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Native North American
Grape Wine Recipes

bunch grapes

"Wild grape wine is glee from the vine"




Fall Grape (Vitis Berlandieri) Wine

Vitis berlandieri

V. berlandieri, with 6-inch clusters, in San Antonio, Texas

Vitis berlandieri, also known vernacularly as the Fall Grape, Winter Grape, Little Mountain Grape, Spanish Grape, and Ua Cimarrona, is best known as a rootstock to which Vitis vinifera and French-American hybrids are grafted. Because it is resistent to Pierce's Disease and a number of other maladies vinifera is susceptible to, and because it grows well on limestone as well as sand, and because it is a vigorous rooter, it is well suited as a rootstock.

This grape ripens in August and September south of the Rio Grande and in October and November in Central Texas. It is acidic until it ripens and then is sweet and quite delicious, but too small for convenient eating and not quite sweet enough to make a decent wine without a little sugar being added. It is small (1/5 to 1/3 inch) with 30 to 70 per cluster. The clusters are loose and open, the pedicels (stems) long. The skin is thin, the pulp juicy when ripe, usually with one or two seeds of a coffee color. Ripe berries retain enough acid to make a balanced wine. Their small size makes crushing difficult, so pectic enzyme will help extract the juice. Destemming by hand takes a while, but is necessary.


FALL GRAPE WINE
Makes 1 Gallon


Destem and crush the grapes and place in nylon straining bag. Tie bag closed and place in primary. Squeeze bag to extract enough juice to float a hydrometer in its test jar. Calculate sugar required to raise specific gravity to 1.088. Add sugar and stir well to dissolve it completely. Add finely crushed Campden tablet and stir in well. Cover primary with sanitized muslin and set aside 10 hours. Add pectic enzyme and stir well. Recover primary and set aside additional 10 hours. Add activated yeast, recover primary, and squeeze bag twice daily until active fermentation dies down (5-7 days). Remove nylon straining bag and drain, then press to extract all juice. Transfer juice to secondary, top up if required and fit airlock. Ferment 30 days, rack into clean secondary, top up, and refit airlock. Rack again after additional 30 days and stabilize wine. Sweeten to taste if desired and set aside 30 days, or forego sweetening, set aside 10-14 days, and rack into bottles. Age three to six months. [Author's own recipe]



Frost Grape (Vitis riparia) Wine

There are three grapes that bear the name "frost grapes." Vitis cordifolia, Vitis labrusca, and Vitis riparia all have varieties that sport that name because they are sour until the first frost sweetens them. The first type discussed here is a variety of Vitis riparia, and the recipe below is specific to that variety. This recipe is for 5 gallons and makes a very nice, medium-bodied, dry red. You could use more grapes and less water for a heavier-bodied wine, but I haven't worked out the ingredient adjustments for doing this. To make a single gallon, scale back the recipe proportionally.

Frost grapes (Vitis riparia) grow wild from east Texas north to Missouri and northeast through Connecticut to the Atlantic. It grows along streams and river banks, low wetlands, and in wooded thickets. It produces a large vine, often climbing, with stout, smooth, rounded branches. Its leaves typically grow 4-7 inches long and almost as wide. They are widest near the base and taper to an almost rounded tip. They are usually unlobed to slightly 3-lobed and have smooth surfaces above and below.

The frost grape derives its name from its fruit, which are 0.2 to 0.4 inches in diameter, rounded in medium clusters, turning black upon ripening. They are sour tasting until they experience a frost, after which they turn sweet. It is then that they are suitable for winemaking. The frost grape is not usually a high acid grape.

The recipe below asks for a lot of grapes and makes a very "full-flavored" wine with a wild tang to it. In fact, half the amount of grapes could be used for a smoother, less "wild-tasting" wine. To use less grape, adjust ingredients (water and sugar) accordingly.


