Mid-September is the best time to pick blackberries as they will be at their ripest. And National Blackberry Day celebrates this on September 12th when our hedgerows will be full of those plump black fruits that make an excellent homemade red wine. Come home with about half a carrier bag full of black berries and you’ll be ready to turn these into a gallon of blackberry wine.
If you’re source of blackberries is a hedgerow then follow responsible foraging guidelines and only pick fruit next to public footpaths away from traffic fumes or fields that might have been sprayed with pesticides, and only pick what you need and leave plenty of fruit behind for other foragers and wildlife.
If you find that blackberry wine, and its flavour of blackberries, is something you’ll want to make year after year then consider planting a blackberry in your garden. Don’t be worried that you’ll be introducing a rampant, prickly monster as modern garden varieties come thornless and small enough to grow in hanging baskets or pots.
Blackberry is the only fruit
To make your wine start by dissolving granulated sugar with two kettles of boiling water in your clean plastic fermentation bucket – use 1.1kg (2 ½ lb) of sugar if you want a dry style blackberry red, or 1.3kg (3 lb) for a medium-sweet result. Wait for it to cool and stir in 1 teaspoon of pectic enzyme.
Put 2kg (4 lb) of freshly picked really ripe blackberries (or frozen fruit straight from the freezer that you’ve been adding to in small amounts over the season) into a muslin straining bag which sits inside the plastic fermentation bin – ensuring fruit and bag is low enough in the bucket to be in the sugar solution. Then sprinkle a crushed Campden tablet onto the fruit and mash the whole lot up with your hands or use a potato masher (leave frozen fruit to thaw before doing this).
Put the lid on the bucket and leave for 24 hours. Then stir in your choice of yeast and yeast nutrient and pop the lid back on. Be prepared for a vigorous fermentation where you’ll get a lot of pink froth which may seep out of the bucket. So to avoid carpet stains, place your fermentation bucket on a tray covered in newspaper to soak up any spills.
Cause a stir
Lift the lid each day to take a look and also give the fruit a stir with a long handled plastic spoon. After 5 days the wine will be ready to strain. Do this by lifting the straining bag and allowing the liquid to drain into the bottom of the fermentation bucket (see blog Fruits of the Freezer Wine for tips on how to do this) and then pouring into a demijohn. Top up the demijohn with cold boiled water to just below the bottom of the glass neck and then fit a bung and airlock.
After the wine has finished fermenting and shows no more bubbles through the airlock, leave the wine for a couple of months and then rack off its large amount of deposit into a fresh demijohn. Then leave for 6 months to mature and the flavours to meld. The wine will be ready to bottle and drink at this point.
Enjoy this wine over the next year but don’t leave it hanging around for too much longer as the flavours will just start to deteriorate and at the same time the wine’s colour will turn a distinct orange.
Award-winning Blackberry Wine Recipe
(makes 1 gallon/4.5 litres and fills one demijohn and then 6 wine bottles)
1.5 – 2kg (3-4 lbs) blackberries (freshly picked or frozen)
1.1kg (2½ lbs) granulated sugar for a dry wine, 1.3kg (3 lbs) for a medium-sweet finish
Burgundy yeast (use Young’s Burgundy red wine yeast sachet or Gervin GV11 red fruit wine yeast)
1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
1 teaspoon pectic enzyme
3.5 litres (6 pints) boiling water
Optional extras: Add 1 teaspoon of tartaric acid to the fermentation if the picked fruit is slightly under ripe. After fermentation you can also help smooth off the flavours more quickly by adding a couple of teaspoons of oak chips to your demijohn. Available for home brewers in small bags or just ask a friend who does carpentry if they have any fresh oak shavings.