Welch’s Wine: Cheap, quick, and surprisingly good

Welch's WineI just bottled this wine made from concentrated frozen Niagara grape juice – yep, wine from Welch’s grape juice. With good winemaking technique, you can turn this humble ingredient into a crisp dry white wine that’s surprisingly good and perfect for summer.

From a starting gravity of about 1.090, it fermented out to 0.992 and I did not sweeten. I know a lot of people will want to sweeten, but I advise against it. Mainly because it’s very good as a dry wine, but also because I’m afraid that sweetening will bring out a “grape juice” flavor. In fact, if you’re making fruit wine and want it taste more of raspberries, strawberries, or whatever you made it from, sweetening will bring some of the that fruit flavor out. That can be a good thing, but not in this case.

It’s acidic, with titratable acidity (TA) of 7 g/L and pH of 3. It may not look like it from the numbers, but this dry acidic wine is easy to drink – even at five months old.

How much does Welch’s wine cost?

From time to time, the concentrate goes on sale for $1/can. When it does I buy 12 cans, add about 6 lb (2.75 kg) of sugar and water to six gallons (23 liters). This gets me at least 5 gallons (19 liters) of finished wine. Here are the details:

Cost of Welch’s wine
Quantity Unit Cost Total
12 cans concentrate 1$/can $12
6 lb sugar $0.50/lb $3
25 corks $0.35/cork $8.75
Total $23.75

Less than $1/bottle! To simplify, I didn’t include the cost of yeast, acid, or nutrient. They would add a tiny bit to the cost. Using cheaper closures (bag in a box, crown caps) would push the cost down.

Every winemaker should make Welch’s wine

Keeping yourself stocked up on Welch’s wine means never having to worry about topping up. Come up a little short on today’s racking? Pop open one of these.

You can also use a wine like this to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth from other wine. Store bought or homemade, they all should pass this simple test. Is it convincingly better than this $1/bottle wine in a blind tasting? If not, then why spend $10 on that Chardonnay or $150 on that high end kit? Don’t get me wrong; some will be better, but now you’ll know which ones.

But it’s a good wine in it’s own right, and that’s the best reason to make it. Crisp but easy to drink, it’s a good simple wine that you’ll want to have on hand.

About the label

When I started making this wine the headlines were pretty dire. This wine went from fermentation to bottle in less than six months and it cost less than 1$/bottle – and that includes 35 cents for the cork. Throw in easy drinking good flavor and you’ve got the perfect wine for hard times. So I decided to call it “Bailout Blanc.”

To label a wine like that, I wanted artwork that conveyed the stress most people are feeling in a lighthearted way. There are lots of way to do that, but Ferrell McCollough’s photo Chris Overworked really stood out. The composition and the post processing come together perfectly, and he was gracious enough to let me use it on my label.

You see a larger photo of the bottle here.



Was this helpful?

If you got something out of this article, why not spread the word? You can click any of the icons below to give this page a +1 or share it on your favorite social media. Everyone likes a pat on the back - even me!

22 thoughts on “Welch’s Wine: Cheap, quick, and surprisingly good

  1. S

    Great and inspiring post (along with the earlier one). I’m thinking of trying this recipe, but the one “WineThief” posted here sounds interesting too:

    http://www.winepress.us/forums/index.php?showtopic=5941&view=findpost&p=69805

    Never having made either, I don’t have the experience to evaluate the options.

    What do you think of upping the concentrate from two cans per gallon of must, as in your recipe, to three case per gallon, as in his recipe? For reference, the directions of the can indicate about 2.67 cans per gallon (48 oz. reconstituted).

    Also, what do you think of adding a little oak in the primary?

  2. Erroll Post author

    Hello S,

    S? Addressing someone as a letter seems a little odd. I think I’ll call you “Scott” for now.

