ELDER, BLACKBERRY AND BLACKCURRANT WINES

elder-elder-and-blabk-blabk-berry-and-current
L to R: Lees of elderberry / elder and black / blackberry / blackcurrant wine

Summer and autumn allowed me to get all my red wines made. First was blackcurrant wine made from a pick your own farm. Wet weather made for a late foraged harvest of blackberries that was at the same time as the early foraging of elderberries. I also managed to make an elder and black wine from these two fruit as a second run on the elderberries and a frech crop of blackberries. These reds have now been racked for their final time and are between 17 and 21 weeks old. They probably have another 12 weeks in demijohns before they are bottled to make way for new wines in the spring months like nettle, dandelion, beetroot or any multitude of others – the jury is out at the moment.

CLICK HERE FOR BLACKCURRANT WINE RECIPE

CLICK HERE FOR THE BLACKBERRY WINE MAKING

CLICK HERE FOR ELDER AND BLACK WINE MAKING

CLICK HERE FOR ELDERBERRY WINE MAKINGpt1

I am pleased with all of them but the blackberry seems to be the stand out winner at the moment. I modified last years recipe adding 200g extra fruit upping it to 2.2kg and also adding 250g of chopped raisins to add more body. Already really tasty it seems to have matured quickly with no real sediment settling now. The new recipe makes a full bodied wine rather than a medium. It seems to be free of carbon dioxide and will need no degassing artificially so bottling could happen earlier if I want some demijohn space.

This is the first year I have made blackcurrant wine and initially I was sceptical when prepping the fruit in a cold maceration and primary fermentation as it smelled so much like a fruit juice like Ribena. The worry was that this would be like a alcho-pop and too sweet or too floral to be a genuinely nice drink, especially considering the price of getting the fruit. Now aged and oaked for a month it has really developed reducing in the overly fragrant and over powering fruitiness into a complex medium/full bodied wine. It may well need a long time to bottle age but it will certainly be great in two years. I will certainly be repeating this next June.

elder-elder-and-blabk-blabk-berry-and-current2

The elder and black is the lightest of all the wine in terms colour, no real surprise as it was made as a second run so much of the colour was extracted in the first run wines. That is not to say that flavour is lacking. It is punchy though still needs more time for all the sediments to totally fall out. Certainly better than last years attempt as the fruit was less sour – patience is a virtue when foraging!

The elderberry wine is the biggest worry but also the most unknown at this point. I have been using a modified technique which I may well refine next year too. The wine had 5 days in cold maceration and then 6 days in primary fermentation before the elderberries were squeezed and returned to primary for a few days more. Next year I may reduce this to four days before pressing as I think too much tannin might be being extracted. Elderberries have a lot of tannin in their skin and this is extracted via alcoholic maceration rather than the aqueous extraction for other flavour compounds. As fermentation occurs and alcohol rises so does the tannin extraction. My plans are all supposition as the elderberry will have at least 18 months maturing and I can see that tannin is already precipitating out as thick black spots so the wine is changing all the time. It also is still the thickest with the most particulate floating about so it is still relatively young. This and the blackcurrant have the most potential to age for a long time and to develop. It would be folly to judge it too soon.

LATE SEASON STRAWBERRY WINE

Strawberry Wine 14 weeks
10L Last years wine that became half still half sparkling and er… half vermouth

A friend at work helped me out doing some colour changes to my wine labels. As a thank you he got a bottle of elderflower wine… the poor bastard. He must be a sucker for punishment as he commissioned, as in bullied me into making him some wine for his upcoming wedding. They are making some elderflower champagne for the ceremony and I am making some for the reception or vice versa – I pretty much blacked out with fear as I worked out what I had agreed to. All I can think of is guests being blinded by it or poisoned, or blinded and poisoned.

strawberries
24 punnets for 10 litres of wine

A mad dash got me the last of the seasons strawberries as ideally I want to get it started this year so it can have 10 months ready for the ceremony.

CLICK HERE FOR THE BASIC STRAWBERRY WINE RECIPE AND METHOD

Strawberry wine – 4.5 Litres

Champagne Yeast EC1118 or CY17

2kg firm strawberries
1kg-ish of sugar to 1.08SG
About 4 litres water
1 tsp citric acid or juice of 1 lemon
half cup of tea
1 tsp pectolaise
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Yeast

Ready in six months, better after nine!

