Tasting Notes with Jim Beauregard: You want to make wine out of what?

By JIM BEAUREGARD March 07. 2018 12:04AM

In "Wild Wine Making," Richard W. Bender explains how to make wine from everything from flowers to herbs. 

“Wild Wine Making: Easy and Adventurous Recipes Going Beyond Grapes,” by Richard W. Bender. Storey Publishing, 2018, $19.95.

In northern Europe, when it gets too cold to make wine, they make beer instead. At least that was the case historically. Today, in the United States, wine is made in all 50 states, regardless of how warm or cold it may be.

One interesting thing that has developed in the field of winemaking is the widespread recognition that grapes are not the only thing that can be used to make wine.

Many of New Hampshire’s own vineyards produce a variety of locally sourced fruit-based wines in addition to their traditional grape wines. This brings me to a book I recently received, Richard W. Bender’s “Wild Wine Making.”

Bender, currently a Colorado resident, is a former nurseryman who has been making wine for over three decades. He put his knowledge of growing things to work in a previous book, “Bountiful Bonsai,” and has also written for the magazines Horticulture, Field and Stream, and The Herbal Companion.

In his preface to “Wild Wine Making,” he mentions that he grew up in Missouri, where he frequently went hunting and fishing. While he was out, he would collect mushrooms and pretty much any kind of edible berry that the wild had to offer.

He developed a taste for wine as a young adult, and about 15 years after graduating from college, he found himself with a yard that had 13 cherry trees in it. That, as you might imagine, is a whole lot of cherries. He gave many of them away, and it turned out that one of his friends was a winemaker who made some cherry wine.

The friend gave Bender a bottle of that cherry wine the following Christmas. He took one sip, and from that point on he was a fruit winemaker. He tried a cherry wine first (did I mention a lot of cherries?) and then started to branch out, to include wines made from apples, plums, and even flowers. His new book is, then, the result (please note that I didn’t say “the fruit of”) some three decades of experimenting with fruit winemaking.

“Wild Wine Making” is a how-to book that takes the reader through the basics of winemaking including fermentation vessels, hydrometers, wine bottles, corks, bottle cleaning tools and all the other things one might want to have handy when making wine. He then takes you through the winemaking process, from choosing a particular fruit through bottling and labeling, focusing on the types of things that are specific to working with fruits other than grapes.

Once he has led the reader through the nitty-gritty details, he gets down to recipes. And they are many, from fruits to vegetables to herbs. Here’s just a partial list of some of the wines he has made: apple, apricot, banana, blackberry, black currant, and a number of fruits that I had never heard of.

His recipe for Buddha’s Hand wine, for example, requires a pound of raisins and a pound of Buddha’s Hand citrons. The process involves soaking the raisins overnight, chopping up the citrons, combining them in the fermenting vessel, adding sugar (not typical in the making of grape wine because it isn’t necessary— grapes already have plenty of sugar in them) and yeast, moving the wine to a secondary fermentation jugs, and, three months later, voila! Buddha’s Hand wine.

Next, he leads the reader into the world of flower and herbal wines. This may well be unfamiliar territory to many readers; the author provides recipes for making wine out of basil, dandelion (OK, that one we know), elderflower, French tarragon, hibiscus flower, lilacs, oregano and rose petals. Wines can also be made from peppers too, and there are many recipes for this as well.

All in all, it’s a very enjoyable read and, as I mentioned, you don’t have to be home winemaker to enjoy it. Just think of it as a wine lover’s mind expander.

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Lastly, let’s close today on a different note. I have, in the past written about Klinker Brick Zinfandel, a very good, flavorful wine. Several other Klinker Brick wines have begun to appear in local stores recently. Given their good track record, I thought we should take a look at another red:

Klinker Brick Cabernet Sauvignon, 2014, Lodi, Calif. 15% alcohol by volume; $18.99. A very, very, deep purple in the glass, with a clean nose of medium intensity that brings aromas of blackberry and plum. This being a Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a dry wine, with medium tannin, well-balanced alcohol, medium body and medium flavor intensity that includes the blackberry and black plum I mentioned, as well as that classic black currant flavor, along with some vanilla hints for a medium-length finish. Very good, and ready to drink now.

Contact wine and beer writer Jim Beauregard at tastingnotesnh@aol.com


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