Festa Juice Merlot

One of the most impressive wineries here in Ontario is the Magnotta Winery. Originally began as a home winemaking juice supplier, the founder married a wonderful woman who helped grow the family business from a distributor of juices into a complete winery.

Today, even though Magnotta is one of the top independent wineries in Ontario, they also have continued on with their “Festa Juice” division, aimed at the home winemaker. Festa Juice offers a variety of juices, in both pasteurized and pure fresh refrigerated juice, with availability depending upon the time of year.

There IS a difference between their pasteurized and “fresh” juice, which well look at here, in this review of the Merlot juice I recently purchased. First, the pasteurized juice is more of a “kit” than the pure fresh juice. The pasteurized juice comes with instructions, yeast, sulfite and stabilizer – however, the pure juice does not.

Yet, in a sense, the pure juice is still a “kit” in a small sense of the word. For example, when I purchased my pure unpasteurized Festa Juice Merlot, I picked it up from my favorite retailer, Winemakers here in Orangeville. It came in a sealed 21 litre pail that my proprietor had picked up the day before from the Magnotta store in Vaughan, Ontario. When I picked it up however, it had already started to ferment as Festa Juice had previously innoculated the juice with yeast which became active after being introduced to warmer temperatures.

When I got it home, unsealed the lid, and took the specific gravity, my reading was 1.074 – respectable considering it had already been fermenting for a day or two. I let it continue to ferment for another week, and when the SG was down to 1.000, I racked into a 23 litre carboy to continue the secondary fermentation for another week.

The following week, the SG had reached 0.998, and I then racked off the lees into a 19 litre carboy, with about half a litre left over.

This particular “kit” is likely not suitable for the beginner home winemaker because of the lack of instructions and other addiditives that one might add while making this wine. However, for the price, considering it is pure juice, it’s probably a bargain at $52.00 retail. True, there’s no instructions, no packets of sorbate or sulphite, no labels, no clearing agents – but trying purchasing 21 litres of pure juice anywhere else, and I’m sure you’re likely going to pay much more than 52 bucks.

At this point, I’ve finished stablizing and sulfiting the wine and I’ll likely let it sit for the next couple of months and see how it clears on it’s own before adding any clearing agents. If I think I need to help it along, I’ll do so.

My Personal Comments


  • Pure juice. No water needs to be added.
  • Price. At $52.00 retail, it’s a bargain compared with many kits.


  • No instructions. If you’ve never made wine before, don’t start with “Festa Juice” pure juice
  • Yeast type unknown
  • No additional additives

Another thing I’m not sure about – the Festa Juice website suggests that the pure juice also includes grape skins. I can tell you that there were NO grape skins in this Merlot that I purchased.

Notwithstanding that, the juice had very good colour, a wonderful odour when I first opened the lid, and for the price, I’m really looking forward to discovering whether I can make 25 bottles of good quality Merlot from this 52 dollar investment. If you live in Southern Ontario, you might want to see if you can get your hands on some pure juice from Magnotta/Festa Juice and give it a try yourself.

Tasting Notes

To follow.


  1. Andrés on October 9, 2014 at 5:42 pm

    Thanks for your comments. I was considering buying a “kit” with grape skins. Have you tried those kits? I am not concerned about the lack of instructions because I have been making wine for quite a while (more than 15 years) but still I am wondering about the fact that the tutorials they have uploaded do not say anything about degassing the wine. Do you still degas the wine made from their kits?


    • admin on July 1, 2015 at 10:40 pm

      I have tried the kits with grape skins, and the ones I’ve tried, have been awesome! As far as degassing – it depends. I generally bulk age my red wines for a very long time (sometimes up to a year) and they degas on their own, over that long period of time.

      If I am going to bottle the wine with less bulk aging time, and there is obviously still a large amount of CO2 in the wine, then I definitely will degas before bottling.

  2. jerry on November 18, 2014 at 8:26 pm

    This is the first year my Festa juice Cabernet fermented in an oak barrel has a slight taste of vinegar. Please advise

  3. Andrés on June 20, 2016 at 2:26 pm

    The degassing of the wine is achieved by shaking the carboy several times for a couple of minutes once fermentation is finished. I have tried the cabernet sauvignon with skins and it is the best wine I ever made. I have been making wine for 20 years.

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