Strawberry wine has a unique maceration treating the fruit with care so not to extract too much bitterness. First strip the greenery off the strawberries cut any bruising away. Mash the fruit then pour over 1 litre of boiling water and leave it for 24 hours – 36 or 48 if it has not puréed into a smooth goo. As it sits boil the remaining 3 litres of water and let it sit covered to cool.

strawberry-wine-mashing
Prepping strawberries to macerate

So far so violent! The gentle care come when extracting the juice. Pour the pulp into a funnel lined with clean sterilised muslin/cheese cloth and let the liquid drip through. As space starts to appear pour in some of the cooled water and let that drip through so it can extract more of the flavour. You can stir the goo but do not squeeze the bag as this forces out bitter tastes you do not want. It will probably take at least an hour for all the water to pass through.

strawberry-wine-soaking
Strawberries macerating

As I am eventually making champagne I need to keep the sugar to a maximum of SG1.08 when I make this. Champagne is made using a secondary fermentation after the wine has matured a little. As there is a lot of alcohol made there is an upper limit the new yeast can tolerate when it gets added just before bottling. If you are making a still wine you can go to SG1.09 or higher of you want something strong. I had to add about 800g of sugar.

strawberry-wine-fermenting
Fermentation after 24 hours

Another wait is needed if you add pectolaise to break down the pectin. this is not essential but is desirable. So another 24 hours passed with the wine covered and safe from bacteria. A half cup of strong tea is added after pectolaise as the enzyme likes to gobble tannin as well as pectin. Tannin adds body to the wine as strawberries lack this essential element unlike grapes. Yeast and nutrient are added and then after three hours there were signs of fermentation which picked up in power until 24 hours later there was a loud and vigorous bubbling happening.

After 5 days I racked into secondary with an air lock and all looks good. It will sit in the wide necked demijohn for 5 or 6 weeks protected with its blanket of carbon dioxide preventing any oxidation and then at this point I will rack into a narrow neck demi as the smaller surface area is exposed to oxygen and possible oxidation. The current wide neck demi allows easy cleaning afterwards as there will be a lot of lees settling.

Chaptilizing is adding yeast and sugar as a secondary fermentation and I plan to do this around month 4 or 5 as it gives enough time for the wine to clear initially. Strawberry wine is quick in many aspects. The over all time from pitch to pop is just 9 months although it ca mature for up to a year and a half. With in this fermentation always seem explosive and I have had some foam out the air lock. Yeast settles quickly too with a very clear wine after 2 or 3 months – further time may be needed to off gas the dissolved CO2 though.

CLICK HERE FOR STRAWBERRY CHAMPAGNE GUIDE

strawberry-champagne
The early season strawberry champagne. Best wine I have made!

One thing I may try next April is also adding banana as this can create further depth in a white fruit wine – reds similarly use raisins that would overpower the strawberries creating a muddled taste. As I have no leeway with this batch I am sticking to tried and tested methods. I can experiment when my only client is myself.

GOOSEBERRY WINE RACKED

gooseberry-wine-3-months
Gooseberry wine 4 months old: left MA33 / right EC1118

Click here for the Gooseberry Wine pt1

Click here for the Gooseberry Wine pt2

Click here for the Gooseberry Wine Recipe

The gooseberry wine was started at the start of August and has almost 4 months ageing and has just been racked. the colour has sadly changed from the pink and ruby to a rich amber colour and is crystal clear. There was a slight sediment at the bottom and some tannins as small black particles. The lees that was left behind gave a sharp crisp taste and the acidity will hopefully mellow over the next eight months. The wines were made with 2 differing yeast and the MA33 yeast had a mellower and nicer taste than the EC1118 yeast. I chose to stabilise the wine as it will need to be back sweetened in three months just before bottling. Next year I might make champagne and skip the stabilising to allow the yeast to carbonate it.

GOOSEBERRY WINE RECIPE x2
A reminder of the colours now gone as it entered secondary fermentation.

