IT’S ALL ABOUT FRUIT
Just for kicks, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you hear: (For now, please disregard the numbers noted after each fruit mentioned in this article, O.K.?)
Blueberries, 13 (maybe pancakes?)
Elderberries, 10 (pie?)
Grapes, 17 (wine!)
Pineapple, 14 (upside-down-cake)
Plum, 16 (probably pudding, right?)
Strawberries, 16 (pass the shortcake)
Watermelon, 18 (summer & seed spittin’)
You are probably right in line with the majority of people, except for those of us who have a passion for wines of all kinds, not just wines made from grapes. All of the fruit above, plus apricots, 18; blackberries, 15; currents, 12; goose-berries, 11; peaches, 15; persimmons, 15; raspberries, 15; and a bunch more, can be successfully used to make wine.
With winemaking becoming one of the fastest-growing home hobbies, the trend has turned to using what’s on hand and affordable. Fresh fruits of the orchard variety fit the bill perfectly. While it’s doubtful grape wine will ever be challenged by another fruit for first place, some wine enthusiasts have even gone so far as to insist that their homemade fruit wines can easily compete. (Don’t pass up the chance to have a glass of apricot wine with your next prime rib.)
While fruit wines are basically no more complicated than grape wines, using fruit does require equal preparation, calculation and care. The big four considerations are:
1) the amount of fruit needed to make a gallon or a batch;
2) the natural sugar in the fruit needs to be tested and adjusted, which requires deciding what sweetening agent to use;
3) the acidity in the juice has to be evaluated and adjusted; and
4) the quality of the fruit used has to be impeccable, as the wine can be no better than the raw fruit.
Obviously, space limits how much information we can relay to you, but we can suggest if you are interested in learning more about homemade wines made from fruits other than grapes, the Internet offers a wealth of knowledge.
Oh, and those numbers? That’s approximately how many pounds of each fruit your favorite Wine of the Month Club calculates would be needed to make 1 gallon of wine.
CANTINE DEL MANDROLISAI — MANDROLISAI SUPERIORE (Vintage 2006, Red)
Country: Sardinia Region: Near Italy, Spain, Tunisia Grapes: Bovale Sardo, Cannonau, Monica
Sardinia is considered Italy’s most ancient land and is the second largest island in the Mediterranean. Although grape vines have existed there since time immemorial, they play a relatively small part in the total agricultural economy.
Mandrolisai is a little known Italian wine DOC of Sardinia introduced in June, 1981. The area is located in the middle of Sardinia, between the Barbagia Hills and the western slopes of the Gennargentu, the island’s highest mountain chain. Sardinia is basically located between Italy, Spain and Tunisia.
This Cantine Del Mandrolisai Superiore wine is ruby red in the bottle, and tends to turn garnet with aging. The wine is made from a recipe of 40% Bovale Sardo, 35% Cannonau and 25% Monica. (For those of you who consider this your favorite Wine of the Month Club, you may realize that these three grape variety names have not appeared on our usual roster.) This offering is aged for two years in oak, and a further twelve months in the bottle prior to release. What can you expect in your glass?
You will be greeted with an intense fruity bouquet. On the palate it is full-bodied, harmonious, with well-balanced tannins and rich earthy tones. It is ready to enjoy right now! Serve at room temperature in a large glass with rich pasta dishes, braised beef, and aged cheeses.
CHAPEL HILL — CHARDONNAY (Vintage 2012, White)
Country: Australia Region: McLaren Vale Grape: Chardonnay
McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s finest wine and tourism regions. From a wine perspective, it is renowned for the quality, power and grace of its wines. The region is rich in history – being the birthplace of the South Australian wine industry and possessing a unique heritage including some of the world’s oldest grape vines. The climate offers ideal conditions. Chapel Hill takes its name from the historic ironstone chapel built on the property in 1885. Today it is the wineries graceful cellar door and art gallery. Chapel Hill owns and operates 44 hectares of vineyards and purchases fruit from a select group of McLaren Vale and Adelaide Hills vignerons.
This offering is 100% Chardonnay, 82% from McLaren Vale and 18% from Adelaide Hills. This really is an attractive white – full bodied, flavorsome and fresh, but also fine and not at all heavy. They used only the aromatic free run juice to preserve varietal expression.
A lovely pale gold in the glass, it favors white stone fruits, melon, honeysuckle and fig with a bit of welcome lemon citrus cutting through the richer characters. It’s a little diffuse and creamy, but acidic enough to provide adequate form. A fruity and straightforward chardonnay, it is ready to enjoy now, chilled, as an aperitif or with sauteed chicken breast, broiled lobster, or broiled tuna steaks.
Chapel Hill’s Chardonnay:
CHARDONNAY GRAPES — This, the finest dry white wine grape in the world, grows successfully in virtually every commercial winemaking area. Not only is it the producer of the great white Burgundies, it is one of the three major grapes used in champagne. It’s a relished “ingredient grape.” With perfect growing conditions, the quality is unequaled.
CASTILLO DE MENDOZA — NORALBA (Vintage 2011, Red)
TINTO CRIANZA ECOLOGICO (ORGANIC) DO RIOJA
Country: Spain Region: Rioja Grapes: Tempranillo & Graciano
Rioja (south of the Cantabrian Mountains along the Ebro River in north-central Spain) benefits from a continental climate. Most of the region is situated on a plateau, a little more than 1500 feet above sea level. Rioja was the first Spanish wine region to obtain DO status in 1925; in 1991 was promoted to DOC, a higher category reserved for consistent high quality. It is primarily known for its reds. The Castillo de Mendoza Estate was established in 1994 by the Mendoza-Cadarso family. It consists of 74 acres under vine. Fifty percent of the acreage is certified organic.
Their offering is 80% Tempranillo and 20% Graciano, grown in the Alto de Mindiarte vineyard. It is intensely red in color, with shades of violet at the edge. You’ll enjoy the sweet bouquets of vanilla, coconut and sundried apricots subtly blended with acid fruit, red currant and raspberry. In the mouth it’s kind, tasting of ripe fruit with sweet tannins and alcoholic touches. Acid points provide freshness and youth. With a long and delightfully fruity finish, it’s ready to be enjoyed now. Serve at room temperature in red wine goblets with roast beef, lamb chops and pot roast.
Castillo de Mendoza’s Noralba:
TEMPRANILLO — Thick skinned, it produces wines deep in color, but rather low in alcohol. Low in acidity and quite malic, wines may be made solely from this varietal, or blended with other fruit for outstanding blends.
GRACIANO — A lesser known red grape, it rarely is bottled singularly, most often plays back-up to a stronger partner. Lends color, coordination and finesse to wine recipes.
CHATEAU D’ARGADENS — WHITE BORDEAUX, AOC (Vintage 2010, White)
Country: France Region: Saint-André-du-Bois Grapes: Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon
The Chateau d’Argadens dates back to 1258 and is located south of the city of Bordeaux. The Estate consists of a single plot of 111 acres, of which 104 are dedicated to red grapes, but their white grapes are coming into their own.
Originally called Chateau Salle d’Arche, in 2002 it was purchased by the Sichel family who renamed it with its current name. Sichel renovated the Estate, and restructured the vineyards, raising the viticultural level to the highest possible standards. Essentially, they farm this vineyard with the same approach they use in their Grand Cru Classe vineyard!
A recipe of 55% Sauvignon Blanc and 45% Semillon is used to produce this pale yellow shot with brilliant golden tints. The fruit comes from a plot less than 7 acres. Produced in limited quantities from vines with an average age of 30 years, it is a powerfully aromatic wine, redolent of citrus fruit (grapefruit and lemon), tropical fruit (pineapple, litchi) and rose petal. The palate displays fine balance, the aroma is rich, rounded and pleasing. Serve it chilled right now, with all your favorite shell fish, poached turbot, sauteed flounder and soft shell crabs.