Plum wine.

Finally, plum wine is under way. I have pectolased the must, added 3 lbs sugar and strained out the lumps. It is now fermenting very nicely.  Took a while to find a Bordeaux yeast (eBay – should have started there) but when I did I found a sherry yeast too. Second batch will be plum sherry.

There are fermenting bins on eBay to make 30 bottles of wine at a time. Next year will be a slim plum year because I had a glut this year and two years ago, but nothing last year. I expect a poor yield next year which has the advantage that I can cut back the tree this year (it’s getting out of hand) and prepare for the year after next.

The raspberry patch is looking lively though…

There is a mass of foam on top of the fermentation. I could have visited the lab and picked up some antifoam but I’m not sure I want that stuff in my booze. It’s probably not a good idea,

The mood is on me now. Tobacco wine, espresso wine, spaghetti wine, anything wine is on the cards.

Local Hippie Shop also have beer kits. Better yet, they have bags of hops and malted barley.

It has been a very long time since I made nettle beer. Maybe next spring…

41 thoughts on “Plum wine.

    • Nope. You need a yeast bred to produce alcohol, not gas. Bread yeast is developed to make dough rise, its alcohol production is irrelevant since it will all boil off in cooking. Same species, different strain – but the differneces can be big. Wine yeasts are cheap, if there is nowhere local, try eBay.

      ‘Wine yeast’ throws up a good set of sellers.


      • Okay. I thought you would say that. But supposing the world had come to an end and you only had bread yeast? Then what would you do?
        This is rural France, and I don’t know how to say gi me some wine yeast you local yokel. Certainly not the best approach. But probably the best I can do in French.
        I mean, the bloody stuff ought to be all over the place.
        And how can I go on Ebay for two quids worth of wine yeast?

        Not to worry. The Elderberries are frozen now, which Google says is okay. So they can sit there for a year now for all I care.
        It’s just that all of these Elderberries were hanging about waiting to seed, so I thought I would pick them on one very boring afternoon before they grew ten thousand new Elderberry Trees.
        And I have to tell you that you don’t want even one Elderberry Tree, let alone ten thousand of the buggers. This is probably the most prolific tree that ever grew. I even find them growing in my hair from time to time, despite having the occasional shower. Almost certainly because I do have the occasional shower. Must stop doing that.

        But are you telling me that the French buy all of their yeast on Ebay? Oh My. That must earn Ebay a few bob.

        PS. Is it possible to buy yeast on Amazon?


        • Elena, bread yeast will work well enough. However it will not work as well, will ferment sluggishly and may produce off flavours.Traditionally wine makers didn’t buy yeast at all but let the must frement of it’s own accord by exposing it to air and the airborne yeast spores (NOT a good idea, that’s a great way to end up with vinegar)or the spores on the grape skin.


            • I added bread yeast to an elderberry base (wine yeast hadn’t worked for some reason). I reckon I could have put out a small aircraft fire with what shot out the top of the demi john….


              • One thing to ignore in the books – don’t fill the demijohn right to the neck for the start of fermentation. It’s a hell of a job to clean the gunk out of those airlocks!

                It’s probably less of a problem with a wine kit because you don’t have the residual fruit bits floating around, but no matter how well you strain that pectolased fruit, bits get through.


          • At this time of year here in Greece, trucks laden with wine varietals from the nearby grape growing regions park up by the side of the road and people buy pick-up loads of them to make their wine. They never seem to use yeast, but just let the must sit for a few days to start the fermentation. I have to say that although the resulting ‘country wine’ is not in the same league as commercially made wines, it is usually very drinkable (occasionally excellent), and often very strong. The strength is a bit ‘hit and miss’, as they don’t use any controls or measuring devices, just do it like grandad used to. Vinegary wine is really quite rare.


            • Ah, the benefits of long practice, and of listening to old people’s advice. Sadly lacking in the modern West.

              I’m not entirely innocent of not listening either. I never understood why my grandmother was always cleaning her spotless house until I took the cleaning job. Getting something from dirty to clean is really hard work, but once it’s clean, keeping it that way is easy. Just don’t let it get filthy again.


