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

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.