FROST GRAPE WINE
Makes 5 Gallons

Pick the grapes when fully ripe or just past ripeness (when there is a slight slackness to the skin) following the first autumn frost. Wash, destem and crush the grapes in primary fermentation vessel. Strain enough juice to float your hydrometer. Measure specific gravity and return juice to primary. Add sugar to bring S.G. to 1.088 (dissolve sugar in boiling water at ration of 2 parts [by volume] sugar to one part [by volume] water, stir until dissolved, allow to cool to room temperature, and then add to primary) and stir with wooden paddle. Add crushed Campden tablets or potassium metabisulfite, stir, cover primary, and wait 12 hours. Add pectic enzyme, acid blend and yeast nutrient, stir, recover, and wait additional 12 hours. Add yeast and recover primary. Punch down the cap twice daily for 7-10 days (until S.G. is 1.010). Strain and press grapes. Measure juice and calculate water needed to bring volume to 5 gallons. Return juice to primary and recover. Measure water required and bring to boil. To each gallon of water required, add 2 lbs 5 oz sugar, remove from heat and stir to dissolve. Allow to cool, add water to primary and recover. Ferment 3-5 days (until S.G. drops back to 1.010). Rack into secondary and fit airlock. After 7 days, top up if required. Three weeks later, rack into sanitized secondary, top up and refit airlock. Set aside for 4 months. Stabilize and wait 30 days for dead yeast to fall, then rack into bottles. This wine can be consumed immediately but will improve with age. [Adapted from recipe from Herman Thomas, Youngstown, Ohio]



Muscadine Grape (Vitis Rotundifolia) Wines

Muscadine grapes, the infamous Vitis rotundifolia, is a black cousin to the bronze scuppernong. Found throughout the southeast from east Texas-Arkansas to the Atlantic, the muscadine and its wine are as Southern as Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy.

Theses grape vines are terrific climbers and reach up high into trees, cover brush, climb telephone poles and guy wires, and run along fences, growing up to 50 feet per year. The grapes themselves are usually sweet but can be acidic requiring lots of sugar and positive acid reduction measures to make a decent wine. Like the mustang grape, the muscadine is not the best wine grape, but since it's readily available and free to boot, it will do--often quite nicely. Muscadine wine can be very good, especially when allowed to age 3-4 years. Having said that, I'll add one other precautionary warning. When high in acidity, muscadine grapes can cause severe skin irritation until the acidity is corrected. For that reason, wear rubber gloves when picking, handling and squeezing these wild grapes. The wine won't taste any better, but you'll avoid a 2-3-week rash between your fingers and on your wrists should they prove to be irritating.


MUSCADINE GRAPE WINE (1) (Makes 1 Gallon)

Boil the water and dissolve the sugar in it. While sugar-water is cooling, wash, destem and crush the grapes. Pour crushed grapes into nylon straining bag, tie securely, and put in primary. Pour water over grapes, add crushed Campden tablet and yeast nutrient, and cover primary securely. After 12 hours add pectic enzyme. Wait additional 12 hours and measure both specific gravity and acid. S.G. should be 1.090 or higher; acidity no higher than 7 p.p.t. tartaric. Correct S.G. if required by adding additional sugar. Correct low acid by adding acid blend and high acid by using one of three methods described following recipes. Add yeast, recover primary, and squeeze nylon bag lightly and stir must twice daily for about 5-7 days or until S.G. drops to 1.020. Press pulp well to extract liquid. Pour into secondary fermentation vessel, fit airlock, and let stand 3 weeks. Rack and top up, then rack again in 2 months and again after additional 2 months. If wine has cleared, bottle. If not, wait until wine clears, rack again and bottle. This wine may be sweetened before bottling by stabilizing, waiting 10-12 hours, then adding 2/3 to 1-1/3 cup sugar-water per gallon (2 parts sugar dissolved in 1 part water). May taste after one year, but improves remarkably with age (2-4 years). [Author's recipe.]


MUSCADINE GRAPE WINE (2)
Makes 1 Gallon

Wash and destem the grapes. Run grapes through a grape crusher or crush in crock primary using a sterilized 4X4 or other suitable device in an up-and-down action. Meanwhile, bring water to boil. Add sugar to grapes and pour boiling water over grapes and sugar. Stir well to dissolve sugar. Add crushed Campden tablet and yeast nutrient and cover crock. Wait 12 hours and add pectic enzyme. Wait 12 additional hours and measure both specific gravity and acid. S.G. should be 1.088 or higher; acidity no higher than 0.70% TA. Correct S.G. and acid as in recipe (1) above, if required. Add yeast, recover primary, and stir must 2-4 times daily, knocking down "cap" of skins and seeds each time. Check S.G. daily until it drops to 1.040. Strain and press pulp well to extract liquid and discard pulp. Recover primary and continue fermenting as before until S.G. reaches 1.020. Siphon into secondary fermentation vessel, fit airlock, and ferment to dryness (30-60 days). Rack and top up, then rack again every 30 days until wine has cleared. Wait additional 30 days, stabilize, and rack again. Sweeten to taste and bottle. Allow to age at least 18 months before drinking. Improves with additional aging. [Adapted from recipe published in New Orleans area newspaper, identity unknown, circa 1990.]