    Hello Scott,

    Yes, my recipe does not fully reconstitute the juice. I experimented with the concord juice and found I preferred 2 cans/Gallon to fully reconstituted juice. The wine from fully reconstituted juice tasted of grape juice to me, so I’ve been using 2 cans/Gallon ever since. It has good flavor and body when made this way, but I encourage you to experiment – find the concentration that you like.

    A more concentrated must will concentrate everything – sugar, acid, and flavor. So upping the concentrate would mean cutting down the sugar and acid.

    I’ve oaked some of my mead, but I’ve never tried oak in my Welch’s wine. If you like oak in other white wines, then it might be worth a try.

    How about making several 1-gallon batches? One at 2 cans/Gallon, one at 3, and maybe one fully reconstituted. Do some blind tasting and decide which one you like the best. Then make two more batches at that concentration – one with oak and one without. It’s worth the effort, because in the end you’ll have a recipe for Welch’s wine that’s customized to your taste.

    Cheers!
    Erroll

  3. S

    Erroll,

    It was only after I’d posted that I went back and reread the comments in your other post and realized you’d already discussed the concentration question. The testing you propose would be a great future flourish, but I think I will try your recipe first and perhaps later test the higher concentrations and the oak. Thanks for the advice and for the ideas (great blog!). :-)

  4. Matt

    I assume you recommend topping up only whites with this wine, or can it be used to top up reds as well? Any suggestions on a cheap frozen concentrate wine for topping up reds if you don’t recommend this niagara wine for reds? I would think you’d want to avoid concord.

  5. Erroll Post author

    Hello Matt,

    It’s always best to top up with the same wine, but we don’t always have just the right amount of it handy. In cases like that I would’t bat an eye over topping up a red with white Welch’s wine (Niagara). That’s because we’re talking about small amounts that won’t be noticeable when you’re drinking the wine. Topping a white with a red can leave you with a faint but visible tint even if you don’t notice a difference in the taste, so I’d be more hesitant to do that.

    Now it’s a different story, if you’v got a gallon jug half full of red wine and you want to “top” it. In a case like that, you’re really blending not topping, and you’re better off finding a smaller container.

    So where’s the line between topping and blending? That’s really a question of how much work you’re willing to do and how much change you notice. With enough advance planning, you could manage with almost no topping. You’d have to have all manner of small containers: 1-gallon jugs, half-gallon jugs, 1.5 liter bottles, splits, beer bottles, those 8 oz coke bottles they sell around Christmas time, some 4 oz and 6 oz bottles that you bought syrup in. You’d also need all sorts of different sized bunges and maybe other closures, but it could be done.

    I’ll do some of that, but I’ll also top with Welch’s wine.

    Erroll

  6. Brian S.

    Hi there,
    Just read this entry and am interested in maybe starting Niagara. I’ve made two five-gallon batches of 100% Concord Grape Juice – not the frozen stuff. With both samples, it seems there is an aftertaste as it goes down that makes you squint.

    Was just curious if you have tried making the Concord type in addition to the Niagara that you posted here. Could you also be more specific as to what kind of items you used for the wine? What strain of yeast, any additives (acid blend, bentonite, how/when you used campden tablets, etc).

    The 100% Niagara Grape Juice says on the label that it has sorbates added – which will not allow fermentation – so I guess we are limited to using only the frozen concentrate of Niagara.

  7. Erroll Post author

    Hello Brian,

    If you follow the link to my Welch’s Wine Recipe, you will see a more detailed list of addatives. I used Lavlin 71-B yeast for this batch, though I think the particular yeast strain is less important than many people think. I use sulfite before I pitch the yeast, at every other racking, and just before bottling. I clarified with bentonite. I’ve made Welch’s Wine a lot, and I’ve always used the frozen concentrate, but it doesn’t surprise me that ready-to-drink juice stored at room temperature would require more preservatives than frozen concentrate.

