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Non-Grape Wines?  RSS feed

 
Ben Link
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Location: Columbus, GA
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I was browsing Reddit's winemaking forum and came across this post showing off some dandelion wine:

Reddit r/winemaking

Since I live in Southwest Georgia, it's a bit difficult growing the classic grape varietals. I know I can bottle a moscato and berry wines but haven't attempted it yet (maybe a blueberry will be my first?). This reddit post reminded me that wines aren't solely in the domain of fruit, which opens the doors for (potentially) some really awesome, non-grape regional wines.

I'm a bit of a wine-o, so it's only natural I turn to winemaking at some point. Any advice? Resources? Recipes? Thoughts?

I'm taking a fermentation workshop with Sandor Katz this summer, so hopefully he can provide some good insight into this topic as well.
 
Rion Mather
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Berry wines are really popular here. Farmers have been making them for ages. Berry wines are not for everyone because they do come out much sweeter than the grape varieties.

It sounds like a grand adventure. Good luck!
 
Alder Burns
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I've made wine from just about every imaginable fruit except bananas and avocadoes. Citrus makes pretty vile stuff, but just about anything besides the above three can work for you. The uniqueness of the European grapes with which winemaking originated is that they can ripen sweet enough to ferment to adequate strength on their own, without adding sweetener. Most other fruits benefit hugely from some added sugar,honey, or other sugar source for the yeast to convert into more alcohol. Recipes can estimate how much, and you can invest in a hydrometer which measures the specific gravity (which in turn relates to, first, the sugar content; and later, the alcohol content) of the fruit juice or maturing wine in question.
Having lived in GA myself for years, it's wonderful country for wine making goods. See if you can get gleaning privileges to a muscadine vineyard or a blueberry plot as picking season finishes....often a lot of overripe (for fresh market) fruit is left on the plants with both, and this fruit is ideal for winemaking!
 
tel jetson
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I'm of the opinion that wine ought to be made of anything you've got an abundance of. if you've got more fruit than you can otherwise consume or preserve, wine is a great way to use it up.

mead can be good, though I've had far more bad meads than good. the best were very dry and fizzy. honey is also a decent way to boost alcohol content in fruit wines without creating off flavors. depending on the flowers that go into the honey, it can ferment very quickly or very, very slowly, at least on its own. combined with fruit, it's likely to have a better balance of nutrients for the yeast. one of my favorites was apple juice with honey. ended up being pretty stout stuff and needed a lot of aging, but turned out very tasty in the end. crabapples, gravensteins, and blackberry honey.
 
allen lumley
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Ben Link : In the past I had a wine and beer supply shop I could hang out in, while my other half was doing 'her shopping' Most of the time there was a kid there
that could run the cash register- JUST ! But the characters that showed up, not only did I get a lot of mostly good advice, and a chance to go out to the parking lot
and swap a few bottles of this for that !

Now I'm on a bunch of just legal meds and cant do that any more, and go hang out in a 'railroad salvage store ! 'Big Al'
 
Amedean Messan
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MUSCADINES!
 
Mike Cantrell
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Here are the two links you need!

On the one hand, there's Jack Keller. The link goes to his page of dandelion wine recipes, since you mentioned those specifically, but he's made wine, and WON AWARDS, for just about every plant out there. Sandspurs. Sandspur wine, no dang joke.

Anyhow, Jack represents one end of the spectrum in brewing mentalities. He's thorough, rigorous, serious, skilled, and respectable.

At the other end of the spectrum are these guys: http://www.thewinepages.org.uk/
Candidly, they're much more my style. Sometimes I wish I had a really diligent and meticulous personality like Keller, but I just don't. I like to make wine (beer, mead, cider) if and when it's pleasant. If something like recording the details seems like a drag at the time, I skip it. If the resulting wine is terrible? Eh. No money wasted. (Also why I make sure the picking of fruits is at least mostly pleasant. If the wine doesn't come out, then it wasn't a waste of grueling labor, it was a nice afternoon in the sunshine.) So I take a pretty casual approach to making wine.

From that angle then, very casual, there are just a couple things I'd share first someone starting at the beginning.

