Monday, January 2, 2012

Fruit Wines

One of my first memories of homemade wine is of the dandelion wine that my father and his brother made.  In the summer, us kids helped picked the dandelion flowers in white ten gallon pails.  Later in the year, the smelly mixture was placed into bottles and eventually decanted or swigged.  The taste was tannic and alcohol forward.    I would now recognize that taste as the slightly bitter flavour of the flower but at the time it tasted like old cold tea.  The alcoholic sensation was probably because my father and uncle liked sweet wine.  They must have added more sugar in order to mask the bitterness of the dandelion.  Sugar, when all grown up becomes alcohol.  I remember something that tasted a lot closer to cheap rum rather than wine.

While dandelions aren't exactly fruit wines, the process I described is one that most people think about when they think of fruit wine.  That is unfortunate because fruit wines have a lot more to offer than some amateur uncle noodling with a carboy in the basement or garage.  But haven't we seen a revolution in craft brewing?  Why has this not flowed over into fruit wine production?

I wouldn't be surprised if fruit wines become the new microbrews.  There is the same ability as the craft brewing, and there is the option for innovation and elevation.  There is a lot of room for this kind of product in the marketplace but more importantly, the wines are fun and tasty.

Fruit wines, in general, are simpler wines.  Some of the best offer a soft alcohol with a hint of the fruit.  The nearest relative in the liquor store is the wine cooler but where those taste overproduced, and slightly candy like, a true fruit wine has a lot less of that.

One of my favourite fruit wineries is the Kawartha Country Winery located just outside Buckhorn.  Their list of fruit wines includes elderberry, rhubarb, blackberry, shiro plum and many others.  There are a few cordials but on the whole the wines are slightly sweet or off dry.

Some other good fruit wineries that are a good start are Archibalds Winery just outside of Toronto who has excellent apple cider and fruit ice wines and Rodrigues Winery from Newfoundland with a really good blueberry. These are really worthwhile checking out as even in the dead of winter,  a few sips can evoke summer on the porch.

These wines are great for desserts, hot days and sipping with friends.  Some are dry enough to be a great meal pairing that can be as varied as roast pork or even hamburgers.  It is too bad that there is such a small selection available at the LCBO and most of these can only be found at the winery.  I guess I should plan my summer vacation and figure out which wineries I will visit... Hmm, summer vacation...

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