MUSCADINE GRAPE WINE (3)
Makes 3 gallons

Boil the water and dissolve the sugar in it. While sugar-water is cooling, wash, destem and crush the grapes. Pour crushed grapes into primary. Pour water over grapes, add crushed Campden tablets and yeast nutrient and cover primary securely. After 12 hours add pectic enzyme. Wait additional 12 hours and measure both specific gravity and acid. S.G. should be 1.090 or higher; total acidity no higher than 0.75%. Correct S.G. if required by adding additional sugar. If acid is low, add acid blend as required. If acid is high, use one of three reduction methods described following recipes. Add activated yeast, recover primary, and punch down the cap twice daily (about 5-9 days) until S.G. drops to at least 1.020. Strain off pulp and press in fruit or grape press to extract liquid. Pour into secondary fermentation vessel, fit airlock, and ferment to dryness (S.G. at 0.990). Rack and top up, then rack again in 2 months and again after additional 2 months. If wine has cleared, bottle. If not, wait until wine clears, rack again and bottle. This wine may be sweetened before bottling by stabilizing, waiting 10-12 hours, then adding 2 to 3 cups sugar-water (2 parts sugar dissolved in 1 part water). This wine is drinkable immediately but improves remarkably with age (1-3 years). [Author's recipe.]



Mustang Grape (Vitis Mustangensis) Wines

wild mustang grapes
Larger than average mustang grapes from Fredericksburg, Texas
(for more mustang grape photos, click here and then return

The Mustang Grape (specifically, the Vitis Mustangensis), identified variously as a variety of Vitis Rotundifolia (Buckley, in error) and Vitis Candicans (Englemann, the accepted name for decades), grows wild all over south, central, and east Texas, and in fact is found in northern Mexico, Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama as well. The vines climb trees, cover brush, and run along fences, putting out runners (canes) up to 300 feet in length.

We have several Mustang Grape vines on our property, with the base of the vine reaching a respectable eight inches in diameter. Like all grapes, berries appear on buds from last year's wood. The clusters are very small, numbering from 2 to 20 berries per, that ripen to jet black with varying bloom, redish-purple, and even bronze. The high acidity in Mustang Grapes can cause severe skin irritation until the acidity is corrected. For that reason, wear rubber gloves when picking, handling and squeezing these wild grapes. The gloves will also keep your hands from staining purple.

In my area of south central Texas, the Mustang Grapes ripen and begin to fall from the vines by late June. We harvested our first lot 20-21 June and our last on 5 July and started 15 gallons of wine in three batches. The harvest here runs through late July (with some ripe berries hanging on into the fall), but in northern Texas and the Texas Hill Country harvest will be in full swing by the end of July.

Mustangs are very acidic, tart and almost impossible to eat with any degree of enjoyment. Indeed, their acid is so strong it can burn the mouth. It therefore surprises many that Mustang Grapes make such outstanding wines. The acid must be corrected, of course, but this is usually done by dilution with water and/or cold stabilization and chemical intervention. Their natural sugar is insufficient to make a self-preserving wine and must be supplemented, but many native grapes suffer a low Brix. Notwithstanding the displeasure some winemakers have regarding water dilution and sugar addition, the resulting Mustang wine is often outstanding. This does not surprise Texans, but outsiders who taste the grape are usually astounded by the wine.

The natural tendendcy with Mustang Grapes and other acidic natives is to over-sweeten the must. This can result in retarding or even preventing activation of the yeast, and if that doesn't happen the result will, of course, be a lengthy fermentation and a very sweet wine. A lengthy fermentation can produce off flavors which cannot be corrected except by blending, and even then only partially so. Another danger is that fermentation will slow to the point where one assumes it has stopped when it really hasn't. Bottling such a wine without stabilizing it can be either dangerous or serendipitous -- dangerous if the corks pop (or, worse, the bottles explode) and serendipitous if a sparkling red results in intact bottles.

very nice mustang grapes
Larger than average mustang grape
cluster and berries, Fredericksburg, Texas

The Mustang, like many North American native grapes with a wet stem scar, has slip-skin fruit. This means that the skin will rather easily slip off the pulp of the fruit if pulled or squeezed just right. In turn, this means it can, with a little additional work, be prepared for fermentation without its skins, thereby producing a clear white wine. Pressing immediately after crush will result in a pale blush wine. But, since much of the "Mustang" flavor is in the skins, the flavor of the white and blush Mustang will be very different from the red Mustang. This flavor can, to some degree, be retained by fermenting the white/bronze varieties of the grape on their skins. Also known as the "Bird-Free Mustang" (Parsons), the white is rare in the wild (usually appearing as a bronze) but can be found.