OAKING BLACKCURRANT WINE

blackcurrant-wine-at-17-weeks
Blackcurrant wine – 17 weeks age (this is the left over lees)

CLICK HERE FOR BLACKCURRANT WINE RECIPE pt1

CLICK HERE FOR BLACKCURRANT WINE RECIPE pt2

The black currant wine is about half way through its life in the demiojohn now at 17 weeks old. Secondary fermentation is well over and the wine has been clearing and flavour beginning to take shape – acidity is lower and the overwhelming fruitiness of the blackcurrants is now starting to taste more like a full rich wine. I was initially sceptical as the taste was too fruity like Ribena when initially being made but this I hope will be a champion.

As the taste is deep and full I have decided to oak it. Oak makes all the good things in life such as tall ships, posh peoples floors and wine barrels. I do not have £3000 to drop on a wine barrel or the gumption to fill it so I will use oak chips to do the job.

prepping-oak
Weighing and sanitising the chips before they are added to the wine

Oak chips simply simulate being in a barrel and release lighter tannins into the wine that create some mouth feel and a decent amount of complexity in the wine taste. I have lightly toast French oak as I do not want to overpower the work I have put in. Generally speaking you can add up to 15g per British gallon (4.5 litres) and leave for up to three months or as little as a couple of days. I have opted for 20g sitting in there for 3 months as I am making 10 litres.

oaked-blackcurrant
sanitised chips and two crushed campden tablets / racked wine added / top up with sanitised water to limit contact with air

I prepared all my kit like syphon and bungs then just before racking put the desired chips into some sterile water with a campden tablet to minimise the chance of infection. Some people choose to boil the chips or place briefly in an oven. They had 10 minutes soaking then they were placed into the target demijohn just before I racked. They initially float but as the wine soaks into them they will start to swell and drop down to the base.

oaked-and-topped-up

Initially I will need to check that there is no spoilage occurring as this is just a lump of wood sitting in my wine. After three months it will be ready to rack again and the chips will simply be left behind as lees. It is at this point I will stabilise the wine and think about back sweetening it before bottling and leaving to age for a year or more. Probably going to be difficult as I am eager to taste this one. Maybe a little snifter at 12 months.

CLICK HERE FOR OTHER WINE MAKING PROCESSES

EVEN MORE ON USING OAK CHIPS

MAKING QUINCE WINE

QUINCE
QUINCE WINE

JUMP HERE FOR THE QUINCE WINE RECIPE AND METHODS

A quince is the Quasimodo of the fruit world, seemingly the love child of a lemon and an apple. Makes delicious wine… so I have been told. I have made 3 batched now but the first I believed erroneously had become infected, the second is bottled and maturing – still got at least two months and the third batch is the one you see being made now.

quince
Quince: Fruit designed by the work experience kid

Quince is a winter fruit and prices vary depending on the season in Britain. Buy too soon and they are expensive and weedy and this is easily the most expensive fruit wine I have made. I chose to wait a few weeks and some giants appeared that were clean and bruise free. Like an apple or pear they bruise easily and the flesh discolours so have a good look at them when buying.

The recipes are very standard with little variation. This is because quinces need to be prepared correctly boiling them for no longer than 15 minutes so that pectin is not extracted in excessive measure. They are reasonably tannic and high in sugar so you do not need to add much to them except raisins to add some body. I imagine a handful of rose petals could be added in the last month to give a Membrillo like flavour. Quince wine can be left totally dry or be back sweetened after stabilisation to your own taste.

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QUINCE WINE 4.5L

Suitable Yeasts – CY17, MA33, D47
Can be totally dry to a sweet desert wine

20 to 25 Quinces
2 lemons – juiced
250g raisins
700g sugar (aprox) to SG1.09
4L water
Yeast
Yeast nutrient
Pectolaise

Add 50g of rose petals at the end of fermentation if desired. The zest from the lemons can be added if desired.

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Rinse your quince to get rid of any gunk on them. Get the 4 litres of water starting to heat in a huge pan so that you can control the amount of time they are boiling. Slice the quinces removing the hard cores and use a food processor to grate or slice the fruit, skin and all, throwing it in the water as it heats.

quince-wine-prep
Grate or slice the quince and pour into water so it does not start to brown.

