Wild Wines Workshop
“One should always be drunk.
That’s all that matters…
But with what?
With wine, with poetry, or with virtue, as you chose.
But get drunk.”
At the end of the day, it’s the joy in our lives that really matters. The joie de vivre, as the French say. Nothing sums this up quite like the chink of wine glasses between friends and the first sip of chilled wine as the sun sets on a beautiful summer’s evening or the rich berry flavours of a ruby red wine sipped beside a crackling fire on a winter’s night.
The resilient life is a joyful life. Maybe this stems from the interconnectivity between ourselves and the wild things that become part of our immediate world. We take on a different world view when we start to fend for ourselves from the land that we roam on. We become aware of the seasons in a different way, not just for their heat, rain, coldness, light and darkness, but we see how the subtleties of our micro-climate and the weather in any one season affects the forage and hedgerows and thus the food and drink in our pantries.
Blackthorn blossom veils the hedgerows with a creamy white lace from early April and often before any leaves have appeared on the trees. Late in May the Hawthorn blossom, or May blossom, bursts into flower and the hedgerows are once more adorned with a spray of virginal whiteness. Beautiful as these blossoms are in the spring, the wild winemaker will be thinking of the fruits of the hedgerows to come several months on; the haws and the sloes with their iridescent red and blue fruits which are just some of the finest ingredients in the winemakers wild vineyard…the vineyard that we neither have to plant nor tend. From spring onwards the winemakers ingredients are all around; nettles, dandelions, gorse flowers and oak leaves are abundant in the spring, and through summer and autumn in the kitchen garden and orchard almost everything from gooseberries, plums and apples, to peapods and pumpkins can be used to make wine.
Of all the alchemies on the resilient homestead, wine making is perhaps the most magical. All you need is fruit, leaves or even roots, (such as beetroot or carrots which both make good wines), sugar, water and yeast. The sugar feeds the yeast during the fermentation process and produces alcohol and so the transformation of flavours and properties begins.
Drinking wine made from the land near where you live is rather different from drinking a bottle of cheap plonk from the supermarket. You control what has gone into it; it can be chemical-free and in our experience it has rather magical properties which promote all the pleasures of drinking wine and give you the most relaxing sleep experience. This, of course, is not a medical fact, just an experiential one!
Hedgerow Wine Recipe: Makes 1 demijohn = 6 x 750ml bottles
1.5kg mixed hedgerow fruit – blackberries, sloes, haws
4.5L boiling water
4 teabags (black tea)
*1 tsp pectolase
*1 tsp citric acid
*1 tsp yeast nutrient
*1 tsp wine yeast
*1 camden tablet (sulphite – optional)
*Steriliser (e.g. Brew Safe or Milton)
*Fermenting vessel (a lidded plastic bucket will do)
*1 gallon demijohn with bung and airlock
Muslin or similar as filter
6 used wine bottles
*All the above equipment can be cheaply bought online (try ‘Youngs’ for brewing supplies).
Gather fruit. You can freeze it until you have enough.
Sterilise fermentation vessel according to steriliser instructions. Scrupulous cleanliness is the secret to good wine.
Put fruit and sugar into fermentation vessel.
Boil water and add teabags (for tannin)
Remove teabags and pour boiling water onto fruit/sugar in fermentation vessel. Stir until sugar is dissolved. Leave to cool.
Add 1tsp Pectolase (pectin destroying enzyme) and stir and cover. Pectolase destroys the pectin that can make wine cloudy, hence giving you a clear wine at the end of fermentation.
Add 1tsp citric acid. Stir.
Add 1tsp yeast nutrient. Stir.
Add 1tsp wine yeast. Stir and cover.
Days 4, 5 & 6
Stir and cover. The brew should start to bubble and ferment over this time. Stirring oxygenates the ferment and breaks down any moulds that might creep in otherwise. It may look a little murky and not even smell very nice, but have faith…trust the process.
Don’t stir so that any sediment is settled.
Sterilise a demijohn, bung, airlock, funnel and maybe a bit of muslin to filter out excess sediment.
Transfer the brew from the fermentation vessel to the demijohn using a jug, siphon or tap if the fermentation vessel has one. Fill the demijohn as high as possible, leaving room for the bung to go in without touching the liquid.
Optional – add 1 camden tablet (sulphite) to ensure that your wine doesn’t ‘spoil’ during fermentation. If you are scrupulously hygenic you don’t have to do this.
Fit the bung into the top of the demijohn with an airlock. Pour some water into the airlock. Your demijohn is now airtight and no vinegar yeasts or other nasties can enter the wine during the next process of fermentation.
Label the demijohn with date and fruit.
Leave the demijohn to continue fermentation undisturbed for a month or so, until all bubbling has completely stopped.
Racking off or bottling
Your wine is ready to drink ‘young’ as soon as the fermentation process (bubbling) has stopped.
You can rack it off (transfer it) to another sterilised demijohn at this stage using a siphon which leaves the leys (any sediment) in the first demijohn, or if you’re impatient to try it, like me, you can transfer it straight into sterilised wine bottles which you can seal with cork (using a corker which you can buy online) or screw tops. It’s best to stand the bottles upright if you use screw tops to avoid dripping.
The wine continues to mature and change in flavour once it is bottled.
Try this recipe with any other ingredients you have to hand. Experiment and have fun.