DIY Homesteading: Making Your Own Country Wines

Week five of DIY Homesteading features an avid maker and connoisseur of country wines, Ben Hardy of  Ben's Adventures in Wine Making. In this piece he gives information on how you can get started making wine along with two of his delectable recipes using fruit and flowers available in early summer. If you'd like to ask questions or leave comments, please visit Ben at his blog and if you're interested in seeing more of his recipes, his wine-making book is available on Amazon. Next Wednesday, we'll publish the last piece for this series of DIY Homesteading so make sure to tune back in!

Ben has also written a second post for Lovely Greens on the A-Zs of Country Wine recipes. In the post he outlines his endeavour to make a country wine type for every letter of the alphabet and also gives instruction on wine recipes for all fruits, flowers, and vegetables. A very informative post and a perfect follow up to this piece. Read it at this link.


I feel fraudulent contributing to a series on ‘DIY Homesteading’. This phrase suggests rural living, aching muscles and earth-covered hands. I live in a semi-detached house in suburban Leeds, and my wife is the gardener. This hardly fits the Homesteading lifestyle. However, what I do – obsessively – is make my own wine. If something sounds like it will make a tasty brew, and on occasion even if it doesn’t, I will pick it, crush it in my bucket, transfer it into my demijohns and drink it one year on. What I want to do in this post is convince you that wine making is actually easy, lots of fun and far cheaper than buying from the shops.



For Christmas 1998, my wife bought me two demijohns (‘carboys’ in America), a plastic tube, other wine making paraphernalia and a book of recipes. She did not know what she had created. From making 12 bottles of wine in my first year, I now make about 180 annually. I do at least one flavour a month, and during summer will make four or five. This June I will certainly do elderflower, gooseberry, rose petal and possibly a ‘rhubarb and elderflower’ combination. In July I plan on strawberry, redcurrant and blackcurrant. If anything else looks ripe and delicious, I will probably take that too.

Most books on wine-making open with long and intimidating chapters on equipment needed, fearsome dos and don’ts, how to measure specific gravity, and strict rules on storing wine. I am tempted to say ignore all that and just give it a go. The worst that happens is that you end up with something nasty, and whilst I have experienced this (potato wine being particularly memorable), it is an infrequent occurrence.

True, you do need to make an initial outlay to get the vital equipment – but ask around. Once people knew that I made wine, I had several offers of equipment from those whose fathers (curiously never mothers) had tried it in the 1970s. What you need as a minimum is one large bucket with a sealable lid, two demijohns, a length of tubing, a rubber cork for the demijohns and an air-trap. Anything else you are either likely to find in your kitchen (measuring jugs, wooden spoons, potato mashers) or is desirable rather than necessary (a hard plastic tube with a bund, a hydrometer).

As well as equipment, you will need to get some consumables from a specialist brew shop. The minimum would be a sachet of yeast and a tub of Sodium Metabisulphite (for sterilising purposes), but I also recommend Yeast nutrient and Pectolase. If recipes require Tannin or Citric acid, you can substitute (respectively) a mug of strong black tea or lemon juice instead.

The best way to show that wine making is easy is to provide a recipe. As it is now summer (allegedly in this part of England) I have two for you: rose petal wine and strawberry wine. The first is unusual, but in a good way, and tastes of Turkish Delight. The second is one of my very best, and is unmistakably strawberry. Both recipes make six bottles. Two explanatory notes. My recipes use British measurements (where a pint is 20 fluid ounces). And at each stage, you need to sterilise the equipment being used, with Sodium Metabisulphite. For instructions click here.


Rose Petal Wine

Clip rose heads as they are just starting to fade. If you don’t have enough petals in one go, freeze the flowers until you have enough. Don’t worry if they go a little brown. Collect strongly scented roses of any colour.

Ingredients
4 ½ pints / 11 cups rose petals
2 ½ lbs /1130g Sugar
Juice from one lemon
1 litre carton white grape juice (or similar)
6 ½ pints/3700ml boiling water
1 yeast sachet
1 teaspoon Yeast Nutrient
1 teaspoon Pectolase (optional)

Method (First Stage)
• Put petals, sugar, lemon juice and grape juice in bucket
• Pour over boiling water
• Stir until sugar dissolves
• Leave overnight keeping bucket lid on
• Add yeast, nutrient and pectolase
• Leave 5 (or so) days, stirring twice a day
• sieve liquid into your demijohn (a funnel will help), discarding petals
• fit rubber bung and air trap
• leave for 2 months (or so)

Method (second stage)
• siphon liquid from demijohn into second demijohn, trying to avoid the sediment
• fill gap in second demijohn with syrup made from a ratio of 1 pint water:6 oz sugar
• leave for 4 months (or so)
• bottle
• leave until a year from collecting ingredients (if you can!)
• drink

Strawberry Wine

Ingredients
4lbs/1815g strawberries
3lbs/1360g sugar
4 pints/2273ml boiling water
2 pints/1137ml cold water
1 Yeast sachet
1 teaspoon each of Yeast Nutrient, Pectolase and Tannin

Method (First Stage)
• Mash strawberries in bucket and add sugar
• Pour over boiling water
• Leave 24 hours
• Strain liquid into demijohn using a sieve, putting strawberry pulp into large pan
• Pour cold water over strawberry pulp, letting it sit for an hour or so
• Pour strawberry liquid from demijohn back into bucket
• Strain liquid in pan into bucket, discarding strawberry pulp
• Add yeast, nutrient, pectolase and tannin
• Leave 5 (or so) days, stirring twice a day
• Pour liquid into demijohn
• Fit rubber bung and air trap
• leave for 2 months (or so)

Method (second stage)
• siphon liquid from demijohn into second demijohn, trying to avoid the sediment
• fill gap in second demijohn with syrup made from a ratio of 1 pint water:6 oz sugar
• leave for 4 months (or so)
• bottle
• leave until a year from collecting ingredients (if you can!)
• drink

A year from making to drinking sounds like an age, but don’t let this deter you. Start others in the meantime – I recommend blackberry – and soon you will have a wine cycle going where you are always starting a new flavour as you open a fresh wine. Both making and drinking are an absolute pleasure, and I urge you to have a go.



Ben is on a mission to make a wine for each letter of the alphabet, and is missing the letters F, I, J, L, M, U, V, W, Y and Z. You can read all about his wine making and drinking exploits in his blog and in his book ‘Ben’s Adventures in Wine Making’,  published by The Good Life Press. When not making wine, he is often found playing the bassoon or being a property solicitor in Leeds.

Ben Hardy has also written a second post for Lovely Greens on the A-Zs of Country Wine recipes. In the post he outlines his endeavour to make a country wine type for every letter of the alphabet and also gives instruction on wine recipes for all fruits, flowers, and vegetables. A very informative post and a perfect follow up to this piece. Read it at this link.




If you liked this post then please visit these other pieces from the DIY Homesteading series:

Week 1 Chicken Tractors with Liz from Eight Acres
Week 2 Gardening on a Budget with Elaine from A Woman of the Soil
Week 3 Off-Grid Living with Dani from Eco Footprint ~ South Africa
Week 4 Building a Permanent Chicken Coop with Staci from Life at Cobble Hill Farm
Week 5 Making Your Own Country Wines with Ben from Ben's Adventures in Wine Making
Week 6 Self-Sufficient Goat Keeping with Leigh from 5 Acres & A Dream


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