Most recipes say that you need between 20 to 25 fruit for 4.5 litres of wine but this is a bit vague as quince range from apple to grapefruit size. the 20 – 25 ratio is for apple sized quince in my view. I had some whoppers and only used 14 and knew to stop when the quince stops being submerged in the water. As this gets to a rolling boil and the fruit starts to soften it will become totally submerged with space to spare. After 15 minutes it will be soft but not a mush so remove from the heat and allow to stand for two days for juice, flavour and aroma to be extracted. Keep the pan lid on at all times to keep any pests being attracted.

quince-pansDraining the liquid from the flesh is fiddly, messy and time consuming. I luckily had a giant pasta colander (God bless TK Maxx) that really helped but a sterilised muslin and funnel will do. Let the liquid drain naturally with out squeezing the pulp as this will extract an unholy amount of pectin. Just let gravity and time do the work – about 6 hours maybe even longer if you can. As it drains throw in a teaspoon of pectic enzyme to break down the dreaded pectin and wait another 12 to 24 hours.

Now the fun begins. Add sugar – a hydrometer really is needed for this recipe and get the Start Gravity to 1.08 or 1.09, add the juice of 2 lemons then the yeast and yeast nutrient then wait for the magic to start. Quince makes an aromatic white wine so choose a less vigorous white wine yeast to keep the scent from boiling off as it ferments.

quince-fermenting
Popped the top off to see quince wine in a gentle primary fermentation at 24 hours

As there is no pulp in the wine you do not need to stir the must during primary fermentation which is fortunate as you will be knackered from all the preparation that occurred earlier in the recipe. Once the primary fermentation starts to die down after 4 to 7 days syphon into a sanitised and air-locked demijohn and rack at 6 weeks then every 2 to 3 months after.

quince-at-36-hours
A lively quince wine at 36 hours after pitching yeast

Bottling can occur at six months but the longer in bulk aging the better. There will be a lot of particulate suspended in the wine as the fruit is oddly “granular” this is entirely natural and over three months or so it will settle with a definite band of clear and hazy forming. Try to resist the temptation to disturb the demijohn as much as possible as this just shakes it all up and when racking it is advise to move the demijohn and then leave to resettle for a couple of days.

It takes at least a year for this Cinderella wine to mature, but many people say it can easily go two years before you open the first bottle with this being one of the few white fruit wines that matures gracefully.

KILLING VINEGAR FLIES

vinegar-fly-killer
A drop of washing up liquid breaks the surface tension of left over lees – drowning pesky vinegar flies.

Hello there my pretties. Its Vincent Price here but you can call me the Prince Of Darkness. As a guest at the Novocastrian Vintners Gazette this Hallowe’en I would like to tell you a gruesome story. A story of murder.

The simple vinegar fly. Innocuous to many but a friend of mine. He is a frequent guest to those that drink and make wine. He means no harm and he is but a fly unable to hurt any one. But the crime he has been accused of is not of this corporeal realm but of the mind. His playful buzzing and wish to join the festivities drives many wine makers to distraction.

And madness.

It was one such occasion that a bedevilled and evil wine maker turned his devious invention to the destruction of our poor sweet vinegar fly. Turning that which he most loves against him. Taking some blood red lees left over he corrupted it with washing detergent and laid his dastardly trap in plain view. My darling vinegar fly innocent and care free took to the wine with merriment drinking till he could take no more.

He was unable to take off. His abilities to soar with witches and ghost stolen by the evil machinations of the demon wine maker. The surface tension thus broken he was trapped. Sinking into the elixir he drowned. His last fly breath uttering “why do you hate me?” as he sank.

So my darlings heed this warning. Never place a drop of washing up liquid into your left over lees as it shall surely drown fruit flies.

NON-CINCHONA TONIC WATER

After spending a small fortune for rare ingredients to MAKE MY OWN VERMOUTH I obviously had enough left over for another 10 years of vermouth experiments and maybe crazed experiments in tonic water too. In fact it is not tonic water but a tonic cordial frozen as ice cubes that is then diluted to make the true tonic water.

