I’ve just sat down with a glass of wine, the colour of dark magenta.
It’s the blackberry wine that Tom and I made in early September. It’s strong – about 12% but the flavour is a balance of tart and sweet. The taste is reminiscent of blackberries and has the hint of citrus flavour.
When I inhale deeply, the rich sweetness of fermented blackberries clouds my eyes and fogs my brain. It’s slips down smoothly and tastes as pure as it looks.
This is the first wine we’ve made since returning from South East Asia and it is surprisingly pleasant. In Thailand we made wines from all the tropical fruits you can imagine and some that you can’t…quite often they were highly alcoholic and I suspect the yeast was overrun with other tropical micro-organisms – resulting in a cloudy appearance and musky flavour. Mind you, that’s not to say that they didn’t taste good, especially by the second glass! Often, the wine had an alcohol content of 20% which is a little strong for my preferred taste but perfect for a festive evening or at the end of a mud pit mixing session for an earth building project. Ignore the alcohol content for just a moment and imagine…wines of ginger and chili, honey, pineapple, sapodillo and watermelon, roselle flower – these are the wines of the tropical climates. Their cool temperate counterparts are elderflower and elderberry, rhubarb, parsnip, rosehip, redcurrant and blackberry, to name a few.
It all started one September afternoon when we went blackberry picking along the canal path and near a large meadow in west oxford. Tom, his sister Ella and I wandered along the the canal pathways with a step ladder and our secret collection weapon – Tom. With many of the plumpest berries nestled in clusters well above the reach of your average passer by, Tom’s height and reach came in extremely handy.
With the recent summer having been so cloudy and miserable, what little sun there was, had only ripened the berries on the very highest brambles. So Tom was on ladder duty while Ella and I ferried the collection box to him while scouting out the next promising patches to harvest. We came away with at least 3kg, a perfect amount for two demijohns of wine.Two months later, the wine is ready for tasting.
The Process: First off, collect the berries about 1.5 kg per 5 litre demijohn.
Freeze before blending, The colour has washed out of the blackberries after rinsing and freezing as you can see below so try to pick only the ripest available so you don’t end up with an extremely tart wine.
Blend all the berries to a pulp.
Measure out 4 litres of boiling water add half a cup of strong black tea, a quarter cup of lemon juice and 1.5 kg of sugar. Then mix the frozen blended berry mix into the water.
Strain the pulp through a sieve or let it sit for 3 days (this wasn’t an option for us as we had limited space and pots).
When cooled, add red wine yeast. Only add it when the wine is cooled sufficiently as it will otherwise kill the yeast. Then add sieved mixture to demijohn (If you leave it for a few days before adding it to the demijohn all the pulp will sink the bottom or can easily be scooped off the top).
Then put a rubber cork in the top with a plastic one way vent to allow the fermeting gases to escape. Some of these devices are pretty nifty as you can add some water to the curved transparent pipe and see the gases bubbling and escaping through the water – a good sign that the yeast has begun working. Store in a semi-warm part of the house and in about 1 month the wine should be ready for bottling, or you can leave it in the demijohn for another 1-2 months until fermentation is complete.