Rhubarb wine, a delightful country wine, is gaining popularity among wine enthusiasts for its unique flavor and refreshing taste. If you’re a fan of homemade beverages and looking to experiment with a new recipe, this one’s for you.
To make rhubarb wine, you’ll need fresh rhubarb as the primary ingredient. You can enjoy this wine’s sweet and tangy flavors as a standalone beverage or mix it with other fruit wines to create a customized blend. Known for its simplicity, rhubarb wine is a perfect way to harness the homegrown goodness of your garden.
This delicious homemade wine allows you to experience the true essence of rhubarb and provides a cost-effective alternative to store-bought wines. You can create a refreshing and unique beverage with just a few additional ingredients like sugar, water, and yeast.
Understanding Rhubarb Wine
History and Popularity
Rhubarb wine has an intriguing history dating back to the 1860s, when it was considered a trendy beverage in certain areas. During Prohibition, people in New England continued to produce rhubarb wine for “medicinal purposes.”
In recent years, there has been a resurgence of interest in rhubarb wine, with some even comparing its taste and popularity to rosé. As a country wine made from fruit other than grapes, rhubarb wine offers a unique and refreshing option, especially for summer sipping.
Flavor Profile and Characteristics
Rhubarb wine showcases the distinctive flavor of rhubarb. The taste is typically dry and crisp, with a full-bodied rhubarb essence in every sip. The color of the wine can vary depending on the hue of the rhubarb used, ranging from a clear white wine to a slightly amber appearance.
Due to rhubarb’s naturally high acidity, it’s essential to balance the wine with sugar and other fruits to create a harmonious and enjoyable taste. Additionally, using wine yeast that can tolerate higher acidity levels will ensure a successful fermentation process.
Regarding health benefits, rhubarb is rich in antioxidants and vitamins, which can help boost the immune system and reduce inflammation. When crafting homemade rhubarb wine, it’s worth considering the addition of winemaking tannin. While grapes contain ample tannins, rhubarb does not, and adding a small amount (about 1/4 to 1/2 tsp per gallon) can help create a more balanced, pleasant mouthfeel for your wine.
Rhubarb Wine Recipe
Choose fresh, crisp stalks of rhubarb for your wine. Look for firm stalks that are free of blemishes or soft spots. Note that the color of the stalks does not affect the flavor — both green and red stalks can be used for making wine.
For a delicious rhubarb wine, gather these essential ingredients:
5 lbs (2.3 kg) fresh rhubarb
3 lbs (1.4 kg) sugar
1 packet wine yeast
1/4 tsp winemaking tannin
1 tsp yeast nutrient or yeast nutrient substitute.
2-3 quarts water (to fill)
Before you begin, assemble the following key equipment:
Fermentation vessel (large glass jar or bucket)
Demijohns with airlock and bung
Chopping board and knife
Large spoon for stirring
Bottling equipment (bottles, corks or caps)
Step 1: Preparing Rhubarb
Chop the rhubarb into 1/4-inch slices and place them in a large bowl, glass jar, or bucket. Cover them with sugar and stir to coat. Allow the sugar to extract the rhubarb juice for 2-3 days.
Step 2: Mixing Ingredients
After sugar extraction, add the tannin, yeast nutrient, and enough water to bring the liquid level up, keeping in mind that the liquid should be filled to 2-3 quarts. Mix well to dissolve sugar.
Step 3: Adding Yeast
Sprinkle the packet of wine yeast evenly over the mixture. Stir gently to distribute and cover the fermentation vessel.
Step 4: Fermentation
Fit an airlock and bung onto your fermentation vessel to allow gases to escape without contaminants entering. Monitor the fermentation process, checking the wine periodically. The primary fermentation process should take about 2-4 weeks.
Step 5: Racking
Once bubbles cease, siphon the wine into demijohns, careful not to disturb the sediment at the bottom of the vessel. Seal with an airlock and bung, and keep the demijohns in a cool, dark place for at least 3 months before racking again to remove additional sediment.
Step 6: Bottling
When your hydrometer readings remain stable over a couple of weeks, it’s time to bottle your wine. Add a Campden tablet to the wine to stabilize it and prevent oxidation. Carefully siphon the wine into bottles using a funnel, avoiding sediment transfer. Secure your bottles with corks or caps, then store in a cool, dark place to age for at least six months before enjoying your homemade rhubarb wine.
