Sourcing local ingredients is at the heart of many of the fruit wines that we make here at Lyme Bay – and of course all our staff live nearby too. There’s nettle picking in April to capture the new growth for our Nettle Wine, but nothing signals the approach of summer as much as elderflower picking in June and July from our own trees here at the Winery.
Lyme Bay selects the best elderflowers
Come sunny afternoons our team heads out to collect the beautiful elderflowers from the hedgerows when their pollen is at its optimum and they are at their most pungent.
The whole flowers go straight to soak on a wine base for 4-6 weeks to allow the fragrant elderflower aromas to establish, making our dry, light and refreshing Elderflower Sparkling Wine which was awarded Gold at The Great Taste Awards 2015.
We also use elderflowers to make our light, crisp and beautifully refreshing Elderflower Wine. An off-dry wine with a floral bouquet, it is great chilled as a popular picnic or lunchtime wine, and won Gold at the 2014 Great Taste Awards.
And then there’s our Gooseberry and Elderflower Wine. Served chilled as an alternative to white wine, it’s the perfect accompaniment to salads, fish dishes and even spicy food.
Make your own elderflower wine
If you fancy having a bash at making your own elderflower wine, it takes a little patience, but the results are well worth the wait.
You will need:
- 1 pint of elderflowers (flowers only, no stalks)
- 8 pints boiling water
- 3lbs sugar
- Juice and grated rind of a lemon
- ½oz yeast
Add the lemon rind to the elderflowers, pour boiling water over them and stand for four days, stirring occasionally. Strain the lot through a muslin or fine sieve, then stir in the sugar, yeast, and lemon juice. Ferment at room temperature, and when it looks like any bubbling has stopped, give the liquid a stir and leave it to settle for three days. Give it another strain before transferring it to a demijohn to mature for three months, then bottle up the elderflower wine and give your friends a call for a sampling session.
How we make our Elderflower Sparkling Wine
Fermented in-bottle, our Elderflower Sparkling Wine is made in a similar way to what’s called the ‘traditional method’ for sparkling wines, as used for both Champagne and Cava. Champagne can consist of three main grape varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – and we combine a high quality Chardonnay juice with elderflowers for our fruity sparkler.
The initial fermentation produces a wine that’s aromatic, quite tart, and in the region of 10.5% to 11% ABV. To prepare the wine for the all-important second fermentation in bottle, we then combine it with a mixture containing wine, sugar, and yeast (the Liqueur de Tirage), along with a little yeast nutrient and a clarifying agent. The wine is then bottled and capped.
The secondary fermentation lasts for around eight weeks, and takes place in a custom-made cellar kept at 12 to 14°C to help achieve the fine mousse, which is the mark of all quality sparkling fruit wines. The sparkle is achieved by yeast consuming all the spare sugar in the bottle; this process produces not only alcohol (c. 1.5-2%), but also a by-product of carbon dioxide. As this cannot escape (due to the cap on the bottle), it is absorbed into the wine, creating the all-important fizz.
For cosmetic purposes, the yeast has to be taken out of the bottle. In order to do this, we use the traditional means of ‘riddling’ in pupitres. The bottles are gradually inverted and shaken over the course of one to two weeks, until the yeast had fallen to the neck of the bottle and formed a plug. At this point, the necks are plunged into a freezing solution at -30°C, which freezes the yeast plug. The bottle cap is then removed, causing expulsion of all the sediment (due to the pressure behind it).
The bottles are then topped up with the dosage, a mixture of wine and sugar, so that all the bottles have a uniform balance and taste. In our case, the elderflower wine has 7g/l and is classed as Brut as it’s under the 15g/l limit. Finally, the corking, wiring and dressing of every bottle is carried out by hand – which is why making each bottle of our Elderflower Sparkling Wine is a real labour of love.
Elderflower health benefits
They says what’s good for the soul is good for the body, and while it’s always a pleasure to quaff a glass of chilled elderflower wine – home-made or otherwise – there may also be some health benefits associated with elderflowers.
Many cultures around the world have used elderflower in their traditional medicine as it is thought to have antiseptic, antiviral and anti-inflammatory properties which could be useful against colds and flu, sinus infections, and other respiratory conditions.
Elderflower in myth
There is also plenty of folklore related to elder trees. In some myths, the elder tree is thought to ward off evil and give protection from witches, while other beliefs say that witches often congregate under the plant, especially when it is full of fruit. If an elder tree is cut down, a spirit known as the Elder Mother is said to be released and take her revenge, so the tree could only safely be felled while chanting a rhyme to the Elder Mother.
Made from the branch of an elder tree, the Elder Wand plays a pivotal role in the final book of the Harry Potter series, which was apparently almost titled Harry Potter and the Elder Wand before author J. K. Rowling decided on Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Respect your elders
If you’ve never tried elderflower wine – let alone made your own – and you like the sound of this traditional tipple then you can always place an order with us and we will ship some out to you faster than you can wave your magic wand.
You can see all of our elderflower drinks here at the Winery shop so do pop in if you are passing, or get in touch with our friendly team via email at [email protected] or by calling us on 01297 551355 if you’d like to order by phone. You can also follow Lyme Bay on Twitter: @LBWdrinksltd and ‘Like’ us on Facebook.