The first wine of the season!
Although rhubarb is a vegetable, it is often put to the same culinary uses as fruit. The leaf stalks can be used raw, when they have a crisp texture (similar to celery, although it is in a different family), but are most commonly cooked with sugar and used in pies, crumbles, and desserts. We love the plant for... WINE. Raw rhubarb is 94% water, 5% carbohydrates, 1% protein so it's easy to see why it would be a great wine making ingredient!
Rhubarb is a herbaceous perennial that grows from short, thick rhizomes. It is a hardy plant for our area and can be found on many farms, and in many city yards. They are a great landscaping plant as they can grow quite large! NOTE: The large, triangular leaves are toxic, making them inedible. Do not eat them or feed them to your animals.
To harvest, simply grab a bottom stalk close to the plant. Give a twist and pull. The stalk should pop right off. If you're pulling your plant out of the ground, your soil is too loose. Stalks can be harvested when they are 7-12" long, depending on the variety. Crisp stalks will always provide more juice than wilting, floppy stalks. Don't over harvest. Two-thirds is a good amount to remove to allow your plant to rejuvenate itself for further harvests. Remember to toss those leaves in the compost bin!
Two basic styles can be found in our area. Green rhubarb never develops into deep red stalks but could have a slight red to pinkish hue, and the internal color is green. Red rhubarb has stalks that can turn deep red and have an internal color of red or pink. The flavour can also vary between plants - from quite sour to slightly sweet.
Rhubarb is a great filler to any Country Fruit Wine that might need a little more fruit. Although rhubarb has a taste, it is one that can compliment or be easily hidden by almost any other fruit it's paired with. Rhubarb will lighten up and brighten up the flavour of a wine. Add a bag or two to your next batch to see the difference.
Our favourite rhubarb wines:
1) Strawberry Rhubarb - by a landslide.....! Do 3 parts strawberry to 2 parts rhubarb for the best strawberry flavour
2) Crabapple Rhubarb - 1/2 and 1/2 mix can make a light and refreshing summer sipper
3) Raspberry Rhubarb - Annamari likes 2 parts raspberry to 3 parts rhubarb.
4) Plain Rhubarb - of course! Choose a red rhubarb for a pretty pink colour to your wine. Green rhubarb will make a white wine.
Tips for making your own rhubarb wine:
Make at Home - 1 Gallon (4L) Rhubarb Wine Recipe
2 cups white grape concentrate
14 cups water, approximately
1kg. white sugar
1/4 tsp. tannin
1 tsp. yeast nutrient
1 tsp. pectic enzyme
1 pkg. wine yeast
Wash, drain and cut rhubarb into 1-2" pieces. Freeze until solid. When ready to start your wine, remove from freezer and place into large bowl or container to thaw. Reserve all of the juice. The fruit can be placed into a large mesh bag to help remove the fruit at a later date. In your primary fermenter, dissolve your sugar in a small amount of warm water. Add your rhubarb and reserved juice. Crush 1 campden tablet and add to the mixture.
Let sit for 24-36 hours before continuing to the next step, but stir a couple of times during this period. This is important! If you do not wait the time needed, the campden will kill your wine yeast.
Stir in the concentrate, tannin, yeast nutrient and pectic enzyme. Add enough water to make a gallon (4L), and then add about 1 cup more. Stir well and use your hydrometer to record the specific gravity. Add yeast by sprinkling it evenly over the mixture. Cover your primary fermenter with something that will allow gas to escape while it ferments.
Once a day, stir the mixture and record the specific gravity with your hydrometer. Once it reaches S.G. 1.01-1.00, syphon your wine into a secondary vessel, leaving the sediment behind. Your secondary should have a narrow neck and the ability to attach an airlock. This is where a good seal is needed to keep oxygen out of your wine. Always make sure your airlock never dries out!
Now you can let your wine to sit and clear naturally. This can take a few weeks to months. If you want to speed up the process there is ingredients you can get from your local winemaking shop. You might want to "rack it" a few more times while you wait for it to clear. If so, adding another crushed campden tablet to the wine is a good idea. Always try to keep your wine topped up and keep your headspace minimal.
You might prefer your wine dry or a bit sweeter. If you like it dry, know that you might have to let it age for the wine to be something smooth to enjoy. If you want to drink it earlier, a little sweetness can make it much more drinkable. There's ingredients you can get at the wine shop to stabilize your wine so adding sweetness will not create another fermentation.
Need more than a gallon of wine? We can help you make 15 or 30 bottle batches in our shop. As always, if you have any questions, you can call or stop by our shop for some help.