The Winemaking Process
Prepping the Rhubarb
To begin making rhubarb wine, start by chopping the rhubarb stalks into 1/4 inch slices. Use at least 5 pounds of rhubarb for a standard wine batch. Place the chopped rhubarb in a clean, food-grade bucket or tub and combine it with sugar (3 pounds is a good starting point) to help draw out the juices. Leave the mixture covered with a clean towel in your kitchen for 2 to 3 days.
Preparing the Must
After the rhubarb-sugar mixture has rested, pour lukewarm water over the mixture to reach the desired volume (typically around 5 gallons) in the primary fermentation bucket. Stir well. Now, it’s time to test the sugar levels with a hydrometer. Aim for a specific gravity between 10-12%. You may need to add more sugar if the level is too low. Optionally, add a few crushed Campden tablets to help prevent bacterial contamination. Allow the must to rest for 24 hours at room temperature.
After 24 hours, it’s time to begin the initial fermentation. Add the wine yeast to the primary fermentation bucket and stir the mixture well. Cover the bucket with a clean towel or an airlock to prevent any unwanted bacteria from entering. The fermentation process should last around two weeks, with room temperature maintained at about 65-75°F. Keep an eye on the progress, and you will notice bubbles forming as the yeast consumes the sugar, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide.
Racking and Aging
After the initial fermentation, carefully strain the must through a muslin cloth or fine mesh strainer to remove any solids. Transfer the liquid to a clean demi-john. This process, known as “racking,” helps to separate the wine from the sediment. Attach an airlock, and let the wine continue to ferment for another three to four weeks.
Racking may be done multiple times throughout the aging process, every few months, to ensure a clearer final product.
During the aging process, the flavors of your rhubarb wine will develop and mellow. Depending on your desired taste, aging can take several months or even a couple of years. It’s important to be patient during this stage and periodically taste the wine to determine when it has reached your preferred flavor profile. Once the wine has reached its desired taste, it’s ready to bottle and enjoy.
Rhubarb Wine Recipe Variations
In this section, you’ll find three rhubarb wine recipe variations: Honey-Sweetened, Black Tea-Infused, and Fruit-Blended. Each variation of the classic recipe adds unique ingredients that create distinctive flavors and characteristics.
For a more natural and complex sweetness, you can try using honey instead of sugar in your rhubarb wine recipe:
1) Replace the sugar with equal honey (e.g., 2-3 lbs for 5 lbs of rhubarb).
2) Dilute the honey in a small amount of warm water to help it blend with the rhubarb more easily.
3) Follow the rest of the steps from your original rhubarb wine recipe, like soaking the rhubarb in the honey solution or fermenting the must.
Honey will introduce new flavors to your rhubarb wine, depending on the honey variety and floral sources. Remember that honey may ferment more slowly than sugar, so be patient and adjust fermenting times accordingly.
Adding black tea to your rhubarb wine recipe can provide a pleasant astringency and tannin structure, similar to a fine red wine:
1) Brew a strong black tea using 4-5 tea bags or loose tea equivalent in 1 liter of boiling water.
2) Allow the tea to steep for 5-10 minutes and then remove the tea bags or strain the tea leaves.
3) Mix the brewed tea with your rhubarb and sugar solution, following the steps of your favorite recipe.
4) Continue with the rest of your rhubarb wine-making process, fermenting, and aging.
The black tea infusion will enhance the flavor and improve the mouthfeel, giving the wine more body and depth.
Expand the flavor profile of your rhubarb wine by blending in additional fruits, such as raisins, pears, or peaches:
– Raisins: Add 1 lb of raisins to your rhubarb and sugar mix, adding natural sweetness and a fruity note to the wine.
– Pears: Chop and add 1-2 lbs of ripe pears to create a complementary and slightly tropical flavor.
– Peaches: Include 1-2 lbs of fresh, sliced peaches to the mix, enhancing your wine with a sweet, summery taste.
No matter which fruits you choose, clean and prepare it properly before adding it to the rhubarb mixture. If necessary, adjust the fermentation times to accommodate the added sugars from the fruit.
