Winecraft: Heady Honeysuckle

This time of year, a sweet fragrance fills the humid air: honeysuckle is blooming. The white blooms punctuate the dark green tangle of foliage that has encroached through, over, and around fencing. Honeysuckle heralds summer’s arrival, and invites creative uses of its perfumed flowers…arguably, a “weed”, but a lovely one.

Given that the blooms imbue their infusing medium with that incredible scent, honeysuckle wine demanded to be made. I found the recipe at Amber Shehan’s blog (Honeysuckle Wine – One Gallon Recipe) and set out to harvest six cups of flowers!

Even dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, face shield, hat, and pants tucked into boots, it was difficult not to feel a bit creeped out by the various bugs that came out of the foliage and sometimes ended up on my (gloved) hands. There were spiders, beetles, leaf hoppers, and various other strange and curious creatures. None bit me, but later that night, I had the odd sensation of something crawling in my hair. Imaginary, of course…but yikes.

After harvesting the blooms, I still needed to remove the green piece at the base (Amber clarifies that this is the sepal) from each and every one. I began by cutting with a paring knife, but quickly switched to pinching the part off with my fingers. It took a while, but it was finally done and I was able to move to the next step – making the sugar water and pouring it over the prepared flowers and raisins. I let it steep overnight, then strained off the solids the next day, and pitched the yeast.

The small amount of Premier Cuvée (champagne) yeast didn’t seem to be doing much, so I added a teaspoon of yeast nutrient and more yeast the next day. The following day, while it looked very still, stirring revealed that it was actually very actively fermenting. Unlike fruit-based wine, this ferment doesn’t seem to create much foam, but it definitely fizzes when stirred.

Per the recipe, I’ll sample the brew in a month and rack it to a clean secondary fermenter. The must already smells wonderfully fragrant from that heavenly honeysuckle…if the finished wine retains that perfume, it will really be something special!

Stay tuned for updates on how this wildcrafted wine progresses!

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