There are so many amazing berries that are just waiting to be transformed into wine. We had covered Jamun earlier. Today we are going to talk about various berries and wild fruits that one can gather. Finally, we are going to talk about blueberry wine. This sample recipe can be substituted with any other fruit or berry that you can find. Do read our article on how to infuse various fruit in wine & cider.
Can you make Berry Wine at Home?
Whenever someone talks about sharpness and bitterness in Indian native berries, I give them an example of Shabari ke Ber. शबरी के बेर is one of the famous stories of the Ramayana. The elderly tribal lady was collecting fruits and wild berries. When Lord Ram asked for some fruit, she had great difficulty in finding a fruit that can be eaten raw. Most Hindus remember this story as a high-class prince (deity Rama) eating fruits that were already tasted by a lowly Dalit. However, we forget to ask the question of why bitter and sour fruits were collected in the first place.
You would have noticed that most apples (fruits) are classified into:
- Sharpness (sourness)
- Bitterness (Tannin & astringency)
The fruits with high sweetness (low acidity and bitterness) are eaten raw. However for fruit wine and cider production, we prefer bitter & sharp fruits.
Most wild forest berries are very tart and full of tannins. They are hence perfect for winemaking. Unlike wine from table juices, one does not need to add too much acid blend (malic acid) and oak chips to get the perfect flavors. These wild berries on their own have all the flavors needed to make a perfect full-bodied wine.
Indian Berries Suitable for Wine Making
1. Jamun जामुन
Also called Naval Berries. These are a boom for diabetic as it helps in controlling sugar. Here is a recipe for the Jamun Wine. It is prized for its deep red color and full-bodied taste. Jamun is used frequently to make Sirka (red balsamic fruit vinegar). Jamun IPA is also a very popular brew at many microbreweries.
When making Jamun wine, do remember that the stone/seed is 80% of the weight of the fruit and should not get crushed in the juicing process. Secondly it is already heavy on tannins and color so no further tannin addition is needed.
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2. Strawberry स्ट्रॉबेरी
The aphrodisiacal properties of Champagne with strawberries are well documented. However when we ferment strawberry into a nice sparkling cider wine the excitement doubles. Use about 1.2kg of strawberry per liter of must. Add some tannins to preserve the natural pink color and ferment it till you make about 13% alcohol. Add some more sugar and naturally carbonate it to make your Strawberry Champagne. It tastes best when it is sweet and shared with a loved one.
3. Shahtoot (शहतूत ) or Mulberry
These berries are found in all the silk-producing regions of India. Incidentally, farmers are more interested in the leaves than in the berry so it is very inexpensive berry. It has tiny berries without seed that are clustered in finger-like sticks. The fruit is very delicate as it can be crushed with bare hands. The resulting juice is sweet and deep red in color. You can make a wonderful high alcohol port wine style wine from it. Use about 1.5kg per liter. Add 100gm of sugar as most berries have very little sugar in them (compared to grapes)
4. Rasbhari (रसभरी)
The name says its all, it means full of Nectar in Hindi. This iconic berry comes in individual brown paper wrapping. Hence called Cape Gooseberry in English.
Its fruit is very tart 3.5pH and low in sugar <10%. However adding some sugar helps it to make a nice white wine. It grows primarily in UP region which is not a grape region too. Hence Rasbhari Cider is amazing for those who don’t have access to local wine grapes. Use about 150gm of sugar along with 1.5kg of fruit for every Liter of wine to be produced.
Another similar berry that grows in Madhya Pradesh Kosam or Wild Berry or ditch strawberry has a much similar taste.
5. Goji Berries
They look like cranberry raisins. However they are very low calorie and tart. One can make a wonderful rose wine from it. however I would recommend adding another fruit that has a fruity aromas to pair with this pink cider. Goji means shriveled fruit. They are sold in most organic stores and is supposed to be snacked like dry fruits.
Recipe: Same as cranberry wine. Use about 700gm of fruit and 200gm of sugar per liter of fruit wine cider.
