Good wine can be made from fruits other than grapes. There is an incredible range available: apples, pears, peaches and plums, and about any fruit that ripens with enough sugar to permit fermentation. Some fruits, like berry fruits, may need a little boost of sugar, but the results can be delicious.
One great early summer wine joy is the fresh wine made directly from very ripe strawberries. Another great wine that can be made mid-summer includes the terrific varieties of pears. But one of the best fruit wines comes from those delicious ripe apples that we harvest in the fall. In any case, if you make your own apple or pear wine, make sure you use several varieties. It seems to be more interesting.
Though very good wines can be made from many fruits and berries, non-grape wines are not found on many wine shops’ shelves. Fortunately around Thanksgiving, and especially here in the South Coast, you may find cranberry or apple wines in the local shops. Occasionally, you will find shops that will be offering a blueberry wine. There are usually several fruit flavored “brandies;” peach seems to be the most popular.
There are not many wineries that make a non-grape fruit wine, but there seems to be a number in the New England area, probably because of the difficulties in growing the classical wine grape varieties.
Connecticut and Rhode Island
There is one winery in Connecticut that excels in its offering of fruit wines. Bishop’s Orchards Winery, which is barely a mile south of Rt I-95, just a dozen mile west of New Haven, Connecticut, has an extensive business dedicated to produce of all sorts. The establishment includes a nursery, a grocery, a bakery, and most important to some of us, an extensive wine shop, offering well over a dozen wines made from a variety of fruits.
The list includes several wines made from apples, and pears plus some from peach, pears, raspberries and strawberries. They make a low alcohol Hard Cider and a new product called, “Sachem’s Twilight,” which is a sparkling wine made form very ripe peaches.
Bishop’s not only sell the large variety of the wines they produce but also literally has a “wall” (of shelves) for wines made by other wineries in Connecticut. This selection also includes fruit wines. So Bishop’s might be the Mecca of New England fruit wine. Their wines run from $12.95 to $16.95 with the hard cider (semi-dry or semi-sweet going for $9.95.
In Rhode Island, there are several wineries that make one or more fruit wines. Diamond Hill in the northern part of the state produces several fruit wines. A favorite is their Peach wine, which is made from peaches grown right on the estate. It is sweet but well balanced, not a syrupy cloying sweetness. When chilled it is like biting into a ripe peach. Their
rich, sweet fruit wines are a great choice for a summer dessert wine with a light cake or even chocolate or vanilla ice cream.
Diamond Hill also produces a cranberry apple blend which is a best seller, a spiced apple and an intense luscious blueberry wine which is an incredible Holiday wine going well with turkey and ham. It is released in November and usually sells out quickly. They also produce a non-alcoholic sparkling apple cider.
Massachusetts has many wineries making fruit wines; Nashoba Valley Winery in Bolton is known for its fruit wine, including several rather unique ones. They offer three versions of blueberry wines; a regular, a dry and a blend of blueberry with mead.
They also have apple, cherry, cranberry apple, peach, pear, plum, black current and a strawberry rubarb. So they are right in there as a major producer of fruit wines. One interesting note is they have a Black Current wine. This is a very popular and highly prized as a special wine in parts of Europe.
There are many wineries in the northern New England regions which only make fruit wines. A good example is Grand View in East Calias Vermont. While you should go there for the wines, the view from this hilltop winery is truly “Grand” providing an incredible panoramic view of the grandeur of Vermont.
Grand View entered six wines in a recent Finger Lakes International Wine Competition and they won six medals. Their Cranberry Wine won a Double Gold Medal; Strawberry Rhubarb Wine won Gold; Pear Wine won a Silver Medal; Raspberry Apple Wine, Montmorency Cherry Wine and the Mac Jack Hard Cider won Bronze. Six for six! Not Bad!
Grand View imports many grapes to make wines, and they access to many excellent fruit trees and berry bushes including apple, pear, blueberry, blackberry, cranberry, elderberry, and black currant, even strawberry rhubarb. Many are from homegrown or neighborhood sources.
Flag Hill, located in southeastern New Hampshire, offers handcrafted traditional Vermont Hard Cyders, distilled fruit spirits, a “Pomme de Vie” and Stair's Pears. They refer to these as Vermont brandies. One specialty is similar to Calvados Poire William. They have “attempted to capture” the spirited essence of fruit. They are the perfect complement for regional and seasonal cooking, foods, & menus, and a stylish after dinner or après-ski drink!
Putney Mountain Winery was recently judged as the producer of "Best Fruit Wine" in the Northeast at the 2010 Northeastern States Big E Wine Competition. They produce quite a number of fruit wines. The flagship seems to be their Apple Maple made from Heirloom apple wine with a bit of pure Vermont maple syrup. It is a fruity, semi-sweet wine, with an "apple" beginning, and a "maple" finish. They add that this wine is a nice balance to spicy food and is delicious with poultry or pork. It also makes an outstanding mulled wine with cinnamon, cloves and maple syrup.
Putney has been producing award-winning, fruit wine since 1998. They claim that their winery thrives on the age-old wisdom that the finest wines come from the finest fruits and that their wines exemplify the richness and variety of fruits that have been raised for generations in the Connecticut River Valley.
Putney Mountain Winery offers an array of sparkling, still and dessert wines made from fresh, local fruit including heirloom apples, pears, rhubarb, cranberries, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries. Putney hand-crushes, presses and craft their wines as soon as the fruit is harvested. This, they claim, accounts for their wines having won many regional and international awards.
Fruit wines are good anytime of the year, but somehow many wine lovers find themselves seeking out that favorite strawberry or pear wine in the late summer and early fall. These fruit wines, especially if well chilled, are great with ham and pork dishes as well as with a variety of cheeses. Try one this summer and expand your horizon of the wonderful world of wine.
For more information on everything wine, check out the Wine headquarters!