The recipes below are arranged from dry to sweet. They ask for a lot of grape and make very "full-flavored" wines with a wild tang to them. In fact, half the amount of grape could be used for smoother, less "wild-tasting" wine. To use less grape, adjust the sugar for a starting specific gravity of 1.110. For the sweeter ones, begin with half the sugar dissolved in the must and the remainder dissolved in water and reserved. Add half the reserve to the must when the S.G. drops to 1.035, then add the remainder about three days later. This will lengthen the fermentation time, but not unnecessarily so. More importantly, it will not retard or stop the fermentation process.


MUSTANG GRAPE WINE (Dry, Red) [1]
Makes 1 Gallon

Remove the stems and wash the grapes. While wearing rubber gloves, crush the grapes in a crock or polyethyline pail. Add all ingredients except yeast. Stir well and cover for 24 hours, then add yeast. The must will form a floating "cap" of skins and seeds which should be pushed under and stirred twice daily for 5 to 7 days. Strain and press pulp well to extract liquid. Measure acidity, then follow one of the methods below to reduce the acidity to 7 parts per thousand (p.p.t.) tartaric if necessary. Pour into secondary fermentation vessel, fit airlock, and let stand three weeks. Rack and top up, then rack again in three months and add fining. Bottle ten days after fining. May taste after one year, but improves remarkably with age (3-4 years). [Adapted from a traditional "wild grape" recipe.]


MUSTANG GRAPE WINE (Semi-Dry, White) [2]
Makes 1 Gallon

Remove the skins while the grapes are still on the stems, then remove the skinless grapes from the stems. Wash the fruit and put in nylon jelly-bag. Tie end of bag and, while wearing rubber gloves, crush the grapes in the bag over a crock or polyethyline pail. Add all ingredients except yeast. Stir well and cover for 24 hours, then add yeast. Push the bag under liquor twice daily for 5 to 7 days. When vigorous fermentation subsides, squeeze pulp well to extract liquid. Measure acidity, then follow one of the methods below to reduce the acidity to 7 parts per thousand (p.p.t.) tartaric if necessary. Pour into secondary fermentation vessel, top up with water, fit airlock, and let stand three weeks. Rack and top up, then rack again in three months. Bottle when clear, or add fining after two weeks if wine doesn't clear. Bottle ten days after fining. May taste after one year, but continues improving with age to about three years. [Author's recipe.]


MUSTANG GRAPE WINE (Semi-Sweet, Red) [3]
Makes 1 Gallon

Remove the stems and wash the grapes while boiling water. While wearing rubber gloves, crush the grapes in a crock or polyethyline pail. Add all ingredients except Campden tablet, pectic enzyme and yeast. Add boiling water and stir well to dissolve sugar. Cover. After two hours add crushed Campden tablet and after additional 10 hours add pectic enzyme. Twelve hours later add yeast. The must will form a floating "cap" of skins and seeds which should be pushed under and stirred twice daily for 7 days. Strain and press pulp well to extract liquid. Measure acidity, then follow one of the methods below to reduce the acidity to 7 parts per thousand (p.p.t.) tartaric if necessary. Pour into secondary fermentation vessel, fit airlock, and let stand 30 days. Rack and top up, then rack again in three months. Bottle when clear, fining if necessary. May taste after one year, but improves remarkably with age (3-4 years). [Author's recipe.]


MUSTANG GRAPE WINE (Sweet, Red) [4]
Makes 1 Gallon

This wine may have too strong a "wild" flavor for some. It can be blended with almost any thin wine without detracting from the flavor. Remove the stems and wash the grapes. Place in large pot with one cup of water and set over low to medium heat, covered. Stir with wooden paddle every 10 minutes until grapes break apart and juice oozes out. Allow to cool. Meanwhile, boil water and pour into crock over sugar, stirring to dissolve. Set half of sugar-water aside in quart jar. When grapes are tepid, over crock pour grape juice and pulp into nylon jelly bag, tie bag and leave it crock with juice. Add yeast nutrient and pectic enzyme. Cover and set aside 10-12 hours. Add yeast and re-cover crock. Use wooden paddle to push bag under juice twice daily for 7 days. Drain bag and press pulp well to extract residual juice. Measure acidity of liquor, then follow one of the methods below to reduce the acidity to 7 parts per thousand (p.p.t.) tartaric if necessary. Pour into secondary fermentation vessel, top up with reserved sugar-water, fit airlock, and let stand three weeks. Rack and top up with remaining sugar-water, then rack again in three additional weeks. Set aside two more months. Rack and allow to clear. Wait one month. If lees are still being deposited, allow another month. Rack, stabilize and bottle when clarity returns. May taste after one year, but improves remarkably with age. [Author's recipe.]


