PERFECT GOOSEBERRY WINE RECIPE

Gooseberry wine 2017
Gooseberry wine at seven days old. Just entered secondary fermentation.

My grandparents used to live in the stranger parts of Northumberland with a huge gooseberry bush in the garden that would produce enough gooseberries for crumble for about 19 months of the year which would always be the ending to huge family dinners.

It’s a car park now.

 

I will never be as green fingered as my granddad and personally have no intention of entering any leek shows but I do want to grow some gooseberries for wine and have invested in some bushes. While I gently kill those through neglect I have to rely on shop bought ones. Gooseberries are seasonal and the pink dessert gooseberries emerge later in the season around July. Pink gooseberries are less tart with a lighter floral flavour than the more common green version. Both can be used to make wine and there are good reports of green gooseberry champagne but I am yet to venture into it. You can use 100% green in a recipe, a combination or 100% pink. It really is down to personal preference and availability but most recipes decide to do a 2/3 split towards the pink.

CLICK HERE FOR LAST YEARS GOOSEBERRY pt 1

CLICK HERE FOR LAST YEARS GOOSEBERRY pt 2

Gooseberry wine 2016
Gooseberry wine 2016 vintage – opened to test the recipe for this year.

Last year was bit of a nightmare for my gooseberry wine as it was the first time I ever had a stuck fermentation. The yeast would not start fermenting and in the end I had to adjust the acidity with precipitated chalk and use some hardy champagne yeast to get it going. It did provide an opportunity to have two demijohns with differing yeasts in each. It is a nice light white that has cleared to perfection tasting a little like a rosé and as I was restrained and made it a lighter ABV at around 11% the alcohol does not dominate the taste. Ms Gazette seemed particularly taken by it and as she usually likes the full fruitier wines I make rather than the oddities like gorse or oak leaf.

Pressing the gooseberry at 2 days
Gooseberries pre and post press to extract as much juice as possible.

Personally I was a little less satisfied as while very nice I thought it could do with a few changes to the recipe and methods used to make it. The biggest change is pressing the gooseberries two days into the primary fermentation rather than leaving them until the wine moves to secondary at seven to ten days in age. Last years I think was left too long on the skins so an ever so slight after taste entered the wine, with a slight metallic zinc like hint – not enough to ruin it but certainly there. This has been apparent for both of last years wines so it was not yeast or stuck fermentation related as they both varied. The taste was apparent when ever the wine was racked so it seemed to be introduced early into the fermentation. Pressing the gooseberries early with the resulting juice re-entering primary it seems like this has been a success and will be a regular method from now on. I used a press I have invested in but some muslin and strong hands powered by elbow grease are certainly acceptable to squeeze the flavour out. In addition I have decided to jettison the MA33 and EC1118 yeast used last year and moved to Vintners Harvest CY17. I had the last few elderflowers in my freezer so they have been thrown in too. This is simply an addition and the wine will be more than happy with out them.

Gooseberry cold maceration
Top – gooseberries in water then covered thoroughly. Bottom – gooseberries post cold soak three days later then crushed to break the skins

A process used last year was a cold maceration to extract colour, aroma and some flavour out of the berries before they even entered primary fermentation. This required the fruit to sit covered in sterilized water and kept under 15° C – that is 59° Fademheit in American. A cold soak is not needed but it is an easy addition that really seems to pay dividends.

CLICK HERE FOR A FULL GUIDE TO COLD MACERATION

Gooseberry wine fermenting
Quick check with the lid off – Just after being pressed and still in primary fermentation.

With the cold soak and despite the earlier press the juice is a lovely peachy pink hue that is unlike any other wine I have made. Last year the colour seemed to dull just before it was bottled and I believe that gooseberry wine is photosensitive with sunlight dulling the colour but otherwise leaving it unchanged. There are similar issues with prickly pear that turns from a similar pink to amber and beetroot wine turns brown! Orange wine will also dull so all of them need to be either in a green or brown demijohn or be covered thoroughly and kept in the dark as much as possible.

 

GOOSEBERRY and GOOSEBERRY & ELDERFLOWER WINE – 4.5litres

 

NOTES
Suitable Yeasts – CY17 or EC1118. White or rose wine best as a lighter 11% ABV. Can be back sweetened but does not need it. Unsuitable for oaking. Can be turned into a sparkling wine. 18 months before opening.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2kg Gooseberries (use pink dessert gooseberries as much as you can)
  • Optional – flowers from 10 sprays of elderflowers
  • 1kg-ish Sugar to 1.08SG
  • 3.5 litres of water
  • Half teaspoon pectic enzyme
  • 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • Yeast

 

METHOD

  1. Wash the gooseberries and rub off the top and woodier tail (freezing is optional and a week will break down pectin by a half)
  2. Cold soak for 3 days in two litres of boiled then cooled water in a covered container keeping it below 15°C. FULL GUIDE HERE
  3. After the cold maceration crush thoroughly add the rest of the boiled then cooled water (the elderflowers can be added to the water as it cools if you are using them) sugar, pectic enzyme and leave for 24 hours for it to work.
  4. Pitch yeast and yeast nutrient. Leave to ferment for two days.
  5. Remove gooseberries and press. Add the juice back to primary and discard the skins.
  6. After another four to seven days fermentation will slow (gravity will be at about 1.02) move into secondary fermentation in a clean demijohn with airlock.
  7. Rack at four or five weeks to remove the exhausted yeast, then every two or so months if needed.
  8. Bottle at six months of age and drink at 18 months or later.

BLACKCURRANT WINE AND THE KRUSHINATOR

Blackcurrants are rarely sold in shops and when they are they are expensive. I got them from a pick-your-own farm with three kilograms for half the price of a supermarket. Ms Gazette has frozen some for jam making, we made a cordial that will keep for a month, if it lasts that long and then 1.5kg was used for 4.5 litres of wine.

