Friday, June 3, 2011

Dandelion wine tasting

There are quite a few home winemakers in this neighbourhood.  We're too far north, here in the Cariboo, to grow grapes, but we make some beautiful wines from other ingredients.  Often, half a dozen homemade wines will show up at a potluck dinner or party.  In the past year, I've been hosting some wine-tastings, for fun and also to share our knowledge and experiences with each other.

Last weekend, we gathered together to taste rhubarb and dandelion wines.  Not many of the people there had made either of these, so I hoped to inspire everyone to put a batch on to brew.  We had three samples of rhubarb and two of dandelion to try, all from last year.  (I'll discuss the rhubarb another day.)

The two dandelion wines were quite different from each other.  The first one we tried had been made using raisins, lemons, and oranges in addition to the flowers.  It was full-bodied and strong, with the citrus flavours being quite distinct.  The recipe for that one can be found at:  The second was the one I had made.  It was a little lighter, with a more floral taste, and was also lighter in colour.  Opinions varied, with some people preferring one and some the other: it's just a matter of taste.  Here is my recipe:

  • Pick dandelions.  One gallon of flowers for each gallon of wine.  Pay no attention to other recipes that tell you to separate the yellow parts from the green; it's too much work and you'll make a good wine without bothering.  Just pick the whole flower head with no stem attached.  It took me between 2 and 3 hours to pick 5 gallons.
  • Pour boiling water over the flowers in a non-metal container.  Cover and leave 3 days, stirring daily, then strain.
  • Heat liquid, if necessary, to the temperature required by the yeast.  I use champagne yeast and the packet instructions said around 35 degrees C.
  • Add about 1/2 lemon , cut into chunks. for each gallon of wine, along with 2 1/2 lb sugar.  Stir, then sprinkle the yeast over the surface.  Leave 3 days more, stirring daily, then remove the lemon.
  • When the wine stops frothing, siphon it into a carboy with an airlock.
  • Rack it off the sediment into a clean carboy a couple of times over the months.  When it has totally stopped working (no bubbles in the airlock), bottle it.  It's likely to be ready for bottling by around the end of the year.  If you bottle it too soon, it will be fizzy.

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