Wines from your Backyard

I found this in our archives. Enjoy from 2011!

From among the many pleasures you can have from harvesting your own fruits and vegetables, one has got to be creating your own homemade wines. Making wine from fruits is simple and rewarding; all you need is the right equipment, the right ingredients, the right recipe and time. I’ve made a few interesting fruit wines in the past and I would love to try some more. If you are interested in making some fruit wine this year give me a call. If you supply the fruit, I may supply the equipment and some additional ingredients and together we can make some sweet wine.Great wines can come right out of your back yard!

Of course I won’t be able to accommodate everyone but I do plan on sharing our viniculture experiments with everyone by writing about our adventure. In fact I have already partnered with one member of our community to start a batch of Maple Sap Wine. We have taken 21 litres of Wylie Road Maple Tree Sap and added two litres of white grape concentrate, 4 kg of sugar, some wine tannin and added yeast to create the first batch of the year. After we added the yeast we kept it in a warm place and checked the fermentation process daily. I was very surprised at how fast the primary fermentation lasted, in just 10 days the specific gravity was at .990 telling me that there was no more sugar to ferment. We siphoned the wine into a 23 litre carboy and put it in a cooler area of the basement. We plan on bottling the wine in June and then laying it away for a year. Remember I said one of the things you need to make homemade wine is time, and a year is not uncommon with many of the wines you might want to try.

I would like to try some Dry Rhubarb Wine next. As you might have guessed by now I don’t currently have a garden to grow my own Rhubarb or anything else for that matter, so I am seeking willing partners, the kind of partners that do have the gardens and the skills to produce the fruits and vegetables needed, I know you’re out there, give me a call.

Getting back to the rhubarb wine; to make a full batch (23 litres) you will need the following:

  • 18 lbs of rhubarb stalks, sliced into ½ inch pieces. Choose vibrant red stalks for a colourful wine, select greener stalks if you prefer a white wine. Either way there will be no difference in the taste of the wine.
  • 3 lbs of golden raisins, chopped
  • 15 lbs of white sugar
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons of wine tannin
  • 1 ½ Teaspoons of pectic enzyme
  • 1 Campden tablet
  • 6 Teaspoons orange zest
  • 1 Package of wine yeast
  • 1 Teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • Juice of 1 orange
  • Additional juice if necessary

Put the rhubarb and raisins in a primary fermentation vessel that can be fitted with an airlock. In a pot bring 3 gallons of water to a boil, and then dissolve in the sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, pour the water over the mixture in the primary fermentation vessel. When the mixture has cooled add the wine tannin, pectic enzyme, and orange zest. Crush the campden tablet and add to the primary fermentor. Stir well, cover loosely and let stand for 24 hours.

After 24 hours – In a jar, make a wine yeast starter culture by combining the wine yeast, yeast nutrient, and the juice from 1 orange (room temperature). Cover, shake vigorously, and let stand for 1 to 3 hours, until bubbly; then add to the must in the primary fermentor, secure the lid and install an airlock.

Ferment for two weeks, then rack off the solids to fill a 23 litre carboy, pressing hard to remove all the liquid from the fruit. Cheese cloth works well to squeeze out the maximum amount of liquid from the must. Top up the carboy with additional orange juice if necessary, add an airlock and let ferment for another 6 months. Rack the wine into a second carboy and let stand for 1 more month. At this point rack the wine back into a clean vessel leaving behind any sediment and then bottle and cellar the wine.

Wait 6 moths before sampling your first bottle.

Rhubarb is usually the first fruit available in the springtime and besides being great in a pie there are several other uses. The last time I used rhubarb for wine I added fresh strawberries and honey. I can tell you it was a big hit with everyone who sampled it.

It is a bit early to tell, but if the pre-bottling sample of the Maple Sap Wine I just bottled is any kind of an indicator, then come Christmas time it’s going to be pretty darn good stuff. We started with a bucket full of Maple Sap on the 8th of April and bottled 35 bottles of a beautiful yellow coloured wine on the 15th of June. The plan is to put the wine down for about 6 more months and try the first bottle around Christmas time. Thanks to Fred and June for supplying the sap and the encouragement to try some other experiments now that this one has turned out so promising.

Brian McInall holds up a glass of Wylie Road Sap Wine just before running it through the filter.

The finished product bottled in both clear and dark bottles. The label reads; Wylie Road Wines – 2011 Maple Sap Wine – Produced and bottled at Valley Wines, Deep River, Ontario

If you may recall in my last letter for the Deep River and Area Horticultural Society I had put out a call for some fresh Rhubarb so that I could make a batch of Dry Rhubarb wine. Well I was supplied with about 25 pounds of the stuff and have already started my second garden wine of the year. There seems to be a real big call for Rhubarb around here in the spring with a lot going into pies, jam’s and stews all of which are so hard to resist because of their sweet and yet tart flavours.

I’ve made Rhubarb Wine in the past and in the past I have added strawberries and honey to sweeten the wine. This year I have added orange zest and raisins to offset the sourness that comes from the stalks. My recipe called for 8 KG of sugar but I cut it back to 6 and added 1 liter of a Red Grape Concentrate and 100 ml of Wine Conditioner. There is no question that the wine will be a bright pink colour when all is said and done, and by said and done I mean by about mid May 2012.

So now that the Sap Wine is bottled and the Rhubarb Wine is started you might ask what’s next. I am certainly open to suggestions and if you are willing to provide the locally grown fruits and/or vegetables I’ll do my best to find a good recipe and look after the post harvest production. Soon the blueberries, strawberries, blackberries and other berries will be ripening. I have already been reading some recipes for making wine from barriers and I have noticed that it takes a lot of berries to make wine. For one gallon of blueberry wine it takes one gallon of blueberries.

I also noticed that this looks like it’s going to be a good year for chokecherries. The little green cherries are starting to develop. If you do plan to make a batch of chokecherry wine this year, be sure to keep an eye on their ripeness and be prepared in advance for the harvest. I say this because as soon as they do ripen the birds seem very willing to clean you out before you can find your bucket and a tall enough ladder.

Here is a recipe for a semi dry chokecherry wine that I used about 5 years ago. This recipe is for one gallon, but the recipe can be multiplied to make a larger quantity. This makes a nice deep red, dry wine. Not bitter, not sweet.

2 lbs. Chokecherries
1 gallon water
1 lb Raisins
2 1/2 lbs. sugar
1 Campden tablet
1 tsp. Yeast Nutrient
1/2 tsp. Acid Blend
1/2 tsp. Pectic Enzyme
1 pkg. Wine Yeast (One pack of yeast is good for up to 5 gallons)

  • Pick fruit when it is ripe (black purple).
  • Wash and remove stems, leaves, and bruised fruit.
  • Mash the cherries, the pits are too big to remove but be careful not to break them as they are bitter.
  • Put the pulp into a nylon straining bag and squeeze out juice into a primary fermentor.
  • With the bag tied closed, place it in primary fermentor along with all the other ingredients EXCEPT FOR THE YEAST.
  • Wait 24 hours, and then add yeast and cover.
  • The SG should be about 1.090 – 1.095.
  • Check the SG daily and push the pulp bag down into the juice, you can even squeeze the bag a little to help with the juice extraction.
  • At SG 1.030 take out pulp bag, squeeze out all juice and siphon into a glass carboy.
  • Leave it in the secondary for 3 weeks or until SG is 1.000.
  • Rack into clean carboy and hold for at least 2 months before bottling.

Brian McInall
Owner of Valley Wines
Deep River

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