"Centuries ago, date wine was consumed in the Middle East by those who could not afford fermented grapes"by Barry Smith / April 12, 2017 / Leave a comment
Can wine be made out of anything other than grapes? The surprising answer is that yes, it can. Think of elderflower or cherry wine; not very appealing, I grant you, but these are not the only options.
I first learned about fruit wines on a visit to Bergen, Norway, where I was taken to a restaurant that specialised in seasonal local produce. “Would you like some wine,” the waiter asked after we had ordered the food. I was about to say that I didn’t think Norway made wines when he told me, “We have fruit wines.” I suggested that wine could only be made from grapes, but I soon learned my mistake when the sommelier told me how the range of fruit wines were made. I had forgotten, of course, that centuries ago, date wine was consumed in the Middle East by those who could not afford fermented grapes, and the tradition of making wines out of other fruits has continued.
The restaurant recommended a bright red strawberry and rhubarb wine, which stained the teeth as well as the glass. But the strangest thing I tasted was leek wine. The odour almost prevented me trying it, and after a sip the foul stench clung on in the persistent after-taste. “Why do you make it?” I asked. The sommelier-cum-winemaker explained the chefs had wanted a white wine to make sauces with and so leek wine had been produced. Not much would have been made, but the chefs began to drink it and asked if it could be made sweeter. A few years later I returned to the Bergen restaurant and joked with them about it. “Well,” said the winemaker, “I did make the wine sweeter, preventing all the sugars from turning to alcohol and eventually it turned into a reasonable dessert wine.” He was right.
I hadn’t given fruit wines another thought until a recent visit to Denmark brought me to Cold Hand Winery. It was a revelation. Jens Skovgaard, an ex-school teacher started the business almost by accident. One day, the frozen juice from pressed apples leaked from its container and left a streak of sweet liquor. He had the idea of fermenting the intense sugars, turning out not cider but an apple wine that went on to become Denmark’s first apple…