Here’s a funny thing about wine: It’s made from grapes, but taste and aroma descriptions involve any flavor under the sun other than grapes. Grapes are a fruit, but grape wine is just called wine while wines made from other fruits are called fruit wine. There are even those who don’t feel that fruit wines are real wines. Does anyone else find this a little strange? Why the distinction?
No one really knows why wine made from grapes is distinguished from all other fruit wines, but it may have something to do with the ease with which it can be made with minimal intervention. In other words, it’s easier to set a batch of grapes to fermenting and forget about them, and still end up with something that’s good to drink. Wine can really be made from almost any plant that can be fermented, but not all plants turn into wine without some help. Grapes have a good balance of tannin, sugar, and acid to mingle with yeast and water to create wine with minimal additives. Many other types of plants need added sugar to make them taste better and actually turn into an alcoholic beverage, since sugar converts to alcohol during the fermentation process. Without the added sugar, you would just have somewhat spoiled juice. No one wants that.
It could also just be that grapes became popular as wine first, so they won.
The extra care involved in making fruit wine/debate over whether it’s really wine should not turn you off to drinking it, though. A skilled winemaker can turn a batch of fruit into an amazingly flavorful bottle of wine that ranges from dry to sweet to sparkling and everything in between. I personally prefer fruit wines made from berries, but there really is something for everyone. Prefer dry wines? Check out elderberry, which is made in a Pinot Noir style. Love bananas? Try some banana wine from the Philippines. How about a wine that transports you to a Hawaiian luau? Have some passion fruit or pineapple wine. You can even find fruit wines fortified with liquor, like plum wine, which is popular in Japan, Korea, and China.
One of the first fruit wines I had (before I even liked wine) was black currant wine from Butler Winery in Indiana. It has a jaw gripping tartness that makes my mouth water whenever I think of it. Unfortunately they only ship within Indiana and to Florida, so you have to make a trip to one of those states to get your hands on it. If you do, let me know because I need you to bring me some!
I also had a really amazing strawberry wine in Virginia that tasted like you had just bit into a fresh, juicy strawberry straight off the vine. It was incredible. I tried it at a wine festival that had wineries from all over the state, and the winemaker actually sent people to a winery booth that had chocolate wine. When you had a sip of the strawberry and a sip of the chocolate, it tasted exactly like a chocolate covered strawberry!
The wine I’m drinking now is a luscious raspberry wine from Texas SouthWind Winery. The winery is located in South Texas near Refugio and Goliad (if you know your Texas history, you will definitely recognize the name Goliad). They make ten different fruit wines. TEN! I want to try them all because their red raspberry is so delicious! To me this is the perfect spring wine. It’s fresh and sweet with just a little hint of tartness at the end. While those in northern climes may need a few more weeks before it’s warm enough to drink something this light and fruity, here in Houston it’s been plenty warm for weeks. This is just the wine I needed to dive straight into this bright, warm season and enjoy the flowers that are popping up everywhere!
Are you a fan of fruit wine or do you stick with the grape variety?