Sunday, August 22, 2010

Elderberries


I say the same thing every time I go to a Missouri winery: "I'll try your dry reds only, and maybe a Traminette, if you make a good one." It never fails that with that one statement, I've wiped out half or more of many wine lists in the state. (My tastings are brief and usually end with the purchase of a bottle of something, most often a Norton, but if not, a Chambourcin or a blend of the two. I've never had a full glass of white anything since I left my relaxed life in New Orleans where cold Trebbiano was my balcony wine. Sugar makes me belligerent these days, and most whites around here are sweet. Missouri Traminettes are really nice and highly variable. I've had some that taste like bees on lilacs on the nose and others that taste like linseed oil...).

Earlier this week, my smart (W&L graduate!) colleague asked if I wanted a bottle of his homemade Granny Smith apple wine (which he makes two times a year in his basement). He told me most people don't like it "because it's dry," so I told him I'd take a bottle, and I'd trade tomatoes for it. I added that I usually stay far away from fruit-other-than-grape wine, but in recent years, some American vintners have been perfecting dry blueberry and apple wines. There's a growing market for these fruit wines in New York, Oregon and Washington (where great fruit grows well). Dry wines from other fruits. I could learn more about this, and I look forward to my dry Granny Smith wine. Missouri is home to at least one fruit wine winery, OOVDA, located near Springfield, and from what I understand, they make sweet and dry versions of their wines. I can't wait to stop in!

In the South, where elderberries grow prolifically, this is the time of year when our family friends begin raiding fencerows for enormous elderberry branches all laden with ripe elderberries for winemaking. While raw elderberries aren't toxic, per se, too many raw berries could cause nausea and it's highly recommended to cook the berries before consuming. Combing through my mother's old cookbook collection, I've noticed that elderberry wine recipes tend to require POUNDS of sugar: 10 lbs. of berries, 2 lbs. of sugar. If the yeast doesn't eat up most of that sugar, I probably won't touch the wine. Nevertheless, in Missouri we've had a great growing season for elderberries and grapes alike. Catbirds have devoured the elderberries next door.

Earlier this year, the Missouri Department of Agriculture sponsored a Comprehensive Elderberry Workshop that introduced small producer farmers to the potential of elderberry farming for syrup and juice production. See here information on the growing interest in elderberry farming in Missouri, efforts for specialty crop growing in the state. Considering that elderberry is known from every county in Missouri and thrives even in our erratic weather patterns with few native pests, it seems to be a good initiative, much as favoring the Norton grape over fussier vinifera varietals. And what a boon for migrating songbirds, many of whom are making their way South these days and need some nutritious fruits for the journey....

3 comments:

Nickelplate said...

OOVDA winery has a range of about 3 sweetnesses of each wine they make. They have a sweet one, a normal one and a dry one. I got the blackberry wine in dry and sweet and both were very good.

Allison Vaughn said...

Hey, a huge thanks for that information. I'll update the post, and definitely stop in!

Boris said...

For an elderberry treat, don't pass up Mount Bethel's $11 Elderberry Wine (Altus, AR).