Simple Wild Grape Wine

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Upstate12866

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Hi everybody,

I wanted to post this as it's a little different. If you are a curious person, this is a very low-effort, low-risk experiment that could fit on your kitchen countertop. The recipe is dead simple, and I found it to be the tastiest thing I had ever made. And the season is coming soon so you can try it this year! :)

The result is a viscous, tart, and sweet wine that coats your glass like blood. I think the taste is similar to the sour fruitiness in Lallemand Lambic Sours (especially the Framboise, my favorite). It's not a clone or anything, but it has the same obvious sweetness and drinkability.

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The other thing that makes this interesting is the use of wild grapes from North America. I grew up eating them (and anything else I could find) but not many grown people mess with these. In my area all sorts of fruits (wild or ornamental) are left to rot on trees: grapes, mulberries, apples, even peaches and cherries. So this is a nice way to use a free, plentiful, and native fruit.

The history lesson goes that humans came to the American continent much later than Europe. As a result, European grapes had humans selecting and spreading them unwittingly for a much longer time than American grapes. Humans selected their favorite grapes based on taste, and today's European white grape varieties apparently go back to that European selection pressure. In the Americas, especially before humans came along, birds were the ones selecting and spreading grapes. They searched for grapes visually, so dark varieties had the advantage. Thus, apparently, we Americans have a lot of wild dark grapes that are sour, small, and not so great for eating or wine making (at least compared to the "superior" native European grapes).

The recipe:

I follow the advice of my mother in law, who makes lots of concoctions from fruits according to her country's traditions.

1. Gather and lightly rinse some wild grapes and discard the stems only. I think its best to wait as long as you can to gather the grapes so they are as sweet as possible. In upstate NY that's mid-late September.

2. Toss the whole, uncrushed grapes into a jar about halfway full. For my first run, that's just a 1 liter jar.

3. Add 2 TBSP honey on top of the grapes. My mother in law is adamant this is necessary for fermentation, but I'm not convinced. All I can think is that it's extra sugars, and I think the slower fermentation speed of honey leaves some residual sweetness.

4. Cover it with a lid, or an airlock if you prefer.

5. The wild yeast on the grape skins will start the fermentation slowly. The grapes will sort of disintegrate as fermentation continues. I cracked the jar open to relieve pressure, and I also smushed things down once after a couple weeks to make sure the liquid covers as much as possible.

6. You can drink whenever you like. I began fermentation around September 20 last year, and started drinking it around October 20. I didn't take gravity readings because it was just an experiment, but I would guess fermentation was not finished. It's also possible that wild yeasts will not use all the sugars effectively, leaving residual sugars.

The result is a sweet simple wine that can be fermented and poured from the same jar.

Give it a try, and maybe ferment longer to see what happens. My guess is you are more likely to make vinegar the longer it sits around. Also I have to admit I can't guarantee this will work the same way every time since we are relying on wild yeast here. Of course, you can also do more steps to ensure greater control and stability--the wine forum will help with that! :)

On a more general note, I am intrigued at how I can use wild grapes along with their deep color and their sweet sourness in other things, like maybe a cider. They grow everywhere and are certainly unique. I can't buy that flavor at the store anyway.

I have around 50 brews in my log book, each with a rating of how well I like it. This is the only one with a 10 rating. I really, really loved it and I will be making a larger batch this year. I plan on drinking my sour blood wine on Halloween. :D

Thanks for reading!


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jarodd12

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I have a similar experiment going currently with cider. I have a lot of wild grapes on my property and have been wanting to ferment something with them for a few years now. This year I finally decided to do it. I used a similar method as yours in that I crushed the grapes into a half gallon jar and put an airlock on it. I let it sit/ferment for about a week and then strained the juice into a quart jar. Hit it with some campden before adding it to 5-gallons of local, unpasteurized cider. It has been fermenting for about 6 weeks now and is at all but a stand still. I will rack and let age until spring. Time will tell, but I am guessing it will be somewhere in the farmhouse to sour range with the wild yeast.
 

4evrplan

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Fascinating! Do you have any idea which species of grape it was? Vitis labrusca? A few varieties of labrusca are concord, catawba, and niagara.
 

bernardsmith

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Upstate12866, Hi - my Zipcode, too. But folk need to be very careful when foraging for wild grapes. They can be mistaken for moonseed berries and moonseed is toxic. I know where some grow close to my home but I took a sample to the Cornell extension in Ballston Spa and they confirmed that the berries I found were wild grapes. The flavor of the wine is quite incredible. I was able to gather enough to make about a hefty gallon, currently aging.

In response to 4evrplan, I have no idea what variety these wild grapes are. They certainly do not taste anything like concord or cawtaba.
 
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