Thursday, 16 August 2012

Fruit wine and friends

Until recently I had very little experience of home-made wine or wine made from fruits other than grapes. That is until a local mum friend approached me about tasting a selection of fruit wine made by her late mother. The idea was to serve this wine in a fundraising event for our children's school – if I deemed it palatable – along with a selection of equally homely food.

To be honest, I really didn't know what to expect. I have dim memories of sipping some of my grandmother's home-made tea wine which was like a light sweetish sherry – and in a perfectly good way. A nice little late afternoon tipple. However, tasting through Leonie's mother's wines was quite a revelation, particularly as they were made several years ago. It must be said that the contents of a few demi-johns ended up down the drain, but others were unexpectedly good. Here are some notes used to describe the wines at the event and, as expected, the raspberry and redcurrant was fabulous with gooey, chocolate brownies.

Hawthorn blossom
Sweet fragrant fruit and refreshingly balanced used here as a base for a summery punch mixed with soda water, citrus fruit and mint.

This is lovely – lots of perfumed Muscat-like fruit. It’s a really charming example of a home-made wine and surprisingly fresh and fragrant after more than five years. It’s not dissimilar to a southern French vin doux naturel such as Rivesaltes or Beaumes de Venise.

This is light, gently fruity, medium-sweet and quite summery. It reminded me of Liebfraumilch or Hock, so quite retro and easy-drinking.

This reminded me of a light ruby port – pale red in colour with slightly jammy berry fruit. There is some alcoholic warmth, but not the firey kick you’d find in port. One batch was fresher and fruitier, the other more evolved and sherried (so more like tawny port).

This is tasting quite mature and sherried (oxidised), but has an interesting medium-sweet nutty fruity character like white port (which is deliciously appetising served chilled as an aperitif).

Elderberry (dry)
This is quite a muscular dry red. Rustic, hearty and a contrast to the other wines which are more sweetly fruity. It should be interesting to serve with charcuterie and farmhouse cheeses as, unlike the other wines, it tastes properly suited to food.

Raspberry & redcurrant
Great stuff – lush ripe red berry fruit, smooth and sweet and, to my mind, begging for chocolate. Like the elderflower wine, it demonstrates what successful results you can have with home-made wines.

There were also some unidentified wines served for fun which included plum (I think that's what it was) which turned out to be gorgeous – lush and sweet.

If you fancy having a go at making them yourself, Susy Atkins' book, How To Make Your Own Drinks includes some delicious recipes and useful practical advice. Following the event I am now in possession of a few demi-johns and I'll certainly be using them...