MUSTANG GRAPE WINE [5] (for 5 gallons)

Destem and wash the grapes. While wearing rubber gloves, crush the grapes in a barrel, crock or polyethyline primary. Add water, 2 lbs sugar to start, nutrient, and crushed Campden tablets, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Cover and let stand 24 hours. Add yeast. Stir every morning for 5 to 6 days, or until all solids rise to top to form a floating "cap" of skins and seeds. Remove all solids and strain juice through a cloth sack. Add remaining sugar (10 lbs if using Montrachet yeast, 13 lbs if using Lalvin 71B) and stir well to dissolve. Pour (better yet, siphon) juice into glass secondary (do not top up) and fit airlock. When fermentation stops, rack, top up, and refit airlock. Rack again in two months and again two months later. Bottle without sweetening. The Lalvin 71B yeast will yield a higher alcohol content. May taste right away but will "mature" in 1-2 years. [Adapted from Poteet Country Winery recipe by Alvin Sueltenfuss, Boerne, Texas]

TEXAS MUSTANG WINE [6] (for 5 gallons)

From George Ray McEachern, Extension Horticulturist, June 5, 1999


The early German and Czech settlers in Texas developed a very good system for making wine from the native mustang grape. This grape grows along fences over most of Texas, and the fruit will be ripening in July and early August. The following is a typical Czech recipe used in Texas for Mustang Wine. It was handed down for 3 generations to Bob Rozacky of Granger, Texas.

Harvest. Start with fully ripe, rain-washed mustang grapes on the cluster. Do not de-stem. Start the fermentation as soon as possible. Do not let the fruit sit for several hours. When the pickers come in from the field, have your equipment read to go. Remove any green leaves or any foreign matter. Fill a very clean, 10-gallon crock or plastic garbage can with fruit. Do not use metal, galvanized, or aluminum cans. Crush the fruit down to a soggy must. Acid of the fruit can blister your skin, so Rozacky uses a clean, non-treated wooden board, 4 inches by 4 inches by 6 feet long (4"X4"X6).

Primary Fermentation. Naturally-occurring yeasts on the skin of the grapes will begin to multiply, utilizing the sugar in the grapes, so no yeast need be added; however, some wine makers use bread yeast or wine yeast purchased from a wine shop. This primary fermentation will begin in 2 or 3 days in the 10-gallon container. Do not add water, do not add sugar, and do not add starter yeast. Let the natural primary fermentation take place. This can be done in a garage, on the back porch, or in a crib or barn . . . any warm place. It is very important to tightly cover the top with a clean cloth to keep insects out. Check the grapes daily. Do not stir the must or crushed grapes. The speed will begin to pick up in 2 or 3 days, and you will be able to see and hear the bubbles of carbon dioxide gas. This is a good sign that fermentation is progressing properly. Allow the primary fermentation to run its full course. You can tell when it stops, because the must cap on top of the raw wine will drop, and you will hear no more bubbles. The deep red color and tannin are extracted from the grapes during primary fermentation.

Secondary Fermentation. The next fermentation should take place in a clean 5-gallon glass carboy. Siphon off 2-1/2 gallons of the raw wine into the 5-gallon carboy. Press the rest of grapes in a nylon straining bag by hanging it up and letting the raw wine drip through the nylon mesh. Add 2-1/2 gallons of previously boiled sugar-water to 2-1/2 gallons of raw wine [to make sugar-water, boil 2-1/2 gallons of water, add 10 pounds of sugar, and cook until the mixture comes to a full boil; cut off the heat, and allow the sugar-water to cool all the way down to room temperature]. Completely fill a 5-gallon glass carboy with enough of the raw wine and sugar-water mixture so that no air is present in the bottle. The secondary fermentation will begin in 2 or 3 days; cork the carboy with an air lock. As the wine continues to ferment, carbon dioxide will be released, and the wine level will go down. Add sugar-water daily to keep the carboy full. After you see no more bubbles -- in about 2 or 3 weeks -- you are ready to seal the carboy. Be sure it no longer bubbles. The alcohol in the wine will kill the yeasts, and stop further fermentation. The sweetness of the final wine will be determined by how much sugar is left in the wine when the yeasts are killed by the alcohol. Let the wine age in the glass carboy for 6 months until cold weather. In December, after a freeze or frost, siphon wine into bottles, and cap or cork. Label bottles with date and year.




