Since moving to our new homestead a little over a year ago I knew Rhubarb Wine would be on my To Do List. With so many rhubarb plants at my disposal I felt it was crazy not to try it. Even crazier was the idea of letting it all go to waste. Who could possibly bake that much rhubarb crisp?!
After scouring the web for various recipes I decided to go out on a limb and wing it. Most of the recipes called for utilizing rhubarb stalks in the must. I knew from experience that clearing rhubarb with it’s fibrous nature could prove to be a nightmare. This entire process was going to be one huge experiment!
RHUBARB WINE FROM JUICE
I chose to put the bulk of the work into the front end of the product. I employed my new juicer and set to work. First, cleaning and cutting my rhubarb into 2-inch pieces, then running it through the juicer.
In short, the fibers were a pain in my behind. After multiple starts and stops to clean the machine I finally ended up with nearly 3 gallons of juice. I’m not sure of the total rhubarb stalk weight I started with, but a guesstimate was around 20-30 pounds.
- 3 gallons Rhubarb Juice
- 8 cups Sugar
- 1/2 tsp Tannin
- 3 tsp Yeast Nutrient
- 1 pkg Montrachet Wine Yeast
I let this mixture ferment away in a carboy with an air lock until all bubbling ceased. With a vinometer I checked the percentage alcohol, racked and added 2 more cups of sugar to boost the alcohol levels. A little more fermentation later I hit my desired percentage as the second fermentation ceased.
I allowed one full week for the yeast solids to settle out. The clear wine was racked again into another carboy. 1/2 tsp of Potassium Sorbate per gallon was added to prevent renewed fermentation as the wine was back sweetened with raw honey.
Final filtering with my Buonvino filter yielded approximately 15 bottles of fruity, crystal clear, sweet wine. Initial flavors of the resulting wine didn’t punch me in the face as being uniquely rhubarb, but that may change with aging. During this time I also fermented a 1-gallon batch of Raspberry wine which I used to create a delightful Raspberry-Rhubarb blend. Yum!
RHUBARB WINE FROM STALKS
Having tried my initial batch of wine from juice I wondered if wine made directly from the stalks (with all those fibers) would be different. Would the stalk bring in more of those ‘rhubarb notes’ that are distinctly rhubarb? Beyond that, would another type of wine yeast help clearly define those flavors?
For this batch I picked and cleaned 15 pounds of fresh rhubarb. I decided not to cut the stalks in order to keep the fibers larger within the must. I did however decide to freeze the rhubarb for 48 hours. This process effectively bursts the cell walls and allows the juices to better separate from the fiber.
- 15 pounds thawed rhubarb in large fermentation bucket w/ air lock
- 8 cups of Sugar
- 3 gallons of Water
- 1 tsp Tannin
- 4 tsp Yeast Nutrient
- 1 pkg Premier Cuvée Wine Yeast
Following the same process as the juice recipe I allowed for a 2-step fermentation. After 3-5 days I did remove the fibrous rhubarb fruit cap in the bucket and allowed fermentation to continue. After the first fermentation I carefully siphoned the liquids from any remaining solids into a carboy with an air lock. At this point, I added approximately 4 cups of sugar to facilitate the second fermentation.
Once the desired alcohol percentage was reached, I racked and added Potassium Sorbate, 1/2 tsp per gallon (approximately 4 gallons for this batch). I also added 4 cups of rhubarb juice to ensure the rhubarb flavor profile and coloring. The wine was once again back sweetened with honey to taste – this time a little less sweet. Because I felt like the wine was missing something I tried a little trick to alter and smooth out the flavor profile. A 1/4 tsp of ground cinnamon was added to the carboy and allowed to set overnight.
After the entire 4 gallons of wine was filtered I was left with approximately 20 bottles of wine. This time, there seemed to be a little more rhubarb flavor but filtering (even after racking well) was a terrible mess. The filters would clog up much more quickly. If I were to do this again I would definitely use a course filter prior to a second round with a finishing filter.
All in all, I was happy with the outcome of my rhubarb wine. With two batches bottled I easily have a couple more years before I contemplate doing it again. For now, I’m off to try my hand at creating an apricot wine that will bring a little more summer into our long, gloomy North Dakota winters.
With any form of wine making it can be quite the adventure to experiment. To ensure a good quality finished product it is always important to sterilize your equipment; bottles and corks included. Campden tablets are my preferred means of sterilization and can also be used to kill yeast mid-fermentation.