Have you ever heard of elderberry wine? Unlike most commercially-available wines, it’s not made from grapes. Instead, it’s a fruit wine made from elderberries.

Making elderberry wine at home

Elderberries occur naturally in the wild and produce very dark and full-flavoured fruit. Handle wild elderberries, and you’ll have purple stained hands before you know it! Take a bite of an elderberry and your teeth will become heavily stained too! If this sounds good to you, then perhaps you’d like elderberry wine. If not, keep reading for some alternatives that will allow you to keep your hands (and teeth) clean!

The hazards of making elderberry wine

Wine made from elderberries, usually homemade by fruit wine enthusiasts, is full-bodied and packs a lot of flavour. It is also highly tannic, and so it is capable of relatively long aging. Would-be winemakers should be warned, though, that the process of making elderberry wine is not easy or clean.

  • It can be physically very messy, and indeed may present risks to human and animal health. The internet offers many how-to guides and recipes for making elderberry wine, if you are so inclined, but we won’t get into that here.
  • After making elderberry wine, you’ll find that you need to leave it to age for a long time before you can drink it.
  • Don’t forget to ensure that making such wine is legal (and physically possible) in your region before getting started. If it’s legal, possible and safe, then go for it! For those that can’t or don’t want to go to the trouble of making elderberry wine, or drinking homemade fruit wine generally, we have laid out a few potential alternatives!

Aged Bordeaux

Making elderberry wine may not be all it’s cracked up to be, then. You may need to age your elderberry wine for quite some time before the tannins mellow out and the fruits of your labour become drinkable and enjoyable. While you’re waiting, why not consider an aged Bordeaux that has already had plenty of time to mature and is in its prime drinking window?

2005, 2009 and 2010 were all superb vintages in Bordeaux, and have the price tags to prove it. Older and less celebrated vintages are ready to drink now and can offer considerable savings when compared to more famous years. Think along the lines of

Wines such as these have enough age for the tannins to have softened somewhat, and so they’ll be considerably more pleasant to drink than a younger wine, be that a Bordeaux or homemade elderberry wine!

Argentinian Malbec

Malbec has all the concentration and jamminess that you could hope to find in an elderberry wine, with generous fruit-forward character. Look to Argentina, where an example like Leo Premium Malbec 2013 from Valentín Bianchi will not disappoint. A juicy Argentinian Malbec will be ready to drink upon release, unlike most elderberry wines!

Australian Shiraz

Another big, dark fruit-driven alternative to elderberry wine is Australian Shiraz, particularly from high quality producers in the Barossa Valley or Margaret River. Avoid the hassle of actually making wine, keep your hands clean and try to look for a juicy Aussie red, such as:

These wines have all the black fruit power of elderberry wine, and are considerably easier (and cleaner)  to get your hands on.

Elderflower Gin

OK, it’s not wine, but give it a try! Gin is booming and many small English producers are coming out with really fantastic examples. Try Knockeen Hills Elderflower Gin to get a sense of what is capable when you leave it to the professionals: This small-batch production is made by steeping elderflower (and other selected botanicals) in a five-times distilled Irish spirit for 24 hours. The result is a superb dry gin with distinct juniper and elderflower notes and a long, pleasant finish.

If you’ve tried your hand at making elderberry wine – or any other fruit wine – we’d love to hear your stories!

 

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