If the acidity of the grapes is too high, further acid reduction may be required. Here are three methods....

Acid Reduction with Calcium Carbonate: For liquors with acid levels of 10 p.p.t. or more, calcium carbonate is traditionally used to reduce acid through precipitation. A measured 2.5 grams of calcium carbonate will reduce the acidity of one gallon of wine or liquor by one p.p.t. For best results, split the liquor into two equal portions and add the calcium carbonate to one while stirring vigorously. Carbon dioxide will be given off and cause foaming. Chill the treated liquor several days and then siphon it off the lees of calcium carbonate into the untreated portion. The addition of a teaspoon of yeast energizer may be required to reactivate fermentation after treatment.

Acid Reduction with Potassium Bicarbonate: For liquors with acid levels of 8 to 10 p.p.t., potassium bicarbonate treatment can be used to reduce acid through precipitation and neutralization. A measured 3.4 grams or 0.1 oz. of potassium bicarbonate will reduce the acidity of one gallon of wine or liquor by one p.p.t. The compound is stirred directly into the full batch, then chilled to facilitate precipitation of potassium bicarbonate lees. The addition of a teaspoon of yeast energizer may be required to reactivate fermentation after treatment.

Acid Reduction through Water Dilution: This is the least desirable method, only because the Mustang Grape flavor is diluted and the resulting wine will suffer. The acid is inversely proportional to the volume of liquor, so the steps in reducing acidity from 10 p.p.t., for example, to 7 p.p.t., are: (1) 7 / 10 = 0.70 (2) 100 / 0.70 = 1.428 (3) 1.428 x 128 (oz. per gallon) = 182.784 total oz. required (4) 182.784 (total required) - 128 (oz. per gallon) = 54.784 (oz. per gallon required to be added).



Riverside Grape (Vitis Riparia) Wine

The "Riverside Grape" is a variety of Vitis riparia. It is a sour grape that makes a decent red wine. The recipe below is for one gallon.

Riverside Grapes grow wild from east Texas north to North Dakota and most states east of those, except Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas. It grows along streams and river banks, margins of woodlands, and in wooded thickets. It produces a large vine, often climbing, with tough, smooth, rounded branches. Its leaves typically grow 4.7-8 inches long and 3-6 inches wide. They are widest near the base, usually 3-lobed, heart-shaped at the base and long-pointed at the tip. Their surfaces are smooth above and hairy below.

Their fruit are 0.3 to 0.6 inches in diameter, rounded in small to medium elongated clusters, turning black upon ripening with a whitish bloom. While they are sour tasting, they nonetheless make a decent wine when supplemented with sugar.


RIVERSIDE GRAPE WINE
Makes 1 Gallon

Pick the grapes when fully ripe or just past ripeness. Wash, destem and crush the grapes in primary fermentation vessel. Add 2 qts water, stir and strain enough juice to float your hydrometer. Measure specific gravity and return juice to primary. Add sugar to bring S.G. to 1.088 (dissolve sugar in boiling water at ratio of 2 parts [by volume] sugar to one part [by volume] water, stir until dissolved, allow to cool to room temperature, and then add to primary) and stir with wooden paddle. Add crushed Campden tablet, stir, cover primary, and wait 12 hours. Add pectic enzyme, acid blend and yeast nutrient, stir, recover, and wait additional 12 hours. Add yeast and recover primary. Punch down the cap twice daily for 7-10 days (until S.G. is 1.010). Strain and press grapes and pour juice back into primary. Top up to one gallon with water containing enough dissolved sugar to obtain a specific gravity of 1.088. Cover and ferment 2-3 days (until S.G. drops back to 1.010). Rack into secondary and fit airlock. After 30 days, rack into sterilized secondary, top up and refit airlock. Rack again after two months and again two months after that. Stabilize and wait 10 days for dead yeast to fall, then rack into bottles. This wine can be consumed immediately but will improve with age. [Author's own recipe]



Scuppernong (Vitis Rotundifolia) Grape Wines

The Scuppernong is a natural white, or more accurately bronze, variety of Vitis rotundifolia. If we discount any thought that North Carolina was the fabled "Vinland" of the Vikings, that leaves the European discovery of the Scuppernong Grape to Giovanni de Verrazano, a French explorer and navigator, who discovered them in 1524 in the Cape Fear River Valley of North Carolina.

