Who knew? In my experience, most home made wine is awful and the stuff that’s good is only good in an everyday sort of way. But home made lilac wine – the only kind available, far’s I know – is terrific! (if you wait long enough).
Two very dusty bottles came with Bill when we set up housekeeping together back in 1991, and somehow instead of being cleaned off and consumed they got put in the cellar.
Until the end of January, when for reasons I no longer remember we decided to open one. Revelation. We kept looking at each other, not quite believing.
It was sweet and not sweet at the same time, full-bodied but not cloying, wonderfully aromatic of lilacs, sort of like – well, not like anything. Saying Sauternes isn’t accurate and neither is saying Sherry, although it was quite powerfully alcoholic.
We kept having a little more and a little more but saved about a fourth of the bottle in the fridge for friends who couldn’t come taste until the next day. Didn’t do anything about excluding air. Big mistake. Like a lot of old wines it was fragile; oxidized and flat by the time we shared it, drinkable but a mere ghost of its former self.
Whether that would be true of a younger vintage I don’t know and Bill doesn’t remember. The bottle that gave us such pleasure was 30 years old.
French Lilac Wine
( Bill’s recipe, or rather Bill’s extremely sketchy notes that will be enough if you’ve done this before. If not, read up before proceeding. He always used the instructions in H.E. Bravery’s Successful Wine Making at Home. It’s no longer in print but Bookfinder offered 76 options when I checked just now. )
4 quarts lilac flowers, petals only
3 lb. sugar
juice of 2 lemons
1 oz. Montrachet yeast (available from winemaking supply stores)
1. Put the flowers in a large crock. Pour on 3 quarts boiling water, cover and let sit for 2 days.
2. Pour 1 pint boiling water over half the sugar to dissolve. Cool. Strain lilac mixture, squeezing. Return to crock with sugar water and lemon juice. Inoculate with the yeast.
3. Ferment 1 week. Strain into gallon jar. Dissolve remaining sugar in a pint of boiling water, cool and add. Fit with fermentation lock and ferment until all activity ceases. Bottle.
Food styling note: Bill took the photo a couple of days ago, without opening the other bottle ( I’m in Maine; I would have killed him). The liquid in the glass is green tea, brewed to a pretty close approximation of the right color.