        • Bread yeast works well enough. The easiest way to up the alcohol content is to take the must once fermentation has died down a bit and “feed” it a teaspoon of sugar a day. The yeast that survives gets selectively more inured to the rising alcohol concentration. Before there was baker’s yeast (Middle Ages) the ale wives had to be compelled by law to sell the bakers their ‘barm’. And in the wine growing country, before the selective culture of specialised yeasts, the ‘terroir’ served to conserve the natural yeasts on the grape skins.


        • I use the yeast on my apples.

          How to lift the yeast.

          In a clear jam jar without a lid, place an apple from an unsprayed tree, fill half way with a 3 parts water, one part honey mixture at no more than blood heat.
          Cover with clingfilm, don’t use a lid, or when the honey starts to ferment it will explode.
          After a few days in a warm place, bubbles will form on the apple, when bubbles start rising from the bottom of the jar, the yeast culture is ready to use.

          It strikes me as rather profound that everything carries the seeds of it’s own destruction, the elderberries will have had their own.

          It’s not generally advised to use a wild yeast, but I am fortunate in the one that grows on my apples.


        • I buy (and sell) small items on eBay often – the only bugbear is the UK postage rates if it’s over a certain size. A pack of yeast goes by letter post so it’s not too bad.

          If all the booze yeasts disappeared and we only had bread yeast, it wouldn’t take long to develop a booze yeast from it 😉 but it would take a while to get a really good booze yeast. It can be done though.

          I have frozen fruit too, and it’ll turn into wine over time. I only have two demijohns at the moment – that will change over time too!


        • You’re in rural France and you can’t find wine yeast? This is impossible. Visit the local Cave or any Intermarche – or anywhere else. Almost everywhere in France sells yeast.

          Don’t use bread yeast. It will taste ‘doughy’ and be of minimal alcohol content.

          What would happen if the world changed and there was no ebay or shops? You would ferment fruit as it was and the bloom of yeast on the skins would do the job. In the case of hedgerow fruit (elderberries), the results would probably not be that good. In the case of grapes the results would be ok, good or even fantastic (vintage years). The proper wine producers (grape) don’t add any extra yeast. It’s all there on the skins but changes from year to year, vineyard to vineyard, summer to summer, etc. That’s why there are good years and not so good years. It’s now understood why (microbiology studying yeasts) but could never be controlled or predicted because there are too many natural variables.


  1. Leggy, you do realise that Sherry Yeast won’t necessarily give you a sherry flavour, right? The typical sherry taste has very little to do with the yeast used and a lot to do with how the wine is fortified and stored. Things may have changed since my day, my wine making day, but sherry yeast is simply more tolerant of alcohol.


  2. Good luck with your plums Leggy (oo-er).

    Funny you should mention raspberry wine; me and the missus found various hedgerows last weekend that were groaning under the weight of blackberries, rose hips, wild elderflower and even wild hops! I may well do that walk again armed with gloves, bags and buckets…
    The recipe I have in my book for making a gallon of raspberry wine calls for 4 lbs of fruit (whether raspberry or blackberry), 3 lbs of sugar, pectolase and yeast.


    • I made some rasperry last year, which I found very palatable, and it won a local prize so others did too. However I don’t like dark strong fruit wines so almost always use a fraction of the fruit in traditional recipe – 3 or 4 lbs of raspberries made 3 gallons – plus white grape juice concentrate – to create a rich rose rather than a heavy red.
      Sagasenex is absolutely correct too, add the sugar gradually don’t just dump it in. I don’t have teaspoon patience so I start fairly heavy handed but as it ferments and the alcohol content increases add the sugar more and more gradually in decreasing amounts to get the maximum strength. I tend to add half, then when it’s done add half what’s left, then half again etc until it’s tapered away


      • The recipe I have in my book for making a gallon of raspberry wine calls for 4 lbs of fruit

        Exactly. It doesn’t even have to be fruit, but can be pretty much a whole bunch of pulpy, mostly-liquid gourds etc. Unless pumpkins are fruits, in which case nevermind.


          • You could make wine out of anything, even sweaty socks, but would you be confident it would taste nice? There’s no need to use any old leftovers, with the excitement you will make alcohol. There’s easily enough out there in the hedgerows and fields for wine projects. When winter bites fully and the bounty ceases, visit your local supermarket (or wherever) and look for cheap veg. Carrot wine can be potent stuff, parsnip too, etc, etc.

