Rhubarb wine recipe

Rhubarb wine sounds a bit odd, but provided you follow these guidelines, a pleasant white table wine can be made. Rhubarb does contain oxalic acid. This is both unpleasant and poisonous, but most of the oxalic acid in rhubarb is confined to the leaves and not the pretty red stems

Rhubarb comes into season around april or may. Early May is the best time to make rhubarb wine - the tender young stalks, often forced on under darkness are great for winemaking, as they have a low acid and higher sugar content. However, with all rhubarb wine you need to keep the fruit content quite low and use the dry sugar method to extract the flavour instead of the usually crushing and mashing.

You want about 1.5kg (3lb) of rhubarb to make a gallon of wine. Make sure you discard all the leaves and other green bits and chop the rhubarb into 1 inch chunks. Do not both to peel it. Put the chopped rhubarb in a bucket and add about 1 kilo of white sugar, but no water.

Over the next 24-36 hours the sugar will leach out the flavour and liquid from the rhubarb chunks, but leave much of the acid behind. Now add a little warm water the the sludge and strain it off - keep adding water until you dissolve all the sugar and can strain off the chunks of rhubarb. Discard the rhubarb.

Add sugar and water to make up to around 1 gallon of liquid with a gravity of around 1080. Add a generous amount of yeast nutrient and some yeast suitable for white wines such as Gervin number 1. A small amount (1/4 pint) of white grape juice concentrate can also be added, but go easy because this will increase the acidity.

Allow the wine to ferment out and rack it off. Now comes the time to check the acidity, if you are lucky the rhubarb wine will have a good acidity balance, but if very young rhubarb is used, you might find a few drops of citric acid will improve the balance. If the wine is too acid, add some chalk or leave it to mature for a couple of years.

Rhubarb, like apples, contain a large amount of malic acid. It is worth trying to start a malo-lactic fermentation in rhubarb wine which will reduce the acidity and also add a touch of fizz, which also helps mask the acidity. Malo-lactic cultures can be purchased for this purpose.

Rhubarb wine lends itself extremely well to blending - it will take up the flavour of other wines very easily, rather like banana wine, but is a pleasant table wine in its own right.