Blackcurrant wine glass and demi
Last years blackcurrant wine opened  and this years entering secondary fermentation

While last years blackcurrant wine is still a year away from truly being mature I opened a bottle to test the recipe ready for this years harvest and fermentation. I was initially worried that there was too little fruit as it uses half a kilogram less per gallon than blackberry wine. That was totally unfounded as although the wine was a medium bodied with light tannin it was full of a rich fruit flavour. Another 12 months will allow the acidity to mellow and it will be a lovely easy drink and a totally different character to the fuller more tannic elderberry or full bodied blackberry wine.

CLICK HERE FOR LAST YEARS BLACKCURRANT WINE pt1

CLICK HERE FOR LAST YEARS BLACKCURRANT WINE pt2

Preparing blackcurrants
Prepping for a cold soak:  De-stemmed, washed, watered and covered.

Blackberry is well suited to a cold maceration that allows colour and flavour to be extracted from the thick berry skins before fermentation is started. It is important to prepare the fruit by removing leaves, bruised or mouldy berries and as much stem as possible. They are then covered in water in a sanitised pan and placed in a fridge to stay cool, ideally between 5 and 15 degrees C. Few microbes or yeast will be active – especially if a campden tablet is used. There are no hard rules as to if or how long a cold maceration should be used but it generally lasts between two and five days, though some wine makers extend this to a whopping 14 days in exceptional circumstances.

 

FULL GUIDE TO COLD SOAK MACERATION HERE

Removing blackcurrants
Removing the blackcurrants to press.

After the cold soak the fruit was allowed to warm and then sugar and acidity were adjusted and the yeast pitched. Fermentation was slow to start with R56 yeast but explosive when it did decide to kick in. After six days primary fermentation was starting to slow so I used my new toy… The Krushinator. Well its a wine press as crushing fruit is different to pressing fruit. Crushing is pre-fermentation breaking the skins so that juice can escape into the must. Pressing is post-fermentation that allows all the juice to be extracted ready for secondary fermentation. As an amateur wine maker you do not need a press and it is a considerable investment to make – this is by far the most expensive piece of kit and x5 the price of anything else I have bought. It will get a frequent run around as I intend to use it on gooseberry wines (one of which has just been started), blackberry, elder and black, elderberry wine and maybe even my first cider if I take the plunge. In the future it could be used on haskap, red currant, or rosehip wines and I may experiment with it on quince and parsnips though it may extract too much starch so this is under investigation.

 

Planning the press
Everything sanitised and organised ready to press, with a gooseberry wine for some dutch courage.

 

The press was initially a daunting prospect as it needs meticulous sanitising and preparation. I used an MDF board on the kitchen bench to protect it from the metal legs and force that it can exert that could have scraped or gouged marks. Set up was easy but I did plan where my primary fermentor was and the target demijohn to make sure it was all organised for the cleanest and easiest press.

Pressing blackcurrants
This might look planned but it was more or less accidentally all at the correct height.

The blackcurrants were initially removed with a jug into clean muslin in a large brewers funnel. This let the initial run off fall into the demijohn and the berries to be kept. Once all the berries were collected the muslin was lifted out and placed into the press pan. The muslin keeps the fruit in one place and stops any goop squirting out when it is pressed as well as keeping the solids together. The plate was screwed down gradually so that it did the work gradually rather than my arms screwing it all flat in one messy action. This allowed a controlled, clean press. The juice was released gradually but steadily and was a fantastically dark purple as it was squeezed from the flesh. As so much pressure can be applied richer flavour can be extracted from the flesh and skins of the blackcurrant which I hope will make a more complex wine. I may very well have been able to extract more juice but as a first test I was more than happy. The resultant “cake” was pressed flat with none of the mess from an elbow grease powered hand squeeze. It is possible to over press fruit and extract bitter tannin from seeds or pips but there was no danger here.

Pressed blackcurrants
Spent blackcurrants after pressing. (probably suitable for a second run in retrospect!)

In six months the wine will have been racked twice and may well be bottled only to be popped open when it is two years old. The Krushinator will get a work out next week with a gallon of gooseberry wine then a few berry wines in August and September.

 

BLACKCURRANT WINE – 4.5L

Suitable Yeasts – Lavlin 71B, RC212 or Vintners Harvest R56

Suitable to be oaked

Best kept totally or almost dry (to avoid Ribena references)

.

1.5Kg Blackcurrants
1kg Sugar – to 1.09SG
Juice of 1 lemon
Yeast
Yeast nutrient
Pectic enzyme
3.5L water.

Blackcurrant wine

After destemming and washing the blackcurrants, cold soak for at least 3 days and up to 5 with as much of the water as you can. Keep below 15 degrees C. (a guide to cold maceration is above)

Boil the rest of the water and and let cool in time to…

Mash currants in the cold soak with sterilised potato masher, then add the cooled water. Leave to get to room temperature and add pectolaise and leave for 12 to 24 hours.

Add the lemon juice, sugar, yeast and nutrient.

Cover in primary for 5 or 6 days in primary fermentation stirring 4 times a day if possible.

Blackcurrant wine at end of primary fermenration
Lid removed to stir the blackcurrants

When SG reaches 1.01 (or bubbling starts to slow if you have no hydrometer) squeeze currants thoroughly and rack into secondary fermentation with a closed demijohn and airlock

Rack after one month, then two months after that.

Final rack at 6 months in age and stabalise and back sweeten if desired.

Bottle and leave for ever. Takes two years to fully mature though some people leave it four!

ENGLISH VERMOUTH

Gin tonic and vermouthLast year I transformed a few bottles of my strawberry wine into vermouths making three differing tastes that were used in various cocktails and gin & tonics over the summer months. They were all nice but the more floral version was generally the best, though the blackberry gin paired better with the more spiced version. It was all based upon a lot of reading and not a massive amount of understanding. Pairing tastes together and creating balance is very difficult to do writing it as an abstract recipe. Conversely throwing ingredients into a pot and creating it organically is nerve racking as too much cinnamon or wormwood can obliterate all the other ingredients and hard work that has just occurred. Which ever method is used it will be a steep learning curve with ideas that outmatch your ability. Great fun and maybe with time I can get towards my goal of a vermouth that can be drunk not as cocktail addition but aperitif on its own. Maybe 400 years and I’ll have it all cracked.

