Strawberry wine is a bit of an oddity. Easy recipe but labour intensive at the start though a dream when it clears and matures. It can be chaptilized into champagne easily and excellently. Good as a sweet or dry wine it stands as a good fruit wine that does not need to be compared to grape based rosé. The still wine though lovely (and quick and easy… did I mention that?) leaves a little to be desired.
I have not been able to push strawberries past good to great except when it becomes champagne. As I have plans for sparkling wines made from gooseberry and possibly the grapes I stole I want a top notch still strawberry wine that can stand on its own. Strawberries are not like other berries or grapes with tannin rich skins and a long period of maceration.
Two experiments were started last year and the first I thought would be best for a still wine. This added banana to add some body with polyunsaccharide sugars that are unfermentable by wine yeast. As they are long chain sugars they act like tannin adding mouth feel. This was made as a still wine and stabilised with metabisulphate so totally unable to be made into champagne but on reflection this would make a great sparkling wine. Arse.
The second experiment was cutting the strawberry with rhubarb and adding a small amount of raisins. This I thought would be an even better base for champagne as the oxalic acidity would move it towards a traditional champagne taste. Just as with the banana I got it all wrong and the rhubarb addition seems to make a better still wine. Luckily this has happily been bottled as a still wine. Though it needs to mature further the taste is smoother with the rhubarb complimenting the strawberry. Ms Gazette who is far smarterer than wot me is described the rhubarb as “cutting through the implied sweetness of the strawberry creating a more complex taste.“ Acids seem balanced with a less puckering taste and the overt fruitiness of the strawberry is tempered by the floral addition of the rhubarb. It seems nice and complex rather than lacking sweetness due to over domineering strawberries of traditional strawberry wine.
So the moral of the story seems to be never trust your instincts and always ask your partner to describe tastes. All I have to do now is work out how long it takes to mature to perfection. Strawberry can mature in nine months while rhubarb can take up to two years. If any one has any experience send it my way.
Strawberry wine is a great wine for beginners and it has become a staple recipe for me. I have adapted it from the initial 17% hooch I first made into a still white wine, sparkling “champagne,” some vermouth experiments and now into my first composite wine with two fruits used with Strawberry and Rhubarb.
The classic strawberry wine is a quick and easy wine ideal for the beginner. Forgiving as a sweet or dry wine and quick to age to perfection. As I am now more confident with flavours, methods and throwing myself into experimenting with recipes I have decided to try and modify it to a slightly fuller rose rather than white wine. The first experiment was started last week with bananas added to bring a subtle fruitier weight to a purely strawberry wine with a more velvety mouth feel. This strawberry and rhubarb wine has two ideas to test out. The first is that rhubarb compliments strawberries as a classic taste combination creating a rounder top note, the second idea is that the raisins add a fuller base just like the bananas.
When making the strawberry wine with added body I thought that the fruitiness of the bananas would fight the rhubarb making a muddled wine with three fruits fighting for dominance. Using raisins I hope will compliment rather than battle the tartness of the rhubarb with less perfumed scents floating about in the final bottle.
Using two fruits in combination adds some complexity in logistics and recipe. Ideally strawberries and rhubarb are macerated with different methods so it is more work to prep before the yeast is even pitched. Strawberries require an aqueous maceration and rhubarb uses sugar to draw out the liquid as it dissolves. Both methods are used for the same reason to minimise bitter tastes being extracted from the fruit with only liquid being present when the yeast is eventually added. As the must is overwhelmingly liquid you have an easier life when this is in primary fermentation with little stirring needed compared to say blackberries that require a labour intensive stir four times a day!
I chose to use MA33 yeasts as it can tolerate the harsh Oxalic acid in rhubarb and convert much of it to softer tasting Malic acid. It had hell of a party and was exceptionally quick to ferment taking only four days in primary with a thick foam present for much of that time. Initially it was a grimy brown as the yeast was held with in it but as they yeast coalesced it started to sink leaving a clean white foam instead. I chose to mix the yeasty foam into the must so that it did not have any chance to oxidise. As I want the rhubarb to compliment the strawberry I used it in a 1:2 ratio with with 700 grams of rhubarb and 1400 grams of strawberries per British gallon of wine. There are no hard and fast rules for this and you can change this ratio to match your own taste. Some even make two wines of each fruit and blend them just before bottling.
