenal levels of dissolved solids this also results in quite a bit of harshness in their youth (although some manufacturers have a proprietary processing that moderates this effect slightly). As the wine ages, it drops the rough edges and comes into smooth maturity, and really replicates the finest commercial wines. With this extra level of solids and grape material, these grape skin kits are not designed to be best enjoyed when young. They are for laying down and forgetting about for 6 to 12 months. With the proper corks and storage conditions these kits can mature gracefully for 2 to 3 years. As with all wine kits you can drink them much younger, but they do get remarkably better and better as time passes.
Super-premium kits: Cru SELECT
Ranging between 16-18 liters, super-premium kits have the highest levels of TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) of non-grape pack kits, and the finest (and most expensive) juices available, usually from single, delimited vineyards. They require patient aging to show their charms and will develop over an even longer period than the premium kits. The whites at this level are unlikely to show their best before 12-16 months, and the reds can take as long as 24 months before they really blow the hosiery off your appendages. But again, they do have wonderful power and appeal when they’re younger than that — many people do drink them much younger with great pleasure. Besides their flavours, depth and complexities, these super-premium kits are easily distinguishable from their premium cousins by their price. As high-end juices at this level simply cost more.
Premium kits: Cru INTERNATIONAL whitesSized between 12-15 liters and with high levels of varietal juice and high TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), Premium kits don’t drink especially well for the first few months. In fact, most whites don’t fully open up for 6 months, and most reds need 9-12 months to show proper flavour or nose. This is not to say they taste bad: indeed, by three months of age they can surpass the mid-volume kits in taste and aroma. But they continue to develop fabulously.
Indeed, while acknowledging the aging differences mentioned above, most Premium kits will actually improve for two to four more years with proper corks and cellar conditions.
Mid-volume: GRAND Cru
Jumping up a step from 100% concentrate kits in both juice content and TDS (Total Dissolved Solids), mid-volume kits between 9-10 liters in size are again slower to mature, but provide a greater reward after appropriate aging. Although both reds and whites perform relatively well after 3 months, the whites perform best in 4-6 months, and reds want 8-10 months to show their best. Varietal differentiation is usually heightened in this formulation, and they reward further aging for up to 2 years.
100% concentrate: HERITAGE ESTATES
With their low levels of TDS (total dissolved solids), these kits mature very quickly, as they produce very few distinctive varietal characteristics. Within a week or two of recovering from bottle shock, they taste pretty much as good as they ever will, rewarding those who need wine in a hurry. Some of the truly low end all concentrate kits contain concentrates other than grape, to reduce costs.
Based on an excerpt from: WineMaker Magazine Apr/May 2003