The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
I do like sloe gin , but sometimes I think there is only so much sloe gin that a man needs, so perhaps he ought to make some sloe wine. 2009 is one of those years - the hedgerows are practically falling over from the weight of sloes, and I can't resist going and and picking more and more sloes - and I had to make some sloe wine this year to use them all up.
Picking sloes is a bit like picking blackberries - bloody hard work. About 45 minutes of picking will get you about 4lbs of sloes - good for a gallon of wine. Pick the sloes from the south facing bushes, and use a plastic bucket tied around your neck so you have both hands free. Try not to get too many leaves in the berries because they are fiddly to remove afterwards. Pick the sloes no earlier than the beginning of october, but preferably later - wait until some of them start to shrivel up and drop off the bushes.
Never try eating a sloe - it will turn your mouth inside out, even when it is properly ripe. Sloes are supposed to be related to the wild plum - they are a very old fruit.
I normally use about 4lb of sloes. Put the fruit in a bucket and pour in boiling water until you reach the 1 gallon mark. Squish the whole thing up with a masher, and add about 1/2lb of chopped sultanas and about 2lb of sugar. Wait for the mixture the cool and add pectic enzyme and about half a campden tablet - 0.2g of sodium/ potassium metabisulfite to add some protective sulfite to the must to help prevent the colour oxidizing. Leave this 24 hours and check the gravity.
Sloe wine works out better on the sweet side, so adjust the sugar to about 1090/1100 starting gravity and add some yeast. Use an english yeast which is good at low temperature fermentation such as Gervin No 5 White Label Wine Yeast.
Add the usual dose of yeast nutrient, but steer clear of any additional acid - let the whole thing ferment out and then add acid if you feel the need. After a few days of fermentation, strain the sludge out of the wine, put it in a airlocked demi john away from the light and leave to ferment slowly for a few weeks. Rack and sulfite it around christmas and when the fermentation has appeared to stop.
Proceed in the normal manner, making sure that you mature the wine in bulk for at least 12 months - sloe wine takes a long period of maturing - dare I say that it is a slow maturer. Ha Ha.