Let’s Talk with Tina Whittle

Raise A Glass
By Tina Whittle

We grow muscadines in my backyard. These wild grapes were planted by the homeowners before us, but they didn’t start producing fruit until about ten years ago. Now they gift us with a plentiful crop. One vine makes the bronze variety (scuppernongs) and the other the purple variety. Both types make good wine, if you like your wine very sweet and have a taste for this breed of grape’s singular musky tang.

I certainly do. I love muscadine wine, especially the homemade kind (although the wineries around here do a fine job, and I patronize them regularly). There’s something about gathering the grapes, being in that green canopy with bees buzzing about, plucking each ripe globe by hand. I keep the grapes in the refrigerator until I have enough, and then I get out my daddy’s winemaking jar, an enormous five-gallon glass container that used to be an industrial pickle jar.

His recipe involves keeping the skins on to get that tannic bite to offset the sweetness. It also gives the purple wine a rich deep color. He puts the fruit in whole, adds some yeast and sugar, then adds enough water to reach the neck of the jar. He lets it sit until fermenting has stopped, then strains out the fruit skins and pulp and lets the brew settle (his favorite strainer is a clean white cotton t-shirt). This gets siphoned out and put through another settle, then the wine gets siphoned into bottles.

Here’s the recipe if you’d like to try it yourself:

Daddy’s Muscadine Wine

14 quarts scuppernongs or muscadines (you can use regular grapes if you’d like, although you will have to adjust the sweetness)
2-3 packets yeast (you can use brewing yeast if you’re feeling fancy, but Daddy never did)
8 lbs granulated cane sugar
Water

Add enough water to the fruit and sugar mixture to make 5 gallons. Combine and let sit in a cool dark place, covered lightly (the best way is with cotton cloth rubber-banded around the top of your bottle or brewing container – this lets the fermentation gases out so your wine doesn’t blow up, but it keeps pecky gnats and flies out of your sweet stuff). Let it sit until the bubbling of fermentation stops. Remove fruit pulp and strain into a new container. Let the liquid settle. Siphon off. Let it settle again. Siphon into clean bottles.

Have you ever had – or made – homemade wine? Would you be willing to try such a thing? Let me know in the comments below – one commenter will be chosen randomly to win a Kindle version of 50 Shades of Cabernet, a wine-themed anthology featuring my series sleuths Tai Randolph and Trey Seaver in the short story “And Wine to Make Glad the Heart,” co-written with James M Jackson and also starring his series sleuth, Seamus McCree.

Also, don’t forget our monthly contest for a $25 gift card. The contest ends March 18. Enter by clicking here.

Comments

  1. I have never made my own wine, but I have tried different ones a number of times. I’ve been on a few wine tours to different Vineyards throughout Michigan, and I learned so much! I never realized how much there is to know about wine making. While I liked some better than others, learning about the different wines, gave me an appreciation for what I was drinking as well as all the work that was put into making all the different ones.

  2. Florida wineries use Muscadine grapes. I don’t like the wine. My tastes run toward drier varieties. And no, I wouldn’t like a home brew. I’ll stick with my tried and true favorites. But how nice that you can grow your own grapes.

    • tinawhittle says:

      My husband made a trellis for them. They’re very beautiful…except for the raccoon that likes to eat them in the night and leave skins everywhere.

  3. My brother make wine. He doesn’t grow enough grapes on his property so he buys more to supplement. Then again, he used to be a chef and also worked for a winery, so he probably knows what he’s doing.

  4. My husband went through a wine making phase years ago. We didn’t have grapes around to pick so he’d buy the juice in these huge plastic buckets. His results were kind of meh, but what the heck. Still quaffable.

    • tinawhittle says:

      And that is my very low bar for wine–quaffable. Glad to see someone who agrees! Though I see now that one can buy wine-quality grapes from distributors, even rent their fancy equipment at exorbitant rates. I’ll be sticking with the glass jug, however.

  5. Dang it, Tina. Now I have another project on the list. Couldn’t you have made it sound more difficult or something?

    • tinawhittle says:

      There’s a reason this is on my list– its ridiculously simplicity. Come over in the fall — we’ll share muscadines.

  6. I’ve consumed homemade wine and homemade beer in my lifetime, thanks to a sister’s hobby. Can’t say she nailed it (but don’t tell her!) so I’ll stick to name brands when its celebration time. Heck, if I tried to do this myself, I’d probably leave out a key ingredient.

    • tinawhittle says:

      I have yet to try homemade beer, which seems a little more finicky than wine. But I know better than to inflict my hobbies on my family.

  7. Not much of a wine drinker, but this does sound provocative!

    • tinawhittle says:

      It is also an excellent cooking wine–spaghetti sauce takes especially well to it, as do many marinades and sauces.

  8. jmjackson054 says:

    I’ve never made wine myself, but I have sipped a few glasses made by friends and would gladly do so again (if I received an invitation!).