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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
- 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
- Wash the gooseberries and rub off the top and woodier tail (freezing is optional and a week will break down pectin by a half)
- 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
- 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.
- Pitch yeast and yeast nutrient. Leave to ferment for two days.
- Remove gooseberries and press. Add the juice back to primary and discard the skins.
- 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.
- Rack at four or five weeks to remove the exhausted yeast, then every two or so months if needed.
- Bottle at six months of age and drink at 18 months or later.