Wine has been around just as long as humanity, if not longer. While the word may be that the Romans were the ones to popularise the concept of drinking this drink of grapes that was left out for a while, it’s been around for thousands of years. What made wine so easy to create for ancient man, was that wine existed all it’s own, and often occurred naturally in nature. Grapes, and many other fruits, as anybody overly fixated on healthy eating will tell you, possesses many natural sugars. But what’s more, is many also possess on their skin wild yeast. The combination of sugar and yeast creates alcohol, being the most elementary of all knowledge regarding all liquor. All these two elements need do is come into contact. Something that can easily occur in nature without outside interaction. Archaeologists have found evidence of wine existing as far long back as seven thousand years B.C. And it’s gotten pretty refined since. Our technology has improved vastly since the days of coopered oak barrels and blind faith that the wine will ferment as intended. We’ve created complex methods of harvesting and extracting any number of strains of yeast. We’ve cultured and catalogued yeasts for every type of alcohol. The ancient Israelites made wine, the ancient Greek made wine, the Romans, the Chinese, basically name a great ancient society and chances are they had wine. So it should be easy for a twenty-three year old Australian in the twenty-first century with too much time on his hands.
G’day guys, and welcome to another one of my YouTube-fueled “Hey what if I tried this” article. This is my most involved article to date. I’m going to attempt to make wine from supermarket blueberries. I really am writing this article purely in anticipation here, you’re going to find out what I find out when I learn it. I’m learning the old fashioned way, by doing. I’m making this wine from blueberries, because basically all fruit from the big chain supermarkets is a bit of a mystery. The big names in the wine game, the Barossa Valley, the Hunter Valley, Coonawarra, Granite Belt, McLaren Vale, Tasmania, they all know exactly how and why their soil is the way it is and how it affects the taste of the wine. God knows where any of the grapes, berries, or fruit on the shelves of the supermarkets come from. Were I making proper, real, homebrew wine, I would send away for seeds of one specific species of grape. Pinot Noir, Cinsaut, Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo. Something good in this climate. I may not know all the history past and present of the soil but I can put the hard yards in to make sure it’s ideal growing conditions, cultivate the land clean, fertilise it with manure and create ideal soil acidity for the vine. But until the day I own a plot of land a couple hundred hectares strong, I’m yet to manage my own private winery. The grapes on supermarket shelves are really a mystery. Generically labelled white grapes, red grapes, black grapes. Just plain grapes for mothers to put in their children’s lunchboxes. Usually seedless. Not the sort you’d brag about. That is not to say you couldn’t make wine from them, but since it doesn’t really matter what I try to make wine from in this pretence, I choose blueberries. Because I like blueberries. And hypothetically, blueberries like many fruit bearing plants have grafted species created by man to bear up better against the harsh climate. So were this a committed endeavour to annually create blueberry wine, a garden could be planted of these grafted blueberry trees that would survive the summer without hardship.
Wine is traditionally made from grapes, it’s no written law carved in stone, but I hardly see the big names using anything other than grapes. Homebrewed liquor is wide open to creativity. And keenly encourages the use of hand-harvested fruit from your own garden, something important I learnt first hand. On my parent’s property the previous owner had planted several mulberry trees, by the time we had come to own it the trees were strong and healthy and had laid down strong roots into the dry dusty soil. Like the wineries spent many years trying to achieve with their grapevines. Mulberries are very sweet and tasty, so one day when the Christmas period approached one summer, the thought crossed my mind to harvest the mulberry tree and make wine from it. After I Googled this, I learnt that many others had also done such a thing and that this was not unheard of. So I harvested the mulberries, splurged on some good R56 red wine yeast, and fermented a batch of it. While I made some beginners mistakes at this point, and the batch aged badly as a result, the spark was there. So I have some idea of what I’m doing, and more importantly of what not to do. As in homebrewing, as in life, the way you know the right way to do something is by doing it the wrong way and learning from it.
