The Simplicity and Complexity of Fruit Wines
Monday, July 28, 2008
First things first, this really is the fifth installment in a six part series because the first was the article on sparkling wines. Now, letís move on to the meat of this article, fruit wines.
The first thing that you want to say is that arenít all wines made out of fruit. The answer is yes and no. Grapes are fruit, but the grapes used to make wine are not those that you would just eat casually; they wouldnít be too appealing to your taste buds. When we say fruit wines, we are talking about wines made from traditional fruits such as pears, peaches, cherries, blackberries, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries, etc. Sometimes, flowers and/or weeds are used, as in the case of dandelion wine and elder blow wines, which is made from elderberry flowers.
While you can also make liquor using fruits, you can make wine with them too.
Fruits wines are usually thought of as something made by the everyday person, most associated with an inexpensive way to make some vino, and havenít been taken as a serious contender in the world of wine. Actually, there is an exception to this, and that would really deal with plum wines from Asia. They can be made at home rather easily, and are always addressed by the nomenclature of the fruit name used, followed by the word wine, e.g. plum wine, strawberry wine, etc. In England, they are also known as country wines, in Germany they are called landwein.
Since few foods other than grapes have the balanced quantities of sugar, acid, tannin, nutritive salts for yeast feeding and water to produce a stable, drinkable wine, so most country wines are adjusted in one or more respects. Enough natural sugar is needed to support a satisfactory fermentation and provide bacteriological stability through sufficient ethanol content, so the winemaker adds table sugar (sucrose), honey or sweet sap tapped from trees such as maple, birch, or palm. If a food is too tart, sugar and water may both be added to dilute the acidity, or additional tannin or acid may be required to round out the taste. These are added as chemicals or by adding a balancing fruit like crabapples, raisins or dates to an unbalanced base.
In the case that the sugar source used is honey, it is what is called mead. A friend once gave me a bottle of homemade Blackberry mead that was out of this world. Perry is what itís called if apple or pear juice is the base; Iíve never had this and would love to try it. Honey and apples as the base is called cyser. Years ago, my father attempted to make peach wine and it went to far, becoming vinegar.
Fruit wines also carry the potential to be considered dessert wines, depending on their strength, and in this comes an interesting dilemma, because dessert wines can also encompass fortified wines (wines with extra alcohol added) as well as sweet and extra sweet wines which are normally taken with dessert.
In regards to local producers, the New Hope Winery puts out a load of fruit wines, the best being their Blackberry wine, which is somewhat like a port wine (more on this next week). Unfortunately, I donít think that they are carried by the PLCB state stores, so that means heading up to the winery to get some.
Summarily, fruit wines are an interesting type of wine, not to be considered a wine diversion. Everyone should try one or two, and as for the ladies, some of these wines will knock your socks off.