CLICK HERE FOR THE EARLIER VERMOUTH IDEAS

I may well return to a strawberry vermouth in the future but the idea of an English vermouth really intrigued me as foraging for ingredients has become one of lifes pleasures as I have become more and more adventurous in my wine making. Vermouth is originally French with the Italians adopting it creating two differing styles but Britain has a long tradition of herbal tonics, infused spirits, spiced chutneys and Nandos so there is no reason why this should not come naturally to me through osmosis… google… trial and error… and advice… if any one gives it…

The Art of Drink had a solid looking basic vermouth recipe so became the basis of mine. (thanks Art of Drink – I’m only borrowing it!) I swapped a few ingredients out of necessity and personal preference as I cannot get quinine in Britain and hate camomile finding it overpowering so decided to use just a smudge of some foraged English walnut leaf.

foraged yarrow
Yarrow!

Then I wanted to steer it towards some traditionally English tastes using flowers as this had been the best vermouth I had made. Elderflowers were added as they make a great white wine and can compliment the base wine white used for a vermouth. A few dandelion heads were harvested, though they are becoming rarer with the hottest summer months starting to make them flower less. I had hoped for more to give a gingery hit but had to make do with what I could find. In all honesty I would like three times as many. Dandelion root was also substituted for some of the traditional bittering agents and I did consider hops but thought it might be too vegetal in taste. The last flower to be added was yarrow which is an aromatic weed that happily grows everywhere which I literally stumbled over as I walked home. It grows in small patches as it is rhizomatous (25 points in Scrabble) and has small clumped white or pink flowers with fern like leaves. The leaves are a full on kick to the taste buds but the flowers more mild and taste of a mild aniseed and liquorish and can be found in a fair few vermouth recipes.

I’m not the only person that thought of English vermouth either as there is The Collector Vermouth but I think we can all agree that a professional chef, drink tosser and herb fondler should cower before me the enthusiastic amateur lacking taste buds and modesty. Their vermouth uses an apple spirit as the fortifier rather than the traditional brandy, grappa or in my case white port. Inspired by this I may make a peach or plum spirit as I have them close to hand and easy to forage but this will very much be next years experiment. I did decide to use a smashed peach stone to add a rounded earthy base note though.

There are two versions I made. One with caramelised sugar in a shop bought white wine and another dryer version using my own oak leaf wine which is I hope light enough to take the additions. Caramelising sugar is an easy concept that hides the teeth gnashingly difficult task to do it. Too little heat nothing happens then the slightest hint of too much and it burns to fuck then laughs at you.

Vermouth ingredients

ENGLISH VERMOUTH (NOVO STYLE) – 2 litres

2 x bottles of white wine

400ml of spirit (brandy, grappa, vodka, white port, sherry etc)

200g caramelised sugar

1.5g Wormwood

0.5g Gentian Root (or similar bittering agent)

1g Dandelion root

10g Elderflowers

45 Heads of dandelion petals (I only got 15)

0.25g Camomile flowers or a pinch of walnut leaf

1g Vanilla bean

3 Cardamom pods (shell removed)

4 strips of orange peel (Seville oranges are best)

1g Oregano

0.25g each of rosemary, sage, basil, thyme, coriander seed

10 yarrow flower heads

1 x Cracked peach stone

Caramelising sugarTo caramelise the sugar put it in a good quality heavy pan with 2 tsp of sugar and stir while on a medium heat. As it starts to dissolve stop stirring and start to swirl it around the pan to keep it moving. It will purée more and more to become a syrup and start to boil. Keep it simmering but on the lowest heat you can manage it. After a few minutes it will start to brown. After 10 or so minutes it will be a rich nutty brown. Pour it onto greased proof paper making sure none will pour off as it is so viscous. This syrup has a lot of heat so make sure it cannot damage any counter tops and resist the temptation to stick a finger in it as it is weaponised sugar acting like napalm and can stick to your skin. Leave for an hour to harden.

 

As the caramelised sugar sets grab some miniature scales and measure out all your ingredients. I made groups so that they could be incrementally added to the boil.

  • Group 1 – Florals – elderflower and dandelion
  • Group 2 – Bitters – wormwood, gentian & dandelion root and coriander seed and the peach stone
  • Group 3 – Herbs – camomile/walnut leaf, vanilla bean, cardamom, orange peel, oregano, rosemary, sage, basil, thyme
  • Group 4 – Yarrow (yarrow’s taste is very delicate so this is the last addition when off the boil)
Organised ingredients
Divide your ingredients to know what and when they get added to your spirit.

Pour the spirit into a good heavy pan and add the group 1 floral elements get it to the boil so it can extract as much flavour.

400ml port
There are no rules about what fortifies your vermouth and opinion varies as to what is best.

When the boil starts reduce it to a simmer and start to time it for 10 minutes. Add the Bitters group straight away.

With 5 minutes to go add the herbs

Steeping ingredients for vermouth
Differing ingredients release flavours in different ways, staggering them maximises them with out extracting woodier tastes.

When 10 minutes are up remove from the boil and add the yarrow flowers as it cools.

Leave until cold in a covered pan and then strain through coffee filters (top up with a little spirit if you need to to get it back towards 400ml.

Combine the cleared infused spirits to the wine then crush the caramelised sugar and add a good portion but reserve about 50g.

Taste test and add more sugar if desired.

Vermouth lunch
You deserve a test drive.

Ready to drink right away in a cocktail though a few days wait to muddle is recommended. Can be kept indefinitely but best used with in three months – once open and in use refrigerate and use with in a month if you can.

If any one has any experience hints, tips or recommendations I would love to hear it!!!

References:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2014/jun/19/how-to-make-perfect-vermouth

https://www.artofdrink.com/ingredient/how-to-make-vermouth

http://www.thecollectorvermouth.com/

 

BLACKBERRY PORT RECIPE

Blackberry port 7 days old
Blackberry port at 7 days old.

As everyone knows Port is a rich fortified wine that helped red nosed bankers deal with the pain of working through a boozy lunch and leering at secretaries. Sorry… sorry… it is a rich fortified wine made in the Duoro Valley in Portugal and became popular with the British when they were having a biff boff match with the French who kept all the good wine to themselves. It is generally but not necessarily sweet and of a higher ABV than wine at about 18 to 20% that comes from fortification using a 100% proof brandy like spirit called aguadente. If Port does not come from its traditional home it is often called Oporto.

Blackberries and pectic enzyme
The absolute mountain of mashed blackberries used

I am making neither Port or Oporto as I cannot get aguadente, don’t live in Portugal and I’m not using grapes. I do want to make a port style wine that is rich, full bodied, strongly oaked and reasonably sweet to be used as an aperitif and as a Christmas present for Papa Gazette – don’t worry the sausage fingered old buffer cannot use a mobile phone never mind the internet so this will be a total surprise for him.

Dessert gooseberries are too similar to white grapes for this and blackcurrants would create a drink too close to Ribena for my liking. This left blueberries and blackberries as the likely candidates with blackberries eventually chosen for their rich dark taste. I have read about using Damsons which sounds intriguing but I will leave that for another year if I can find some to forage.

CLICK HERE FOR TRADITIONAL BLACKBERRY WINE

Blackberry port must
Blackberry port must is thicker and darker than the traditional table wine.

Compared to a traditional blackberry wine this uses at least double the fruit at 4kg minimum. I actually went with 4.5kg because I am greedy. Making fruit based ports is far less about recipe as constant tinker and adjustment through the fermentation to maximise the alcohol created. The recipe is a guide only and as you are constantly monitoring it during primary fermentation it is a some what organic process. With more juice macerating there is generally no need to add any extra acid and with more skins macerating and 20g of oak chips added for three months there will be more tannin present lengthening the ageing process – this probably need a minimum of 1.5 years to mature and may well get better and better over three or four.

As well as extra fruit there will be extra sugar as it has a higher desired ABV of 18% This is unfortified but the yeast was incrementally feed with sugar to get the highest alcohol it can produce and tolerate. Some choose to use grape concentrates, raisins, extra tannin as tea or malt extract to give various versions of extra body to the port. I have decided to use 500g of raisins as this has done wonders for my traditional blackberry wine and 70g of extra light dry malt, added for flavour – it should be noted this is only for taste rather in beer when it is “mashed” to extract the sugars for fermentation.. I think… I’m not a beer maker. This malt will give a fuller richer taste and hopefully take the place of the aguadente. I am choosing to probably not fortify in any way but some add brandy or vodka or a combination of the two to pump up the alcohol content – I will only really decide when the port has aged just before bottling it.

The start gravity is the usual 1.09 using the hydrometer to measure it. It will be fed incrementally with more sugar added whenever the hydrometer drops to 1.03. In total 2.2kg of sugar has been added through the primary fermentation and there was the larger reserve of ambient sugar in the huge amount of blackberries used. The yeast will eventually be killed by its own bi product – the ethanol it makes as it ferments. When the yeast dies the sediment changes from the cream looking pure yeast layer to a pinkish hue with the yeast and blackberry solids. This is from less agitation because of the yeast dying so the fruit solids can more easily fall out of suspension. With no active yeast I feel no need to use any campden and sorbate to stabilise the wine before bottling – others may well have their reasons to do so though.

BLACKBERRY PORT – 4.5 Litres

Suitable yeast – champagne, port, burgundy styles

.

4kg blackberries (more can be added if physical space allows)

500g raisins

Approximately 2kg or more of sugar

70g light malt

500ml water

Yeast

Pectic enzyme

Blackberry port ingredients
Blackberry port ingredients (precautionary lemon shown – added only if acidity needs adjusting)

Mince the raisins and drop into 500ml boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the malt when when removed from the heat and leave to cool

Mincing raisins for port
Raisins add vinocity

Wash and mash the blackberries (in a sanitized pot is best) then add to the now cooling raisins and water.

Mashing blackberries for port
That is about a third of the blackberries!

Leave to get to room temperature then add a tsp of pectic enzyme and one or two campden tablets to sanitize and leave covered for 24 hours.

If you can get the blackberry pulp into a fermenting bag to stop unwanted plugs and “boil over” occuring during fermentation.

 

Stir in 0.5 to 1kg of sugar so the must is at 1.09 Start Gravity ( Do not add all the sugar)

Add the yeast according to their instructions.

Stir twice a day (and squeeze the bag at least a little if you can)

When the gravity drops to 1.03 add more sugar – 300 to 500g

Repeat until gravity radically slows in reducing.

Transfer to secondary fermentation vessel and squeeze as much juice from the fermentation bag if you used it. Add the air lock and leave in secondary fermentation.

Rack if sediment gets to 1.3cm deep or after 5 weeks which ever is earlier. Top up with santisied water or grape concentrate.

Rack again at 13 weeks old, then 25 weeks.

Back sweeten to your own taste!

Bottle or if you can leave to bulk age for 3 to 6 months then bottle.

Probably needs at least two years to mature.

 

References:

http://winemakersacademy.com/davids-blackberry-port/

http://www.thehomebrewforum.co.uk/showthread.php?t=14136

THE GOOD, THE BEET AND THE UGLY!

Last year I made about 9 differing red and white wines that all differed with the base fruit used and if they were foraged or bought ingredients. Some were sweetened just before bottling and some were left to ferment to dryness. A few of the heartier reds like the elder and black and blackberry wine were aged on oak chips while others like the elderberry were not. A few recipes were refined versions of previous wines I have made while others were totally new and experiments.

