It is impossible to make a palatable wine from anything in the cabbage family; you seldom hear of swede wine or turnip wine and for good reason – they taste of swede or turnip. For root vegetable wines we must turn our attention to members of the Apiaceae (carrot family) and the Chenopodiaceae (beet family), specifically carrots, parsnips and beetroot. Carrot wine is highly thought of and parsnip wine is up there with elderberry as a bright star in the country wine firmament. The unpromisingly entitled Cyclopaedia of Commerce, Mercantile Law, Finance, Commercial Geography and Navigation of 1844 tells us that it ‘is said to possess a finer flavour than that obtained from any other British produce’.
Most of the early recipes are little different from the one below, though some insist on such things as ‘argol of wine’ and (real) isinglass – ingredients you will be hard pushed to find at your local home-brewing shop. And, of course, they invariably involve brewing industrial quantities of the stuff. One 1846 ‘receipt’ makes it in quantities of a kilderkin (which, as Sid James would have told you, is two firkins). Beetroot wine, on the other hand, does not seem to be much liked by anyone for the simple reason that it tastes like dirt. It does, however, have one advantage – it is extremely useful in small quantities for adding a brilliant purple to any red wine that looks a little wan.
- Yield: 6 (75 cl) bottles
- 2 kg parsnips or carrots, or (if you must) beetroot
- 1.5 kg sugar
- 1 tsp pectic enzyme
- ½ tsp amylase
- 2 pared lemons juice and zest
- 250 ml tin white grape juice concentrate
- ½ tsp grape tannin
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1 ripe banana (for parsnip wine and optional!)
- 5 g sachet white wine yeast
- Scrub your chosen root vegetable to remove all dirt, leaving the skin on, then cut into slices about 5 mm thick. Place in a large pan and add 2.5 litres water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until soft, but absolutely not until they are falling apart (the wine will never clear if your roots are mushy).
- Strain the liquid into a clean fermenting bucket. Stir in the sugar until dissolved and add 2 litres cold water. Cover and allow to cool, then add the pectic enzyme and amylase (to break down any starch) and leave for 24 hours.
- Aerate the must, then stir in the lemon zest and juice, grape concentrate, grape tannin and yeast nutrient, and slice in the banana, if using. Check the specific gravity and adjust if necessary.
- Aerate the must, then pitch the yeast. Cover and leave to ferment for 5 days, stirring every day except the last.
- Siphon into a demi-john and fit an air lock.
- Rack off into a second demi-john when fermentation appears to have ceased and leave until the wine is clear. Bottle if you want a dry wine or sterilise and sweeten to taste as described here. Allow to mature for a year before drinking.