STRAWBERRY AND HUBARB WINE – 4.5 L
Suitable yeasts – MA33 or other white wine yeasts
1200g firm strawberries
1kg sugar to 1.09SG
About 4 litres water
Juice of 1 lemon
Cup of strong tea
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Sachet of yeast
1. Chop the rubarb up into small chunks and pour over 1 kg of sugar. Stir it then cover. Leave for 3 days and stir twice a day to extract the juice into the sugar
2. On day two trim and wash your strawberries and mash thoroughly in a pan. Boil one litre of water then pour over 1 litre of boiling water (the other water can be set asside in a covered pan)
3. On day three chop the raisins roughly and boil in the remaining water. leave it covered red to cool.
4. Once the strawberries have puréed strain through sterilised muslin, then pour the now cooled “raisin water” through to extract the flavour. It can be stirred but do not squeeze the mush as this extracts bitter tastes
5. Stir in the rhubarb sugar into the must and remove the rhubarb with a slotted sterilised spoon. Adjust sugar level to 1.08 (11%ABV could be made into champagne too) or 1.09SG (13%ABV) Stir in the strong tea, lemon juice and yeast nutrient and the yeast and leave in primary to ferment. The primary fermentation vessel needs be big enough to contain the explosive fermentation as strawberries tend to foam a lot!
6. Rack after a month, then 2 months after that if needed
Can be drunk after 6 months of pitching the yeast, ready in nine and great after 12 but this will not last beyond 2 years.
Strawberry wine was the first home made wine that I got to drink. Being impatient for my elderflower wine to mature I made it to take advantage of the 6 – 9 month ageing rather than full 12 months for the elder flowers. It was more moon shine than wine as I had no hydrometer and as all British recipes always go for maximum alcohol I imagine it was about 17% abv. It got my parents in law absolutely spannered. I think it did anyway I was spannered too. Ms Gazette as well.
As I have become more refined I have been able to get a little more exacting in my recipes and methods. Strawberry wine is great as it can be sweet or absolutely dry and easily made into champagne…. well sparkling wine at the end of bulk ageing. Extracting the juice is nice and easy and after the initial maceration requires little work like other berry wines. It is quick to mature at nine months but best at a year old so suites a new brewer or one more experienced.
I am totally happy with the strawberry champagne I make as it is crisp and sharp with an unmistakable strawberry taste that is not overly pungent or too floral to be sickly. I say happy but its actually fucking great to open your own sparkling wine that costs about £3 to make and I personally think it better than the commercial version we used to drink on Ms Gazettes birthday.
The still wine although lovely still has room for improvement as it could have some extra body in my view. I have decided to experiment with banana added to create a more robust body. Banana is a recent idea that has been developed for country/fruit wine makers as it allows a more neutral taste than wine concentrates and raisins. The jury is out on how and where it can be used with some saying it is only good for tropical fruit, others for any berry based wines and others saying only white wines. As such I have no idea if this will work and I have a year to wait to a taste test so use the classic strawberry wine recipe below if you are the exacting type. Both will have advantages over many other recipes as it removes the fruit before any bitter after tastes can be extracted and forgoes any vigorous presses that squeeze out that bitterness.
