It was Joe Cox who finally tipped me over to making country wine. Joe is a central character in Joanne Harris' novel Blackberry Wine. I loved the book and was intrigued by Joe. Half way through the novel I was trawling the internet for winemaking equipment. By the time I was reading the last page Danny and I were speeding down to Somerset to collect a vast collection of winemaking gear that I had bought on eBay.
A few people were encouraging. Most thought I was mad and muttered darkly about their experience with wine kits in the seventies. I wanted to see whether I could produce good, gluggable wine from hedgerow berries and fruit. At around 30p a bottle it seemed well worth pursuing.
This evening there are six bottles of our own wild damson wine sitting on the table beside me. Fifteen months of fermenting finally ended last week. I was quite nervous as I sterilised the bottles and the pump that transfers the wine from the demijohn to the bottles. What if it was disgusting? I so wanted it to be good.
To my amazement and delight we have produced a light fresh desert wine that will be glorious to serve chilled on a warm summer evening.
There was one major hiccup. We'd put off having supper until I'd bottled the wine. An hour later, Danny pottered into the kitchen to see what was holding things up. I had only managed to cork two bottles. I'd bought decent corks, treated with silicone to make them easy to insert. These don't need soaking and seemed like a good idea. We also have a corking device. The cork needs to be squeezed into the neck of the bottle before the corker can be swung into action. The book describes how the author bottles at least five gallons at a time. That's enough to make thirty bottles. We were incredulous. Was the author a heavyweight wrestler when not making wine? We struggled for ages, beating the ends of the corks with a wooden mallet to soften them and taking turns to try and force the corks into place.
Then we got out the tape measure and discovered that some bottle necks were slightly smaller than others. Within seconds Danny had grabbed the torch and was searching the driveway for wine bottles that he might have missed this morning when he visited the bottle bank. Luckily he found two that fitted the corks. He quickly sterilised the bottles and fitted the corks within seconds.
The recipe came from Gillian Pearks Complete Home Winemaking, copyright 1962, so I can't publish it here. There are a few copies going on eBay at the moment. A great investment for anyone interested in country winemaking. She writes well and her damson wine tastes great.
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