6. Ber बेर
Also called Indian jujube and in Vedas it is called बदरीफलम् (monkey’s fruit). These fruits come in Green, Yellow, Brown, and red colors. It is grown primarily in Northern and Central Indian plains. These berries grow in tall trees that have thorny branches. This makes large scale plucking difficult. Ber belongs to the species Ziziphus mauritiana, and is also called Chinese date, Chinee apple, Indian plum, Indian jujube, and dunks.
The best time to use for making beer and wine is when the fruit has ripened, turned brown and started to shrivel into a raisin. The big irregular shaped stone in the center means that one needs at least 3kg of fruit to make a decent wine. Also since the fruit is not very juicy, it is best used to as a base fruit and other flowers and fruit juices are added on top of it. I like to pair this with Rhododendron flower and Lychee fruit.
Another way to use Ber berries is to add it in the beer wort ~100gm per liter. Just chop it into three pieces (centerpiece has the stone) and toss it along with grains during mashing. It improves the mouthfeel of lager and hence is used by microbrewery to make fruit lagers.
7. Phalse फालसे (Indian BlueBerry)
These are red berries with some black and violet berries that grow in wild bushes in the Rajasthan region. It is called Grewia asiatica and has a characteristic tangy flavor. A pinch of salt (especially sulfur-rich rock salt) really enhances the taste of the juice of this berry. Phalse is low in color and tannin. Hence all recipes ask for a source of color and phenolic tannins to make a great pink wine.
8. Amla आंवला
Amla, Indian Gooseberry, or Phyllanthus Emblica is a rich source of vitamin C. It makes an amazing Umeshu (梅酒) style plum wine. Essentially you make 15% wine, add 20-30% residual sugar to it and add a dozen glazed Amla in it. In a way, it can be said as an Amla ka murabba with alcohol.
Another variant of amla is the Harfarauri or Star goose berry. The fruit is much smaller and unlike the round gooseberry the fruit has a star shaped cross section. It is very tart and rich source of Vit C. I use it instead of acid blend in my fruit ciders.
9. Karonda करोंदा
Also called conkerberry and Karvanda. It is used in vegetables and pickles when raw. However, once it ripes, it can make a nice jam and wine as well. One of the famous desserts is the red cherry that is used in some restaurants over ice cream and cakes. It has a big stone (which separates easily) a low amount of juice and tannins. Like Amla, this can also be transformed into an Umeshu. The iconic white and pink color makes it one of the loveliest berry to make an alcohol for your loved one.
10. कमरख Starfruit: Kamrakh
Its iconic shape and glisten is what attracts the most patrons. It is sour and low in tannins. Hence it perfectly blends with most styles of Indian white wines. Amongst all berries it has an advantage as it is soft (when ripe) and easy to pulp. It does not have a stone or seed in the center which can cause problems in pulp extraction. BTW unlike starfish, the starfruit has a star-shaped cross-section. It is also called Star gooseberry
11. Lasoda लसोड़ा
Also called Gunda or glue berry. This is a larger pitted berry of India. It is usually plucked raw and used for pickle making. It makes amazing brine pickles and oil pickles. The tangy flavor gels well with salt and spices. However, it can also be used in fruit wines to enhance the body. It does not add much to the aromas and flavors of the white wine. This is perfect when we are looking for delicate fruit wine cider that lacks mouthfeel. After all it is called glue berry for the amazing mouthfeel it can add to your wine. It is a bit bitter, which is rare as it is able to add tannins without inducing the red color to sparkling wine.
12. Anjeer Figs अंजीर
It is available in both fresh fruit and as a dry cake (circular discs with a twine in the core). This fruit adds amazing fruity aromas to white wine.
This fruit with a large hard stone grows in the Northern India abundantly. When paired with Plum, it makes a nice sweet brandy. I also find cherry soaked in wine to be a very tasty culinary delight.
14. Coffee Cherries
If you love coffee decoction and wine then this is just the right fruit for you. Coffee beans grow around the Coorg region of Karnataka produce as high as 18 BRIX and are just as good as grapes to convert into alcohol. Fortunately for you, most farmers are more interested in the seed (coffee bean) and the pulp in huge quantities is just lying for you to collect. It is low in tannins but rich in aromas. Pair it with some oak chips and you can make a wonderful white wine from it.
