Wild blackberry wine

I have wanted to make blackberry wine for years. Last summer, when I started foraging foods around Tasmania, I waited and waited for the blackberries and then went crazy with them. It was great. I made blackberry pie, blackberry cordial, blackberry jam, blackberry sauce. I befriended a lovely lady who made old fashioned fruit wines, and got a few lessons. I couldn’t resist giving it a shot. She lent me a bunch of the equipment I’d need for the fermentation process. I even managed to find a cooper to make me a little French oak barrel. His name is Adam, from the Tasmanian Cask Company. His workshop is outside of Hobart. I’d be glad to offer him return business.

This week I siphoned the wine out of my oak barrel into bottles. So now is the time to tell you how it went. I am very happy with the results. I have a dry red wine that I personally find quite quaffable. I took a bottle to a party, and my friends said they liked it. My downstairs neighbour tasted it and compared it to Cabernet Sauvignon. I think it still tastes like blackberries, but it definitely tastes like wine. I even sent a pair of bottles to a friend in Melbourne, to Rutti who did a guest post for me a while back.

For her, the drink brings back fond memories of travelling. The last time she drank a really delicious blackberry wine was when travelling through Prague. Staying in a backpackers with a pair of Czech brothers who did not speak a word of English, she bonded over a 1.5 litre bottle of blackberry wine; the universal language of booze and poker. She was pretty excited about trying my version.

“It was a dry wine and quite light at the same time.  To me, it’s the perfect combination as I am partial to dry wines yet this was light enough to enjoy under the sun.  I had a glass of blackberry wine with a rich beef tagine style dish I prepared, and I thought paired pretty well too.”

It works very well to freeze your berries until you have enough fruit and time to make the wine. The defrosted berries will release more juice. Berries picked at the end of the season have a richer, more complex flavour than those from early in the season. If you pick them throughout the season, freezing them as you go, you’ll have a mixture of berries. The early season berries will have more acid, the late season berries more sugar. As such, you should get a more complex wine.

Makes about 14 litres of wine

5.5 kilograms blackberries
11 litres boiling water
2.1 kilograms sugar
red wine yeast*
pectic enzyme*

*use the quantities recommended by the manufacturer

Wash your berries well. I put mine in a colander, in a bowl or sink of water. With enough water, the bugs will drown and/float to the top as will any grass seeds and such. You can also swish the berries around without damaging them too much. I worry about losing any of the lovely blackberry juice at that stage, so I’m careful with them.

Place the berries in a food grade bucket (or some other primary fermentation vessel). Mash them well with a potato masher or similar.

Pour over the boiling water and mash them up some more. Stir well and allow it to become luke warm, about 21oC.

Add the pectic enzyme according to the instructions on the packet. Loosely cover the container and leave it for about 24 hours.

Dissolve the yeast in luke warm water and leave it to sit for half an hour or so. Then add it to the blackberry mixture, stirring well. Cover the container loosely. Leave it for four days, stirring daily.

Place the sugar into a large clean container. Pour the liquor through a muslin cloth onto the sugar. Compost the pulp. Stir the liquor well to ensure the sugar is dissolved.

Pour it into dark demijohn/s, filling them to the shoulder, then fit with an air lock.

Keep any spare liquor in a bottle topped with some moist cotton wool.

After about a week, the fermentation in the demijohn will slow down. You can then top it up with the spare liquor so it’s filled to the base of the neck. Refit the airlock.

When the wine has finished fermenting, no bubbles will pass through the airlock.

At this point, you can siphon it off into a new, sterilised demijohn, leaving the sediment behind. You can do this a couple of times to increase the clarity of the finished product. Then when it’s totally clear, you can bottle it. However, I siphoned my wine into an oak barrel where it aged for nine months. At that point, I was happy with its flavour and bottled it.

I used sterilised, recycled dark green wine bottles.

I understand the wine continues to improve with age.

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About Susan

Susan is the ACT Convenor of the Women's International League for Peace and Freedom. She is currently undertaking a PhD in International Relations. Susan continues to work on the Annual Civil Society Dialogue on Women, Peace and Security.
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