            One good point with veg wines is they tend to clear much quicker. Less tannin and pulp you see. Conversely, you are advised to use some yeast nutrient cos veg lacks various things that fruit doesn’t.

            Why are you using pectolase, or in fact anything other than the basic ingredient, water, sugar and yeast?

            There can be a tendency to use all kinds of extra ingredients such as this, but really, it’s mostly not necessary.


            • The pectolase breaks down pectin, which can leave wine cloudy. That treatment is pre-fermentation and only takes a day or so.

              I’m not using yeast nutrient in this one, it seems not to need any because it’s bubbling away like a baked bean addict in the bath. I’ll get a small tub though, just in case. Parsnip wine does sound interesting.


              • Good stuff.

                I’ve never used the various additives though I am aware they aren’t a new-fangled idea and are tried and tested. But I’ve always preferred to keep things as basic and natural as possible and so far haven’t had any mishaps. I will admit I have made at least one wine that was damned difficult to clear (it did eventually) and that wine was ……..Plum.

                I can also state that probably the best wine I made (according to the reports of others and my own judgement) was a Plum in 1998 – about 6 gallons, now long consumed. I made another batch, from the same plums (the same tree) in 2002 but for some reason it wasn’t as good. It was certainly drinkable but just didn’t have the ‘vintage’ quality of the 1998 version.

                Another of the nicest wines I made was a straight Redcurrant. It was sharp (but not excessively), somewhat spicy (like Shiraz), beautifully coloured and…… bloody strong.



  3. I made a small batch of tobacco flower wine this year (seemed a good use for the flowers) next year I suspect I’ll use a few more flowers as it seemed a bit thing but promising at bottling time. Will see how it ages in a few months or so maybe. Debating doing soemthign with the smaller leaves but all the usual brewing forums seem to be of the opinion that brewing with tobacco leaves will surely kill you.


    • Then again, people these days are of the opinion that glancing in the direction of a smoker will kill them. It’s possible that the yeast-fermentation of tobacco leaves could produce something awful, but I don’t see why it should. I’m sure Rose mentioned a tobacco liqueuer, and you can buy tobacco flavoured vodka.

      There’s no need for tobacco flavoured whisky – the Islay malts have the smoky flavour covered.


      • It could turn out awful but a gallon batch with small leaves that aren’t worth the effort of curing is nigh on free. I figure use the same approach as for herb wines, make a strong tea then ferment that.

        But do the tobacco flavour commercial boozes actually use tobacco or just artificial flavouring?


        • I suppose they could just use the same flavourings the Electrofags use.

          The leaves could well be worth a try. I get sugar in Poundland (Whitworth’s 1 kg with 20% extra, one quid and it’s a few spoons short of three pounds of sugar). That would be the only cost.


    • Tobacco flowers? Great Scott, that’s new one? I’d be careful if I were you.

      What’s wrong with rose petals? Hawthorn blossom? Dandelion heads? Elderflowers (superb)? Of course you’ve missed all those by now, but next year….?

      Start your 2014 wine-making by tapping a few Birch trees in the first two weeks of March. Ferment that, according to recipes you will find. I promise you now ………….. you will blow your hat clean off with it. It’s like rocket fuel.

      Frightening actually. I won’t drink it! But it does impress family and friends. Or kill enemies!


      • I plan to be careful, got it bottled in dessert wine size bottles, as I say the sip whilst bottling was promising.

        Nothing wrong with any of those and I plan hawthorn flower wine next year, but I had tobacco flowers I had to remove so I thought why not try making wine with them. Also trying a few herb and oak leaf wine this year to ad to my usual rhubarb and parsnip wines.

        I’ve had birch sap wine before and it really is quite awesome stuff.

        The baccy flower wine I think has promise but I’ll not know for a bit, given the number of flowers used can’t see a problem with it.


        • It’s interesting. Keep us informed. Thanks.

          I don’t wish to be a know-it-all, but I have been making wine since 1978 (aged 15, reasonable parents, no insane H & S and PC stuff), with an interlude in early adulthood (didn’t have the kit – or the money) until 1997.

