Damson Wine Recipe
Autumn isn't here yet but it soon will be which means... damson time! Damsons hail from the same family as plums, though they taste quite different. Plums are usually soft and sweet, and lovely to eat. Damsons are naturally high in acid and tannin, which is why they are not as pleasant to eat raw. That tartness means that damson wine needs to be aged for longer than some other fruit wines, but you end up with a more complex, lovely wine to drink in the end.
Damsons grow in hedgerows all around the UK. Easy to spot, they look like little purple jewels hanging from the branches.
Usually we go foraging for them. If we're feeling lazy or haven't quite picked enough, we can buy a bag from our local National Trust Property. Batemans was the home of Rudyard Kipling. It is a beautiful place to visit, and they have damson trees on the estate. Most years they sell them to visitors to raise money for the property.
Aging Damson Wine
The acid and tannin in damsons will cause your damson wine to taste bitter when it is young. But that bitterness diminishes over time and it ages really well.
In fact it needs to be aged, by a year or 2 at least. We tried ours after a year and it was pretty good. You could just tell it needed longer. As often with winemaking: time is your friend.
Preparing Damson Fruit for Winemaking
You need to prepare the damsons, which means removing the stones so they don't make your must bitter.
Then we freeze the damsons. A bit like freezing sloes before you make sloe gin, freezing helps release the juices from the damsons. It's also handy, as when you've been out for the day foraging damsons and then de-stoning them, you may not feel like making wine straight away. Be sure to capture all the juice that is released to put into your fermentation bucket.
This recipe assumes you are familiar with wine making and have the necessary equipment, such as a wine making starter kit. If you're not sure, read our Beginner's Guide to Making Wine from Fruit and Flowers.
The method for making this wine has a couple more steps than other wines recipes, but don't let that put you off. Damsons make lovely wine.
Damson Wine Recipe
Makes 1 demijohn/4.5 litres/6 bottles/1 gallon
- 1.5kg damsons, destemmed, destoned and frozen
- 0.5kg sultanas, left whole
- 1.25kg sugar
- Approx 3 litres of bottled water (could be more or less, depending on the damson juice)
- One half teaspoon acid blend
- One teaspoon yeast nutrient
- One teaspoon pectic enzyme
- 1 campden tablet
- Half a sachet of Lalvin EC-1118 yeast
- 6 teaspoons glycerol
1. Clean and sterilise all the equipment that is going to come into contact with your wine - if you haven't made wine before, please read our Beginner's Guide to Making Wine from Fruit and Flowers.
2. Put the frozen damsons in the straining bag, put them in your fermentation bucket and leave them for a while to defrost. This way you capture all the juice as it melts. When they're defrosted, mash them with a sterilised potato masher to release more juice.
3. Heat 2 litres of the water with the sugar in a saucepan, stirring with a spoon until the sugar has dissolved.
4. When it is just boiling, pour the sugar water over the damsons in the bag, in the bucket. Give it all a good stir and leave to cool to room temperature.
5. Add the campden tablet, stir and leave for 12 hours with a clean tea towel over the top to keep dust out.
6. Add the sultanas, acid blend, yeast nutrient and pectic enzyme, put the tea towel over again and leave for another 12 hours.
7. Sprinkle the yeast on the must, put the tea towel back on again and leave for 7 further days, stirring daily.
8. After 7 days, lift the straining bag out and allow the liquid to drain back into the bucket. Compost the damsons and sultanas.
9. If fermentation is slowing down, you can transfer the must to a sterilised demijohn straight now. If it still seems a bit lively, give it a couple of days to settle before doing this.
10. If the must doesn't come up to the shoulders of the demijohn, top up with a little bottled water.
11. Fit a sterilised bung and airlock.
12. Leave to ferment for at least a month. If there seems to be a lot of sediment in the bottom of the demijohn, rack the wine after a month or so.
13. Keep racking the wine as sediment builds, until it is completely clear.
14. Leave the cleared wine in the demijohn for another 3 months or so before bottling.
15. When bottling, add one teaspoon of glycerol per bottle to the finished wine.
16. Leave to mature in the bottles for at least a year. The longer the better!
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Beginner's Guide to Making Wine from Fruit and Flowers
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