The creation of wine, is not an overly difficult one. With a few basic tools, anyone can do it. Once the fruit are selected and cleaned and given a quick look over for rot or over-ripening, they’re collected in the fermenter and crushed into juice, the juice being the must. Then once a rough figure of the total volume of must is determined, the yeast is added. And fermentation begins. Once fermentation is completed, the must is drain of it’s sediment until it is seen clean enough to drink of and is bottled. Something I had done once before, with a wine funnel fitted with a filter, a cheesecloth some twenty litre plastic buckets from SuperCheap Auto, one with a fermenter cap fitted to the lid, and a handful of Ball mason jars.
- The Blueberries
So the first thing that needed doing was simply just to buy the blueberries. I did my homework and figured out by referencing off something I wrote about my mulberry wine, about a kilogram would do to make two litres, referencing five hundred grams per litre. So about eight one hundred twenty five gram punnets. Two litres being a small amount in the capacity of my fermenter I had made, that I had once previously used to make ten litres of wine. What I hadn’t considered was that blueberries were smaller than mulberries. So therefore required more for a litre than just five hundred grams. My kilogram of blueberries, yielded roughly six hundred millilitres of wine. So in actuality, the recipe would need to be a kilogram per litre of wine. But of course, blueberries are expensive, I had only been able to make mulberry wine in such large quantities as I possessed a tree from which I could pick them and cost me nothing. You do what you want, but I certainly wasn’t about to fork out for several kilograms of blueberries to crush to make wine from, as it was a single kilo set me back more than I’d have liked. Those reading this who plan on making blueberry wine in bigger and annual batches, may wish to explore making the addition of several blueberry trees to their garden. Eight punnets later, I only had to stop at the home brew shop.
- The Yeast
The character of the yeast can hugely affect the nature of the drink in fermentation, and therefore the selection of the right yeast strain for the species of grape, or by adaptation of taste. Affecting the taste drastically. By patronage of your respectable home brew shop there are many strains afforded to the humble home wine maker. In the past I had used R56 to great success fermenting mulberries, a yeast targeted for full-bodied and complex reds. Although consideration must have been made also to the CR51 and VR21 strains. VR21, a yeast labelled as a “excellent strain for red country wines”. Country wine, like country music, I assumed is the superior variety. CR51, labelled as a strain targeted at light fruity reds. At this early stage, it was difficult to gauge the appropriate yeast to suit the taste before I had tasted it. Blueberries in their altogether taste very sweet and light, so while I planned to seek advice while purchasing I expected to ultimately buy CR51. As I in fact did.
Once I had cleaned my trusty old fermenter. I crushed the blueberries into a must and pitched the yeast and added the fermentation airlock. A simple cap that allows sulphur to expel from the fermenter through the water inside, so it can be visually seen with the naked eye from the outside when fermentation has begun and finished. I finished the process of crushing and beginning fermentation of the berries sometime around noon, and having checked on it again that night saw that fermentation had begun. And after six days it was complete. Six days for six hundred mills. Art may not march to a ticking clock, though what you should take away from this is that fermentation takes time whether you make a big batch or a small one. So you may as well make a big one if you’re able.
After the fermentation stage had ended, the wine needed to be filtered of all of it’s sediment. A task easier said than done with a heavy sided two litre flagon in one hand and an awkwardly balanced twenty litre bucket in the other. Something else that should serve as a learning curve for others, more convenient products exist on the market, there are purpose made miniature pump filters for wine. The next step was to take a reading of the alcohol content the blueberry wine achieved with a hydrometer in a graduated tube. The unofficial Woolie’s blueberry wine scored a content of 6% alcohol. An adequate number for a wine batch that contained only the sugar possessed by the blueberries used. Then all that was left to do was to taste test the end product (and yes, I’m aware the creator of the wine reviewing his own product may be perceived as biased).
After a glass is poured, the wine exhibits a nose of dry fruitiness. The taste is light bodied and sweet, with an aftertaste of sourdough.
So. Can you make wine from supermarket blueberries? Yes