An Introduction to Non Grape Wines
We’ve all seen it before; that brightly labeled bottle with a bouquet of strawberries on it peeking out at you on the wine shelves. But on second glance you realize it’s not really wine per sec but a fruit wine. Well, yes, grapes are a fruit too, but this bad boy is made from strawberries, or peaches, or any number of other things. It’s been around as long as fermentation was a concept we understood, in as many varieties as you can imagine.
Your granny probably kept a bottle around, you probably drank more of it than you’d like to admit as a teenager (anyone remember Boone’s Farm?), and there are more options than you could name in a single breath. But what is it exactly? Is it, in fact, wine? And is it any good?
So what is non grape wine made of?
Wine by definition is a fermented beverage made from grapes. Most of what we have come to call wine, in fact, is made specifically from a species of grapes called Vitis vinifera. Because grapes already contain an ideal combination of water, sugar, tannins, and acid they are an easy choice for fermentation. There is little need for any additions aside from yeast to get the party started. So, ‘fruit wine’ is made from pretty much any other fruit: strawberries, peaches, blueberries, apples, you name it! So, while fruit wine is a beverage made from fermented fruit, it is not ‘wine’ as we have defined it.
Where to find non grape wines?
Rural America has been on the fruit wine bandwagon for years. It’s still a huge market and there are wineries that make their bread and butter producing it in the tons. Often sugary sweet and cheap as dirt, it’s a common find at most supermarkets and corner stores in the United Kingdom and USA.
Luckily, in recent years we’ve seen some more serious renditions of fruit wine. Wineries throughout the US have begun producing fruit wines along with their traditional wines. Because they contain less complex flavors, acids, sugars, and tannins they can be a bit more difficult to work with but in the hands of a seasoned winemaker the results can be quite delightful.
Very much in the same way that wine made from grapes doesn’t so much taste like grape juice fruit wine are a complex interpretation of the base juice with hints of their natural flavors. And they’re not all sweet either. Many are quite dry in fact and are being made from everything from berries to pineapple.
Winemakers are choosing to use oak barrels for sturied and darker fruits like apples and blueberries. A few producers have gone even beyond grapes, really breaking the mold. White Silo Winery in Connecticut puts out a rhubarb wine and over in the UK Renegade and Longton put out two sparkling wines, one made from elderflower. Readers from Eastern Europe can head to the cradle of wine – Armenia and try fruit wines made of pomegranate and apricot (!!!) from Gevorkian winery.
Pairing fruit wine with food is an interesting subject. Brendan Thomson from Renegade & Longton recommends sea food, particularly oysters with elderflower sparkling wine. Strawberry bubbles go well with light summer desserts. Hint from Wine Picker: wine should be sweeter then the desert. Also, fruit wine can be a good companion for the dishes with fruits, for example fruit chutney and salads. Another good pairing suggestion is a various sorts of cream cheese. If unsure, just use Wine Picker, a food and wine pairing app, that will help you to find the best food watch for your favorite wine.
It seems that with a little imagination, and a skilled winemaker on your side, the possibilities are endless. So, maybe it’s time we put the prejudices of our youth to rest and see what all the fuss is about.