Ribena Berries!

Woo hooooooooo! Summer is here which means the red wine making cycle has begun. I often think of the winter and spring white wines as a bit of fun and experimentation but the summer and autumn red wine cycle as the real intensive hard work. Demijohns are bigger for 10L batches rather than 4.5L. Fruit has to be foraged, washed and possibly cold macerated to get the most out of it.

Generally I try not to bore people with the wine making but a few friends ask questions every now and again. At Christmas one mentioned their dad making Ribena wine… once. There is a fine line between genius and madness and Ribena wine is so firmly on the crazy side that I called social services. It did make me think about making some blackcurrant wine though.

Elderberries are often called “the Englishman’s grape” with gooseberries having the stomach churning moniker of “the hairy grape” as they both make a wine that is comparable to grape wine acting in the same way in process and tastes. Blackcurrants similarly make a very grape like wine but sadly have no nickname.

Left: The vast expanse of unpicked wine ingedients. Right: One hours worth of picking


Blackcurrants are the Cinderella of both wine and farming in general as I could not buy any. The only logical idea is to go to a “pick your own” farm and grab them. Happily there is a PYO farm close by and the sun had his hat on recently so off I skipped to grab 3kg to start 13 bottles in a 10L demijohn. Picking is easy as blackcurrants are big! They vary in size but are more or less grape sized. They cluster around the stems of the bushy plant a bit like sloes do rather than hanging in nice clusters like red currants on vines. Picking was quite a social activity with old and young and every type of family you could imagine and people actually chatted to each other… even to me! I managed to not only get the blackcurrants but also a few redcurrants, strawberries and gooseberries too.

Washing the berries.

As blackcurrants are packed with flavour they are needed in less quantity than other berries. They really pack a potent punch I am going to use a cold soak to extract as much flavour as I can. A cold soak keeps the fruit submerged in water to extract the colour, flavour and aroma from the skins as this is where it is most concentrated. The cold water inhibits any wild yeast to activate and I added 2 Campden tablets crushed up just to make sure.


Pre soak I washed the currants to get rid of any leaves and have a good look to make sure all stems have been removed, Then they are frozen over night, I would prefer a week to break down pectin naturally but this is not essential. Once frozen they are dropped into a stainless steal pan (Aluminium may discolour due to the fruit acid) with as much boiled then cooled water as I can fit. Take a note as after the soak you will need to take this into account with the rest of the recipe. Cling film is then laid over the water to minimise oxidation with another layer as a more rigorous barrier to bacteria.

Frozen blackcurrants submerged in sterilised water then wrapped in two layers of cling film.

I am hoping I can leave the fruit in the fridge for 5 days once it has defrosted to extract flavour as best I can. As the cold soak is only for the skins I have not mashed or squeezed it, this will happen when I pitch the yeast. Stirring once a day with a sterilised ladle will agitate the water with the colour becoming noticeably darker from day to day.

Getting set for a 5 day cold soak/maceration in the fridge

Pop back in a week for pt2 to see the post cold maceration processes and I may be starting two differing gooseberry wines too.



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