Blackberry wine and pruning the vine

As the season progresses, I continue to spend every spare moment I can volunteering at Rothley Wines, which is sadly nowhere near as much time as I would like! 

This week I was on blackberry picking duty so that we could make some blackberry wine ready for lovely Christmas gifts next year. After about 3 hours picking I had just over 8 kilos of blackberries, so I’m pretty happy with that and vineyard boss, Liz, had nearly the same.

As usual we were accompanied in the vineyard upon our toils by a faithful band of chickens who had to be shoo-ed away from eating the low hanging grapes. This is not the sort of tricksy behaviour I have come to expect from these winery chickens! They must have been feeling in particularly mischievous humour. 

Anyway, I was given an extra special gift by the ladies for popping down – a perfect blue egg, laid that morning just for me. Could it be any more idyllic?

Once we had picked our blackberries, we went into the winery to get the wine started. We blitzed up the fruit, added sugar and boiling water to help the sugar dissolve and then topped up to the correct ratio with cold. 

After that it was just a simple matter of adding the yeast and yeast nutrient, strapping a brew belt around the fermentation buckets to keep the temperature at a good level for fermentation and then left it to do its business – easy peasy! 

After the blackberry wine was on its way, I had a little bit of time left to do a bit of pruning and training of some of the two year old Siegerrebe vines. The Siegerrebe grapes are starting to turn a dusky plum colour and so excitingly it looks like a selective harvest of some of these grapes may well begin at the end of the week. It’s a beautiful, aromatic grape and I can already taste the potential for some delicious wines.

Siegerrebe, before the colour change begins

I’m really excited about the forthcoming harvest and wine-making process – the culmination of all the hard work this year in the face of frankly rubbish weather conditions. It’s going to be so satisfying to see the process all the way through. I’m getting a dab hand at taming the unruly Siegerrebe vines now and helping to expose the grapes to every last drop of sunshine we can send their way to help develop their sugars.


Bestselling author and freelance drinks writer. Champion of pubs and breweries. Occasional printmaker.

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