You can come up with a fairly good batch of basics wine without the gizmos and gadgets suggested in various how to guides but if you want to insure success or your planning a large batch, a few dollars spent for some hi-tech helpers will be worthwhile. For instance if you are starting with your own fruit you could just make sure you use over ripe fruit.
Or your could buy a refractometer to help you determine if your fruit is ready by accurately measuring the sugar content or Brix of your chosen fruit. This sugar level process can also be measured at a later stage in your wine making and deficiencies can be adjusted then. With a refractometer being a fairly costly and fragile tool, some home winemakers will drop this item from their tool collection in favor of less expensive yet important devices used later in the fermenting process.
If your using your own fruit for scratch wine instead of concentrates you will need to measure the amount of acidity and pH (TA or Titratable Acidity) in your basics wine. The simplest method also happens to be the most effective way to measure T.A. in wine. And that is by using the titration method. This test can be done using an inexpensive titration or acid test kit. These test kits can be purchased for as little as $8.00 on line from anyone specializing in home wine making.