Novelty Wines Recipe


Non-conventional alcoholic home-brews.

Wines attempted so far: Sweet Orange Wine, Dry Orange Wine, Tomato Wine, Cola Wine, Chocolate Wine, Mushroom Wine, Ginger Beer, Earl Grey Tea Wine, Banana Wine, Camomile Wine, Rosemary Wine, Bay Wine, Rose Petal Wine, Kvas Wine, Muscovado Wine, Curry Wine and Chicken Wine!

Some flavours taste like wines, some like cocktails and some like alcopops (and some taste foul!). It is cheaper than most shop-bought beverages in the UK but the reason I tried brewing was that one can make all sorts of amusingly imaginative wines. Alcohol levels are quite high at typically 15-16% alcohol by weight which is closer to sherry levels than normal wine or beer levels.



Fruit juice (or some other safely edible matter plus water) 4 l
Sugar (including that in the fruit juice) 1200 g
Sterilising agent / preservative (e.g. 'Campden' tablets which are food grade sodium metabisulphite) 125 g
Dried yeast (wine yeast, not bread or beer yeast, for better alcohol tolerance) 1 tsp
Yeast Nutriment (this is just food grade ammonium nitrate but don't call it fertiliser, even though it is, because it puts people off :-) ) 1 tsp
Sweetener (e.g. saccharin tablets or saccharin solution) 0 to 80 tablets
Second-hand wine bottles 5
Bottle stoppers (plastic) 5
Grapes, malted barley & hops none


4.4 litre demijohn (or similar vessel) with bung & bubble-lock (or similar air-lock). Measuring glass or scales for measuring sugar. Screw-top bottle for starting yeast in. Wide nozzle funnel for sugar (a top section cut off a plastic fizzy drinks bottle makes a good funnel). Jug or similar for sterilising in. Syphon (preferably plastic because glass breaks too easily). Somewhere to carry out the brewing where the temperature will be 20°C or above (preferably 25°C or above) for weeks. A hygrometer (liquid density measuring float) is useful to test brewing completion and work out the sugar content of unlabelled ingredients but is not vital.

Detailed Instructions (using Fruit Juice)

The most tedious part of it is all the washing up & sterilizing needed to ensure that is only yeast which grows!

  1. Set up the brewing vessel:
    1. Make some sterilising solution by dissolving some sodium metabisulphite in tap water according in the ratio specified on its packet.
    2. Sterilize the demijohn by swilling around sterilizing solution inside it.
    3. Sterilise the bung & bubble-lock by soaking them in the the sterilizing solution.
    4. Rinse out the demijohn with tap water.
    5. Pour 1 litre (i.e. one standard carton) of fruit juice into the demijohn.
    6. Add the yeast.
    7. Add the yeast nutriment.
    8. Add 1 litre more of fruit juice (the reason for doing it two parts is so that the first lot deters the powdery yeast etc. from sticking to the bottom of the demijohn & the second lot can wash in any that remains stuck in the funnel - it is just a lazy way to avoid stirring & scrapping with more utensil sterilizing).
    9. If the total amount of sugar in 2 litres of fruit juice is less than 200 g, then add enough sugar to bring it up to that level. Do not worry that it just sits at the bottom not dissolving immediately (it will have plenty of time to dissolve).
    10. Rinse the bung & bubble-lock with tap water, fill the bubble-lock according to its instructions with sterilizing solution and fit them to the demijohn.
    11. Put the demijohn in a place at least 20°C hot (preferably at 25°C or more so it brews faster but not so hot it kills the yeast (if that happens, just add new yeast to the demijohn and move it somewhere less hot)) and leave it. It should increase to bubbling at a rate of a bubble every few seconds in a few days.
    12. Wait until undissolved sugar has gone & bubbling reduces to very slow (a bubble a minute or less) again. You should now have 2 litres of beverage at about 5% alcohol.
  2. Feeding the yeast again:
    1. Pour another litre of fruit juice into the demijohn.
    2. If the total amount of sugar (in the fruit juice plus added sugar) so far put into the demijohn is less than 600 g, then add enough sugar to bring it up to that level.
    3. Put the demijohn back in the warm place and leave it. It should soon (within an hour or so) return to bubbling at a rate of a bubble every few seconds.
    4. Wait until undissolved sugar has gone & bubbling reduces to very slow again. You should now have 3 litres of beverage at about 10% alcohol.
  3. Feeding the yeast yet again:
    1. Pour another litre of fruit juice into the demijohn.
    2. If the total amount of sugar (in the fruit juice plus added sugar) so far put into the demijohn is less than 1200 g, then add enough sugar to bring it up to that level.
    3. Put the demijohn back in the warm place and leave it. It should soon return to bubbling at a rate of a bubble every few seconds.
    4. Wait until undissolved sugar has gone (or nearly gone, the yeast might give up from alcohol poisoning before finishing off all the sugar) & bubbling reduces to very slow again. You should now have 4 litres of beverage at about 15% alcohol. To confirm complete conversion of the sugar, use a hygrometer or taste a sample.
  4. Bottling it:
    1. For once, there is no need to make more sterilising solution. You are going to be putting preservative into the wine which is the same chemical as the sterilization agent anyway.
    2. Don't shake the demijohn; the ugly sediments should remain at the bottom.
    3. Syphon the wine into the bottles taking care not to suck up the sludge from the bottom of the demijohn or overflow a bottle. (A good source of bottles is to volunteer to clear up & recycle the junk empty bottles from a party.) It does not need a stopcock on the syphon tube to stop the flow when moving the tube between bottles, just lift the bottles together with the tube outlet to the level of the demijohn and syphoning will pause.
    4. Add preservative to the wine according the ratio specified on the instructions which came with it.
    5. Add sweetener if required.
    6. Put stoppers in the bottles. Corks are traditional but plastic stoppers are a lot more convenient to put in and take out and can be reused to reseal part finished bottles. Just poke one into the top of a bottle far enough for it not to leak, turn the bottle upside down and gently tap on a hard floor by using its own weight dropping from 10 cm or so. I have not broken a bottle so far (but I did break a corking machine before switching to using plastic stoppers!) but make sure you handle them in such a way that, if they do break, the resulting sharp glass does not cause injury (for example, definitely don't lean on the bottle and don't push the stopper in hard with your hand). Even easier and safer is if you can find screw-top wine bottles with the lids (which are usually thrown away).
    7. Clean the outsides of the bottles if needed.
    8. Draw some labels by hand or on a computer, duplicate them by photocopying or printing, cut them out and glue them to bottle. If possible it is better to use a laser printer or photocopier than an inkjet one (even if it means sticking to black and white) because inkjet ink is normally water soluble and wine bottles are often handled in damp conditions (an alternative, suggested by a reader of this site, is to spray inkjet printed labels with hairspray to damp-proof them). For some reason, people appreciate wines in bottles with neat full size labels a lot more than the a small functional handwritten sticky labels traditionally put on home-brew bottles. For my own bottles, I drew a label in Corel Draw in a style deliberately suggestive of a Victorian 'snake oil' bottle!
  5. Deliver to parties, give to friends or drink. It is amusing to deliver one just after bottling with "The vintage? Oh,...", squint at the label, "... about 6 pm this afternoon."!

