From the dirt to our plate; the trials and realities of first-time farm ownership

Springtime Wines – Dandelion & Lilac

Rack of Wine

Every spring I am eager to get a batch of dandelion wine ready to brew. Because the wine has such unique flavor I’ve found it is well worth the time and effort. It is best made in the early spring just as the dandelions go crazy and large succulent blooms are in great abundance. I typically make a triple batch because no other time of the year do I have the opportunity to create this wine.

After a friend of mine asked about other uses for lilac blossoms I did a little research and found lilac wine can be made in much the same manner I create dandelion wine. So, this spring my wine making revolved around two flowers available in the quantities I need during a 1-2 week span.
Dandelion Wine
2 quarts Dandelion Flowers
2 quarts or 24fl oz 100% white grape juice (frozen concentrate)
6-7 pints of good filtered water
2.25 pounds of sugar
2 Lemons
1 Orange
1/8 tsp powdered tannin
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Wine Yeast

Lilac Wine
3 quarts Lilac Blossoms
2 quarts or 24fl oz 100% white grape juice (frozen concentrate)
6-7 pints of good filtered water
2.25 pounds of sugar
2 Lemons
1/8 tsp powdered tannin
1 tsp yeast nutrient
Wine Yeast

 

1

The first order of business is to do the picking and the plucking. Be sure to use flowers from an area you know has not been sprayed for pests and weeds. Pick blossoms early in the morning when they are wide open and have retained much of their moisture. Pluck only the yellow blossom of the dandelion separating the yellow petals from the green part of the flower. Keep any green parts to a minimum as they can impart a bitter flavor to the final finish of the wine.

The same process is followed with lilac wine. By picking blossoms in the morning at the peak of the season (you can smell when lilacs are peaking), you will be capturing the most flavor. Sort and pluck the blossoms away from any green or woody portions.

Once you have the quantity needed, it’s time to make tea! You can use cheese cloth, natural muslin or food strainer bag to place loose petals into. This becomes your “tea bag” and makes straining the tea from the petals much easier. Avoid metal utensils when making tea for wine making. Steep your dandelion tea for 20 minutes, remove and squeeze the “tea bag” to remove additional flavors and allow tea to cool a bit. Lilac wine will steep for up to 48 hours to gain the needed flavor. Repeat as many times as needed to acquire the amount of tea needed for your wine batch.

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While things are steeping I generally sterilize my food-grade fermentation bucket with a mix of crushed campden tablets and water. Once this has been done, I move directly into zesting and juicing my lemons and oranges so it can be added to the bucket.

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While the tea is hot, I will add my sugars and yeast nutrient to easier dissolve into the solution. You can heat up the lilac tea after the extended steeping time has expired. Pour this mixture, along with the grape juice and powdered tannin into the fermenting bucket.

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In these batches my husband didn’t buy the frozen concentrate white grape juice. In this case, potassium metabisulfite is used by the producer to ensure the preservation of their juice. Because of the added sulfites, the addition of yeast nutrient is very important to help prevent the yeast from stalling during fermentation. Use frozen concentrate whenever possible.

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Once cooled to a little more than room temperature, the yeast can be added. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let sit for 30 minutes to an hour. Once the bubbling starts, you can simply shake the bucket a little and the yeast will fall into the mix and start digesting all those sugars.

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After a couple of days in a loosely lidded bucket, I like to strain any floating pieces of fruit away from the liquid. I pour the mix into a cleaned and sterilized carboy to finish the remainder of its fermentation cycle. Campden water is added to the air lock to keep air from getting into the wine. For the next week or so, sit back and enjoy the gurgling bubbles.

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Here are the two wines side by side as they finish the initial process. The lilac wine is on the left, dandelion on the right. Over time these wines will settle and be racked numerous times. If you are patient enough and rack enough times, then you will not have to use a wine filter to clear your wine as you bottle it.

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Wild wines such as these can take 3-6 months to mature to drinking age. As the flavor profiles age, you will enjoy the wines even more!

For more tips about wine making please read my first wine making post. You will find more info on racking, clearing and sweetening wine if that’s something you feel you need to do with your final product.

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