15. Neem Cherry निंबोली
The ripe yellow berries from the Neem tree are just waiting to be plucked and preserved by someone like you. It is called Nimboli the sap of the fruit is sweet (not bitter) and full of medicinal properties. It has the right tartness for white winemaking. Also, its gumminess helps boost the mouthfeel of your fruit cider. This wine is frequently made in the Rajasthan region for its properties to boost the immune system.
16. Buddha’s Hand (Fingered Citron)
I just love the shape of this fruit. Found in the North-East part of the country, one can process it exactly like starfruit into a nice white wine.
17. Langsah लोकाट
Also called Lotka and Langsat. This translucent fruit has a very juicy core. When it is ripe the skin becomes brown, dry and rough. One can crush the whole fruit to make wine.
18. Mangustaan (Mangosteen)
Grown in the mangrove region around Bay of Bengal. This translucent fruit is the complete package. The rinds are rich in tannins and the core is juicy and rich in juice. It gives a pleasant coconut aroma which is reminiscent of the water kefir. Although the fruit is purple in color, the resultant wine is red and is very similar to Kokam, a similar fruit from the Arabian sea coast.
19. Japani Phal (Persimmon)
As the name suggest, this fruit was originally grown in Japan and over the centuries has travelled to India and China. It looks very much like tomatoes but is actually sweet and has a much better mouthfeel. The sweeter (less tannin) variety is used as a fruit and eaten as a table fruit. However we are more interested in the astringent variety. The level of tannins are so high that the raw (unripe) fruit cannot be eaten. One has to wait till it is ripened (or over ripe) before pulping it and transforming it into a wine. It is a complete package (high in sugar and tannins and sourness) so no additional sugar or additives are required. Which is rare for a fruit cider.
20. Ambarella (Indian Hog Plum)
Also called June Plum. It has a white flesh and grows in the Sunderban regions. It is mostly collected from the forest and not many dedicated orchards exists for commercial farming. It is a very dense fruit that can be added to an aromatic berry wine that has the right color and aromas but lack the mouthfeel.
21. Chironji – Char Berry
Also called Indian Juniper berry. This is an amazing flavoring agent in your wine and spirits. You can roast it to get the nutty almond flavors and then infuse it into your strong wines to get the sherry-like flavors. Ideal for spirits and fortified wines.
22. Mahua महुआ
If there is a fruit that symbolizes the traditional Indian wine that would be Mahua. This is grown extensively in the forest of Central India. You can find the exact recipe on the page dedicated to it.
23. Acai Berry
It is a native of the Amazon forest of South America. However recently a lot of plantations in Kerela have cropped up. It is a small, round, black-purple fruit that grows on palm trees. They contain powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins and flavonoids. Hence can make a deep red Acai Wine.
Blueberry Wine Recipe
- fermenter with airlock
- 300 gm Blue Berry If you are using other berries with stone/seed compensate for them by adding more berries/fruits.
- 150 gm Sugar
- 0.5 gm Yeast nutrient
- 0.5 gm pectic enzyme
- 1 gm yeast hydrate before using
- 0.25 gm campden powder
- Sort the berries and remove any stems, damaged fruit and insects.
- Crush the berries. If they don't have seeds (cherry and jamun has) then you can use the blender as well.
- Add campden and allow it to sit overnight to get rid of wild microbes. Add Pectic Enzyme (pectinase) for maximum fruit extraction.
- Add sugar and water (top it to 1 liter). Add yeast and let the magic begin.
- After 7 days strain the fruit away. Move to a fermenter with airlock
- Age it for 3 months before consuming
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Some Exotic Indian Fruits for Hard Cider Wine
1. Cashew Apple काजू
A discussion about Goa and Kerela style cider and alcohol cannot be completed without talking about Feni. This is the flagship alcohol from this region and is made of the fruit from Cashew.
2. Jungli Jalebi/ Madras thorn
It is also called Kodukkapuli (Camachile) and is a member of the pea family (so technically not a berry). It has several names depending on the region you are from.
