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Country Wines

Posted: Sat Aug 31, 2019 3:19 pm
by elfcurry
[I count 'Country Wines' as wine (fermented beverage) from fruit or vegetable matter and for this thread I'd like to discuss wine from grown, bought or foraged fruit and veg and steer away from wine kits. I don't think wine from grapes counts as I see 'country' is what distinguishes it from 'ordinary' grape wine. Also I'd like to keep this about wine, not other drinks such as beer, cider, sloe gin or liqueurs.

I can't remember how long ago I started but I think I've made two kit wines over thirty years ago. The first was white and ok-ish while the second was red and pretty unpleasant, so I realised I made a mistake gave up. Then years later I wanted to do something with blackcurrants from two old bushes in the garden, there when I moved in. The fruit were so small that any use for them which required losing any benefit the skin and pips would leave nothing of value - so I tried wine. That blackcurrant wine, made for several successive years was usually very nice but took a lot of effort to produce rather syrupy, but quite alcoholic Ribena. Everyone who tried it agreed it was sweeeet but still a very pleasant tipple.

Since then I've tried wine from plums, mostly bought but sometimes foraged or donated. I now have a Damson tree which is ready to supply enough fruit for a gallon or more to the cause. I've also done rapsberry, blackberry, gooseberry, apricot and among others, once each (for good reason) lemon (with raisins) and banana.

To avoid too much repetition of good advice elsewhere on this site here I've looked at articles and oldthreads about country wines and many contain some interesting or useful advice.
Most recent: Random Wine viewtopic.php?f=19&t=29898
also, How do I make Good wine? viewtopic.php?f=19&t=27768
And MKG's starter series Winemaking Parts 1,2 & 3 viewtopic.php?f=54&t=15819

I was recently talking to two people one of whom said they used to make wine but now they can afford it, they save the bother and buy it. That seems sad to me as I usualy enjoy my own more than professional grape wine and a number of people have said they like mine better.

So what are you making now? What have you made in the past and how did it turn out? Have you had any disasters? What would you like to try? If you haven't tried making wine, what held you back?

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Sat Aug 31, 2019 10:43 pm
by Green Aura
I haven't made any wine for a while. Kit or country. We've been busy with all sorts of other things and wine making was the thing we were least successful with.

Like you we had poor results from kit wines and couldn't see any point in making something so vastly inferior to professionally produced, especially as, apart from being only fit for cooking it 1) is not necessarily so much cheaper and 2) I didn't like using all the little packets of anonymous chemicals.

We've made various country wines over the years - with mixed success. We've never had very much success with any red wines. For some reason they always oxidise before they're drinkable. My favourite white is dandelion, it's definitely the one we've had most success with.

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Sun Sep 01, 2019 8:00 am
by Odsox
Much as I would like to, I have never made a country wine that was even drinkable.
I have tried at various times over my lifetime using different recipes from books, up to MKG's personal instructions, and all have had a nasty "home made" taste that I can't describe.
As I've been a "commercial" wine drinker all my adult life, not helped by living (and working) in France for a while, I am of course comparing home made unfairly and unfavourably.
So as there is no way I can hope to produce a wine that is even comparable to the cheapest plonk available, I no longer get the urge to try.
This IS just me personally, I'm sure many people can make very drinkable country wines .... I can't. :(

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Mon Sep 02, 2019 2:58 am
by BernardSmith
Don't consider myself an "expert" but I just did win a double gold and a bronze medal at this year's New York State Fair for two different honey wines (meads) I made. Here's what I consider are the secrets for making good country wines.
1. Use lab cultured yeasts and not bread yeast (unless you are not risk averse in which case you might try to cultivate and use the yeasts that are indigenous to the fruits or flowers from which you are making wine.
2. Be sure to ferment the wine at the lower end of the temperatures the yeast prefer.
3. Be sure to provide the yeast with sufficient nutrients. Sugar not nutritious and while some fruit does contain much of the organic and inorganic nutrients that yeast need much fruit does not.
4. Know that wine is all about balance so if you intend to make a very high alcohol wine from say, raspberries or cherries or apples most likely the flavors from the fruit will not support the amount of ethanol in your wine. A reasonable amount of alcohol for most fruit varieties is about 12% alcohol by volume (a starting gravity of about 1.090) . Lower ABV wines are fine but they have a far shorter shelf life.
5. Wine makers are like gardeners, not engineers. Our job is to provide for the needs of the yeast, to remove anything that can stress the yeast and then get out of the way to allow the yeast to do what it can do best.
6. There is no reason why a country wine should be cloyingly sweet or brut dry. If you know what you are doing and you monitor the fermentation you should aim to have the yeast ferment every last molecule of sugar that was in the must (the fruit juice before you added the yeast). You can either then bottle this wine bone dry OR you can stabilize the wine and then add sugar to back sweeten it.
7. Everything that touches the wine must be sanitized to prevent any bacteria or mold getting a toe hold and thriving. Ninety percent of wine making is cleaning and sanitizing. The best way to sanitize your equipment (and some say the fruit itself if you intend to macerate the fruit or use lab cultured yeasts is a substance called Potassium meta-bisulfate (found in home brewing stores). The advantage of using K-meta (as it is called by many wine makers) is that at different dilutions this same chemical is uses to kill wild yeast in the fruit, is used to sanitize your equipment and is used to inhibit oxidation of the wine when you rack it (transfer it from one vessel into another) or bottle it.
Home made wine can be delicious, and making wine at home can be a wonderful hobby. Cheers!

