A Very Ancient Craft
Flowers contain no acid and very little tannin, their only contribution to a wine is in bouquet and flavour. The flowers should be gathered if possible on a warm sunny day, or certainly during the middle of a dry day when the florets are wide open. Only the petals or tiny flowers heads should be used; the green calixes impart a bitter flavour to the wine and should be discarded together with any stem, leaf or stalk.
In the absence of fresh flowers some winemakers have used dried flowers which are available from herbalists. As the essence of flowers becomes very concentrated when they are dried, it is only necessary to use a small packet of dried flowers to flavour a gallon of wine. The method is the same for all flower wines. Boiling water is poured on to the flower petals and the mashing vessel is carefully covered. Each day the flowers should be stirred so that they become thoroughly macerated and are not allowed to rise and become dry. After three days the liquid is strained on to some chopped sultanas or raisins and sugar, citric acid, nutrient and tannin. Fermenting yeast is added and the must is fermented in the usual way. A week later the wine is strained again and the raisins are pressed and fermentation is continued until completion. The wine is then racked, stored for three months, then racked again and three months later bottled. This wine is usually ready in about a year after making.
The basic ingredients are as follows. The quantities of flowers to use are given subsequently:
8 oz. chopped raisins or sultanas
3 Ib. sugar
1/2 teaspoonful grape tannin or 1/2 cup cold strong tea
1 gallon water
Rind and juice of 2 lemons and an orange or alternatively 3 oz, citric acid
The flowers are:
Agrimony, 1 medium sized bunch
Broom, 2 quarts of broom flowers
Carnation, 2 quarts of 'white' pinks
Clover, 2 quarts of purpIe claver heads
Coltsfoot, 2 quarts coltsfoot flowers (similar to dandelions)
Cowslip, 2 quarts flowers
Dandelion, 2 quarts dandelion heads
Elderflower, 1 pint elderflower florets, pressed down
Geranium Leaf, 2 quarts of leaves (PeIargonium quercifolium variety only)
Golden Rod, 2 handfuls of blossoms
Hawthorn Blossom, 2 quarts of fresh hawthorn flowers (sometimes called May Blossom)
Marigold, 2 quarts of marigold heads
Primrose, 2 quarts fresh primroses
Oak Leaf, 2 quarts oak leaves, gathered as soon as the oak leaf is fully developed. (N.B. Omit tannin or cold strong tea)
Rose petal, 2 quarts dark red rose petals
Walnut Leaf, 1 large handful of walnut leaves. (N.B. Omit tannin or cold strong tra)
The author has tasted nearly all of these wines and made many of them. The best two are undoubtedly elderflower and rose-petal and both of these wines are well worth making. Hawthorn blossom has a magnificent bouquet comparable with rose-petal and elderflower and is a delicious wine if you can but gather the blossom. The geranium leaf has a most distinctive bouquet and flavour, which is extremely pleasant, although this little-leafed pelargonium is by no means common. Cowslip, coltsfoot and dandelion wines take longer to mature and are quite pleasant although not as good as those already mentioned. The remainder make drinkable wine although not distinguished, nor indeed worth repeating.
It would be unwise to go beyond this range of flowers, which have all been safely tested over many years. Flowers that spring from bulbs are generally poisonous and you should not make bluebell wine, tulip wine, daffodil wine and so on. This is also true of the privet flower.