Wine Stories

I occasionally dabble in making wine and thought it would be amusing to write down some notes about my homemade efforts. I’ll start with a disclaimer, though: I am not a wine connoisseur by any means. I have enough knowledge, as they say, to be dangerous. I do enjoy making it, however, even though it takes quite a bit longer than beer.

I have five bottles left of a batch of rhubarb wine that I made about five years ago and I’ve taken it upon myself to work on drinking those bottles up over the next few months as a sort of sideline contribution effort to the moving process. For a homemade fruit wine (an unconventional fruit at that) it’s not at all bad, and in fact won a second place ribbon at the Deschutes County Fair a few years back.

It’s best served very cold, and has a very dry and very neutral profile, surprisingly pleasant. Not astringent, not sour (as one might expect from a rhubarb wine). I have no illusions about its quality, however: it is very much a table wine and I wouldn’t open a bottle as a main attraction for guests, but would keep it on-hand for anyone interested in tasting it.

The very best wine I have ever made was my last batch, a Cabernet Sauvignon that I made for my wife from a kit. It turned out to be surprisingly high quality, despite my reservations about “kit wine.” This is a wine that I would serve to guests as the main wine, and have. The only complaint I can make against it is that it seems to turn astringent after being opened for a couple of days more quickly than a wine from a professional winery; I surmise that wineries must add more preservatives to their finished products.

I also have five bottles of an elderberry wine I made about a year before I made the rhubarb wine, but to tell the truth I have no idea what it’s like because I’m a bit afraid of it. What happened was I acquired about four, four-and-a-half pounds of fresh elderberries from my aunt and, following a general recipe in my winemaking book, decided that I would use all of those elderberries in a one gallon batch of wine. Four pounds of elderberries is a lot to put into a single gallon, but my reasoning was that I would be making an elderberry port wine, a dessert wine with higher alcohol content.

I let this wine ferment and age in glass for about a year before I got around to bottling it. When I finally bottled it (probably about the same time I bottled the rhubarb), I poured myself a small taster to see what had been happening to it over the course of the year. To my great surprise, it turned out to be the most astringent, puckering, strongly un-sweet example of a wine I had ever tasted. I nearly poured it out entirely; the only thing the kept me from doing it was the amount of effort and time I had put into it up to that point, and besides, what’s the harm in bottling up five extra measly bottles?

A little subsequent research into the use of elderberries uncovered the fact that elderberries, in normal proportions (no more than two pounds per gallon), make quite a harsh wine that takes quite a bit longer than a normal wine to age and mellow to a drinkable quality. D’oh! So I haven’t opened a single one of those five bottles in five years, largely because I don’t know how long I should wait to let this wine mellow, and if—if—it is going to mellow and turn into a decent wine, I’d hate to open one now as a crapshoot on the off chance it might be ready.

But you know what? I think I’ll open up a bottle tomorrow to see what it’s like. Crapshoot be damned. :-) I’ll blog the results, too.

One Reply to “Wine Stories”

  1. greetings…have made some elderberry wine also,both from fresh berries and dried berries with very differing results.Dried berry kit(with oak wood chips) produced a wine that was so good that it barely lasted past the bottling stage. The fresh berry wine is still bottled awaiting it’s ‘maturity’.

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