Fermenting a revolution in using up surplus fruit

Alan Crane (centre) talks the novice wine-makers through the art of syphoning. From left ' Lynn Chapman, Jo Paine, Rob Little, Sue Thomas and Mary Sailes.
Alan Crane (centre) talks the novice wine-makers through the art of syphoning. From left ' Lynn Chapman, Jo Paine, Rob Little, Sue Thomas and Mary Sailes.

THERE is only so much jam you can eat, is Rob Little’s approach to the abundance of free fruit and vegetables available to many of us in our gardens through the summer.

Rob, from Moulton, and a group of like-minded people have come up with a very practical solution: from now on, fewer apple crumbles and preserves, and instead they will be making their own wine. In fact, Lynn Chapman, who lives near Spalding, has very clear ideas about what she wants to make: her ambition is to be toasting the new year with her own home-made elderflower champagne.

Their new-found enthusiasm for this alternative use for foraged fruit and spare garden crops has been carefully nurtured by Jackie and Alan Crane during a short wine-making course at Twenty Acre Spa, the physiotherapy and spa centre they run near Bourne.

“At the end of the day you are preserving something, and way back in time that’s what happened,” enthused Jackie to her small group of eager pupils on week two of a four-week course. “They had left-over fruit so they made jam or they discovered how to make cordials or wine.”

Her small audience obviously needed no persuading: I joined them for an evening and had a go myself, and they were all as keen and enthusiastic as Jackie and Alan, who have been making their own wines for some years.

When I was there, Jackie and Alan had their eager novices syphoning water from one container to another, the idea being to leave behind rice intentionally placed in the bottom of demijohns, as practice for ‘racking off’ real wine. That’s a proper term and refers to the process of syphoning wine into a clean container, leaving behind the sediment, or lees, that accumulates at the bottom of the wine, in order to produce a clear drink. The wine – plum, pineapple, tea, organge, and strawberry Grundy (from a kit) – had all been made earlier in the spring by Jackie and Alan, so it was important it was done correctly.

I joined the group on the evening devoted to making wine from a carton of fruit juice; they first week had covered kit wines, and subsequent sessions would go through the process of making wine from freshly pressed fruit and, finally, the necessary arts of bottling, corking and labelling.

“They should end up with three gallons of wine and the knowledge to take it forward,” said Alan, who added that they would remain in contact to answer any future problems their new wine-makers might encounter. “I think every time there is some kind of recession, wine-making increases, along with the interest in allotments and growing your own.”

For their current group, the reasons for attending the course range from Mary Sailes of Bourne, who is doing it “for fun”, and Jo Paine from Morton, who has a huge apple tree in the garden, but has never had the chance to learn how to make wine, to Sue Thomas, from Holbeach Hurn, who likes scrumping fruit and has started growing her own vegetables and wants to use up the surplus in a useful way.

There are already two people signed up for the next course, which begins on June 14, when another new batch of people will discover the joys of turning surplus fruit into wine.

As for me, my demijohn of apple and pear juice wine is bubbling away on the kitchen table and I’m looking forward to trying it out in about three months.

r Contact Jackie and Alan on 01778 421790 for further details.