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Thu Sep 05, 2019 11:09 am
by elfcurry
Home country wines can be good or bad but if you control your 'process' you can mostly avoid problems and it can be very rewarding.

I want to encourage people who've had failures perhaps by recommending a simple recipe and keeping in touch to see how it works out. I'm in a rush now but thanks, esp Bernard (and congrats!) for your responses.

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 1:36 pm
by BernardSmith
One of the easiest ways to make a first country wine is to start with apple juice to make either a hard cider (about 5 or 6% alcohol by volume (ABV)) - or an apple wine (about 12 % ABV). For the cider you simply look for store bought (or orchard bought apple juice (best is the opaque juice that has not been filtered). Just make certain that the juice has not had any preservatives added (this will prevent the yeast from fermenting the sugars in the fruit). Simple apple juice has enough natural sugars to create cider. You simply remove about 1 cup of juice from a gallon bottle and add the yeast. There is no need to use an airlock (or balloon) to prevent any entry of bacteria or dirt as the carbon dioxide the yeast will produce will create enough pressure from the bottle to stop anything from spoiling the solution during active fermentation. After about two weeks all the sugars will have been converted to alcohol and this cider will be dry (brut) so you might want to sweeten it either in the cup (like tea or coffee) or you can stabilize the cider to prevent any refermentation and you can add sugar to the container. Makes a delicious (non carbonated) cider.

To make apple wine you add sugar to the juice (before you add the yeast). This will increase the potential total amount of alcohol One lb of sugar (a scant half kilo) added to 1 gallon (about 4 L) of juice will increase the potential to about 11 or 12% ABV.. and you simply treat this "must" or juice just like you would if you were making cider. While cider can be happily consumed immediately, though as with all wines, if it is good it will be even better a few months later, with wine, it really is better to allow the wine to age a couple of more months: the more alcohol the longer a wine needs to meld all the flavors. And in truth if you can age apple wine 12 months the flavors completely change (I think because much of the acid in the apple wine (malic) is transformed into a less sharp acid (lactic) and if the wine was good it becomes truly delightful.

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Mon Sep 09, 2019 4:20 pm
by Odsox
Yep, I tried apple wine Bernard, just the same as the other wines I tried to make.
The sorry saga is here ...viewtopic.php?f=19&t=28942
I didn't realise it was 2014 that I made these wines, I came across the last few bottles a couple of months ago and they still taste like crap. All were poured down the drain, not even good enough for cooking with.

It's not a problem though. I tried on last time, this time with expert guidance, and the result was the same as always.
I've got it out of my system now, and accepted the fact that I can't make country wine.

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 3:12 pm
by elfcurry
I have an urgent enquiry.

I've been making plum wine for some years now and some of it was really nice and some just better than ok. Several years ago I planted a damson tree to ensure supplies and last year was the first time I had enough fruit to make a gallon. This year I started the first gallon some weeks ago but for the second one I wanted to get rid of the stones but due to tiny flies lurking about to avoid their 'interest' I let the stones remain.

Since then I've remembered dire warnings about some poison in small quantities in stones of stone fruit. I'm due to separate the juice and put in a demijohn but is there any danger? Recently I think I read some plum wine recipe which was relaxed about removing the stones but being damsons which are smaller than plums there will probably be a hundred or so.

What do you say - should I go ahead and risk it or sling my precious fruit and start again? I could take the risk, and (to save others) you undersatnd, ensure only I consume any of it.