These were the best resources I found were:

https://pinchandswirl.com/homemade-tonic-water-for-the-ultimate-gin-and-tonic/
http://www.jeffreymorgenthaler.com/2008/how-to-make-your-own-tonic-water
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/homemade-tonic-water-recipe/
http://vinepair.com/wine-blog/why-you-should-be-making-your-own-tonic-with-recipe/
http://www.alcademics.com/2014/08/potential-dangers-of-homemade-tonic-water.html
http://tessposthumus.com/how-to-make-tonic-water/
http://www.chowhound.com/recipes/spiced-tonic-water-28699

Tonic water has always and always will have a quinine in it. Quinine is the very reason it exists as a herbal tonic to stop malaria, that morphed into tonic water and was thus added to gin or cocktails ever since. I cannot get my hands on cinchona bark the ingredient that gives the quinine as in Britain it is restricted for sale… as you can poison yourself… or others with it. Quinine is extracted from cinchona but no one really knows how much is extracted in a domestic setting and many recipes if followed with maximum extraction could bring it to toxic levels. Which brings us to the recipes you can get your hands on for making cinchona bark-based tonic – no one really knows if they are truly safe.

Seeing as I did not have cinchona and I did have The Fear, I decided to look at non-cinchona recipes and see what I could do with the ingredients I did have. A decent spread of the ingredients seems to be:

  • BITTERS – cinchona bark… or quassia bark, gentian root, (with hops, dandelion root)
  • ZESTS – lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit
  • BOTANICALS – lemongrass, cardamom, allspice, star anise, peppercorns, coriander seed, ginger, lavender
  • SWEET – sugar, agave nectar
  • ACID – lemon, lime, grapefruit juice, citric acid
  • SALT – salt… obviously
tonic-ingredients
Tonic water ingredients

The two non-cinchona bittering agents I could use were quassia bark or gentian root. Quassia bark is intensely bitter and only needs 1/4 of the weight to give a similar bitterness to quinine. Do not confuse quassia with cassia bark that is very similar to nutmeg. Gentian is apparently gram-for-gram very similar to cinchona which I plan to test for the next batch. Hops and dandelion root are not a primary bittering agent but rather to add flavour complexity. The botanicals vary greatly with some preferring a very zesty flavour, others a more aromatic version with lavender. Some may like to just add allspice while others muddle with various extra ingredients. I would say that grapefruit should be used sparingly – an interesting addition but one that can dominate and also lemon grass can go from fragrant ingredient to pungent overpowering uber-taste very easily. Agave syrup can be substituted for granulated sugar but only 2/3 of the weight is needed. The ratio of sweetness you need really is key to a good tonic as too little dulls the overall taste and hitting the literal sweet spot makes all the botanicals come alive.

Poisonous ingredients and their ratios might be a nightmare but the method could not be easier. Boil – Simmer – Soak – Strain – Sweeten.

  1. Boil the bittering agents to extract as much flavour as possible for 10 minutes. Filter into a new pan
  2. Add the botanicals and simmer for a further 20 minutes
  3. Leave to cool and add the citrus to soak for 3 days in a sealed jar in a cool dark cupboard
  4. Strain and add sugar
  5. Freeze in ice cube trays

When it comes time to use the tonic drop a tonic icecube in your glass and dilute with x5 the volume of sparkling water or soda water.

Now without further ado.. seriously, look at the links I posted to see what they did… this is my personal recipe tailor made for me…

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TONIC WATER A LA GAZETTE – 1 LITRE
Water 1L
Quassia wood 7g (or gentian root 20g)
Hops 1 head (I found some foraged but non-essential)
Dandelion root 3g
Lemon grass x 2 stalks bruised
Zest of 3 limes, 3 lemons, 2 oranges (1/2 grapefruit optional)
Juice of 2 limes, 2 lemons (1/2 grapefruit optional)
Cardamom x 6 pods
Allspice berry x 4 (I used 1/8 tsp allspice powder)
1/4 tsp coriander seers crushed
1/2 tsp peppercorns crushed
1/4 tsp salt
Agave nectar 350g
Sugar 250g

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tonic-botanicals
Simmering tonic water

Boil one litre of water and drop in the quassia wood, hops and dandelion root and boil for 10 minutes to extract all of the bitterness. Drop to a simmer and add the Lemon grass x 2 stalks bruised, cardamom (removed from the pod and lightly crushed) allspice, crushed coriander seeds & peppercorns and salt for 20 minutes.

tonic-zests
Steeping citrus zest in the tonic water

Leave to cool then filter before adding the juice, zests and sugar and stir until dissolved. Leave in a sealed sterile bottle for three days then filter into ice cube trays and freeze. The cubes will last at least three months probably more. Dilute with sparkling or soda water when needed.

