Nettle Wine

How to make nettle wine.

I used to hate stinging nettles. Then I was given a copy of a book called 'Wild Food' by Roger Phillips.

Amongst the recipes for hedge mustard, hawthorn leaf salad and boiled dandelion root was a little recipe for nettle beer.

When we tried it, just for fun we found we had a delicious and slightly alcoholic summer drink on our hands. I was hooked and went searching for similar ideas. Then I was given a canadian book called the Alaskan bootleggers bible which explained to theory behind brewing wines from practically anything at all.

So fully armed with newfound knowledge I headed down to the local allotment on a wet morning in April, pulled on thick gloves and picked a plastic bag full of nettle tops.

Nettle Wine Recipe

Instructions for nettle wine

At home I picked through the nettles again, removing bugs and bits of grass. Then the nettle tops went onto the stove in a large pot. I covered the nettles with about 4 pints of water and brought them to the boil. After 15 minutes gentle simmering I turned off the heat and after allowing it to cool for about 20 minutes strained the now light green juice into a large fermentation bucket. I added another 8 pints of boiled water, 1.2kg of sugar and the juice of one lemon and one orange. I stirred till the sugar was disolved, covered the bucket and left it to cool.

Later that day once the mixture had reached approximately blood temperature I checked the specific gravity (1080) which means that if all the sugar turns to alcohol the wine will be approximately 9%-12% alcohol.

I added a heaped teaspoon of wine yeast and stirred it in. I then stood the bucket on some insulating layers of newspaper and wrapped a blanket around it.

The next day the mix was beginning to bubble and continued to do so vigourously for 3 days. At this point I siphoned off the juice into a sterilized demijohn and topped it with a airlock.

Three weeks later a sludge had settled in the bottom of the demijohn, so siphoned to wine (can I call it wine yet?) to a clean demijohn and left it another 6 weeks. I was absolutely certain that the fermentation had finished so I bottled it and left the bottles on the shelf in the cupboard under the stairs.

2 weeks later I was curious and cracked open a bottle. As there was no sweetness left, I added two tablespoonfuls to the wine and drank a glass.

I liked it and drank the whole bottle. Was gently intoxicated and didn't have a hangover the next morning, so I class nettle wine as a total success.

Tips for next batch...

I will add sugar at each racking from one demijohn to the next. This should re-start the fermentation so it will take a lot longer (up to a year) but the resulting drink will be much more wine-like. I might also add raisins to the first step (about half a pound) to give a more wine-like flavour.