Oak leaf wine tasting
Light and refreshing oak leaf wine

OAK LEAF WINE RECIPE

About a year ago decided to make oak leaf wine simply because it sounded interesting and unique. I think it was the first blog post I ever did and I have now been able to taste the results. Fermented totally dry it is a light crisp wine with a slightly woody herbal taste and quite different to what I was expecting when picking the leaves. There are are often dire warnings of how tannic it can be but this seems to have mellowed nicely. The next bottle may not be opened for another six months to allow it to mature even more and as I am experimenting with walnut leaf I may not make another batch. The neutral-ness that errs towards the herbal may mean it could be a good base wine for a vermouth so I may well experiment with it further though.

Rowan wine bottled
Lovely colour but questionable character!

ROWAN WINE RECIPE FOR THE BRAVE

The rowan wine is a far stranger beast and I have no reference to what it should taste like as no one has described it in online recipes. Rowan is hardly a regular in any kitchen as it is generally bitter and often thought to be poisonous due to the parasorbic acid in raw berries. Fermentation and freezing removes the acid but the wine is still very bitter though an age away from the must that was like a fermenting battery factory. It might well age out and with some back sweetening be a genuine surprise but lets be honest there may well be a reason no one has described the taste. When I open a bottle this could be the first wine I do not drink but at pennies to make it will be no great loss. Lovely colour though!

Beetroot wine
Beetroot claret!

CLICK HERE FOR THE BEETROOT WINE RECIPE

Although not yet ready to bottle the beetroot wine has had a final rack. In three months it will be thrown into a bottle for a years ageing. When young the beetroot wine was earthy and unpalatable with a zinc-ish bite but that is changing steadily to be a more pleasant umami with an almost raspberry like after taste. It certainly seems like a far better experiment than the rowan. There is not much I can do with it but wait as it seems unsuitable to oak even though it is a red wine so only time will tell if this is a recipe worth repeating.

Quince and rose petal wine bottled
Quince and rose petal just before an 18 month nap.

My quince and rose petal also seems to be a success but I have to wait 18 months to really see what happens and it that time the slight rose infusion will blend with the quince. Tasting the still young wine it was still as if there were two flavours competing rather than complementing each other. It has given me a few ideas to test if I make it again next year or the year after – I may age it on the lees using battonage to give a fuller mouth feel and also oak it ever so slightly even though it is a white wine.

WALNUT LEAF WINE

Walnut leaf wine 6 days old
Walnut leaf wine: six days old entering secondary fermentation.

English walnuts can be be added to the list of English things that are not English just like tea, fish & chips and the royal family. English walnuts – Juglens Regia are probably from Persia, adopted by the Greeks then Romans and can be found all over the world including England.

Walnut leaf
Walnut leaf

Iran is not that big on wine making but there are various uses of green walnuts in liqueurs like Italian Nocino or Orahovac from Croatia with almost every European country having a variant on it. The French make Vin De Noix again with green walnuts but in red wine rather than a spirit base. Mature walnuts can be used for amaretto/frangellico like liqueurs. There are several black walnut bitters from America to add a deep smokey tobacco-esque taste to cocktails and finally the leaves can be used to make wine. Walnut trees really do seem to be the unsung hero of DIY drinkers.

 

Many leaves can be used to make wine with oak, grape, bramble, maple, beech, lime or birch. Walnut leaf and particularly black walnut leaf wine are meant to be the best of the lot and I have been wanting to make it for a while. Finding walnut trees is tricky in Britain – English walnut trees are rare and American/black walnut trees (Juglens Nigra) even more so. Around Vintner HQ there happened to be a tree that was sadly next to Walthamstow’s busiest road. I don’t really want to make walnut & diesel soot wine. As if to rub it in there was a tree on common land that was too small to harvest leaves from. I want 6 bottles of wine but do not want to kill a tree in the process. Then there was a black walnut tree in a park so off limits… Mother Nature seems to be bit of a tease it seems. It has taken over a year to track down trees that are both suitable and possible to forage. Sadly these are just English walnut trees… but they are walnut trees!

American black walnuts
Juglens Nigra: the black or American walnut tree

Walnut trees are wide stocky lads with stout trunks and large canopies. Early in the year there have distinctive catkins and small walnuts start to form in late May. The leaves are pinnate with Ameican and English trees having slight variation in size and shape but they both have a very distinct scent. Rub the young leaves and they will smell like a lime flavoured nail polish… mmmmm!

English walnuts
Juglens Regia: the English, common or Persian walnut tree (Londinium Orientalis Hipsterus can be seen sheltering under the tree)

These pungent leaves are far stronger than others that make wine. Oak leaf wine needs 3 to 4.5 litres of leaves picked to make 4.5 litres of wine, walnut only needs a fraction of that at ¾litre so picking is far easier. There are spring and more tannic autumn harvested oak leaf wines but walnut leaves should be harvested only when they are young and fragrant in May or June. The recipe is essentially the same with oranges and lemons adding some acid with their juice and also flavour with the zest. I have chosen to use raisins to add body though some prefer to leave this out for a more esoteric brew suited as an aperitif, while others use white grape concentrate or even a malt extract. If you do want the more aperitif like wine use light brown demerara sugar instead of regular white sugar to the same amount.

CLICK HERE FOR THE OAK LEAF WINE RECIPE

Spring time oak leaf wine is herbal and light but with the young walnut must there is currently a smooth caramel like taste that is certainly richer. I am hoping the walnut leaf will be a stronger with a warmer nuttier taste coming through. Using my oak leaf wine as a guide I will need to let this mature for at least 18 months or possibly even two years. Six months from now I will have four bottles sealed and aging and the remaining 1.5 litres will sit in a small demijohn to oxidise. The idea is that this will make a fino like sherry as they often have nuttier tastes – there is no way I am investing in any flor yeast or moving to Jerez so lets agree to call it a Faux-no.

