What is fruit wine, what is berry wine and how are fruit wines made?
Fruit wines are wine-like drinks just not made from grapes but from fruit, berries and fruits. These are fruit wines, stone fruit wines or berry wines, each in connection with the type of fruit from which the fruit wines are produced. The best known are apple cider, strawberry wine or currant wine. Fruit wines are made either from other fruit or a mixture of different types of fruit.
The term fruit wine is also often used as a synonym for the term fruit wine and describes all fermented wine-like drinks made from fruits that do not contain grapes.
Fruit musts, i.e. pome fruit wines, apple wines and pear wines, are still relatively easy to find. Very few producers specialize in the production of fruit wines. Fruit wines are made from berries or stone fruits. Most fruit wine producers, however, have a rural character and also carry the above-mentioned products in a full range.
Fruit wines and berry wines from Austria fall into the fruit wine category under wine law. In most vinotheques you will therefore look in vain for fruit wines. In the food retail trade, they are mainly offered sweet and in the lower price range, if you can find them on the shelf at all. These inexpensive fruit wines are mostly produced industrially.
The production of a fruit wine is not quite as easy as the production of a liqueur and requires a little more know-how. Fruit wines usually do not contain any added alcohol!
Like the production of wine from grapes, fruit wines are only pressed from other fruits and do not contain any grapes. Often, cheap white wines with color, fruit juice and / or aroma are processed into „flavored wine-containing drinks“. Such alcoholic beverages have nothing to do with fruit wines. The bottle label and the list of ingredients give precise information about what exactly is inside.
In our latitudes, in Austria and Europe, wine production is limited to grapes. This has a historical, cultural and geographical background. The further north you go in Europe, the more likely you will find other fruits as a basis for wine-like drinks, as only a few grape varieties thrive in these areas.
In addition to Europe, fruit wines are also widespread in America, Canada, Africa and Asia. Wherever the cultivation of grapes is difficult or too expensive, other alcoholic beverages have become established. In Mexico, for example, pulque is made from the juice of agaves, and in Russia and Siberia, kvass, a beer-like drink, is made from bread. Asian steppe peoples know kumys, a drink made from fermented mare’s milk. Mead, honey wine, is less unusual but very old and made from animal food. Mixtures of fruits and honey as the basis for fruit wines have been preserved in Poland to this day.
Wine is made from grapes
The processing of grapes into wine is easier than other fruits for a number of reasons. Easier pressability, an optimal acid-sugar ratio to the ripening time and thus a shelf life of the end product is guaranteed in a natural way. In addition, the wine yeast is already on the grape skins and there is no need for any additives. Winemaking has also proven itself over millennia.
In the case of grapes, the degree of ripeness and the time of harvest determine which end product can be produced – harvested early as a storm or acid-rich sparkling wine, followed by table wine in various quality levels. Late-harvested grapes for Auslese up to raisin-like straw wines and musts for ice wine that are harvested at minus temperatures and thus concentrated. Must weight as well as acidity (in southern countries) and the relationship to each other determine the quality of the harvested crop.
Fruit wines are man-made
These serious differences in taste in the course of ripening as they occur with grapes are only minimally pronounced in fruits. Unless unripe or very overripe fruits are processed, apples will always taste like apples and cherries like cherries. Of course, the variety, origin and the year of harvest also determine the ingredients, which are subject to natural fluctuations. However, the sugar content in fruits is always too low for long-life fruit wines. The acidity levels are usually too high for dry berry wines or stone fruit wines to be enjoyed. The fruit wines are simply too sour.
The biggest difference to grape wine lies in the aroma of fruit wine. Fruit wines have a very intense smell and taste and they usually taste like the fruit they are made from. But exceptions also confirm the rule here. Grapes don’t do this and people like to compare their smell and taste with all sorts of other fruits, nuts, forest floors, flowers or rocks.
The goal in fruit wine production is always the end product that you strive for. Only very few fruits have ingredients for long-life wines. Usually sugar and water have to be added. On the one hand to reduce the excessive fruit acid and on the other hand to increase the alcohol content to the desired level. In contrast, this process, also known as wet sugaring or galling, is strictly forbidden in winemaking.
Since alcoholic fermentation is a biological process, precise control and adjustment to the desired alcohol content is difficult and the selection of the right yeast variety must be taken into account as well as the question of the raw materials. Not every type of fruit makes an equivalent fruit wine. That means cherry wine is not just cherry wine.
Processing also plays a major role. Bananas, pineapples, plums, berries or apples have to be processed differently in order to get the juice. Washing, peeling, coring, grinding. Different machines are required for each type of fruit.
Mash fermentation is often chosen to increase the pressability, which increases the color and extract of dark fruits. Since fruits also contain pectin, the addition of enzymes is advisable. In the case of wine grapes, on the other hand, the extraction of juice is relatively easy, as they can be pressed by their own weight even with low pressure or in higher buttes.
Many types of fruit can be used to create the same types of wine that can be made from grapes, but without containing grapes. From foaming to dry to sweet, from (fruit) table wine to fruit dessert wine to liqueur-like fruit wines fortified with alcohol or flavored with herbs and spices, anything is possible. From local and well-known types of fruit to tropical fruits, a great many unusual fruit wines can be pressed.
A disadvantage of fruit wines is that they do not contain tannin and therefore differ in taste from grape wines. Fruit wines cannot be compared directly with grape wine either.
Fruit wines benefit from a moderate residual sugar content as this positively emphasizes the aroma. When it comes to grapes, dry wines are wonderful. The grape is just one of many fruits and many others are suitable for the production of alcoholic beverages. By assembling and selecting suitable types of fruit, certain amounts of tannins can also be introduced into fruit wines in order to give them an additional flavor component, which also ensures better bottle maturity and digestibility.