Fruit wines are gaining traction among wine enthusiasts and sure go down easy, but for winemakers, it’s not all smooth sipping.
“Fruit wines in general are difficult to make because there is not a ton of research or information in terms of winemaking,” says Nancie Oxley, vice president of winemaking at St. Julian Winery and Distillery.
“The winemaker must capture the pure essence of the fruit, so the consumer can perfectly identify what they are tasting. Some fruits are more challenging than others. The winemaking process is quite similar to standard grape winemaking — you must start with clean, top-grade fruit.”
One Michigan winery in particular doesn’t steer away from the challenge. Mark and Abby Young, owners of The Winery at Young Farms, have been in the blueberry business for 10 years.
They have one estate wine: their blueberry wine — one of six blueberry estate wines in the United States.
“In order to call it an estate wine, it has to be at least 90 percent fruit from your farm. Our blueberry wine is 100 percent blueberries. We say that if you take a bottle home, it’s the furthest it’s ever been from our farm because our blueberries grow 500 feet from our facility,” Abby says.
The production process, though, is no easy feat. Blueberries naturally contain sorbate — which acts as a preservative that prevents the yeast from multiplying.
“Fermentation is sometimes very difficult,” Mark says. “It takes some time to really do well with it.”
When accomplished, blueberry wine has a unique flavor that comes in both dry and sweet varieties.
“You can leave it a little bit dry, and it has a completely different flavor profile than if you stop it and let it have some sweetness,” Mark says. “There’s a lot of deeper flavors in there, too, so we’ve experimented with a bunch of different yeasts to try to get some different terpene expression. You can get some more complex flavors out of it if you really spend some time with it.”
Because of its acidity, blueberry wine pairs well with stronger meats such as duck or pork. Try it with a charcuterie board of fresh fruit and full-bodied cheeses such as blues, Stilton or sharp cheddar.
“One of the things that makes blueberry wine great: There’s not a lot of tradition surrounding it,” Mark says. “It’s new and it’s exciting.”