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 5:53 pm
by old tree man
I have been making Elderberry and bramble wine for 40yrs or so now and have tried a few different recipes, but i seem to go back to John Seymours basic elderberry recipe for the best results, all i do is add 1lb of brambles to give it a slightly port type flavour.
It does take a long time to mature but once you get your first year out of the way you can end up with a continuous supply.
Another favorite of mine is Parsnip wine it is a surprisingly nice medium white wine.
I only make country wines due to that the ingredients are mostly free !!!!! and the joy of foraging you own food is so appealing , especially when you sat drinking your own produce heaven :flower:

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 6:18 pm
by Green Aura
elfcurry, you maybe need to do a little more research, I'm certainly no expert on this.

However, to the best of my knowledge, any poison (and I'm guessing by that you mean laetrile, same as in apricots) is in the kernel, so unless you cracked the stones and steeped the kernels I don't think it'll be a problem. Plus, a lot of people eat the kernels.

Apple pips are probably more "poisonous" but I don't always remove them when making wine.

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 8:21 pm
by elfcurry
Thanks Maggie the stones were unmolested, so that gives me some comfort - and I won't blame you.

(Yes, I could and should find out but I thought I'd ask here.)

I'm off to transfer to the jar, during which I'll sample it. If you don't hear from me ....

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 9:21 pm
by elfcurry
old tree man - I've made what I call Blackberry wine for a few years and as I pick them in hedgerows I assume that's what you (less pretentiously) call bramble wine. Last year I made 5 gallons but none of it was as wonderful (by a long way) as what I made in the two previous years. I still have some from 2018 but it never matured into anything to 'treasure' or share with future generations. It's 'ok' -ish.

I never tried deliberately keeping any wine and this time I still have some because I made 5 gallons and it wasn't all that great so it was consumed at a slow rate. Consequently this year I made less effort and only have two gallons so far. [How long do you mature it for?]

Blackberry wine is the one I make with least control of ingredients or consistency of quality - can you offer any tips?

I want to try parsnip wine and as soon as I see them for sale cheaply I intend to make an experimental gallon.

I've never tried Elderberry and don't know where to start.

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Wed Sep 18, 2019 11:16 pm
by Weedo

You would possibly at more risk if you wild harvest plums etc. Even then, as GA states, you would need to crack the hull and the kernel. If plums were toxic in this form, I would be dead years ago. Mother made heaps of whole plum jam and conserves and served up whole stewed plums almost daily during the season. Simply put, the laterile in the kernel needs to be ingested to convert it into cyanide and you then need to consume 0.05 mg cyanide/ kg body weight to get even a slight poisoning effect. Cyanide occures naturally in cereals, soy, fruit juices, butter beans etc; and is used by plants for self-defence.

However, the symptoms of cyanide poisoning include nausea, headache, fever, lethargy and thirst; if you experience any of these after drinking your Damson wine then perhaps you should cease the activity?

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Thu Sep 19, 2019 6:25 am
by old tree man
Elfcurry elderberry wine has always been my favorite, in John Seymours" Bible" as i call it, the wine making methods are very easy, just as well for me :icon_smile: i find the simpler the better if you don't have his book i can post the recipe i use i have had lovely results from very simple and easy methods, if you think back to the times when monks were brewing they never had all these confusing chemicals and fancy gubbings that are available to us these days my feelings are keep it simple keep it tasty.
I try !!!!!! to leave my wines for a minimum of 6 months in a demijohn i found it easier to store then bottle, i did leave some elderberry for a year and it was lovely but resembled more of a light port :drunken:
I have a few errands to to today i'll post later if you need the recipe :thumbright: :thumbright:

Re: Country Wines

Posted: Fri Sep 20, 2019 12:47 pm
by elfcurry
old tree man - I hadn't considered elderberry mostly because they look so small you must need a lot and I don't know where to get them. I was out for a walk two weekends ago with a group and someone pointed them out. I was slightly surprised to see their dark/black colour as they aren't familiar to me but if I'd had a chance to stop for half an hour without losing the group I quite likely would have picked quite a number. Either they don't grow around here (SE Dorset) or somehow I just don't see them.

Agreed on simplicity - I have basic equipment and only use minimal chemicals. As in other areas of life, I judge whether something being recommended is really necessary by considering how people manage in poorer parts of the world or in the past centuries with more limited knowledge and materials. You can make wine without a demijohn, airlock, holed bung or plastic tubing, but it's not heroic to do without, just makes things more difficult and risks contamination.