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. I have tons of wine and jams & jellies…I really wanted to do something different with all these grapes, but the liquer recipe dillemma sounds discouraging…

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Sarah

    The grape liqueur is the least good of all our recipes and I don’t think that I’d try it again.

    You could try making some wine (you need 12 lbs of grapes) or some grape jelly or jam

  3. Sarah in New Zealand

    Thanks for posting the recipe and the subsequent update – I was wondering what to do with a load of very sweet grapes I’ve just harvested today (we live in New Zealand hence the opposite seasons) and this looks easy enough for me to give a go at!

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Monique in TX,

    I think that you have got the answer to the puzzle. Although Gilberts grapes were delicious when he served them in small glasses at the end of a rich meal. I reckon that the grapes were very sweet to begin with, whereas ours were not.

    If we are given the same variety of grapes again this year I’ll try the liqueur without the skins.

    Thanks for leaving this comment. Much appreciated.

  5. Monique in TX

    I wonder if the grape liqueur would be better if you used only the juice and pulp, and not the skins? You wouldn’t have the whole fruit in the finished product, but it would surely be less harsh. )The tannins in grapes are all in the skins.) Our local grapes make great wine, but only if you get rid of those skins. Talk about pucker-inducing!

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat,

    It tastes much better but I am going to put it in the barn to see if the flavour improves. This is the only fruit liqueur that we have tried that hasn’t been 100% successful.

  7. Well done on the save!!!!

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi na,

    A friend of mine makes your Italian walnut liqueur every year. I am going to try it next spring.

    Your are right, too sweet is a disaster.

    Hi Amanda,

    I am so pleased that I pulled it round. You could try blending your too sweet sloe gin with this year’s brew.

  9. Well done, you saved it! How satisfying. I made some of the sloe gin too sweet last year.

  10. oh dear, i’m glad you managed to save it! and it is easier to add sugar than to remove it if it’s too sweet! we made walnut liquor this summer, it’s just about ready, we had a sneak taste and it is good, but a little too sweet (in that case i think it’s impossible to de-sweeten?)

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