Sir Walter Raleigh's colony is credited with discovering the famed Scuppernong "mother-vine" on Roanoke Island and introducing it elsewhere (circa 1584-85). The vine had a trunk two feet thick and covered half an acre. It, along with some neighboring vines, supplied the Mother Vineyard Winery, which operated in Manteo, NC until 1954.

At first the grape was simply called the "Big White Grape" by settlers. During the 17th and 18th centuries cuttings of the mother vine were placed into production around a small town called Scuppernong in Washington County, NC and along the Cape Fear River east of Fayetteville. The name Scuppernong comes from an Algonquin Indian name, "Ascopo," for the sweet bay tree. "Ascupernung," meaning place of the "Ascopo," appears on early maps of North Carolina as the name of a river in Washington County that runs into the Albemarle Sound. By 1800 the spelling of the river and town had become Scuppernong. On January 11th, 1811 the "Big White Grape" was first referred to in print (in a newspaper article reporting the census of 1810) as the "Scuppernong Grape." James Blount took the census of Washington County, NC and reported 1,368 gallons of wine made from that abundant grape.

The Scuppernong's unique flavor was marketed nationwide in the 20th Century by Paul Garrett & Company under the label "Virginia Dare." During the 13 years of Prohibition (1920-33), Garrett kept his wineries busy making Scuppernong cider, and when Prohibition ended his were the only wineries ready for immediate production. "Say it again....Virginia Dare" was the first singing radio commercial for an alcoholic beverage in history.<


SCUPPERNONG GRAPE WINE (19th Century Recipe)

Remove grapes from stems and wash. Mash them as best you can and press hard. Let juice and hulls stand 48 hours. Drain well to extract all juice. To one gallon of juice add three pounds sugar and stir well. Transfer to fermenting jar and tie linen over jar. Let stand several weeks, ladle into bottles and apply corks. Let it lie a month or two before drinking. [Adapted from a Mary Elizabeth Sproull Lanier recipe, circa 1880]

Comments: I'd love to taste this wine! Made with pure scuppernong juice and fermented with the wild yeast attached to the grapes, it has to taste the way scuppernong wine was intended to taste, although I imagine the alcohol content would only range in the 6-8% neighborhood. If you live in North Carlina and can get the grape in quantity, you might try it, although I think I'd use more modern fermentation equipment, adjust the sugar for dryness, and add a little sauterne or champagne wine yeast. I'd also rack it every three weeks for at least nine weeks and be darned sure the fermentation had ceased before bottling. I can almost taste it....


SCUPPERNONG GRAPE WINE (Folk Recipe)

Gather ripe grapes. Remove from stems and wash. Put washed grapes in clean tub and use a seasoned but clean fence post to mash grapes by dropping upright post into tub. Do not pound grapes or you'll break seeds and ruin the juice. Cover the tub with clean flannel for three days, stirring the mashed grapes with wooden paddle 2-3 times a day. Put mashed grapes in a clean flour sack and lay this on a clean scrubboard angled about 45 degrees. Press palms on sack to press out juice, working from top to bottom several times. Depending on your strength, you should get 1 1/2 to 3 gallons of juice. Add sugar slowly, stirring with paddle to dissolve it. After each stirring, test an egg in the juice. When it floats to the top, stop adding sugar. Put into jugs and plug holes firmly with tightly rolled cloth strips so nothing can get in. There should be 2 inches between top of juice and cloth stopper. If you have any extra juice, save in a soda bottle, also stoppered with cloth, for later. Juice will ferment 2-4 weeks. When fermenting stops, wait another two weeks and pour through clean flannel into clean jugs. Use water or strained saved juice to fill jugs. Cork tightly and set in cool dark place. Should be ready by Thanksgiving. [Adapted from a Georgia folk recipe by Ed Heyward of Macon, GA]

Note: Strictly speaking, this recipe comes from a state where Scuppernongs are not originally native, although they have been grown there as cultivars for over a century. Birds have certainly spread the seed and wild Scuppernongs are now found in Georgia. However, this recipe would probably work for any sweet, white native grape.

