Ah the mighty oak. Strong, noble aged to perfection, as English as a kebab and punch up at closing time. Oak leaf wine is surprisingly light with a unique herbal taste like thyme but with out the thyme… almost medicinal… but in a good way! The uniqueness of the flavor is at odds to the ease of its production, this really is the easiest wine to make with few processes or chemicals.
Firstly you need to wander high and low to find the right tree, low enough to reach the leaves, big enough that stripping a few… fair few… a lot of those leaves will not harm it and also not in a park or near a road with chemical belching cars. Two versions can be made with a lighter bodied spring time sourced leaf or a stronger more tannic version from autumn leaves.
- 4.5L loosely packed freshly picked oak leaves
- 250g raisins
- 1kg sugar – 1.08SG
- 4 oranges and zest of 2
- 2 lemons and zest
- Sachet of yeast (SN9)
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 4.5l boiling water
Walnut leaves can be used to make an apparently amazing wine that even surpasses the taste of Oak but good luck finding one (email if there are any for foraging in London!) Beech, lime, birch and hawthorn can also be used. Some people swap out the oranges/raisins for a white wine concentrate or saltanas for the stronger tasting rasins. 1/4 teaspoon of malt extract can add extra body.
The leaves provide a subtle but unmistakable flavor that is enhanced by the orange juice and lemon peel. Oak leaves are high in tannins so none extra is needed like an elderflower wine. Lemon juice adds acidity to keep the yeast happy. As tastes are subtle the raisins add the body. I chose to use Vintners harvest SN9 yeast which is good for high tannin and non-fruit wines – champagne yeasts or classic white wine yeasts would all be suitable.
Pick and then wash your leave to remove any hitch hiking spiders. Pour over the 4.5L of boiling water and leave for 24 hours then sieve into primary. Any longer than one day soaking will release far too much bitter tannin that will dominate.
Add the sugar, raisins, lemon juice, orange juice and grated lemon peal (no pith) and then pitch the yeast & nutrient. Stir thoroughly after half an hour to dissolve the yeast.
Leave to ferment in primary and then transfer to an air locked demijohn when fermentation slows after a week or so. Rack if sediment builds and certainly at one then three months to remove the settled yeast.
Leave to bulk age in a demijohn for as long as you can – 6 months or so and open after a year after starting. Remember all that small acorn… timey wimey… mighty oak guff as you can age for longer.