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.

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  1. Hi there, I’ve just started making fruit wines and have a rhubarb and raisin wine that’s been fermenting in the demijohn for 3 months now and has just been racked and returned to a clean one, and also I’ve just started on an elderberry wine (2 days ago so still in the fermenter!). I have a couple of questions and I’d be really grateful if anyone with knowledge could answer them! Firstly, when I racked my rhubarb wine, it was clear for about three quarters of the bottle with a lot of cloudy sediment in the last quarter. Should I have discarded this and topped up with cooled boiled water? It now seems to be fermenting again! I am planning on racking and bottling in 3 months and leaving for a year – should I add a couple of campden tablets to stop further fermenting when I do this?
    I’ve also heard elberberry wine is one of the most unstable and likely to explode! Is this true and any advice?
    Also, as there are so many different country wine recipes about, I am guessing it’s not an exact science and trial and error is the way forward?!

  2. How old is old wine?
    My husband made lots of wine in his twenties, hes now 60 . The wine has been in the garage for many years and we are wondering if its safe to taste it.

  3. Scott "The Wine Making Guy"

    Hi Gareth,

    My pleasure and glad you liked my wine making blog.

    Certainly a great resource for people interested in learning how to make wine!

    – Scott “The Wine Making Guy”

  4. Scott "The Wine Making Guy"

    Hi Gareth,

    Sounds like you have a bunch of interesting wine’s on the go. I’ve heard different opinions on how long you should age fruit wines but I usually age them at least 1 year and have seen improvements well beyond that.

    Glad to see that you have the wine making bug.

    Careful thought it does get addictive!

    Good luck at the show – you can probably find advice on how to do it by going to or

    – Scott “The Wine Making Guy”

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Scott

      Thanks for dropping by.
      You have an interesting site. Ive just popped over on a quick visit.

  5. Gareth Evans

    please could you tell me ,what is the wright way to show home made wines,iam entering the royal welsh show ,for the first time.and need all the help i can have,

    • Fiona Nevile

      Hi Gareth

      I’m sorry but I have no idea how to ‘show’ home made wine. Why not try asking on one of the dedicated home made wine forums or websites.

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