Before you start cover every surface that might come into contact with the leaves. Walnuts stain and were a traditional source of dyes and the leaves have the potential to stain wood and clothing.

WALNUT LEAF WINE – 4.5 litres
Suitable yeasts – white wine like CL23, SN9 and others

Up to 1L freshly picked walnut leaves
200g raisins
1kg-ish sugar to 1.09SG
Juice of 4 oranges and zest of 2
Juice of 2 lemons and zest
Yeast
Yeast nutrient
4.5l water

Walnut leaf wine ingredients
Walnut leaf wine ingredients

Pick and then rinse the leave to remove any hitch hiking spiders. Pour over the 3.5L of boiling water and leave for 24 hours. Any longer than one day soaking will release far too much bitter tannin that will dominate.

Walnut leaf wine infusing
One pan of leaves the other of zests and raisins

As the leaves steep boil the roughly chopped raisins and lemon and orange zest in the remaining litre of water.

Orange and lemons zested
Two oranges can be left un-zested

Sieve the leaves out of the water once the 24 hours has elapsed and combine with the raisins and zest. Add the sugar, lemon & orange juice and stir till the sugar has dissolved.

Soak strain mix ferment
Clockwise top left: Steeping leaves, strained away, added to the zests and raisins then in primary fermentation.

Add the yeast & nutrient according to its instructions. Leave to ferment in primary and then transfer to an air locked demijohn when fermentation slows after five to 10 days leaving the raisins and zests behind.

Walnut leaf wine end of primary
Lid removed just before being transferred to secondary fermentation.

Rack if sediment builds and certainly at one then two months to remove the settled yeast.
Leave to bulk age in a demijohn for as long as you can – six months at least.
Bottle and open a minimum 18 months after starting.

 

FORAGED ELDERFLOWER WINE

Elderflower wine in secondary fermentation
Elderflower wine – five days old in secondary fermentation. Currently it is very dark but mostly from the raisin body and it will fall out.

Elderflower wine is possibly one of the most well known country wines along with The Good Life’s pea pod wine. While pea pod wine may be a long running joke (though by all accounts very nice) elderflower wine is a serious business. It is a bold confident wine with unique flavour that can stand next to any “proper” white grape wine rather than be an approximation of one. It has a lovely aroma and crisp floral taste that can be made into a very sweet or ultra dry wine. It hides to alcohol taste so never tastes too “hot” so to speak and can be easily adapted into a champagne. As few bottles are sold commercially it is unique enough to impress people if you share it and they will not be too bothered about the hippy drippy foraging you did to make it… just don’t get drunk and drone on about it. Not bad at about 70p a bottle once made!

GUIDE TO FORAGING ELDERFLOWERS

Elderflowers picked
Elderflowers waiting to be stripped

Most flower or leaf wines require a huge volume of ingredients usually the equivalent of the wine you are making. A gallon of dandelion wine needs a gallon of loose flowers picked. Elderflowers are packed with flavour so they only need half a litre of flower heads to make the 4.5 litres of an English gallon of wine. As they are so floral it is best to treat this like a white wine and go for a long slow fermentation. Do not boil the flowers as some recipes recommend simply pour over boiling water to blanch then steep them, doing it in a stainless steal pan will keep temperatures lower when fermentation starts dispersing some of the heat that fermenting yeast generates. It is best to use a good white wine yeast that prefers lower temperatures like Vintners Harvest CY17, SN9, CL23 or the champagne yeast EC1118. All this will ensure that the delicate floral aroma does not “boil” off as the yeast hits its stride.

MY QUICK GUIDE TO SUGAR AND A HYDROMETER

IMG-20160612-WA0001
Use a hydrometer to get the best results.

Elderflowers are a native to Britain and so many of the recipes suffer from British ideas about making overly alcoholic moon shine passed down from dotty grandparents. A hydrometer is very much needed and ignore any suggestion of adding 1.5kg of sugar to a gallon of wine. It will either make a stomach churningly sweet wine or head hurtingly alcoholic one. I made 10litres and only added about 2kg of sugar in total which was 1.09 SG on the hydrometer. If you want a sweeter desert wine it is far better to ferment to dryness and then stabilise and then back sweeten at the end to ensure it is to your taste. If you wish to make a sparkling Sham-pagne do not go past 1.08 SG so that the repitched yeast in a secondary fermentation can survive and carbonate in the bottle.

I have never oaked any of my white wines but I may choose to this time as the spiced and caramel flavours imparted will probably compliment the elderflowers well while also adding a little “buttery” mouth feel. As it is an experiment I will separate this 10 litre batch into two demijohns with one oaked and one left natural. I doubt it will need much so I will add 6g of oak chips for a couple of months at the end of bulk aging.

.

ELDERFLOWER WINE – 4.5 litres

Suitable yeasts – white wine yeasts like EC1118, CY17, SN9, CL23
0.55L picked elderflower heads
1kg-ish sugar to 1.09SG
250g raisins lightly chopped
1/2 mug of earl grey tea
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
1 tsp yeast nutrient
White wine yeast
4.5L boiling water

Elderflower wine ingredients

  1. Pluck the elder flowers from the stems removing as much green as possible.

    Elderflower wine prep
    Picked elderflowers, lemon zest and chopped raisins can be blanched together with boiling water.
  2. Place the elderflowers, chopped or minced raisins & lemon zest in pan and pour over the boiling water, add most of the sugar and stir in thoroughly so the flowers are submerged.
  3. Leave to cool to room temperature and fine tune to the desired starting gravity of sugar at 1.08 or 1.09 SG. Add the lemon juice, tea, yeast and nutrient and stir in.

    Elderflower wine primary
    A cap of flowers and raisins naturally forms as fermentation occurs. Push it down with a sterile ladle regularly to stop oxidation.
  4. Ferment in primary and punch the cap of flowers and raisins down four times a day if possible (at least once a day at least)
  5. Rack and filter to secondary though muslin to remove the solids when fermentation starts to slow. This will be at 4 to 10 days after pitching the yeast. Squeeze the muslin thoroughly to get all the raisin and elder taste.