          At last count, a few years ago, I had 108 gallons stashed away. It became an obsession almost, one that I’ve had to curtail a bit. Even more incongruously, I hardly drink. I’ve got to the stage where I don’t actually like alcohol much. Foolish isn’t it? I’m never stuck for gifts though. Everyone likes a bottle of nice strong wine.

          I haven’t had a single wine go bad or vinegary (apart from those I deliberately ‘vinegared’) in all that time. It’s really not that difficult.

          Everything is out there for free, more or less. Apart from the sugar. These days, the cost of sugar has bumped up the costs of production – by about double! It’s still cheap enough I suppose, but the costs can mount up a bit if you’re making a lot.



          • Once I know that it’s worked I ‘ll do a write up, I’ll try to remember to update back here, but other wise it’ll be on anonymong or

            I know what you mean about the obsession between the wines and beers I’m up to 75 gallons brewed so far this year. I grow my own hops and have vines in as well now so the only stuff I’m buying in is sugar, malt and yeast.

            I’ve had some success this year with cheap wines using bread yeast, which contrary to expectation fermented out to a decent strength and no doughy taste though took an age to stop and clear – but was using freeze dried rapid bread yeast.


            • I also made wine and beer as a youth. It didn’t take us long to work out that although we couldn;t buy alcohol, we could buy the kits because there’s no alcohol in the kit. So it’s not age-restricted. Age-restricting would never work anyway, all you need is a container, yeast and sugar and some fruit and veg.

              Eventually you will have to show ID to buy sugar…


              • Oh no, what a horrible thought. I must admit, I bought about 20 pounds of sugar in Tesco around 2005 for a load of Rhubarb wine (nice brew that is too) and was eyed strangely by the young checkout girl. I didn’t have anything else in the trolley mind. Anyone my age would have guessed straightaway what was afoot, but alas for the young…….


  4. Instant coffee “wine” foams a bit but falls bright and clear. I always used to use it as a basis for further distillation as it was cheap and cheerful.


  5. Old fellow, what is the variety of raspberries called, that I believe grows in Scotland and produces an autumn crop of berries? We have an unidentified bush here but we’d like to grup out a lot of the early-summer ones, heavily predated by birds, and put in yours instead. Can we get them anywhere?


    • I don’t know what the raspberry varieties are called, I’m afraid. I didn’t plant mine. The birds planted them by scoffing the wild raspberries beyond the back fence, then sitting on my fence and shitting on the garden.

      That’s why I don’t use netting. I’m the one stealing them, not the birds.


  6. Wow. What a lot of really wonderful replies. So go for Bread Yeast, or not?
    Actually, I was being serious, although you all could be forgiven for wondering. I mean, who in their right mind would be making Elderberry Wine in France? But I do get a bit bored now and again.
    Actually, I once made the most amazing Grape Wine from a very large amount of mouldy old grapes that someone gave me, which I am sure had something to do with it. Being mouldy, I mean. But I never was able the throw away anything.

    Nope, I trolled around Intermarche for much longer than I wanted to, and not a packet of Wine Yeast to be seen. I think it might be a conspiracy. Who needs me making my own wine? Even I don’t need to make my own wine. And they certainly don’t.
    But if anyone here can tell me how to say in French, “Where is The Wine Yeast”, then I could be grateful.

    But I love you all because you are all really interesting people.

    PS. In ancient days the Bread Yeast was always in a pot. They made it, and then it went on for ever and ever, and they just used a bit of it. But I don’t think I really want to go into all that Bread and Wine stuff because I might get caught out by all they Fishes.

    Off to buy some shoes on Amazon. Absolutely no point in trying to buy Green Wheat Pottery on Ebay because it is now all far too expensive.
    But if any of you have got any that you want to sell, give me a shout.. I will never sell it on.


    • Bread yeast is pretty much beer yeast, wine yeast won’t taste quite so ‘yeasty’ IMO, plus are more tolerant of higher alcohol – theoretically, you’ll get fewer hangovers using a wine yeast.

      Some English suppliers will post abroad I think. Or you could try this place, who list some French distributors –


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