-The yeast makes a remarkable difference. Some very old-fashioned recipes call for using bread yeast, oftentimes floating on a slice of rye bread. Don't. Pay $.75 for some wine yeast.
(Actually, if you can score enough fruit to yield multiple gallons of juice, then have an educational adventure and try several different yeasts on the same batch of juice- 1 gallon of this, 1 gallon of that- so you can taste the differences between them.) The variety of yeast really matters.

-Time is of the essence. Not often that you get to say that and mean "go slower" rather than "go faster," but that's what I mean. Time is important. Go slower. You'll want to taste them after a couple months, and maybe that's fine, but DON'T SHOW THEM OFF. Just because you're pleased as punch at having made wine from scratch, that doesn't mean anyone else, especially spouses, is going to think it tastes good yet. She's going to think it tastes lousy! Then she'll learn to dread your wine, which is well-nigh impossible to overcome. So bide your time until the first one is good and ready before anybody but you tastes it. That means 12 months and not a day less. Nobody, especially not somebody whose opinion you care about, gets to taste the first batch or two of wine before it's excellent. Just wait.

Start like that, and in a couple of years you'll be twice as popular at Christmas as you ever were before.
 
Ben Link
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Thanks for all the advice so far! I'm going to pick up a couple books Keller recommends and get prepared for this year's blueberry harvest as a start.
 
Alder Burns
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An issue with the summer fruits, like berries, plums, and peaches in the South is the temperature. Wine really likes to ferment at temps. quite a bit cooler than normal summer in GA! Think 60's and 70's. It will work warmer but I think the result is a bit harsh. Some of the best batches I ever participated in were when I had access to a cool, shady creek and we stuck the carboys out on a floating raft in milk crates so that they were largely submerged. Of course if you have a real cellar or live in A.C. land it's not much of an issue, provided you can have the wine right in the house with you....might give off some smell particularly at the beginning.
But really, how hard can it be? People have been doing this for what, 7000 years or so? It even happens all by itself, as you'll smell if you're ever around a muscadine vineyard with a lot of overripe fruit. I guess one thing we moderns often forget is that when wine "fails" it often turns into vinegar, and in ancient times at least vinegar was almost as useful as wine, for pickling, etc.
 
tel jetson
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Alder Burns wrote:
But really, how hard can it be? People have been doing this for what, 7000 years or so? It even happens all by itself, as you'll smell if you're ever around a muscadine vineyard with a lot of overripe fruit. I guess one thing we moderns often forget is that when wine "fails" it often turns into vinegar, and in ancient times at least vinegar was almost as useful as wine, for pickling, etc.


vinegar is great, too, but it can lead to some problems. acetic acid bacteria (make vinegar out of alcohol) are extremely tenacious little critters. the upshot of this is that once vinegar has been made in a particular space, it's really not a good idea to try to make wine there anymore unless some very serious disinfection is undertaken.

so if you're going to make some vinegar, do it in a place very well isolated from where you ferment your wine.
 
allen lumley
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Tel J. : Thank You ! that is good to have be pointed out, I guessI knew that but wouldn't have given it any thought ! PYRO-MAGICALLY Big Al !
 
Alder Burns
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I've definitely used carboys and airlocks from jugs of wine that had gone to vinegar again for wine with good result. They just got a rinsing and then a good scalding with boiling water and a few hours in the sun.....
 
tel jetson
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Alder Burns wrote:I've definitely used carboys and airlocks from jugs of wine that had gone to vinegar again for wine with good result. They just got a rinsing and then a good scalding with boiling water and a few hours in the sun.....


and I've accepted mystery drugs from strangers with good result. not something I plan to do in the future, though, and not something I would recommend to others.

carboys and airlocks aren't generally the problem. more an issue of the environs where the fermentation takes place.
 
Jeff McLeod
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This reminds me of the blackberry and dandelion wines we used to make as kids. Of course we didn't even think to add any kind of yeast - just the yeast as it came naturally on the fruit. How we didn't manage to poison ourselves or kill ourselves is anyone's guess. The most memorable moment was a loud bang in the night. And waking up the next morning with a rather angry mother. Who made me clean up all the broken glass and blackberry wine in the pantry. In those days we were making our wine in old R-whites lemonade bottles.
 
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