If you do want to use banana you have to plan ahead as very ripe bananas are needed. Seriously they should be going black on the skins. Chop them into inch long chunks, skin and all and then pop into part or all of the water allocated to your recipe. Bring it to the boil, simmer for 15 minutes and then wait for the water to cool overnight. The pan should remain covered to stop any bacteria falling in and remove the chunks once it is nice and cool. Initially I was terrified by what I had made as the bananas look like HR Giger made some nightmare sausage rolls. The flesh swells out of the skin and I am glad I have no photos as they look freakishly bizarre bloated messes. The resulting water is a rich peaty brown colour. When this is added to your must it will discolour it but as most of the colour is particulates it starts to settle out and will not affect the final hue. The idea is that the poly saccharides – the long sugars give added mouth feel providing a more velty feel on the tongue and the “neutral” fruit taste compliments the tastes of your base fruit. At least that’s what I read…
EXPERIMENTAL STRAWBERRY WINE – 4.5 L
Suitable yeasts – Any champagne yeast like EC1118 or white wine yeasts like CY17 or SN9
2kg firm strawberries
2 very ripe bananas
1kg-ish of sugar to 1.09SG
About 4.5 litres boiled and cooled water
Juice of 2 lemons
Half cup of strong tea
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Sachet of yeast
1. Trim and wash the strawberries
2. Mash the strawberries with a potato masher, mix in most of the sugar in a litre of boiling water, cover and leave for a day or two until it pureés
3. Chop the bananas into inch cubes skin and all and drop into the rest of the water, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes then leave to cool
4. Remove the banana chunks when the water is cold
5. Once the strawberries have puréed strain through sterilised muslin, then pour the now cooled banana water through it to extract all the strawberry flavour. It can be stirred but do not squeeze the mush as this extracts bitter tastes
5a. (optional) Add pectolaise and leave covered for 12 to 24 hours.
6. Adjust sugar level to 1.09SG, Stir in the strong tea, lemon juice and yeast nutrient and the yeast and leave in primary. The primary fermentation vessel needs be big enough to contain the explosive fermentation as strawberries tend to foam a lot!
7. Siphon into a demijohn when primary fermentation ends – this is usually very quick at 4 or 5 days,
8. Rack after a month, then 2 months after that if needed
Can be drunk after six months of pitching the yeast, ready in nine and great after 12 but this will not last beyond 2 years.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I had 10 litres maturing and decided to get creative with it dividing it into 2 separate demijohns with a little left over. One demijohn will be further divided next month to make 3 bottles or traditional table wine and 3 bottles of strawberry vermouth.
So that left the rest to be turned into champagne, well sparkling wine as Walthamstow is not in the designated Champagne region. The “left over” suddenly became very useful being plopped into a small bottle to start a secondary fermentation. This was a stroke of luck that it took the bung as if it was made for it rather than some Heath Robinson style recycling. The strawberry wine is totally dry so I did not have to worry about residual sugar messing my calculations in it. I use the term calculations loosely by the way. I dissolved 17 grams of sugar into the 750ml of wine and added some yeast nutrient to provide a head start. Then I added the yeast which was EC1118 and was dropped onto the top and left to hydrate – the image shows the yeast 10 or so minutes later.
After 2 hours I stirred the yeast into the must and noticed to my surprise that it was happy and bubbling so very must active. The grains has swelled showing confirming this. The next day I added 40ml of water to account for the extra alcohol created and added another dose of sugar to keep things rolling along. 24 hours after starting I felt confident it was ready to add to the main body of the demijohn. I removed a litre or so of the wine to make space which went straight into the sterilised champagne bottles. The must was sweetened (chaptilised for the technically minded!) with the equivalent of 20g of sugar per bottle meaning 140g was added for the 7 bottles. Then the yeast infused starter was mixed into it and then promptly poured into the bottles, corked and caged to keep them secure when the pressure builds. Always use champagne bottles for this as they are thicker walls with a stronger neck and dome at the base to hold their shape. If you use a standard wine bottle you are going to have a bad day when it explodes.
The plastic corks are hollow and over the next few days the wine will upended and mature upside down for two reasons. The first is that it allows the sediment to collect in the hollow cap over time. When it comes to opening it can be “riddled” freezing the cap and popping cork for sediment free sparkling wine! Secondly the weight of the bottle (and the cage) means the cork is less likely to pop creating a sparkling wine volcano.
Fingers crossed. No idea how long it will take but strawberry wine is quick to mature, a regular bottle only needs nine months so I am possibly three months away from tasting… if it carbonates! If anyone has any time frames for this please let me know!