    Elderflower wine in secondary fermentation2
    Secondary fermentation at six days old
  6. Rack at five weeks then another 10 weeks after that (and three months after that if needed)
  7. Stabilise and back sweeten if desired.
  8. Bottle at six months of age.

Can be drunk nine months after starting – 12 for best results.

FORAGING ELDERFLOWERS

Elderflowers picked
Elderflowers: Small flowers of five cream petals with yellow stamens on large sprays.

Elderflowers have started to bloom around Vintner Mansions and they have a special place in my wine making as it was the first ever wine I made. Sweet, dry or sparkling it is great stuff that goes down a treat. Elderflowers can also be added to rhubarb or gooseberry wines for a little twist, steeped in gin for a sweet summer cocktail, deep fried in tempura batter or even as a non-alcoholic cordial.

This is celebrity chef and part time Worzel impersonator Hugh Flannery Whittingstall’s recipe for cordial that Ms Gazette made while the wine is being started.

ELDERFLOWER CORDIAL RECIPE

Elderflower Tonic
Elderflower cordial

For an alcoholic hit elderflower gin can easily be made. The stripped flowers of 15 heads, a slice of lemon zest and a few tablespoons of light brown sugar to your own taste. Submerge it all in a decent supermarket gin and shake every day for a week before filtering to get a gingery floral gin ideal for a Tom Collins.

You can find them dried for sale but these create a darker wine without the full perfumy scent and flavour of fresh flowers. To make the best wine you have to forage for the fresh flowers. The best time to collect is early on a warm morning when pollen is at its hight to add as much flavour as possible. This will also give you time to pluck them off the green stems and then to make the wine as quickly as possible to get the freshest wine you can. If you want them as an addition to gooseberry wine it is best to freeze them until gooseberries are in season. Add them frozen and thoroughly stirred in when they are needed – any exposure to air as they defrost they will start to turn brown and give an oxidized darker amber colour to your wine.

Identifying Elderflowers
Sambucus Nigra… the elder tree

Elder trees are scrubby little things part bush and part tree at 15m tall. The trunk is stout if visible at all and there are often a few stems that form the majority of the tree. The flowers are white/cream with five petals in sprays, the leaves are also usually arranged in sets of five though could be seven in total for some species. The easiest way to identify them is not sight but scent – a strong heady perfume that smells like a department store’s perfume counter.

It is customary to point out that elder trees are toxic… except for the flowers and eventual berries. Don’t eat the leaves, don’t lick the bark and certainly don’t go digging up the deadly roots.

Handsom Boy Foraging School 2
A wild Novocastrian hunting elderflowers

To make the wine you will need about half a litre of picked flowers which is about 20 to 25 heads. As these flowers are wild, be kind and only take what you need, taking too many will mean that an arms race will develop with other foragers as you compete. The more you waste the fewer elder berries there will eventually be later in the year. Elder trees give a double dip of excellent white wine with the flowers and excellent red wine from the elderberries – the “English grape.” I usually try to take flowers from trees that have trouble ripening to full fruit, birds will take them or fruit flies will infest the partially ripe berries. These are usually trees away from water courses or in competition with other trees.

Only take flowers you can easily get to. Trampling a few nettles or cow parsley is fine as it will regrow, trampling through a salt meadow or disturbing wild life is not the nicest thing to do. If an elderflower is out of reach do not climb up to grab them as the branches are brittle, be kind and leave them for the birds. When picking check the undersides to make they are not covered in cuckoo spit or aphids as these will just have to be tossed away.

The best advice to be an ethical forager is easy – don’t be a dick.

Full recipe next time with a mountain of images but click here for last years!

QUINCE AND ROSE PETAL WINE

QUINCE AND ROSE PETAL WINE
Quince and rose petal wine

So spring has sprung, the grass is riz, I wonder where the foragables is… sorry…

Spring is finally here. Elder flowers are starting to bloom and other more esoteric ingredients like oak leaves, gorse or dandelions are starting to become available for wine making. In a few days the elder flowers will be picked, plucked and starting to ferment, a few weeks after that I hope to make a walnut leaf wine for the first time. This means there is pressure on the demijohns to free up ready for new brews, not that space should determine if a wine is bottled.

CLICK HERE FOR THE QUINCE WINE RECIPE

2016 QUINCE WINE
Quince wine bottled

My quince wine has had six months since it was started and I have decided to bottle it. The taste is good, no starch or pectin haze is visible and colour is a lovely amber hue… Ms Gazette described it as a, “rose gold” as she wandered off planning her drunken quince debauchery. I say, “bottle” but it was only half of it as I am playing about with the remainder. Quince wine takes two years to mature and currently there are 12 bottles unopened in the “cellar under the stairs” and this will be joined by 7 more of the most recent batch. The remainder is becoming quince and rose petal wine inspired by Spanish membrillo.

QUINCE AND ROSE PETAL WINE PREPARATION
Rose petals, pre and post boil.

Quince is a good wine bone dry but I want to quince and rose petal to be totally different with a sweeter taste to compliment the floral rose petals. Adding the rose petals is easy – making a tea out of dried petals to add to the remaining British gallon (4.5 litres) of quince. I used 5 grams of petals boiled in about a mugful of water and it made a heady perfumed brew with a fair amount of tannin present, there is plenty of time for this to mature out over 18 months. Boiling not only extracted the flavour and aroma but also sterilised the brew too. Once cooled it was dropped in to the target demijohn that I racked the quince into.

