The Wine Pages: Homebrew winemaking
Dandelions brighten every English field and lawn in the spring months of April and May. A fantastic excuse for some winemaking. This simple dandelion wine recipe makes a delightful dandelion wine for you to drink and enjoy.
First of all you need to pick your dandelions. The traditional day for this is April 23rd, St George's Day. Choose a hot bright sunny spring day, and wait until mid afternoon before picking the dandelions. The heat of the sun will dry the dandelions and the noon sun will help open up as many of the flowers as possible - good for the winemaking process.
Avoid damp or wet dandelions - this will not help the winemaking process.
Arm yourself with a bucket and pick of the dandelion flower heads and place them gently in the bucket. To make 1 gallon of wine you need about 1 gallon of dandelion flower heads. Obviously this involves a great deal of bending down - something short like a small child is very useful for helping to pick dandelions.
One trick is to pick the dandelions across a period of several days and keep bunging them in the freezer until you have enough for winemaking.
Next is the dilemma of the petals. Should you pluck the petals off the dandelion heads, or should you just make the wine from the flower heads without picking off the dandelion petals? Well, you can do either. Plucking the petals is very time consuming, but wine made from just the petals will make a more gentle and aromatic wine, whereas simply using the whole heads will give you a heavier wine with more tannin which takes longer to mature - however it is a lot quicker!
Plucking the petals off the dandelion flower heads is fairly simple, but very boring. I normally make it with the whole flower heads. Whatever you do, make sure you make the wine immediately after picking the dandelions. Do not leave them to close up.
Boil a gallon of water and pour it over the flower heads. Add acid and enough sugar to bring the gravity to about 1080. Flower wines need a lot of nutrient added to help the yeast along. Crush 1 campden tablet and add to the must and leave the whole thing 24 hours before pitching in some wine yeast. Gervin make a range of aromatic yeasts such as Gervin B Wine Yeast GV9 which are idea for making flower wines like Dandelion.
You can also add some additional tannin, or you can leave this out.
Leave the whole thing another day, and then strain off the dandelions, insert the airlock and proceed normally. After two or three months bottle the finished wine and give it 6 months to mature.
I often find myself drinking my first glass of homemade dandelion wine in late September or earlier October on that first cold, wet and windy night that reminds us of the approaching winter - the dandelion wine is a great tonic for the soul on such evenings!