The Cottage Smallholder

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Gilbert’s grape liqueur and grape wine update

Glass jars of homemade grape wine and grape liqueurs

Our homemade grape liqueur and grape wine ageing gracefully

We fancied a nightcap last night. I tootled out to the barn and spied the large Le Parfait jar of grapes in grape liqueur. Perfect. Danny’s face lit up when I carried in the bounty.

I poured out two sizeable glasses. We nearly knocked each other in our rush for the sink to spit it out.It was vile.D challenged me to pull it around, firmly believing that you cannot convert sulphuric acid into honey. Oh yeah?

Last year we were given loads of grapes from a local vine. Having made some wine, I converted the remainder into Gilbert’s Grape Liqueur.

After a year, the wine tastes like Retsina. The grape liqueur would remove the plaque from the teeth of anyone who had forgotten toothpaste for fifty years.

“It must be the grapes. Or possibly the grape sugar alcohol ratio?”
“But Gilbert’s was wonderful.”
We had tasted this concoction at Gilbert’s house and it was delicious. This was the first time that I had produced a fruit liqueur that didn’t have us rushing back for a top up.

I bit into some of the grapes. They had a gentler version of the teeth cleaning attributes.

I spent a fretful night dreaming of grape liqueur. In my dreams the building team that I am working with were drinking their own version (delicious), during their tea break. One of them told me that he had hidden some of his brew in a log in our cottage.

I woke up determined to pull this grog round. I checked Gilbert’s recipe at breakfast and, to my horror, found the instruction: “Gilbert says that it’s really important to use the grape liqueur before the next grape harvest as the flavour starts to deteriorate after about a year.”

It had been a year. Had it started to deteriorate early?

I thumbed through my winemaking books at lunch time. A possible cause could be too much tannin – this creates a ‘harsh’ liquor. The solution is to add more sugar. I tried mixing a thimble full with some soft brown sugar. The difference was amazing. D was stunned at the transformation.

Suddenly the delicate grape flavours were there. Gilbert’s recipe suggests just a teaspoonful of sugar. Perhaps his grapes are Muscat and very sweet. My tip is to add more sugar. Ideally, taste the brew a month into the process.

This evening I strained the liquor (using a muslin square). I added 200g of white granulated cane sugar to a litre of grape liqueur. I didn’t continue with the light brown sugar as I wanted to retain the colour. A delicate pink. Already it is starting to taste good.

  Leave a reply


  1. Thank goodness I read this before I launched into the recipe! I am going to make smaller jars as Christmas presents. I shall certainly have a go. Thank you

  2. I have a ton of quite sour seeded grapes and have never made jam and don’t think I have the patience. I was going to roast or lightly stew them and then freeze in batches to use later for crumbles and pies. Would that work? Thanks

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hello bzbakr

    If you can find some grape based liqueur or plain alchol (this can be bought in Italy) this recipe would work well.

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