Plum Wine

“The queen took a flagon of sweet plum wine from a passing serving girl and filled Sansa’s cup. ‘Drink,’ she commanded coldly. ‘Perhaps it will give you the courage to deal with truth for a change.’” –A Clash of Kings

Plum Wine

Thoughts:

Usually I wait with brewing recipes, but it’s just the tail end of plum season, so I wanted to give you all the chance to brew some yourselves. The next post will be back to food, I promise. 🙂

This is an unusual fruit wine, to say the least. It starts with a raisin wine base, to which the plum juice is added. But really, THAT COLOR! The purple from the plum skins did a lot for the color, but the addition of hibiscus is what really tipped it over the edge into that gorgeous, almost grapefruity hue.

In terms of process, there are some things I might do differently. First off, juice the plums. I’m not sure if that would lose some of the purple from the skins, but it would certainly uncomplicate things a bit. I’d probably put the hibiscus in earlier, along with the plums, to get maximum flavor and color. All in all though, a fun historical romp.

A few days after bottling, it has an intense, fruity flavor, but the wine on the whole is still a bit rough and a bit yeasty, but since I stopped the fermentation before all of the sugars were eaten up, it still has a nice, round sweetness to it.

At the 3 month mark, it’s settled to a beautiful, clear pink color. It smells of spice and fruit, leaving one new taster describing it as a combination of raisins and French toast. We served it chilled, and it was crisp, clean, and ideal for summer evenings.  It would also give mimosas some fantastic competition as an accompaniment to Belgian waffles with strawberries.

I’ll keep tasting it at intervals, and let you know how it ages. Personally, I’ll be fascinated to see how it tastes at the recommended 4-5 month mark!

Plum Wine Recipe

“Take twenty pounds of Malaga raisins, pick, rub, and shred them, and put them into a tub. Then take four gallons of water, boil it an hour, and let it stand till it be no more than milk-warm. Then put in your raisins, and let it stand nine or ten days, stirring it once or twice each day. Strain out your liquor, and mix with two quarts of damson juice. Put it into a vessel, and when it has done working, stop it up close. Let it stand four or five months, and then bottle it.” -London Art of Cookery, 1800

Makes: about 2/3 gallon          Initial Fermentation: 1 week          Ageing: 4-5 months, ideally

ABV: ~8%

Cook’s Notes: You will probably have to use a blow-off tube at the beginning, instead of an airlock, as the chopped raisins and plums produce a veritable brewzilla. 🙂

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. raisins, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 gallon water
  • 1 packet Cote de Blancs yeast
  • 3 lb. plum puree
  • 1 Tbs. hibiscus flowers
  • 1 tsp. mahlep
  • 1 Campden Tablet (to stop fermentation)

Helpful Equipment:

  • 1 gallon carboy (a second one is helpful)
  • airlock
  • blow-off tube
  • strainer
  • hydrometer (to measure the sugar content, determine % alcohol)

Combine your chopped raisins with 1/2 gallon water and the yeast. It will go crazy, so keep an eye on it, and set it in a bowl to catch any overflow. Once it’s done going mad, you can switch back to a regular airlock. Allow to sit for around 5 days, or until the airlock has just stopped bubbling. Strain out the raisins, pouring the wine into a cleaned carboy.

Add the pureed plums, then recap and allow to sit for two days. You may want to tweak this stage, depending on whether you’d prefer a more dry or sweet wine. When you’re ready, strain into a clean carboy, pressing out as much liquid as possible from the pulp.

Add hibiscus and mahleb, and allow to sit for one more day. Then add a crushed campden tablet to stop fermentation, and stick in the fridge for a day or so to ensure the yeasts are all done with their nonsense.

Rack into bottles, allow to age, and enjoy!

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. harbqll says:

    I made a double batch (it’s a 3-gal carboy…I hate to waste the space! ). Last night we strained the plum mush. See what you mean about juicing instead.

    The flavor isn’t very fruity, maybe because it came out so dry. I may add some plum juice before final bottling, or at least try to sweeten it up a bit.

    Great color. Very cloudy. If I can’t get it to clear up a bit, we may need to figure on something else for Yule feast.

    Let’s wait and see how it tastes in June…

    1. Chelsea says:

      I’m delighted that you’re trying this. Of everything I’ve brewed, it’s gotten the best reviews all around. If you have the patience for it, the wine absolutely clears- mine is crystaline at this point (been meaning to add a photo to the post), although it cleared after bottling. A good deal of the flavor also comes from that pinch of mahlep and hibiscus near the end, both of which accentuate the plum. Excited to hear what you think!

  2. harbqll says:

    A more recent photo would be great. And I hate to admit this, but I honestly didn’t notice the addition of mahlep in the recipe until you just mentioned it. I’ll drop some in tonight when I get home.

    We just strained it out last night with cheesecloth (it reminded of of a book I once read where prisoners were using socks to wring out the pulp in their jailhouse wine!)

    It really doesn’t have much fruity flavor at this point, but I’m ballparking the ABV at around 12-15%. Perhaps higher – it really does have a kick. But given my lack of experience, I really don’t know how likely this is. The dudes at the brewshop said there’s a lab I can send a sample to for analysis, for around $25. Unfortunately, I can’t run it in my lab, as we’re only geared for physiologic levels of ethanol.

  3. harbqll says:

    Update, 1 year later: Due to the rough flavor of the wine, I decided to let it age. And then forgot about it, as it was hidden in the back of the beer refrigerator behind some of my wife’s mead. I found it last weekend, and we decided to give it a try.

    I believe your phrase that I said I would steal was ‘AMAZEBALLS’.

    Very smooth, good fruity flavor, just enough of a hint of sweetness to banish the dryness. Crystal clear, deep plum purple. Mrs Bqll and I split it with some friends over a rousing game of Munchkin.

    The only downside was that I had one one bottle of the stuff. I guess I’ll be making another batch for next year!

    1. Chelsea says:

      Oh wow! It’s great to have an update, and so favorable one at that! I think I still have a bottle or two kicking around the basement. It might be time for a hunt… 🙂

  4. Josh says:

    If I’m reading this right there is no boiling required for the raisin wine portion right?

  5. Josh says:

    Question (I’m sure you hate me by now) about how many plums do you need for 3lb of purée?

  6. Joshua says:

    I have an odd kind of question. are the campden tablets necessary? or is it more of a suggestion?

    1. Needs Mead says:

      Definitely optional. This recipe is from early on in my brewing, and nowadays I go pretty medieval on everything- basic sterilization, but not much beyond that!

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