No, Wine Does NOT Have to be Made From Grapes…

The Juice

Millennials love experiencing new things. Put a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley or a Chinese Plum Wine in front of them, odds are they’re trying the plum wine. So, in the spirit of trying new things, let’s dive into different fruit wines this week and really get to know what they’re all about!

What is a fruit wine?

Fruit wines are fermented alcoholic beverages made from a variety of base ingredients other than grapes. They can also have additional flavors taken from fruits, flowers, and herbs. The definition of fruit wines is sometimes broadened to include any fermented alcoholic beverage except beer. For historical reasons, mead, cider, and perry are also excluded from the definition of fruit wine, but we’re going to talk about mead anyways.

Fruit wines have historically been popular with home winemakers and in areas with cool climates such as North America and Scandinavia. In East Africa, India, and the Philippines, wine actually is made from bananas! These wines are usually referred to by their main ingredient since the classic definition of wine means that it is made from fermented grape juice.

How are they made?

Fruit wines can be made from virtually any plant that can be fermented. This means that most fruits and berries do have the potential to produce wine. A number of methods can be used for extraction such as pressing the juice or stewing and then fermenting the pulp. Because there are not many foods other than grapes that naturally have the balanced quantities needed for yeast feeding and to produce drinkable wine, most fruit wines are adjusted in one or more ways during the fermentation process. Some require adding sugar or honey for taste and to increase the alcohol content.

How do they taste?

Fruit wine can be sweet and fruity or not so sweet, and more complex or nuanced. Since most fruits have numerous varieties, and ranges of flavors, each fruit wine will differ in taste. 

Common Varieties:

Elderberry wine: Elderberry can make wine very similar to its close cousin, the grape.  This wine is usually aged, oaked and mellowed, bearing a close resemblance to some of the huskier, brooding red grape wines, such as Mourvedre and Petit Verdot.

Dandelion wine: In general, dandelion wine tastes warm and earthy and is sometimes compared to white wine. Though, there are definitely varying opinions on its taste. It truly depends on what is in the wine and if the petals or whole head was used in the production process.

Plum wine: Plum wine blends a sweet and sour taste of plum flavors with (traditionally) a standard of 12% alcohol content. In East Asia, plum wine is popular, but very different. In China, plum wine is normally made with baijiu, a clear liquor, and soaked with plum. The alcohol level is higher than typical fruit wine, which is just fermented with fruits. Umeshu is also a Japanese plum wine made by steeping fresh Japanese plum in shochu/white liquor and sugar. The sweet and sour flavors with the fruity aroma are very appealing. It’s popularly used in a variety of drinks.

Pomegranate wine: Usually, pomegranate wines are made in whole or part from pomegranates. In some cases, pomegranate juice or extract is used to augment the flavor of standard wine, resulting in a pomegranate-flavored version. Commercial pomegranate wine was developed in Israel and tastes very differently compared to grape wine; it’s very dry and way more acidic, and has typically less alcohol content. 

Pineapple wine: Made from the juice of pineapples, the result is a soft, dry, fruit wine with a strong pineapple bouquet. Pineapple wine is popular in Thailand and other Southeast Asian countries, where it is made using traditional practices and is not available commercially. In Mexico, fermented pineapple beverages are very popular and given the name Tepache.

Orange wine: Fruit wine can also be made from oranges. This should not be confused with orange wine, also known as amber wine, which is made from grapes, but is orange/amber in color. Wine made from oranges, although not commercially widely available, is produced in White River, South Africa, and by home winemakers. The taste is a light bodied wine, pale or golden in color, dry, thin in body, and alcoholic.

Cherry wine: Cherry wine is usually tart cherries that provide sufficient acid. Cherry wines can be used to make fortified wines and liqueurs.  Michigan wine makers, located in the leading tart-cherry-producing region of the United States, produce several varieties of cherry wine, including spiced versions and cherry-grape blends.

Banana Wine: Commercially produced banana wine is a clear, slightly sparkling alcoholic beverage with a longer shelf-life than banana beer, which is spoiled easily and therefore not stored for long periods.Depending on the strain of yeast and amount of sugar added, the sweetness and alcohol level in the final product is variable.Mead: Although not technically a fruit wine, mead is an alcoholic beverage created by fermenting honey with water, sometimes with various fruits, spices, grains, or hops. The alcoholic content ranges from about 3.5% ABV to more than 18%. The majority of the beverage’s fermentable sugar is derived from honey. It may be still, carbonated, or naturally sparkling; dry, semi-sweet, or sweet.

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