According to Wild Winemaking (Storey Publishing, 2018) making wine at home just got more fun, and easier, with Richard Bender’s experiments. Whether you’re new to winemaking or a seasoned pro, you’ll find this innovative manual accessible, thanks to its focus on small batches that require minimal equipment and use an unexpected range of readily available fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The ingredient list is irresistibly curious. How about banana wine or dark chocolate peach? Plum champagne or sweet potato saké? Chamomile, sweet basil, blood orange Thai dragon, kumquat cayenne, and even cannabis rhubarb wines have earned a place in Bender’s flavor collection. Go ahead, give it a try.
Early in my winemaking career, I made a delightful Bing cherry wine from cherries that had been accidentally left out of the grocer’s fridge and were not suitable for sale; the produce manager donated them to me. I had been wanting to re-create that wine, and I found the right opportunity one day when Bing cherries were on sale at my local grocery store for 99 cents a pound — the cheapest price I had ever seen. I bought 15 pounds and made 6 gallons of wine. That wine, with its beautiful light red color and delicate cherry flavor, has aged well, and at 9 years old, it is one of the treasures in my cellar. It’s a wonderful sipping wine, and it also makes a great marinade for venison and other red meats.
- 3 pounds Bing cherries
- 1 gallon water
- 3 pounds sugar
- 1 packet wine yeast
- Stomp or cut up the cherries; don’t bother to remove the pits. Place the cherries in the fermentation vessel.
- Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Add the sugar and bring back to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Add the boiling sugar water to the mixture in the fermentation vessel. Cover and let cool.
- Stir in the yeast and cover. Stir twice a day until fermentation slows, 7 to 10 days.
- Press out the pulp, pour the wine into your secondary fermentation jug, and secure the fermentation lock. Check it the next day; if there is a deep layer of lees, rack and filter the wine. Rack again every 2 to 3 months.
- The wine should be ready to drink in 4 to 6 months. Let it age in the jug for as long as possible before bottling, at least 6 months to 1 year.
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Excerpted from Wild Winemaking © by Richard W. Bender. Used with permission from Storey Publishing.