Measuring Alcohol Content and Adjusting Sweetness
Using a Hydrometer
A hydrometer is essential for measuring the alcohol content in your homemade rhubarb wine. This long glass bobber device is placed inside a tall container with the liquid to gauge its density relative to water. Hydrometer readings help you understand the sugar content and eventual alcohol content of your wine.
When checking the hydrometer readings, here’s what you need to bear in mind:
– Record the initial reading before fermentation begins (original gravity)
– Record the reading after fermentation ends (final gravity)
– Calculate the alcohol content.
Dry or Sweet Rhubarb Wine
Determining whether your rhubarb wine will be dry or sweet depends on the degree to which sugars are fermented with the help of yeasts. A dry rhubarb wine has a higher alcohol content and less residual sugar, while a sweet rhubarb wine retains more sugar, resulting in a lower alcoholic percentage and sweeter taste.
Here are the general hydrometer ranges for different wine styles:
– Dry white wine: ≤1.010
– Off-dry wine: 1.010-1.020
– Sweet wine: ≥1.020
If you find that your rhubarb wine is drier than desired, you can use the back-sweetening method to achieve the preferred level of sweetness:
1) Determine the desired sweetness level by referring to the hydrometer readings for sweet and off-dry wines.
2) Measure the current residual sugar content of the wine using a hydrometer.
3) Calculate the additional sugar needed to reach the desired sweetness level.
4) Dissolve the required amount of sugar in a small portion of the wine.
5) Slowly add the sugar mixture back into the main wine.
6) Take a hydrometer reading and taste the wine to ensure it meets your expectations.
By carefully using a hydrometer and back-sweetening if necessary, you can achieve the perfect balance of alcohol content and sweetness for your homemade rhubarb wine.
Alternative Rhubarb Beverages
In addition to rhubarb wine, there are other creative ways to incorporate rhubarb into your beverages. This section explores a few options, including rhubarb mead, parsnip and rhubarb wine, and rhubarb-infused vodka.
Rhubarb mead is a unique twist on traditional honey-based mead. To make rhubarb mead, you’ll need the following ingredients:
– Fresh rhubarb
– Yeast (specifically for mead making, such as Wyeast 4184)
1) Chop your rhubarb into pieces and let it freeze overnight to break down the fibers and release more juice.
2) Mix chopped rhubarb, honey, and water in a large pot, bringing it to a simmer.
3) Transfer the mixture to a fermenting vessel, and pitch your yeast once cooled.
4) Allow it to ferment for about two weeks, then transfer it to a secondary fermenter and let it age for a few months.
Parsnip and Rhubarb Wine
Parsnip and rhubarb wine combines the earthy richness of parsnips with the tartness of rhubarb. To make this wine, follow these steps:
1) Prepare your vegetables: clean, peel, and chop parsnips, and chop rhubarb.
2) Combine the vegetables with sugar and water in a fermentation container. Add wine yeast and yeast nutrient.
3) Let the mixture ferment for a week, stirring daily.
4) After fermentation, strain the liquid and transfer it to a secondary container to age for several months.
For a refreshing and tangy spirit, try making your own rhubarb-infused vodka. This is a simple process that requires very few ingredients:
– Fresh rhubarb
– Sugar (optional, for a sweeter infusion)
1) Chop your rhubarb into small pieces and place them in a large glass container.
2) Pour vodka over the rhubarb, filling the container. If you prefer a sweeter infusion, add sugar.
3) Seal the container, and store it in a dark place for two to four weeks, shaking it occasionally.
4) After the infusion time, strain out the rhubarb pieces and enjoy your homemade rhubarb-infused vodka.
Tips and Troubleshooting
Dealing with Oxalic Acid
Rhubarb contains oxalic acid, which can give your wine a sharp taste and lead to kidney stones if consumed in large quantities. To reduce the levels of oxalic acid in your rhubarb wine, take the following steps:
1) Use only the red stalks of your rhubarb, as they contain less oxalic acid than green stalks.
2) Trim and discard the leaves, as they have high oxalic acid content and are toxic when consumed.
3) Blanch your rhubarb stalks for about one minute in boiling water, drain, and rinse with cold water. This step will help remove some of the oxalic acid before fermentation.
4) Adjust the acidity of your wine by adding calcium carbonate or potassium bicarbonate to neutralize some of the acid.
