You may be curious about a way of making wine intermediate between using fresh fruit and making kit wines. Increasingly popular, the hobby of making wine from grape juice comes in two formats: sterile and frozen. In turning these juices into fine wine, the winemaker uses steps and processes from both the fresh and concentrate sides of the practice.
Frozen juice for winemaking got its start in the 1970s when Peter Brehm (now of Brehm Vineyards) owned a homebrew shop in Berkeley, California. At that time, North American wine grapes (Vitis vinifera) were mainly grown in California and a few other places, and that severely limited the options for home winemakers.
Since the days of Prohibition, some fresh grapes had made their way to eastern US and Canadian cities by rail, though they often didn’t arrive in the best of shape. Brehm wondered if it might be possible to put red grapes through a stemmer/crusher, and freeze the unfermented must. White grapes could be both crushed and pressed, with only the juice frozen. Once put in buckets, frozen and stored, grapes or juice could be shipped almost anywhere anybody wanted to make wine, and winemaking could be carried out year-round. Because the fruit and pulp is included in the red must bucket containing about 5.0 gallons (19 L), the eventual wine yield will be about 3.0 gallons (12 L). Since the whites are all juice, a volume close to the original 5.0 gallons (19 L) will result.
Freezing, cold storage and shipping would add to the cost of the grapes, but expanding both the places and seasons in which premium wines could be made was an exciting possibility. One of us (Byron) was working for Peter back then, and participated in some of the earliest experiments, which proved a great success. In some years since then, he’s continued to buy a few buckets of frozen juice and make wine in years when the pace of the grape harvest was so intense that there just wasn’t time for those of us in the trade to make as much wine from fresh grapes as we wanted during the season.