In Andra Pradesh, It is called seema chintakaya సీమ చింతకాయ. In Combodia. ផ្លែអំពិលទឹក (Plaeh umpel tek). Thailand, it is called Makham thet i.e. Foreign Tamarind (มะขามเทศ), ʻopiuma (Hawaiian), kamunsil (Hiligaynon), damortis or kamantiris (Ilokano), kamachile (Tagalog), கொர்கலிக்காய்/ கோணக்காய்/ கோன புளியங்கா/ கொடுக்காப்புளி / கொடிக்காய் kodukkappuli or kodikkai (Tamil), ದೊರ ಹುಣಸೆ/ಸೀಮೆ ಹುಣಸೆ/ಇಲಾಚಿ ಕಾಯಿ/ಇಲಾಚ್-ಹುಂಚಿ ಕಾಯಿ dora hunase or seeme hunase or ilaichi kai or ilach-hunchi kai (Kannada), વિલાયતી આંબલી i.e. Foreign Tamarind – “બખાઇ આમ્બલી” i.e. “Bakhai Ambli” or Goras ambli (Gujarati), जलेबी i.e. Jalebi like or गंगा इमली i.e. Ganges Tamarind or विलायती इमली i.e. Foreign Tamarind or “‘Singri”‘ i.e. “सिंगड़ी” (Hindi), জিলাপি i.e. Jilapi meaning Jalebi (Bengali), seeme hunase (Kannada), चिंच बुलाई or विलायती चिंच i.e. Foreign Tamarind” or “फिरंगी चिंच (Marathi) and “Achhi gidamiri” (Sindhi).
Pithecellobium dulce in Swargate, Pune, India. In Odisha, it is called Seema Kaiyan ସୀମା କଇଁଆ (Odia). In the central province (UP), it is called जंगल जलेबी.
It has a mild flavor which makes it excellent to pair with medicinal herbs and floral wines.
3. Beetroot चुकंदर
Although it is a root and not a berry. However it is a poor man’s merlot. Beet root juice has enough red tannins and sugar to improve any fruit cider that needs rescuing. However beware that beetroot can introduce a lot of metallic flavors to the wine. Hence it is used only in emergency situations.
5. Kokum ಕೊಕುಮ್
Garcinia indica is a part of the mangosteen family, Clusiaceae (Mangustaan). Kokum is native to Mangalore, Goa, and Kerela regions of India. We are primarily interested in the outer shell or rinds. It produces a deep red extract that can be used to flavor any fruit wine deep red. Unfortunately, it also has a high astringency and tannins that need to be paired with high residual sweetness. I have found that Banana wine with Kokum tannins make a wonderful rose wine.
6. Bael: बेल Wood Apple
It is also called Aegle-marmelos. The squash of this fruit is very popular in India. It is a unique fruit. With a tough (wood-like) skin and a very delicate orange pulp. It can be used to make some interesting white wine. Roast the hard shell a bit if you plan to use it for beer brewing. For wine making the fruit can be used as-is.
7. Water Chestnut सिंघाड़ा
It is an underwater winter crop. It has a green, black, purple, or pink/red thick skin which has to be peeled away, and inside there is a heart-shaped white fruit. Unlike most fruits, it is higher in starch than in sugars. Hence it adds up the complexity in the beer more than in wine/cider. The biggest advantage of singara/chestnut is that unlike all other nuts it has a negligible fat content. So one can make amazing complex beers without the risk of rancidity that comes from almonds and nuts. Like Kuttu/Buckwheat, the flour of this fruit is used to make fasting food during special occasions. So the whiff of roasted singhara can be the harbinger of festivities.
Anger is like the thorn in the heartA common Indian saying for this pink heart shaped fruit with two thorns.
Roast the chestnut (with peels) in a nice charcoal fire or electric oven. Turn them over frequently so that the roasting is even and you can get the characteristic roasted aromas (sweet smoky and thick). Allow it to cool down for a couple of hours then manually peel off the burned/charred skin. Now chop the cooled roasted chestnut into chunks and toss them in your brewing kettle. Making it go through the 2 hours mashing allows the starch and enzymes to reach out to the roasted starch from this fruit.
It does not matter if you are living in the grape region or not. India is full of so many interesting fruits and berries. Just take a stroll across your garden and look in the forest nearby. I am sure you can find a few treasure troves to help you make a nice alcoholic cider wine.