Tree-Hugging Dirt Worship

August 3, 2011

How Wild is Wild?

Filed under: Vinting — Tags: — paragardener @ 9:06 pm

I recently bought “Making Wild Wines and Meads” by Pattie Vargas and Rich Gulling. It has lots of recipes for “melomel,” mead with fruit in it, something Tamara wants to try. It’s also handy if you have some random ingredient you want to turn into wine, ’cause odds are this book has a recipe or two for it.

Concepts of what is wild vary a bit from vintner to vintner. I couldn’t help but compare “Wild Wines and Meads” with “Wild Fermentation,” a book I raved about in a previous post.


Wild Wines and Meads: “A few purists still think that the only good wine is grape wine.”

Wild Fermentation: “I do not dispute that these [refined European] practices can yield sublime and wonderful products. But I knew from my African travels that far more accessible methods existed.”


Wild Wines and Meads: “Let in bacteria, and there goes the neighborhood!” … “Some winemakers make wine with nothing but grapes, but only because grapes already have yeast on their skins.”

Wild Fermentation: “A honey wine called mead is generally regarded as the most ancient fermented pleasure… When by chance or intention honey is mixed with water, fermentation happens. Yeasts surfing through the air aboard particles of dust find their way to that sweet, nutritious honey-water.”


Ingredients for apple wine, Wine Wines and Meads: 5 pints apple juice, 1 teaspoon pectic enzyme, 2.5 pounds sugar, 1 tablespoon citric acid, 1 (optional) Campden tablet, and 1 package wine yeast.

Ingredients for apple wine, Wild Fermentation: a gallon of cider.


Wild Wines and Meads is way off, to claim that grapes are the only magical fruit which can be made into wine without packets of yeast. I think the authors are a little divorced from nature… they also claim that mulberries are “pesky” and that “if a wine makes a bad visual first impression, a real wine lover may never taste it at all.” Wouldn’t a real¬† wine lover try drinking as many different wines as they could find? Overlooking the book’s lack of wildness, there was some good information in there about wine chemistry. To summarize:

Yeast nutrient contains compounds of nitrogen, and maybe phosphorous or other elements needed for life. It can help carry a fermentation a little further in a low-nutrient must, such as plain honey water. Even white sugar in tap water will support a good deal of fermentation, so this is not a must-have. Vargas and Gulling add a teaspoon of nutrient to every one-or-two-gallon batch.

Pectic enzyme is used to break down pectin, a form of carbohydrate that makes fruit juices cloudy.

To get the fullest possible flavor, there must be acid in the wine balanced with its sugar content. “Wild Wines” recommends citric acid for brilliance, or winemaker’s acid blend for balance, but acidic food ingredients are little trouble to improvise. Acid can be added at the end, by taste.

Tannins add zip to wine, and too much makes wine taste dry and astringent. Tannins can be introduced via raisins or grape leaves. I have a grape vine in the back yard that doesn’t produce anything but leaves, so I’m glad to realize a use for it! Grape leaves are also used to enhance the crispiness of pickles.


“The methods used by one man may be faulty. Better to use the methods of two men.” ~- Chinese proverb


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