Birch Sap Wine

As weird and wonderful winemaking goes, there isn't much to beat birch sap wine. Once and extremely popular rural pastime, few winemakers make birch sap wine these days. I think it is an interesting wine which you should try at least once, if only to say you've done it.

First find some birch trees. These are easy to spot with their white peeling bark. Find some mature trees at least 9inches diameter. The tapping of the birch sap needs to be done in the early spring. Anywhere between the last week of february and the middle of March depending on your climate. Drill a small hole into the tree about 18 inches from the ground and insert a short pipe made from wood or plastic. The hole need to go in to just below the bark where the sap is rising. Incline in downwards and leave the sap to collect for a couple of days. I collect the sap in a demijohn which has a lump of foam shoved in the neck to keep the much and insects out. After a few days you can collect nearly a gallon of sap.

It is of the utmost importance to protect the tree. When you have finished collecting the sap, make sure you bung up the hole so that no more sap leaks out. Make sure you tap trees well off the beaten track. Anybody noticing your collection rig is bound to be suspicious and might find a way to ruin the sap collection

Take the birch sap home and put it in a large pan with a teaspoon of acid mix or the zest of a lemon and orange and raise the whole thing to the boil for at least 20 minutes. Then pour it over the sugar and let it cool. Aim for a medium wine, so about 1090 gravity to start with and add yeast and a lot of nutrient. Leave it to ferment out and proceed normally.

I bet that in the old days birch sap wine didn't have much of a chance to mature. Give it a good six months before serving slightly chilled.

If you are feeling extremely brave, bottle some of it in champagne bottles and add a little extra sugar to make fizzy birch sap wine. A strong fizzy birch sap wine is something of a life changing experience. Well, for a day or two anyway.

Birch sap wine has been made for thousands of years, and it is a shame to let this little English tradition die out. Unlike a lot of wines, birch sap wine requires a great deal of phaffing about finding the trees and collecting the sap. I always think that a wine that you need to work for is treasured above those simpler wines which you knock up in half an hour on a sunday afternoon.