Spring is here, and with it, my first attempt at wine. I did take a wine class a couple months ago, but that wine was from a kit, and there were instructors and classmates around for help. It was a fun event, and we made a Malbec that I’m sure will be delicious.
But the big event from this weekend was the making of my first country wine. A couple friends sent me photos of dandelion wines on Facebook, and then when I was walking the dogs, I couldn’t help noticing how many dandelions were around. So when I got home, I found a recipe in Drink Your Garden and decided to start there. Alas, as with most things, I let my enthusiasm get ahead of me, so I made some beginner mistakes that might turn the stuff into vinegar. Only time will tell.
Fist step was gathering 8 cups’ worth of dandelion blossoms.
That was actually surprisingly easy. According to another source, this particular wine is usually made this time of year and drunk at Christmastime, and given the abundance of flowers, I can see why.
The harder part was pulling out the blossoms, which took hours.
I read afterwards that this step wasn’t actually necessary, but that’s what my recipe called for, so that’s what I did. Afterwards, I gave them a rinse and then put them in the primary fermentation bucket with a gallon of boiling water and a Campden tablet. That mixture is supposed to sit for 24 hours, but the petal step took so long that I didn’t get the steeping started until close to 8:00. So I did jump the gun a bit the next day, giving my Campden tablet less that its ideal 24 hours to sit and sanitize. I also failed to sterilize my equipment, so this double whammy is what will potentially turn the stuff into vinegar.
After the not-quite-24-hour steep, I drew off some of the water, brought that to a boil, dissolved the sugar in it, and cooled it to “blood temperature,” according to the instructions. When it was cooled enough, I added the sugar water, white raisins, the juice of an orange and 2 lemons, acid blend, grape tannin, yeast nutrient, and yeast.
From here, it ferments for 5 days. I’m stirring the mixture morning and evening, and although I don’t yet know the state of things, the mixture smells really good and wine-like. My airlock doesn’t seem to be actively bubbling, which is disappointing, but when I take the lid off the bucket, I see evidence of fermentation taking place: the mixture is bubbly and smells fresh and yeasty. I am hopeful that the active fermentation stage will start soon, but maybe it never will.
Lessons learned: be more patient with the process. Sterilize equipment, read several recipes before beginning, and follow instructions more carefully. I think I’m the sort of person who needs to go through the process, mistakes and all, before I can get that sort of thing in my head, in any case, so I’m glad to have learned that with the dandelions so that my fruit wines have a better chance of success.