One of the best ways of using up a glut is making your own wine. Homemade wine has a reputation for being powerful but gut rotting and it sometimes is, but it’s so cheap to make and interesting with it, it’s well worth a try.
I’ve been making my own wine for years and it’s something of a family tradition. As a child, I used to help my Uncle Ted with his potent brews made of unpromising sounding ingredients such as carrots. Later on, when I lived with my grandma, we began to make our own slightly more refined vintages from gooseberries and elderflowers. They still packed a punch, mind. When Mr Greedy Gardener came to visit her for the first time, he was plied with various samples and was too polite to say no and needed a lie down afterwards.
Both of these brews were started last year and have now finished fermenting. The very clear jar on the left is rhubarb, and is now in bottles on the rack under the stairs. It’s very smooth and delicate and a small glass is in front of me ready for when I finish this post. The other darker brew is apple, made from windfalls from next door’s tree and is being racked into a clean demijohn so that finings can be added to help it to clear before it’s bottled in a couple of weeks.
I won’t even attempt to explain the intricate mysteries of wine making here, but instead will direct you to the excellent books of C J J Berry. He explains the different processes clearly and simply, going through each month of the year with wines made from what’s in season. He seems to be able to make wine from anything, including runner beans, although having sampled pea pod wine in the past, it’s not something I’ll be trying myself.
One way of getting to know the ropes is to make up a test brew from a kit. They’re pretty foolproof and you end up with something not exactly sophisticated but drinkable in as little as six weeks. This will quickly take you through the different processes and demonstrate the different stages of fermenting. “Country wines”, home made wines from stuff that’s not grapes, are more about the long game. You can’t hurry them, they’re done when they’re ready.
You don’t need much kit and none of it is expensive unless you’re going into serious production. There are some specialist home brew shops around and most do mail order these days. You can often pick up wine making equipment in charity shops and in the UK, the bargain Wilkinsons/WIlko chain do a range in their larger shops.