Damsons or the Damson plum as the name suggests are a close relative to the plum and a member of the Rose family. They are a common tree to find in many gardens and wild throughout the UK which means many people have a glut of them in early autumn and don’t know what to do with them.
If you do have a glut or you have found a few trees growing wild then one of the best things to do with them is to make wine, this Damson wine recipe is a really nice wine and one that will get better and better over the space of a year or two.
Damsons a similar in shape and colour to plums but the flavour is definitely a bit different. Damsons are rarely eaten raw or straight from the tree and if you have tried you will know why. There is a level of acidity and tannin that makes eating them raw a challenge rather than a pleasure.
The high levels of tannin and the tartness provided by the acidity, however, is what makes Damsons so good for making wine. Rich full bodied red wines are the result of the naturally high tannin content. Many fruit wines require the addition of tannin to boost levels but with Damsons, there is enough already present in the skin of the fruit to not need to make any additions.
The high tannin level is also what makes the resulting Damson wine age so well. Astringency in wine needs a little time to balance itself out. At first sample, a Damson wine can seem too bitter and this can be a time when people are tempted to back sweeten the wine. If you hold off on this temptation however and bottle the wine and set it aside for a year, the results can be truly remarkable.
Preparing Damsons For Making Wine
Damsons, like plums, have a stone. This will need to be removed before making wine as the stone will introduce far too much bitterness. The best way to prepare the damsons is to wash, destem and remove any bad fruit, cut them in halves and remove the stone.
The prepared damsons can then either be used straight away or what I prefer to do is freeze them. Leave them in the freezer for a few days or as long as you like. When you come to make the wine take them out to defrost and you will find all the juices will release themselves. This is perfect for winemaking, freezing the damsons breaks down their structure meaning we can extract a lot more juice, sugar and flavour a lot quicker. Be sure to save all the juices as the damsons thaw and add them to the wine.
What You’ll Need To Make Damson Wine – Makes 1 gallon / 4.5 litres
You will only need a small amount of equipment to make this wine. We can supply winemaking equipment if you don’t already have it, check the online shop here.
Damson Wine Ingredients
- 1.5kg Damsons (prepared as above)
- 1.2kg of Sugar
- 3.9 litres of Water
- 1 Campden Tablet (crushed)
- 1/2 tsp Acid Blend
- 1 tsp Yeast Nutrient
- 1 tsp Pectic Enzyme
- 1 Sachet of Wine Yeast (Our recommendation is Lalvin EC-1118)
Damson Wine Method
- If you have frozen your damsons then get them out of the freezer ahead of time so they have thawed before you start.
- Place the damsons in a wine straining bag in a sanitised fermenting bucket. Take a sanitised potato masher and begin to mash the damson to release the juices and break down their structure.
- Put the sugar and half the water into a pan and begin to heat to a boil. Be sure all the sugar dissolves and doesn’t catch on the pan. Once boiling remove from the heat and pour over the damsons in straining bag. Give the must a good stir and then add the remaining half of cool water which will help bring the temperature down. All to cool to room temperature.
- Once the must has cooled to around room temperature add the Campden tablet, stir and leave for 12 hours.
- After 12 hours add the acid blend, pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient and mix thoroughly, leave for another 12 hours.
- After this time has elapsed add the yeast by sprinkling onto the surface of the must. Leave to ferment for 7 – 10 days stirring each day.
- After at least a week lift out the straining bag and what is left of the damsons. Allow all the liquid to thoroughly drain back into the fermenter. Leave the wine to settle for the next few days and you can take a hydrometer reading at this point if you wish to.
- Once signs of fermentation have slowed down or stopped, rack the wine into a demijohn and fit a bung and airlock. Leave the wine to condition and settle, you may need to rack the wine to a clean demijohn after a month as the sediment builds up. Rack the wine as necessary until it is completely clear.
- Once cleared it is advisable to let the wine bulk age for at least 3 – 6 months before bottling.
- The wine can be sampled and checked to see if you want to back sweeten it. Damson wine is a good candidate to have slightly sweet but do be cautious as when the wine is young it can seem slightly astringent. After aging, it becomes mellower. Use this method if you intend to back sweeten.
- Bottle the wine and set aside, the longer the better. This damson wine really comes into its own after a year and only gets better after this.