Herbal Wines

Jul 1, 2008
by Nicholas Morcinek

One of the many pleasures of a life in the country is the
abundance of free food and the makings of fine drink. Sitting here at
my desk, glass of Dandelion wine in hand, the golden glow of the
flickering firelight passing through the pale amber nectar drifts my
mind back to the Spring and the picking and preparation that led to
this magic moment. Anyone who has ever made their own wine or beer
will understand my feelings but nowadays of course, wine nearly always
refers to a Chateau produced store bought liquid, made from grapes
grown in some exotic far away land. However until very recently, many
other varieties of fruit and even flowers were used by enterprising
brewers. Dandelion, Red Clover, Rosemary and Rose flowers were all
used and all have their own distinctive nose, flavour and
effect. Herbs were used for their traditional medicinal values, the
wine-making process being me rely the method of preservation.

Dandelion for the digestion and liver
Cowslip to help with sleep
Clover flowers as a tonic and mild euphoriant

These herb wines are very simply made, with minimal amounts of time
and equipment and once tried and successfully imbibed, they can become
an integral part of your routine and life style. After all, what
better way is there to take your medicine than in a glass of fragrant
ambrosia? Hoping that I've caught your interest, (excuse me while I
pour myself an other glass!), perhaps you'd like to give flower wines
a try.

Here to help you on your way is my own tried, and very well tested,


Two quarts of Red Clover or Dandelion flower-heads. (Or any other
type of edible/medicinal flower. Good ones to try are Calendula, Rose,
Violet, Elderflowers, etc; Use your own judgement, the recipe is good
for almost any combination of flowers and herbs).

One Kilo of sugar & 3 lemons.
Four ounces un-coated raisins or sultanas.
One packet Champagne type wine yeast.

You will also need some equipment, most of which can be found in the
kitchen, viz: One, two or three gallon container, (stainless steel,
earthenware, glass or un-chipped enamel).

A one gallon glass flagon, Fermentation lock, campden table and syphon

(These can be obtained quite inexpensively from any home-brewing

Now for the...Method:

Pick the flowers on a sunny morning after the dew has dried. They
are best picked after several days of full sun but Mother Nature is
not always so obliging. Choose only the best flowers and discard all
green parts at the base of the flowers. (They will make the wine
bitter). Collect two full quarts of flowers for each gallon you wish
to make. (This is a good job to give to the kids on a sunny Sunday
afternoon. You won't see them for at least an hour.) It is very
important that you collect only from areas that have not been sprayed
with garden or agricultural pest sprays. Avoid all roadside flowers as
they contain high levels of pollutants.

It is important before starting in the kitchen to ensure that all
the implements and containers used are scrupulously clean. Make up a
sterilizing solution using the campden tablets, (follow the
instructions on the pack) and then thoroughly rinse and clean
everything you intend to use. This is the most important operation in
home wine making, get it right and your wines turnout perfectly every
time, screw-up and your friends will find all sorts of reasons for why
they can't pop over to watch the game, join the barbecue, etc; etc;
Anyway, we are digressing. Back to the wine.

Clean the flowers of insects and dirt and place them into the
largest container. Add the juice from the three lemons and the washed
raisins or sultanas, and immediately pour over them six pints of
boiling water. Stir it all up with a sterilized spoon, cover the
container with a sterilized lid and leave to stand for twenty four

Next day, lift up the lid and take a peek at the dead flowers and
other bits, floating in the water. Hmmm...Give it all a good stir and
then strain out the liquid into a clean sterilized container. Rinse
out your original container with some sulphite solution and then
immediately pour the strained liquid back in. Add the sugar and two
pints of boiling water, stirring well so as to dissolve the sugar, and
then add the yeast, which has been prepared beforehand as instructed
on the package. Stir it again, cover and put it away in a warm spot
where the temperature stays around 70-80 degrees. Now forget all about
it for one month.

The month has passed and you rush like the wind to take a look at
your wine. Urgghh!! It smells weird and looks weirder, but don't
worry, every thing should work out fine. This is where the syphon,
flagon and fermentation lock come into the picture. First sterilize
all your equipment with a sulphite solution and rinse thoroughly. Then
syphon the contents of your brewing bin into the flagon. This will
give you your first taste, but don't despair it gets much better! Set
up the fermentation lock as per the manufacturer's instructions, pop
it on top of the flagon and now take it back to that warm out of the
way place where you hid it before.

Now comes the hardest part of the whole show. You have to forget
all about this big bottle of fermenting nectar for at least six
months. Don't be tempted to peek inside, smell or God forbid! taste
your new concoction. Don't even think about it! That day is still in
the far future.

Six months have passed. November arrives and the nights are
getting longer. Remember the wine?? It's now ready to be
bottled. You'll need about six or seven bottles for each gallon. Use
only those bottles that are designed to hold pressure, i.e. Champagne
or sparkling wine bottles, even those thick heavy old-fashioned cola
bottles. Use a sulphite solution to sterilize the bottles, corks and
caps, and using a sterilized syphon tube, carefully syphon the clear
liquid from the flagon into the bottles without disturbing the
sediment in the flagon. Tastes pretty good now eh!

To make your wine just a little sparkling add no more than a half
teaspoon of sugar to each bottle. Seal the bottles well and let them
stand in a warm place for three days. Then place them in the coolest
part of the house and wait six more weeks. It will then be just about
ready to drink. Of course like many wines it will taste better if left
longer, ( about a year is best).

But of course we're all only human and so must inevitably try out
the fruits of our labour. Invite around your true friends, break out
the best glasses and then carefully open your first delicately cooled
bottle, without disturbing the sediment on the bottom. Pour carefully
into each glass, filling them all in one delicate movement, again so
as not to disturb the sediment. Sit back, raise your glass in a toast
and sip this delightful ambrosia. Revel in the complements and
congratulations of your friends, for they are truly deserved. And
think of the coming Spring and the fifteen gallons that you plan to

Good luck!!!


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