Thinking Beyond the Grape: Fruit Wines
Wine, on a very basic level, is made from fermented fruit. While people mostly associate wine with grapes, wine can be made from a wide array of fruits, so long as there’s enough sugar content in the fruit to convert into alcohol during the fermentation process. Fruits that can be made into wine range from the familiar (blackberries and pineapples) to the exotic (durians and mangosteens).
One of the most widely produced non-grape fruit wines is cider, or “apple wine,” which is made from fermented apples. Apple wines are prolific throughout England and the rest of the U.K. as well as in Germany, France (Brittany and Normandy), Spain (Asturias, Basque Country, and Galicia), Ireland, Argentina (Patagonia and Mendoza), and Australia (Tasmania). While ciders can be made of any apple variety, they are typically produced from specific cultivars that are high in sugar, which helps facilitate the fermentation process. Next time you’re looking for an off-beat wine pairing for a cheese plate, try a cider instead of a traditional grape-based wine.
The Japanese, Koreans, Chinese, and Taiwanese have their own unique versions of fruit wines made from fermented plums. While ciders can range from dry to sweet, most plums wines available in the U.S. tend to be sweeter in style. Plum wine is often paired with fruit-based desserts or drizzled over fresh oranges in traditional sushi bars. Plum wines can also be used in cocktails either with soda water in spritzers, or as a complement to shochu, which is a spirit made from distilled rice, barley, or sweet potatoes.
While apple and plum wines are produced on a commercial scale, the craft of making wines from other fruits and berries is more commonly practiced among home winemakers and artisans making small batch libations from locally sourced fruit. When dealing with fruits other than grapes, sugar may need to be added to spur the fermentation process in the event that the fruit does not contain enough natural sugar to ferment on its own in the presence of yeast. Some fruits such as cherries, raspberries, strawberries and pineapples are also very high in acid, which can translate into a very sour tasting wine. In these cases, sucrose and/or water can be added to help counter the fruit’s tart acidity.
Fruit and berry wines are rarely available in traditional wine or liquor stores but can be found at farmer’s markets and at fairs throughout the country. Check out these websites for more information on where to buy fruit wines.
CherryWine.com – Pear, raspberry, even honey Wines
Prairie Berry Winery – a South Dakota winery offering rhubarb, crab apple, and buffaloberry wines
Hill Top Berry Farm & Winery – A Virginia winery offering blackberry, elderberry, and blueberry wines
Three Lakes Winery – Cranberry wines and blends, pomegranate, and pumpkin wines from Wisconsin
CaliforniaFruitWine.com – A San Diego wine store offering peach, kiwi, and strawberry wines
Editor’s Note: What’s your favorite non-grape wine? – KK