Mead is a staple in our homebrew routine, and we’ve been making honey wines for over a decade. When it was time to brew another batch with rhubarb, I of course reached for the honey and started a bubbly honey based batch of homemade rhubarb mead. But wait…what if I want to taste the rhubarb, just the subtle delicious tangy notes of rhubarb, without the distraction and complexity of honey? Thus, why not. It’s time to make a rhubarb wine.
For my rhubarb mead, I left the whole chunks of rhubarb in the fermentation vessel for the duration and filtered just before bottling. Rhubarb wine called for a different technique, where I actually juiced the rhubarb by immersing it in sugar for several days. The sugar drew out the rhubarb juice, along with much of the beautiful red color.
The result was a lovely pink brew, with plenty of sweetness to balance out the tang.
I started with a full gallon of rhubarb chunks, and at the end, I had about half a gallon of rhubarb juice. More accurately, I had about half a gallon of raw rhubarb syrup, since there was so much sugar in there you could almost stand a spoon in it.
I strained out the solid rhubarb pieces, and they still had quite a bit of flavor. The juice that had been removed was replaced by sugars, and they’d lost much of their bulk. They made a passable rhubarb candy, and my rhubarb harvesting assistant loved that there was a child-friendly byproduct of the whole rhubarb winemaking endeavor.
Instead of traditional narrow neck demijohns, I used my new favorite brewing vessel, a wide mouth one-gallon jar equipped with a waterlock. I used the same setup for brewing dandelion wine earlier, and I was amazed at how easy it was to clean the whole thing. No tiny flower petal particles stuck in the fermenter after racking. Brilliant!
In the case of rhubarb wine, it means that I can toss all the rhubarb and sugar into the jar and cap it for juicing. The rhubarb is then strained out, and the juice is put back into the jar. The main benefit is that I only covered one thing with rhubarb and sugar, and I had a lid to keep the ants out of it while the sugar extracted the juice.
Feel free, of course, to extract the juice in whatever container you have, and then pour it into a traditional narrow necked fermentation vessel. If you don’t have quite enough rhubarb, you can always make a small batch, using the same basic technique that’s used for one-quart batches of mead. Just divide all the ingredients in this recipe by 4 to make a super tiny 1-quart sampling batch.
Beyond the pile of rhubarb, which you should be able to harvest from a few healthy plants, you’ll also need some equipment for this recipe:
- One Gallon Fermentation Vessel with Airlock and Stopper (either Traditional or Wide Mouth Jar Version)
- Brewing Siphon and tubing – For moving the wine from one container to another without disturbing the sediment. This will allow for a much clearer finished rhubarb wine.
- Yeast Nutrient – Yeast cannot live on sugar alone, they need a number of micronutrients to do their important work. Grapes naturally have these nutrients, but other fruits don’t. If you’re making fruit wine, it’s always a good idea to add 1 tsp of yeast nutrient per gallon.
- Winemaking Tannin – While grapes have plenty of tannins to give a wine body and pleasant mouthfeel, rhubarb doesn’t. Adding a bit of tannin will create a much more pleasant, balanced wine. It doesn’t take much, usually around 1/4 to 1/2 tsp per gallon.
- Wine Yeast – Believe it or not, much of the flavor in a finished wine comes from the choice of yeast. Some produce volatile compounds that bring out fruity notes. Others like the champagne yeast I’ve chosen, produce a more neutral wine that ferments well in all conditions. The end result is a light and bubbly sweet summer wine with a good bit of natural carbonation. (This Premier Classique yeast is also a good choice for rhubarb wine.)
If you’re new to winemaking, I’d suggest reading this primer on making small batch wines to help get you started.
- Chop the rhubarb into 1/4 inch slices. Place the chopped rhubarb in a large bowl, glass jar or bucket.
- Cover with sugar and stir to coat. Allow the sugar to extract the rhubarb juice for 2-3 days.
- After 2-3 days, there will be about 1/2 gallon of rhubarb juice or rhubarb syrup. Strain the juice/syrup through a fine mesh strainer and measure the juice.
- Wash the remaining rhubarb chunks in enough water to make just under a full gallon of liquid. Strain again and add the rhubarb water to the fermentation vessel almost fill it up, leaving a bit of space for the remaining ingredients.
- Add the winemaking tannin and yeast nutrient and stir to dissolve.
- Dissolve the yeast packet in a small amount of lukewarm water and allow it to bloom for 5 minutes before adding it to the fermentation vessel.
- Allow the rhubarb wine to ferment at room temperature for about 6 weeks. If you choose, rack the wine into another fermentation vessel after about 2 weeks, leaving the sediment behind. This will result in a less cloudy finished wine.
- Once fermentation is complete, use a siphon to bottle the wine leaving behind any sediment. While you can drink it immediately, it's better if you can bring yourself to wait at least a month.
In a pinch, if you don't have the ability to get winemaking additives, you can substitute 1 cup of strongly brewed black tea for the tannin powder and 1/4 cup of raisins for the yeast nutrient.
More Winemaking Recipes
Looking for more easy winemaking recipes? Try any of these: