Old Fashioned Rhubarb Wine
When springtime hits, one of the things I look forward to making is country rhubarb wine. I love it for a few reasons:
- Making country wine is an old-timey thing to do and I’m all about remembering and resurrecting the old ways of doing things.
- Rhubarb makes delicious wine.
- Making my own wine from homegrown ingredients gives me such a great sense of satisfaction.
- It’s cost-effective and I’m also all about frugality.
- I like knowing exactly what’s going into the foods I eat. That’s why I eat so much homegrown and forages wild foods.
The term country wines refer to any alcoholic fermented beverage made from fruit, vegetables, herbs, or plants that are not grapes. For these wines, I love to use foraged, homegrown, and handpicked ingredients.
Making country wines takes a bit more finesse than making grape wines because grapes naturally contain the perfect balance of sugar, water, wild yeast, and tannins. Unlike grape wines that have everything naturally occurring for fermentation, non-grape wines need to have yeast added to start the fermentation process. You can use plain bread yeast if that’s all you have, but it tends to produce a rather “one-dimensional” tasting wine. I prefer to choose a wine yeast that has been specially created for the fermenting of wine.
Some country wines also require you to add other additives depending on the type of fruit, vegetable, herb, or flower you are using. These additives might be yeast nutrient, tannin powder (or strong black tea), acid powder, or pectic enzyme. These added ingredients can help to improve the taste or flavor of the wine or create a non-cloudy end product. To this recipe, we will add things like commercial yeast, and potassium sorbate to stop fermentation to have better control.
How Do You Make Rhubarb Wine?
I’ve got a few rhubarb plants that were given to me from plants my father-in-law divided over 20 years ago. Sadly, my father-in-law is no longer with us, but I’ve still got the plants. So, every spring when they start to come up, I start planning what I’ll do with this versatile vegetable. One of those things is making rhubarb wine.
Rhubarb wine is crisp, tangy, slightly sweet, and absolutely delicious. I imagine if my father-in-law were here, he’d enjoy having a glass of rhubarb wine with me!
For this recipe the absolutely necessary equipment is:
- Kitchen scale
- Fermentation bucket or food-grade tub
- 2 – 1.3 liter gallon glass carboys
- Airlock and Bung (rubber stopper with a drilled hole to fit airlock)
- Siphon tube
- 6 Bottles for storing (can also use two more glass carboys)
- Corks if using wine bottles
- Wine Corker
Use fresh rhubarb to make a clear pink-hued dessert wine. A delicious light summer wine.
- 5 lbs Rhubarb 2.3 kg
- 3 lbs Sugar 1.4 kg
- Yeast tannin powder or 1¼ cups Black tea 285 ml – Adding a bit of tannin will create a much more pleasant, balanced wine.
- 3 quarts Water 2.8 liters
- 2 tsp Yeast nutrient – If you’re making fruit wine, it’s always a good idea to add 1 tsp of yeast nutrient per gallon.
For after fermentation
To sweeten the wine
- ½ tsp Potassium sorbate
- 1 cup Sugar 200 g
Step 1. Prepare the Rhubarb
Chop the rhubarb into 1/4 inch slices. Place 5 pounds of the the chopped rhubarb in a food grade bowl, bucket or tub and cover with the 3 pounds of sugar. Stir well.
Cover the bucket with a clean towel for between 2 to three days.
After 2-3 days, the sugar will have extracted the juice from the rhubarb. You should have a lovely pink syrup.
Step 2. Boil Your Water
Boil 3 quarts of water for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and add one tea bag (black tea) to the water and allow it to cool completely.
Step 3. Strain Your Liquid
When your water has cooled completely, remove the tea bag and pour the water over your rhubarb chunks and syrup. Stir well to combine and to disolve any left over sugar that may be lingering on the bottom of the tub.
Strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer and discard the rhubarb chunks (I compost them).
If you would like to know how much alcohol or sugar is in your finished wine, now would be the time to take an initial reading with your hydrometer. You’ll take another of your finished product and compare the two readings. This will tell you both the alcohol content and sugar content of your rhubarb wine.
Step 4. Primary Fermentation
Next add the yeast and yeast nutrient to the rhubarb-liquid. Stir well then cover the tub with a clean towel and allow it to sit undisturbed for five days. This is called primary fermentation.
Step 5. Racking Your Liquid
After the 5 days, you can rack your liquid using a siphon hose to transfer the liquid in the tub to your carboy.
When siphoning, place your tub of liquid on the counter and place your empty vessel down lower (I use a kitchen chair). Use your siphon hose to transfer the liquid from one vessel to the other. Avoid transferring any of the sediment from the bottom of the tub by keeping your hose from touching the bottom.
Step 6. Second Fermentation
When your carboy is filled with liquid, fit the opening with the bung and airlock.
Now all that’s left to do is wait…the hardest part. This period is called the secondary fermentation period and can last for about a month.
You’ll know that your wine is still fermenting as long as the airlock is releasing bubbles. Eventually, this will stop and your wine will have ended the fermentation process. This ending happens when the yeast has eaten all the sugars and the yeast dies.
Step 7. Add a Campden Tablet
Now that your wine has stopped fermenting, you’ll want to rack it into a clean carboy and add a campden tablet.
Campden tablets are a sulfur-based compound made of either sodium or potassium metabisulfite. Their usage in winemaking is to kill bacteria and to stabilize the wine and prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown. It also helps to preserve the fruit’s flavors. Don’t skip this step.
Screw on the caps and store in a cool, dry, dark place for six months.
Step 8. Bottling Your Wine
After the 6 months is up, your rhubarb wine will be a beautiful pale golden color and is ready to drink, however it’s going to be very dry.
Now is when you’ll want to take another hydrometer reading to determine your final alcohol and sugar amounts.
If you prefer a sweeter dessert-type wine, you can add sugar and a 1/2 tsp of potassium sorbate. Adding this ensures that you don’t wake up any yeast that would want to eat the sugars you add.
To do this, dissolve 1 cup of sugar in 1/2 cup of boiling water. Cool completely then add the potassium sorbate. Add this simple syrup to your wine before bottling.
Pour your rhubarb wine into wine bottles and cork. Technically, you can drink now but is even better if you wait another month.