STABILISING WINE
Stabiliser by itself is not enough! Use a two pronged attack like a buffalo

Adding this flavour is easy but adding sweetness is more arduous. If sugar is added to wine it can start a secondary fermentation due to dormant yeast having a nice new sugar banquet to dine on. Yeast can happily live for 18 months in a dry wine ready to rise from the grave. If a sweet wine (sweet in any form rather than just dessert wines sweet!) is wanted you have to inhibit the yeast. There are a few ways to do this and even more myths about how to do it. The important thing to remember is that a two stage attack is needed. Campden with its sodium metabisulfite will be a chemical cosh to knock any tired yeast back and then a stabiliser with potassium sorbate will be a chemical condom stopping them reproducing. Other processes could help like cold stabilisation making the yeast temporarily dormant but these are all moot compared to the chemicals. Some prefer to “max out” the yeast so that alcohol kills the yeast stone dead but this means the yeast determines your flavour and recipe rather than you – why be a slave to the properties of the yeast rather than your taste buds?

STABILISED QUINCE AND ROSE PETAL WINE
Don’t fear the foam – as the wine stabilises it foams but it will dissipate.

Now we have the wine violence and prophylactics out of the way you need a little time and effort stirring these chemicals through once a day for four days to make sure it is dispersed and active to be effective. It should be noted that the yeast can still ferment during this time, probably intangibly to the home wine maker though. A hydrometer test with three days unchanging readings is a definitive test but generally after four days it is safe to add sugar as there will be no more fermentation and risk of exploding bottles at worst or an unintended balance of sugars to acids and tannins otherwise.

GARLIC WINE RECIPE

GARLIC WINE
Garlic wine – 10 days old.

Not once have I ever uttered the line, “Waiter, can I have a glass of garlic wine please,” for a few reasons. The first is I am banned from our local Italian restaurant and secondly because it tastes horrible to drink. This is not a wine to drink but a wine to eat as a stock to risotto, mussels, meats or any other meal when white wine or dry vermouth would be added.

GARLIC WINE INGREDIENTS
Garlic wine ingredients

Before you start have a think about how much you need as 6 bottles of stock is a lot to make as an experiment, it also stinks for the first three days of fermentation and by “stinks” I mean it really really honks. This dies down as fermentation gets under way in primary and is eliminated by the time it enters secondary fermentation with an airlock. If you have sensitive family or a vampire staying over best leave it a few days before kicking it off!

GARLIC PEELED
There are no hard and fast rules on the volume of garlic.

As this is a stock added for taste the measurement of the garlic is not really that exacting. I used 14 bulbs as they were small, others I have seen have used only 6 giant bulbs. The average is 12 regular bulbs as a guide. Pealing all of that will take eleventy billion years but the easiest way to do it is to press the full garlic bulb down so the skin cracks satisfyingly, then separate all the cloves apart and then start to slice to woody base off to peel. Once all the skin has been removed divide it in half with one set being baked and the other half thinly sliced.

ROASTING HALF THE GARLIC
Baking the garlic to hopefully caramelize the sugars

To roast the garlic pack it tightly into some foil and seal it with some tight folds then bake it for 20 minutes at 180° C / gas mark 7. For any Americans reading I’m sorry but I have no idea how you would gauge this but I imagine it is 3 cups of medium heat per quart of garlic time. The time is only approximate but when you open the foil it should be soft but not browned and it can be squished into a purée and dropped with the other sliced garlic.

Add to the garlic the lemon rind and chopped raisins and then boil for 15 minutes. The sugar will dissolve easiest when the water is warm so take the opportunity while you can.

GARLIC WINE BOIL
Boiling the garlic, rind and raisins.

When it has totally cooled add the mug of strong tea, orange and lemon juice then stir the yeast and the nutrient in. I chose to primary ferment in a large demijohn but if you pan is big enough just leave it covered in it. The boiling will have sterilised everything nicely already so no laborious cleaning and sterilising of other containers.

Primary fermentation leads to a pungent garlic smell that permeates your house so be prepared. I got used to it but opening the door when coming home really knocked me back, this is only temporary so persist through it for a few days or hide it in a cellar, shed or the servants quarters if you can. As there is a lot of solids in the must this will all lift due to the carbon dioxide bubbling away from the fermenting yeast. Stir it at least twice a day and four if you can and pour the must through sterilised muslin into a secondary fermenter when it starts to slow. The remaining pulp can be squeezed though to extract as much flavour as possible.

GARLIC WINE 1 MINUTE OLD
Garlic wine – 1 minute old

The raisins give a dark brown colour to the must but this will soften as particulates drop out during secondary fermentation. Pretend it is a rich butterscotch rather than a murky brown if you can. Racking should be done as usual at about 5 weeks and then 8 weeks after that but there is no long ageing process needed. The wine should be fermented to dryness so no need to back sweeten. When the wine is clear it is pretty much ready to use though some leave it a month for flavours to mellow and mix nicely but there is no reason why four months after starting you cannot be using it. While the wine will keep for a year or so it should be noted that it needs to be refrigerated once a bottle is opened. It should happily sit for a month as the 13% ABV will be a natural preservative. Because of this I am choosing to put it into capped beer bottles as they are smaller and more manageable.

There are no rules to when or how to use it simply add to your own desired taste and if any one has any particular recipes it can be added to I would certainly be interested to know!
.

GARLIC WINE – 4.5 litres

12 regularly garlic bulbs
500g raisins
2 lemons – juice and zest
3 oranges – juice only
1 cup of tea
4.5litres of water
1kg sugar
Wine nutrient
white wine yeast

1. Peel the garlic and divide roughly in half.

2. Roast half until softened but not browned and thinly slice the rest as it is in the oven.

3. Combine both and add the roughly chopped raisins and lemon peel then boil with 4.5 litres of water for 15 minutes

4. As it starts to cool stir in the sugar then once fully cooled add the cup of strong tea and juices pof the lemons and oranges, yeast and the nutrient.

5. Stir twice a day in primary fermentation in a covered container.

6. When fermentation starts to slow pour through sterlisied muslin into a demijohn and squeeze out as much flavour from the resulting pulp. Seal with an airlock and rack in 5 weeks or so when fermentation ends.

7. Rack every 2 months until there is no more sediment and bottle. Leave for an extra month if you desire.

Four months from pitch to… er… cook.