Answers to Wine and Vine Questions


Hi Nigel,

I came across you site for making apple wine and wonder if there is sulphite in it. (I'm suspicious about the Sultanas - is it the yellow ones where sulphur is used to bleach them?)

I'm allergic to sulphite and love wine (dry red) and are therefore looking for an alternative to grapes which have had sulphite added to prolong their shelf life.

For dry red wine with "body", what type of apples (+ berries, if any) would you recommend? Are there kits available?

Edel, Canada

    Dear Edel

    You may be right about the sultanas.

    If you are allergic, the alternative would be to buy a pound of dessert grapes and use those instead - or use organic sultanas, if you can get them.

    Without knowing exactly in what form the sulphur is added (sulphur dioxide, sodium sulphite, sodium metabisulphite, etc), it's difficult to know how best to remove it. Simmering in water for 5 min and throwing away the water would probably get rid of most of it.

    I don't know what berries are common in Ontario, but I have found that crab apples or acidic apples mixed with smaller amounts (say half to one quarter of the weight of apples) of elderberries, blackberries, blueberries, black cherries or cranberries make very acceptable red wines. Sugar - one kilogram only per gallon of eventual wine. This ensures it ferments out fully. It is possible to add more, but it must be done in small batches so you don't end up with unfermented sugar.

    Elderberry and blackberry seem to give the most 'body' but be careful not to overdo elderberries - they can be very astringent if you use more than 8oz per gallon.

    You obviously need some sort of grape added to the above to give the wine vinosity.

    Kits- I don't know; never used them. Fresh ingredients are best if you can get them.




Dear Nigel

I have been looking for advice on how to grow grapes and I came across your site. I see you are based in the Midlands. I bought 6 vines last week in the "bargain corner" of my garden centre, in good condition. The leaves are now starting to turn brown around the edges.

I wonder if you can give some advice that may help me to grow these grapes (or perhaps cut my losses and put them on the compost heap!) I am intending to grow them on an allotment. It is quite open but they could face south.

Margaret, Lincolnshire, UK
    Dear Margaret

    Thanks for your email.

    It's the end of the season (second week in October), so these vines will look very sorry for themselves until next spring. They will show no growth until then.

    I'd put the pots somehwhere out of the way where they will get rained on (don't put them under cover or in a shed or anything like that) and more or less forget about them until about feb. Then I'd sink them into the ground with posts in their planting position (so you can keep track of where they are) and leave them alone for a year.

    They should be fine.

    A fence or wall is really necessary or some years (like this year) the grapes won't ripen fully.

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