If you want a fizz that tastes spectacular, this recipe is for you. In under a month you get the full bright fruity taste of currants with a mildly mouth puckering tart-tannin background. The aroma is the wonderful woodland smell of crushed currant leaves. All this surrounded with lively & youthful fizz. I’m delighted with this discovery.
In truth, I had a freezer full of a mix of red, black and white currants. And I needed the space. In the spring, we enjoy the taste of quickly made elderflower ‘champagne’, so I thought I could experiment and do a similar thing with the currants.
It worked. And some.
To find out how easy this is to make (and other fruit ‘champagnes’), please read on.
Currant ‘champagne’ recipe
The quantities below made about 20 litres of wine. It’s easy to scale the recipe and a little more or less of the currants will not make a huge difference to the finished wine.
You can use this method with whatever soft fruit you have to hand. You can use other foraged berries in the mix such as bilberries, blackberries, damsons, haws, mulberries, rose hips and sloes etc.
What I do below is to set out exactly what I did, you can then adapt the recipe to suit what you have available.
The principles how to make a wine like this are simple:
- soften fruit
- extract flavour & colour
- ferment until the fermentation is not quite finished
- strain and bottle
- secondary fermentation to add fizz (and more alcohol)
- very short resting
Remember, this is what I had in my freezer. It made enough for a well coloured wine at about 250-300g fruit for every litre of finished wine.
Red currants 3.2kg
Black currants 1.7kg
White currants 0.8kg
Total fruit 5.7kg
You add the sugar in stages.
Granulated sugar A 3.0kg
Granulated sugar B 1.5kg
Granulated sugar C 1.0kg
Total sugar 5.5kg
Pectic enzyme (this breaks down the pectin/cell walls in the fruit which helps the wine to clear and to extract more juice)
Yeast nutrient (follow your brand’s instructions. You can substitute 1tsp of Marmite, yeast extract or malt syrup dissolved in a little hot water)
General purpose wine yeast
You’ll need a fermenting bucket or bowl that will hold more than the final quantity of wine you wish to make. (Ideally, you’ll have two, as this makes it much easier to strain and bottle the wine.) It’s wise to have some headroom in case the fermentation gets frisky. You don’t want currant splodge all over the place.
I also used a plastic colander and a funnel with built-in sieve. You can improvise with what you have. If you want to make still wine too (see below) you’ll need a container (or containers) to finish the ferment off in so you need a demijohn (demijohns) with airlock(s) and some tubing to siphon the wine into the containers.
You’ll also need long spoons and a saucepan, plus some other bits & bobs from the kitchen.
We bottle our sparkling wines in used 2 litre cola bottles and plastic 1 litre bottles that can take pressure. We don’t use glass sparkling wine/grolsch type bottles because it’s not as easy to control the pressure release when you come to drink the wine. Don’t use normal wine bottles as they are not strong enough to cope with the pressure generated and could explode and cause serious injury and damage.
Make sure all your tools and equipment are scrupulously clean & sterilised before you use them. We use a powder which you make into a solution and which you can buy from any homebrew shop or online.
How to make the wine
It’s best to use fruit that has been frozen, as this makes it easier to crush them.
Defrost the fruit – ours took about 18 hours overnight.
Crush the fruit in a clean fermentation bucket.
Dissolve the 3kg of Sugar A in a big saucepan with about 2 litres of water. Stir & heat until it’s thoroughly dissolved. Pour onto the mashed currants and stir well. Top up the bucket until you have about 10-12 litres of liquid.
If you don’t want to use the enzyme, skip the next paragraph and get ready to add more sugar.
The pectic enzyme mostly needs to be above 20°C to work properly. So you need to make sure your liquid is at or above a warm room temperature when adding hot/cold water. Add the pectic enzyme according to your packet instructions. Stir well and cover with a lid or a tea towel/muslin held on with and elastic band. Leave for 24 hours at a warm room temperature, ideally above 20°C.
Dissolve Sugar B in a litre or so of hot water. Add to your bucket and stir well. Top up with water until you have about 20 litres. Then add your yeast nutrient and yeast according to the packet instructions. Stir well, cover and leave in a warm place (ideally 20°C+) to ferment. We put ours on a garden propagator! It may take 24 hours or so for the ferment to get going, be patient. Stir daily to make sure the fruit bits (which will float) are stirred back into the liquid and to incorporate lots of air. This helps to extract lots of flavour and the air helps the yeast work well.
After a week or so the ferment should be calming down a bit. If you have a hydrometer, the SG should be around about 1010-990 and stable. This shows that most of the sugar has been converted to alcohol. If you taste the wine, you should still be able to notice slight bubbles on your tongue. This means the fermentation is still working, which is ideal.
Before you do the next stage with the wine, make sure you have enough sound and clean bottles to siphon the wine into, with clean lids. If you want to make some still wine, you’ll need a clean demijohn and airlock.
Strain the liquid off the fruit bits. We did this into a separate bucket because we had one. We scooped the fruit off the top with a straining spoon first into a colander over the funnel sieve. The colander helps to make sure the sieve doesn’t get quickly clogged. Then carefully ladle (or use a jug) the rest of the liquid through the colander/sieve set up leaving the sediment and gunk that has accumulated at the bottom of the bucket. You may need to gently tilt the bucket to get the liquid out at the end. The more of this gunk you stir up or tip into the strained liquid, the more ‘stuff’ you’ll have in your finished wine. So take it carefully. We composted the leftover fruit & gunk. The compost heap smelled great for days after 😉 If you taste the wine now, it should be quite tart with a definite alcoholic feel to it.
Add Sugar C to this liquid and stir well. Then pour or siphon the wine into the clean bottles you have ready. Fill to within about 5cm or so of the top of the bottle. Before I screwed the lids on to seal the bottles, I squeezed the side of the bottle so that the liquid came to just under the top of the bottle. Then screw the lid on very tightly. The squeezed space gives the CO2 produced by the second fermentation a bit more space to go into before the bottle starts to hold the full pressure of the gas.
When I made this I put 5 litres into a separate demijohn to ferment out into still wine and bottled the rest for sparkly.
Leave the wine for a minimum of 7-10 days in a warm place before you drink so that the second fermentation can carbonate (make fizzy) the wine and boost the alcohol. You’ll hear the bottles expanding and you should feel the side walls get very tight. Check for leaks and tighten any loose lids. If you are worried that the bottle is getting too stressed, just gently crack open the lid a little so that some gas escapes and the bottle relaxes. Then re-tighten the lid. I’ve not had one split yet 😀 You should see the wine get clearer as the sediment settles.
How to open the wine – carefully!
Before you drink the wine, pop it in the fridge for a few hours to get cold. Then open very carefully in stages. The wine is very frisky. If you take the lid right off quickly, you’ll end up in a mess and lose lots of your precious wine. Crack the lid and let the bubbles come up, then close and let settle. And repeat this a few times until you can open the bottle safely. Don’t rush it. The bubbles will bring up any sediment you have left in the bottle, so it won’t be completely clear. That’s why you need to pay attention when you strain and ladle and the wine.
Then pour. And enjoy!
And let me know how you get on.