Blackberry Wine

This year it seems like we've been seeing blackberries around every corner, and with so many of them around it spurred me on to get back into making some wine. Simone and I made a whole bunch of wines a few years ago in our last house, a big shared townhouse with tonnes of extra rooms and a basement to tuck away all those bubbling demijohns. Mostly we grabbed bargain fruits at Grainger market in Newcastle - we tried making pineapple, banana, and strawberry wines with mixed success. This time around I want to forage as much fruit as possible, I've been keeping an eye out around Bensham and wider Gateshead on my travels and found some great spots for blackberries, elderberries, blackcurrants, and plenty of wild apple and crabapple trees.

So far we've gathered about 8 or 9kgs of blackberries, I wanted enough to make 2 batches of blackberry wine, a few jars of jam, and an elderberry and blackberry wine in a few weeks when the elders have ripened a bit. The 2 gallons of blackberry wine are to test a couple of different yeasts, but also so we have plenty for this year's Christmas hampers for friends and family! The nice thing about blackberry wine (or so I have read) is that it's ready to drink much faster than a lot of other fruit wines, certainly in time for December.

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The recipe

The recipe we used was a bit of a mish-mash but mostly based on one from from Andy Hamilton's Booze for Free, so far it's been a great primer on wine-making, even dipping into growing and foraging tips. I've been using it mostly as a reference to check what comes into season when so I can start to make some plans for future brews!

  • 2kg of blackberries - frozen then defrosted overnight
  • 1.5kg of sugar - I used 1kg white granulated, and 1/2 a kg of demerara sugar (to add body)
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup of black tea
  • 3.5 litres of water
  • yeast

As I mentioned earlier we made 2 batches of the above, each with a different yeast. In previous wine I had always just used Wilkinson's gervin yeast, an all-rounder for beers and wines, but a few recipes I found online called for a specific red wine yeast so a ordered a few different strains from Crossmyloof Brew in Glasgow (who are just about the friendliest online store I think I've ever bought from - both the order confirmation and the package came with a lovely personal message). For those who are new to winemaking you can get just about all you should need from Wilkinson's.

The actual process is easy:

  1. Hoy the blackberries in a bucket and mach them up
  2. Pour over 1 litre of boiling water, stick in the sugar and stir until it's dissolved
  3. Pop the yeast into half a cup of lukewarm water for 15 minutes
  4. Add the rest of the water cold, and all the other ingredients
  5. Stir well, and drape a clean tea towel/cheese cloth over it
  6. Leave it somewhere warm for 3-5 days (primary fermentation)
  7. Strain out the fruit and transfer it to a demijohn with an airlock (secondary fermentation)

There's a lot of faffing around to sterilise everything beforehand, and once it's in the demijohn it needs racking (syphoning off the sediment into a fresh demijohn) every month or so until it stops fermenting, but otherwise it's a pretty simple process, and SO rewarding to see them bubbling away like a row of potions!

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Notes

This blog is as much for us to document everything in one place as it is for you to read, so the following might be of interest to you but mostly it's just so we can remember what we did and when we did it.

  • Both demijohns have been wrapped in newspaper to stop the light getting to them, I've read online that sunlight will discolour the wine
  • Batch one:
    • Made with Wilkinson's gervin yeast
    • I may have been a little zealous about getting all of the juice out of the must so this one could turn out a little cloudy - be sure to compare it to batch 2 when we rack it
    • Primary fermentation - 29/08/18
    • Secondary fermentation - 01/09/18
  • Batch two:
    • Made with Crossmyloof brew's red wine yeast
    • Primary fermentation - 01/09/18
    • Secondary fermentation - 04/09/18