RACKING ELDERBERRY AND ELDER AND BLACK WINE

racked-3
Rack and roll.

BOTH WINE RECIPES IN THE RECIPE ARCHIVE

ELDERBERRY WINE RECIPE pt1

ELDERBERRY WINE pt2

ELDER AND BLACK WINE RECIPE

Racking is an integral and sadly unavoidably part of making wine. I finds it’s not called racking for nothing as it is… nerve wracking… I absolutely hate it.

The idea is simple you transfer from one demijohn to another to leave the lees behind. Lees is the fruit pulp and now exhausted yeast that settles over time and as this gunk settles it can become a nice habitat for possible spoilage microbes so its best left removed periodically.

As a home wine maker choosing when to rack is more an art than science. Last year I was racking for the first time at four weeks religiously and leaving the next racks in the wines life at two then three months after each. This year I have been leaving it a little longer for the initial rack. The elderberry wine and elder and black have had an extra week to that already extra time as Mr Gazette Sr had a week away from the North East in That London with me. There was no way I was going to ask a him to help! All this extra time seems to have been beneficial as the lees was nicely compacted at the bottom allowing more to be left behind with very little stirred up by the auto-syphon. It also meant that more wine was transferred to the new demijohn too!

racking-with-gravity
Racking elderberry wine

I use an auto syphon to rack which relies on gravity to push the wine from the top demijohn into the new target demijohn placed lower. Imagine Telly Savalas in Battle Of The Bulge when he syphons petrol from a jeep into a jerry-can. I start the target demi fairly high on a stool to allow the tube to be secure and once the wine is pouring through carefully drop it onto the floor to get a good drop and quick transfer.

As the wine splashes into the new demijohn it also allows “splash back” to happen. this allows a little oxygen to be dissolved which binds with the carbonic acid creating carbon dioxide that will bubble away over the coming months. There are many myths in home wine making and one is that oxygen instantly and irrecoverably ruins wine which is bit of an over statement. All wine oxidises slightly, it is harmful in excess only. A decent rule of thumb is to allow white wines to pour down the glass sides of the demijohn and a red wine to splash straight in. This is because a white wine can more easily oxidise as it is more acidic and volatile.

racked-top-up-air-lock
Racked / topped up / stoppered and air locked

Once the racking stops with a satisfying “glug-glug” sound a quick top of pre boiled and now cooled water tops the wine up to the neck. This is to allow as little surface area exposed to air as possible. A bung and air lock completes the rack. Another myth is that a water top up in some how heresy for home wine makers; all country/fruit wines use water as an ingredient unlike grape wines that rely only on the grape. Recipes take topping up into account when macerating and pressing fruit at the start of the wine making process. That is not to say you HAVE to top up with water, some top up with steralised glass marbles to remove the head space and others add a similar tasting wine. It’s your wine and recipe do what feels right for you!

elder-and-black-lees
The left over lees from elder and black wine (some was poured into a glass)

Just because the wine is racked does not mean your work is done. The lees left behind has to be cleaned away to stop it contaminating your kit and demijohn. You also have some left behind to give a rough estimate of taste and progress, just take a sip rather than a mouthful as too much yeast ingested can give a bad case of the squity-wits. Although crude you can look for the tannin, acid and sulphur level.

elder-and-black-after-racking
Left: elderberry wine. Right: Elder and Black

My Elderberry tastes like a rough but decent wine, far better than last year and it has at least 5 months in bulk ageing and then another 6 months absolute minimum in the bottle. The Elder and Black was noticeably lighter in colour and taste but the yeast was less willing to settle to give a true indication. This is just a natural consequence of the Lalvin RC212 yeast I used behaving differently, in the elderberry wine seemingly creating clumped colonies of yeast and in the Elder and Black being more dispersed and willing to float about when agitated.