Comments: This is another all-juice, natural yeast wine. The concern for cleanliness is commendable. As in the previous recipe, more modern techniques should yield a better wine. These include use of an airlock, a hydrometer to measure total sugar content and finished dryness, several rackings, addition of proven wine yeast, and an expanded time frame.


SCUPPERNONG GRAPE WINE
(Adison Martin's Recipe)
Makes 3 Gallons

Gather ripe grapes. Destem and wash grapes, removing any that are bad. Crush grapes to extract maximum juice, and place pulp in nylon straining bag. Place sugar in primary fermentation vessel, then pour water over sugar, stirring well to dissolve. Add juice and straining bag to primary. Specific gravity should be 1.095-1.100. If not, add more sugar. Add remaining ingredients, except for pectic enzyme and yeast. Cover primary and set aside 12 hours, then add pectic enzyme and set aside additional 12 hours. Add activated yeast. Stir daily, squeezing nylon bag of pulp lightly to extract more juice, until specific gravity reaches 1.030, about 5-7 days. Remove bag and squeeze to extract juice. Add squeezed juice to primary and allow to settle overnight, then rack off of sediment into glass secondary. Attach airlock. When ferment is complete (specific gravity has dropped to 1.000 or below--about 3-4 weeks) rack into clean carboy and reattach airlock. Leave wine to clear for about 2-3 months, then rack into bottles. [Adapted from recipe by Adison Martin]



Summer Grape (Vitis Aestivalis) Wine

The "Summer Grape" derives its name from a late, summer blooming grape, ripening in late September through October. In Latin, Summer Grape is Vitis aestivalis, but it is also commonly known as the Bunch Grape and Pigeon Grape. It is an important food for many species of bird and mammal.

Summer Grapes grow wild from Oklahoma and Texas eastward to Florida, north to New Hampshire, and west to Wisconsin and Kansas. It grows in warm, sandy soil, in dry woods, in thickets, and along roadsides where its seed is often dropped by birds sitting on utility lines and fences. It produces a vigorous vine, high-climbing, with thin, reddish-brown branches that are wooly when new but soon smooth. Its internodes are short to medium and frequent, with its pith is interrupted at the nodes by a biconcave diaphragm. Its leaves typically grow 2-8 inches long and almost as wide, broader at the lobes flanking the apex than at the base shoulders. The leaves vary greatly from irregularly toothed and unlobed to (more commonly) deeply 3 to 5 lobed with lobes acute and sinuses acute or rounded. While leaf-shape is not a great identifier of the Summer Grape, their hairy, reddish undersurface is easily recognized.

Summer Grapes produce numerous, persistent fruit in long, open clusters of small, globular berries, 0.2 to 0.5 inches in diameter, turning dark blue to black upon ripening with a thin bloom. They are variable in quality, probably due to hybridization in the wild, and can have either dry and astringent or juicy and sweet flesh. Either will produce a very fine wine, but obviously one would require sugar supplementation and acid correction and the other would not.

The Summer Grape has a number of important varieties, but the most important are the Norton and/or Cynthiana (the and/or is because the Norton and Cynthiana are either different or the same, depending on which school you happen to be in). Also important are the Silver-Leaf Summer Grape (Vitis aestivalis var. argentifolia) and the Bourquin Summer Grape (Vitis aestivalis var. bourquiniana), cultivated since 1847.

The recipe below uses only the sweet, juicy berries, although a very good wine can be made fron the drier, astringent varieties.


SUMMER GRAPE WINE
Makes 1 Gallon

Pick the grapes when fully ripe. Wash, destem and crush the grapes in primary fermentation vessel. Strain enough juice to float your hydrometer, measure specific gravity and return juice to primary. Add sugar to bring S.G. to 1.088 and stir with wooden paddle. Add crushed Campden tablet, stir, cover primary, and wait 12 hours. Add pectic enzyme, acid blend and yeast nutrient, stir, recover, and wait additional 12 hours. Add yeast and recover primary. Punch down the cap twice daily for 7-10 days (until S.G. is 1.010). Strain and press grapes and pour juice into secondary. Top up and ferment under airlock 30 days, rack into sterilized secondary, top up and refit airlock. Rack again every two months for six months. Stabilize, sweeten if desired, wait 10 days for dead yeast to fall, then rack into bottles. This wine can be consumed immediately but will improve with age. [Author's own recipe]



Got a Favorite Native Grape Recipe?

If you have a favorite (or simply a different) recipe for a native grape wine and want to share it, please send me an email. We'll both be richer for it.



Last update was November 7th, 2009.


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