    I’ve made wine from the Concord concentrate, and it was good – no squinting here. I just like the Niagara better. I’ve tried sweetening these wines, and I don’t like the result – they taste too much like Welch’s juice to me. Could that be what you’re tasting?

    Erroll

  8. Mushroom Man

    I too have made sweet wines using Juicy Juice belive it or not strawberry and kiwii concentrate and they turned out wonderful just before bottling I top them off with one tablespoon of sugar and 2 table spoons of same concentrate. I get many complaments about this wine around the camp fire. Dry wines are unpallatable for me for some reason. this recipe suites me just fine…

  9. Dave

    I so want to try this. I have decided to start making wine myself. I plan to purchase a wine making kit from a local wine/beer brewing store this weekend.

  10. HLF

    I just started a 5 gal. batch using 100% concord. I made some of this a number of years ago with only juice, water and yeast and it was great. This time I am using 5lb sugar, 1lb dark brown sugar, 1lb honey, 1.5 oz raisins and a double hand full of blueberries. OG was 1.094 at 70F. I have always made more beer than wine but a friend gave me some pears last year and i made some VERY strong wine from them and have become interested again.

  11. John Hance

    Hey, Erroll

    I’m about to begin a batch of your “Bailout Blanc” and wonder what Original Gravity you shot for as well as what your final alcohol content was. As you know from my experience with that strawberry wine (as well as others), I’m trying to take my foot off the proverbial “alcohol content gas pedal” and ease it back a notch to attain a better balance in my wines, so any and all assistance you can afford me would, as usual, be appreciated.

    John

  12. John Hance

    Guess I should read more thoroughly before asking questions. I just clicked over to the other post and saw the answer to my question. Sorry, Erroll!

  13. Maurice

    My wife and I made a 3 gallon batch of this. We started it on Feb. 20th, bottled on Sept. 25th, and just finished a glass. It’s a little grapey for our tastes but still very drinkable and you can’t beat the price! I think we’re going to try doing this as a pyment next year (substituting honey for the sugar).

    Thanks for posting this recipe!

  14. yoey

    Mushroom Man, I am very interested in your wine. I just purchased my first wine making kit and have been looking into making a wine precisely like you were speaking of. I only have yeast. I can go back to the brewers shop if i need more but can you let me know your recipe and steps?

  15. benjie

    hi.
    thanks for the article and recipe.
    i emailed welch’s. they said there are no animal products in their 100% juice and 100% concentrate. and they are not filtered with gelatin.
    bye.

  16. David

    I’ve never done this before, so is there anything I need to know about the yeast and the acid besdes knowing where to get it?
    Thanks!

  17. Erroll Post author

    > is there anything I need to know about the yeast and the acid?

    Dave, there’s quite a bit you can learn about yeast and acid. The good news is that you don’t have to if you follow the recipe!

    Erroll

  18. Chad

    I have always made this, but the result is champagne. I use 15 frozen 12oz cans of Welchs Purple Grape Concentrate, and 5lbs sugar (which is what the bags are sold in). I use a pack of RedStar Champagne Yeast, and make 5 gallons with it all in a 5gal bucket (starting with 4gal, then adding a gallon of water once fermentations slows). I also re-use my yeast, and ferment later batches by simply pouring a cup or two of “champagne” into the new batch for seeding yeast. Instead of adding more sugar to the secondary fermentation (2L bottles), I add 1 cup or so of water to each bottle (to the line) without any sugar, and then fill from the primary (lowers the alcohol content slightly so the yeast ferments again, slightly dilutes for more product to make 24L). It’s great. None of the ill effects of store-bought wines (no sulfites). No hangover either, same as with home-brew beer – since, I guess, hangovers are caused by B-vitamin depletion, and home-brews contain all the extra B-vitamins to prevent depletion.
    I would guess that most commercial brews are processed in a way that destroys B-vitamins, while often adding chemicals that contribute to a “bad feeling” from drinking the product – but not so with home-brews.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>