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Does wine have to be made from grapes?

Fruit in wicker basket

Written by Paula Goddard

Paula started her home-made beer and country wine journey in the 1990s when she won the Tunbridge Wells Wine Circle Brookside Novices’ Cup, Ladies Trophy, E&R Jubilee Bowl and Wells Trophy. Which matched her move from the research team at a food packaging manufacturer and deciding to be more involved with the food inside the packaging while beginning teaching food and drink courses at adult education colleges. Tea tasting expanded into popular wine courses that were regularly over-subscribed. She now runs online wine courses with Buckinghamshire Adult Learning, and tasting events through her own wine website wineuncorked.co.uk. You’ll find her on social media dispensing tips, views and wine reviews as @wineuncorkeduk

28 March 2022

When supermarket wines are described has having flavours of blackberry or cherry, or even gooseberry and banana, then why can’t we just cut to the chase and drink wines made from these fruits instead? The answer is you can. Wines made with hedgerow-picked fruits, or delivered to us from the farmer via the supermarket, are known as country wines and can be made by any winemaking enthusiast with a demijohn and a plastic fermentation bucket.

In a country that hasn’t grown grapes all that reliably for much of its history, the UK has looked to the scruffy elderberry bush to make red port-style wines with the September-ready black fruits and even used them (legislation put a stop to it) to add extra flavour and colour to the imported Portuguese real stuff. If you’re not sure whether you’ve got an elderberry bush near you then look out for their gorgeous scented flower heads in June and use these to make elderflower wine by steeping the flowers in sugar dissolved in water for a few days then sprinkling in (jargon alert: pitching) some yeast.

Berry knowledge

And that’s the basic way for making any fruit wines. Add the fruit to your clean and sterilised fermentation bucket, pour on some water and then stir in some granulated sugar and a few other essentials like yeast nutrient and citric acid, then finally some dried yeast.

But you don’t have to remember all that as the author C.J.J. Berry tells us what to do in his books First Steps in Winemaking (£7.99) and 130 New Winemaking Recipes (£7.99).

And the list is longer than just those fruits grown here in the UK. The fruit bowl staple, the banana, will ferment into an excellent white wine. And what’s even better, it’ll do that when it’s over-ripe and going black. Yes really, those squishy ones you thought were only good for the bin can be boiled up (skins and all) to make a strange coloured liquid (it goes either a dirty grey or even pink) that becomes clear and can be added to other country wine recipes, or even be drunk as it, is once it’s finished fermenting.

New Zealand at the allotment

If you’ve got a friend with an allotment then ask them for any spare gooseberries. Rather out of fashion, the hairy grape makes a, well gooseberry-tasting wine, rather like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Which is in short supply due to a lack of grapes and ever-increasing demand. Why don’t they just ask us to drink Great British Gooseberry instead?

Wine kits with fruit

If you want to try the flavours of fruit wines without the hassle of picking the fruit then try these prepared wine kits that have added concentrated fruit juices to make a grapey hybrid that’s the best of both worlds.

Cellar 7 30 bottle wine kit Raspberry and Cassis (£35)

Cellar 7 30 bottle wine kit Summer Berries (£35)

Cellar 7 30 bottle wine kit Fruit Peach and Mango (£35)

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Can wine taste like beer?

When wine is made from grapes and beer from malted barley, the question of whether there is a cross-over in flavours between the two is surely a non-starter. But add in country wines made by the home winemaker using fruits that aren’t grapes and flavoured with an A-Z of herbs and spices and the question starts to sound like there might be something in it.

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