The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

Homemade wine tasting

blackberry flowers in summerI sampled our two and three year old rhubarb wine on Monday. And the 2006 greengage wine. All pretty good and as Danny said,
“They taste just like wine.”
But I reckoned that they need more time. As Daphne Moore writes in Discovering Country Winemaking, a wine that is unpalatable can often improve with keeping. Now I can see where she is coming from.

I started winemaking with enormous enthusiasm and hope. I like wine. Always fancy a glass or two with supper. If we could make our own gluggable wine it would be brilliant. So I invested in the wine making kit that had belonged to a German P.O.W. who’d married an English girl and stayed in the UK after WW2. It was the dream Ebay purchase. The kit consists of everything that an optimistic would be wine maker could possibly need, with the exception of the chemicals and the fruit. There are still a few bits and pieces that I am not sure what jobs they might fulfil.

Included in the equipment were two good winemaking books First Steps in Winemaking by C J J Berry and Complete Home Winemaking by Gillian Pearks. Both are reviewed here . The latter is only occasionally available on the internet, although I’ve just spotted a few copies on Amazon. If you are interested in making country wine buy a copy immediately – it is my winemaking bible. Gillian Pearks won awards for her wine. She is well worth checking out and this is the book that I always turn to first. Since then I found a copy of Daphne Moore’s slim volume at the church fete. Highly recommended too (and incidentally on offer at only ?1.50 – second hand – on Amazon at the moment). It’s a booklet but has given me lots of tips and inspiration.

So I made wine. Loads of it. Plum, wild plum, greengage, blackberry, rhubarb, rosehip, pea pod, mixed autumn berries, damson, dandelion. I even tried making wine with the grapes from our vine.

The demijohns bubbled away and after a year we tasted each one.

The results were so disappointing that I just made a couple of batches a year to keep my hand in. What a mistake!

This week we have discovered that country wine takes far longer to mature than the books suggest. You are looking at two or three years of maturing before you wave goodbye to Oddbins.

Monday’s sips were a revelation. So over the last couple of days we’ve been tasting a few more demijohns. This has to be done in stages, as even if the wine isn’t ready it’s still very strong. Wine tasting ideally needs to be tackled after dusk when Jalopy has settled for the night, wheels dug firmly into the gravel drive.

Although I was working just across the road today, I wondered if wafts of homemade wine were drifting across the room when I chatted to my client this afternoon. I had literally sampled just 4 thimblefuls and felt a lot chirpier than an hour before when I ran across the road for lunch. Yet again rain had stopped play.

A 2007 rosehip wine smelt like heaven but descaled our teeth. The 2005 greengage wine was exceptionally good but the 2006 and 2007 reminiscent of cheap Muscadet. A 2006 plum wine surprised us, it would be light and gluggable on a warm summer’s evening. Then we turned to the 2005 pea pod wine. Danny was gallant and took the first quaff.
“It tastes of peas, but sweet and all a homemade wine should be.”

The 2005 blackberry wine was very good. We have tasted the demijohn each year and it has been vile but left to mature it’s now better than our regular table wine. Not too sweet or too sharp. Joanne Harris’ novel Blackberry Wine inspired the idea of home made wine for me. So it’s just as it should be.

Thank goodness I have let the blackberries ramble this year.

  Leave a reply


  1. Hi there can anyone tell me when you make wine from a kit you degas it before adding the fining agent is this this same with homemade country wines? any help would be most welcome Thanks Ian

  2. Try making wine out of Welches White Grape / Peach
    It is already pasturized no added chemicals needed. Just sugar, juice, a good wine yeast and a container with an airlock. Very good at 6 weeks and excellent at 1 year!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jo

    Floating the yeast on white bread toast doesn’t ring any bells for me so I’m sorry I can’t help you here.

    I use two books – both excellent and featured in the winemaking section of our bookshop. Daphne More and Gillian Pearks have written books that are well worth investing in.

    Hi Corowe

    I must try making tea wine, it sounds good!

  4. corowe

    Too right it needs keeping. I made tea wine and it was awful after just a year! I left it in the cupboard under the stairs then found it again after 2 more years. Unbelievable – great bouquet and very strong. It didn’t last long….

  5. Jo Austin

    In 1965 I had a book from the local library on Winemaking. My favourites were Pea pod Wine and Cold Tea Wine. The Pea wine was like a light white wine, and the Tea wine like a good sherry.
    The main feature of making the wine was the ease of it. But mainly, you floated yeast on white bread toast. This was the way you used the yeast in almost nall the recipes.
    I would like to make wine like this again, but can’t remember the book or how to do it.
    Can you please help.
    Many thanks, Jo

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Christina

    It’s definitely worth giving home winemaking a go. We make a lot of fruit liqueurs which take far less time to mature and are well worth making.

    Hi Sophie

    I do hope that he kept them!

    Hi Plumsource

    We are gradually sampling all our stocks – we have many flagons. Four sips and you feel quite squiffy!

    Hi Kate(uk)

    Thanks for the tips. The blackberry wine is tasting good (after 3 years!). We do have a demi john of elderberry wine but it’s lost in the barn..

    However, having just missed out on the elderflower harvest this year we’ll have a bumper crop of berries this autumn and these will now be heading in the direction of wine!

  7. Kate(uk)

    In my winemaking days I found Blackberrys to be excellent, but the very best ( aside from Mulberries, which are out of this world) is Elderberry- give it a try this year, the results will not disappoint!

  8. plumsource

    I think you better taste it all again – just to make sure 🙂

  9. Sophie

    Thanks for this! My hubby was wondering what was going wrong with his various attempts 🙂

  10. Christina

    This is fascinating. Kudos to you for keeping the wine around and letting it age . . . many would have tossed it and given up. You’ve got me all curious about making my own wine now. Hmmmmmm.

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