The LoNo wine category, containing less than 0.5% alcohol, has been growing at a pace on the commercial side of the wine aisle. But home wine makers have been making this style of wine for generations using wild flowers and herbs. And now is a great time to join in as late May and early June sees the huge white heads of the elderflower adorning the hedgerows. This aromatic flower can be turned into what used to be known as Elderflower Champagne, but stricter naming laws have put paid to that and we now call it Elderflower Sparkling.
Using just the freshly gathered heads of the elderflower, along with some sugar, water and a bit of winemaking know-how, can produce a refreshing drink that our grandparents, and their grandparents, would know the taste of.
But what does elderflower taste like?
Many wines are often described as having an elderflower aroma or taste. But if you’ve never tasted an elderflower wine, cordial, or elderflower infusion then it’s hard to know whether you’ll like it. Try smelling the elderflowers before you pick them and you’ll find they smell like a mix of creamy apple along with daffodils and a hint of green leaf. And this aroma comes through in the taste as well.
So how do you make low/no-alcohol elderflower sparkling?
On a warm day go and pick your elderflower heads and then follow the recipe:
- 3-5 elderflower heads with as little green stalk as possible (use more flower heads for a greater flavour)
- 450grammes (or 1 lb) of granulated white sugar
- 1 lemon sliced, or 1 teaspoon of winemaking citric acid
- 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar, or 0.5 teaspoon of winemaking tartaric acid
- 2 litres of boiling tap water
- Fermentation bucket and lid or a Pyrex bowl plus clean tea towel
- 3 x 75cl glass bottles with swing top lids (use the Mad Millie Reusable glass bottles)
First dissolve the sugar by pouring over the kettle full of boiling water within your clean fermentation bucket or, as it’s a small volume, use a Pyrex bowl from the kitchen instead. Then stir in the winemaking demon tweaks of citric acid and tartaric acid. Older winemaking recipes called for a lemon and white wine vinegar, which you can still use, but citric acid and tartaric acid are their equivalents and you’ll likely have these on hand in your winemaking cupboard.
Stir in the freshly picked elderflower heads and leave to infuse for 1-2 days with a cloth or lid covering things.
Then strain through a sieve to remove the now sodden elderflower heads and lemon (pips and all) and pour into swing top bottles.
Then leave the filled bottles for a couple of weeks while the wild yeasts that were present on the elderflowers get to work and create a small amount of alcohol (about 0.5%). The carbon dioxide gas created during fermentation gets trapped in the liquid and only escapes when the bottle is opened. This escaping gas is what we see and feel on our tongues as a light spritz, or sparkle.
As home winemakers we are used to adding a crushed Campden tablet to our infusing flowers and fruits but DO NOT ADD these in this recipe.
Normally Campden tablets are used to sterilise, and kill off any wild yeasts, in your flower and fruit water mix before you add a wine yeast. This would allow the wine yeast to ferment your wine base to a higher alcohol level (10-12%) and replace the wild yeasts that can only ferment to a maximum 2 or 3% alcohol by volume. But in this instance the wild yeasts are wanted and so we allow them to live.