I have another two months to wait to rack again, at this state I plan to add some lighly toasted oak chips that will sit with it for 3 months giving a barrel aged taste – it did wonders for the blueberry!

ROWAN WINE RECIPE

rowan-wine-in-secondary
Rowan berry wine: primary fermentation in my brand new vintage demijohn

Rowan berries are often thought to be poisonous and they can cause an upset tummy due to para-sorbic acid but are generally safe to use in the kitchen providing it is boiled to turn the parasorbic acid into sorbic acid. “Safe” as in disgusting to eat but not flammable. The fruit are bitter and sour but not in a pleasing way like sloes. As you can tell this is bit of a hatchet job on the benign orange fruit as it does have some uses – bird food, rowan jelly as an accompaniment to game dishes or as wine.

I’m making this sound like I know what I am talking about but I have never made, never mind drunk rowan wine and this could take two years to mature only to turn out like toilet duck! The Welsh used to make diodgriafel (pronounced as Dee-od-gree-afell according Welsh Dave) and the Czechs distil Jerabinka with rowan berries. Traditionally they were just left to naturally ferment but I have chosen Lavlin 71B yeast… as I had some. Tea will add tannin and the raisins some body to turn this into a more traditional fruit wine.

rowan-berries
The Rowan Tree!

Finding rowan is easy, but finding them not next to a road proved more difficult. Identify them by the variegated leaves in clusters of 8 or 9 with slight saw tooth edges. Be warned that a few truly poisonous berries look similar so be careful. Picking is easy as the berries are in large clusters and they are apparently best slightly before being fully ripe.

rowan-berries-mashed
Rowan Berry 2: The Mashacre

I destemmed the berries, rinsed then froze them to burst the cells as they are very fleshy, this can also help break down the parasorbic acid. After a week I allowed to defrost overnight, mashed thoroughly and then boiled with 3.5 litres of water in a large stainless steel pan. The rolling boil will further break down the acid and then once cool the pectic enzyme will break down the copious pectin released.

rowan-wine-fermenting
Rowan wine – two days old

As the fruit was so fleshy I chose to leave the must sitting for 3 days to allow flavour and sugars to really leach into the water before adding the tea, lemon juice, yeast and nutrient. The sugar content of the berries is very high and only 500g of sugar was needed to pump the Start Gravity to 1.09. Primary fermentation was gentle with the berries floating happily on top.

straining-rowan-wine
Multitasking filtering the young rowan wine into primary fermentation and taking poor photographs

When the bubbling started to slow I filtered through a sterilised muslin ad then squeezed the juice as much as I could into the demijohn. The juice is a lovely orange colour but I expect this will largely be dissolved fruit pulp that will settle over the coming months leaving a far paler wine when done. The young must is a horrible taste though – bitter and sour. Far too astringent to have any indication of the wine that will come. It reminds me of the rather disgusting young sloe wine that has matured excellently becoming a complex fruity number that is a pleasure to drink. Having a nibble on one of the skins gave an indication of what might become with a mellow berry taste with hints of apple and lemon and I expect this will eventually have a unique sweet white wine.

If this does work the next recipe may well have some lemon zest and orange juice added to compliment the berry flavours but only time will tell.

 

ROWAN WINE – 4.5 litres

Suitable yeasts – Lalvin 71B

2kg rowan berries

250g raisins

½ cup of strong tea

3.5L water

500g sugar to 1.09sg

1tsp yeast nutrient

Juice of 1 lemon

1 and 1/2tsp pectolase

Yeast

 

Alternatives – zest of 1 lemon and 1 orange can be added to give more flavour

 

1.Pick and wash the rowan berries. Bring to boil for 10 minutes

2. Add pectic enzyme and lemon juice leave for 3 days for the flavour to soak out the fleshy fruit.

3. Add sugar to 1.09SG and tea then the yeast and nutrient.

4. Primary fermentation.

5. Filter into demijohn then squeeze the pulp to get all the juice.

6. Rack after 1 month then another 2 months, then 3 after that.

7. Bulk age for at least 6 months, stabilise and back sweeten to your taste preference then bottle.

 

Leave for 12 months at least after pitching yeast. May take 2 years to mature.