Using Pectic Enzyme
Pectic enzymes help break down pectin, a substance found in rhubarb that can lead to a cloudy or hazy appearance in your wine. To ensure a clearer finished product, add pectic enzyme to your wine must as follows:
1) Purchase a quality pectic enzyme from a reputable winemaking supplier.
2) Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the appropriate dosage of enzyme.
3) Add the enzyme to your wine must during the primary fermentation stage, stirring well to distribute it evenly.
4) Monitor your wine for any changes in clarity, and exercise patience, as results may take some time.
Maintaining the right acidity in your rhubarb wine is crucial to balance flavors and stability. Keep these tips in mind when dealing with acidity in your wine:
1) Measure the acidity of your must using a titration kit or an acid test kit purchased from a winemaking supplier.
2) If the acidity is too high, consider adding a small amount of calcium carbonate or potassium bicarbonate to reduce it.
3) If the acidity is too low, increase tartaric or citric acid.
4) Monitor the progress of your wine during the fermentation process and adjust the acidity levels as needed.
Bottling and Storage
Using a Corker
To bottle your rhubarb wine, you first need to ensure the wine is clear and free of sediment. Siphon the wine into a clean carboy or container, leaving any sediment behind. Let it sit for a few days to make sure all remaining sediment settles at the bottom. If you’re still uncertain, siphon the wine again, being cautious not to disturb the sediment.
Once your wine is clear, it’s time to use a corker. Set up your wine bottles, corker, and corks. Place the siphon in the wine container and, starting with the first bottle, fill it to the desired level. Insert a cork into the corker’s chamber, line it up with the bottle opening, and press or pull the corker’s handle to secure the cork in place firmly. Repeat this process for each bottle.
Proper storage conditions are crucial for preserving your rhubarb wine’s taste, aroma, color, and overall quality. Follow these guidelines for optimal storage:
Temperature: Maintain a consistent temperature between 50-60°F (10-16°C). Rapid fluctuations can negatively impact the wine’s body and finish
Humidity: Aim for a relative humidity of 50-75% to prevent the cork from drying out and allowing air to enter the bottle
Light: Store your wine in a dark location, as exposure to strong light can alter the wine’s color and flavor
Position: Lay the bottles on their sides to keep the corks moist, which helps maintain a proper seal against airflow
Storing your rhubarb wine under these conditions will continue to develop its blend, aroma, color, and finish, allowing you to enjoy it for an extended period.
Enjoying Rhubarb Wine
Pairings and Serving Suggestions
Rhubarb wine can be a delightful homemade beverage that is great for pairing with various dishes. Its unique, tart flavor complements rich, hearty flavors, opening up your palate to fully appreciate your meals.
For instance, you might find that rhubarb wine pairs exceptionally well with a classic dessert like rhubarb crumble. The wine adds a complimentary touch of tartness to the sweet and tangy concoction, making it a delectable duo to enjoy together.
Regarding savory dishes, rhubarb wine can also enhance your dining experience. Try serving it with creamy, rich goat cheese or a tender, succulent roast chicken. Combinations like these allow the refreshing sharpness of the wine to cut through the rich flavors, resulting in a delicious and satisfying pairing.
When serving rhubarb wine, make sure to chill it to the ideal temperature (around 50-55°F / 10-13°C) before consuming. This will ensure that the fruit flavors fully shine through, while also making the wine more enjoyable to drink.
Rhubarb Wine Cocktails
Not only can you enjoy rhubarb wine on its own, but it also serves as a fantastic base for creating inventive and refreshing cocktails.
Rhubarb Spritzer: Combine rhubarb wine with an equal part of your favorite sparkling water or club soda, then add ice and garnish with a slice of lemon or a sprig of fresh mint.
Rhubarb Mimosa: Mix equal parts rhubarb wine and fresh-squeezed orange juice for a unique twist on a classic mimosa. Top with a sparkling wine or champagne splash to make it extra fancy and celebratory.
When making your own rhubarb wine at home, you can use commercial yeast and traditional homebrew techniques to ensure the best possible fermentation. Don’t forget to give it ample time to age (at least 6 months) to allow the flavors to develop and mellow, resulting in a superior taste with a more balanced and complex profile.
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