The wine experts agree that wine ideally needs to be matched to the occasion, or if it’s to be served with a meal, matched to the menu.
There’s a lot of wine snobbery about, and you don’t have to stick rigidly to the wine buffs’ rules, but thinking through the kinds of wine you can make, and what different types of wine complement well, can be useful.
The standard dictum about matching wines is that white is light and red is richer. Red wines go particularly well with red meat. White wines are the perfect accompaniment for fish and chicken. Sparkling wines are synonymous with celebrations and special occasions. That’s the baseline that we’re all familiar with, but of course there’s more.
Novice home winemakers may want to start out by producing a wine that can be consumed on almost any occasion. A medium dry (or medium sweet) red or white wine will go down well (quite literally!) on most occasions.
As a rule of thumb, grape-based wines are probably more versatile than fruit or country wines, but it depends on the wine and your personal preferences. Depending on their specific character, a plum or apple wine could be a good accompaniment for a picnic or barbecue. They could also double up as a fruity treat for a cozy evening sitting round the fire in winter.
You are the master of whether your wine is dry or sweet. Fruit wines often lend themselves to being slightly sweeter. They can be light or heavy, suitable for drinking with a summer lunch or as an evening aperitif. A sweet fruit wine can serve the purpose of a dessert wine, which –as the name says – is traditionally served with the dessert course.
You will also be in control of manipulating the alcohol content. Strongly alcoholic, full-bodied homemade wines can be drunk almost like a liqueur, after a meal or as a nightcap. Once again, fruit or country wines can be perfect is this is what you want to produce.
Some wines seem to invite certain types of food to go with them. Olive wine implies Mediterranean food. Pineapple wine says ‘Hawaiian’. Delicate flower wines might be ideal for al fresco dining on a spring evening. Equally, some wines just won’t go with some foods or some occasions. Herbal wines suggest savoury foods, perhaps winter meat dishes. Sparkling elderflower wine isn’t the obvious accompaniment to a rack of lamb.
As a home winemaker you can custom-design your wines for your requirements. That’s one of its many charms, and another reason why creating homemade wines is a pastime that just keeps growing in popularity. With some basic equipment and a little bit of practice, you can make your own wine at a fraction of the cost of buying from the store. You can also craft wines to suit your palate and experiment with creating unusual wines.
Creating new wines and flavors is part of the appeal of making your own wine. Experimenting with new ingredients, blends and accents makes home winemaking a fabulously creative and rewarding hobby.
Wonderful wines you can make yourself
Think of wine and you’ll probably immediately think of grape wines. Grapes are perfect for winemaking because they typically contain the right proportions of sugar, acid, tannin and other elements. Traditionally, wine has been made from a huge variety of plants, but may need blending or added ingredients.
The rule of thumb is that if you can ferment it, you can make wine from it! Before the rise of the wine industry, homemade wines, or ‘country wines,’ were the solution for many rural households. It was an ideal way to use up surplus fruit or other produce. Alternatively, people gathered wild fruits to create wines that cost very little to make.
Different countries across the globe have their own special country wines. Plum wine is popular in Japan and China. In Hawaii, pineapple wine is a traditional home-made treat. In Scandinavian countries, blueberry and cherry wines have a long history.
Berry wines are among the most popular country wines. Blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, elderberries, blackcurrants and raspberries are all candidates for use in home winemaking.
Almost any fruit can be used by the home winemaker, as long as he or she has a good recipe that takes account of the specific components of each fruit. You can even make wine from unlikely fruits such as the tomato.
Flower wines are another popular home winemaking choice. Some of the most popular flower wines are made from dandelions, elderberries, rose petals and even hibiscus.
Other plants and parts of plants can be used by the home winemaker. Palm wine and maple wine are both made from tree sap. You can also use vegetables to make home-made wines. Root vegetables such as potatoes, beetroot, carrots and parsnips are all possibilities for the adventurous home winemaker to use.
Herbal wines are great not only for drinking, but for cooking (as an alternative to using vinegar) and as a tonic. Examples include rosemary, lavender and red clover wines. Parsley, nettles and even chives can be used for herb wines.