Detailed Instructions (not using Fruit Juice)

If you are using something other than fruit juice then follow the recipe for using fruit juice above but put whatever ingredients you are using in the demijohn at the beginning and add tap water to bring it up to the required volume whenever the recipe says to add fruit juice.

There is a risk of the wrong type of microbe growing if the ingredients are not sterile. In some cases the ingredients can be cooked (e.g. curry wine & chicken wine) or brewed like a tea (e.g. Earl Grey tea wine and rosemary wine) so just keep them hot until they go into the demijohn (I suggest boiling less than the full amount of water, to save time & energy, and making up the volume with cold water that is put in the demijohn before the hot mix so that the hot mix is immediately diluted saving the demijohn from a thermal shock as its glass is not designed to take boiling water). If that is not applicable (e.g. banana wine) then it might be advisable to make up a yeast 'starter' culture to give the yeast a head start. To do that just mix the yeast and a spoonful of sugar in a cupful of lukewarm water in sterilised capped container at least half an hour before the yeast is called for in the recipe then use that mix instead of the dried yeast when needed.

Calculating the amount of sugar in the ingredients may be less trivial than with fruit juice (where the cartoon label's nutritional information section usually, at least in the UK, states the sugar concentration). Sometimes the labels of the ingredients may have that information or it might be obvious (e.g. there is negligible sugar in tea leaves) but otherwise one has to either guess or measure it. To measure it, leave the ingredients in the water in the demijohn, with occasional shaking, for a day or so before adding the yeast and extra sugar so that the sugar in the ingredients dissolves into the water then measure the sugar concentration from the density of the solution using a hygrometer. However, it is not vital to know the sugar concentration as it is only needed for working out the final alcohol concentration for labelling.

Particular Wines

Sweet Orange Wine ('Bucks Flat')

Dry Orange Wine

Tomato Wine

Cola Wine

Chocolate Wine

Mushroom Wine

Ginger Beer

Earl Grey Tea Wine

Banana Wine

Camomile Wine

Rosemary Wine

Bay Wine

Rose Petal Wine

Kvas Wine

Muscovado Wine

Curry Wine

Chicken Wine

Pedantic Health & Safety Advice

It is currently fashionable to litter any set of instructions with excesses of safety warnings ("Riding your pushbike at high speed into a brick wall can cause injury." etc.) so here are a few for this brewing:


I spotted a brewing kit (demijohns, bubble locks, bungs, hygrometers, buckets, corking machine, instruction book etc.) going cheap in a charity second-hand shop in the winter of 2001 so I bought it for experiments. My first brewing attempt brewed ridiculously slowly. I asked a colleague at work what could have gone wrong and was told that the temperature needed to be at least 22°C so I waited until summer and tried again. I read the instruction book which came with the kit plus a few more books from a public library and lazily combined the recipes into a minimalist one on the principle that anything missed out by any of the recipes was not vital and so could be discarded. I also missed out duplicate sterilisation stages and blithely assumed that cold tap water direct from the rising main & ingredients in sealed packets from supermarkets did not need sterilization at all. I tested the resulting recipe on orange juice as it was the cheapest fruit juice available. It brewed well and I kept adding sugar until the yeast stopped digesting it. From the amount of sugar which went in, the amount left undissolved and the liquid density, I calculated the alcohol content as being about 15%. However, it tasted horribly bitter (as orange juice minus its intrinsic sugar would do) and I was too impatient to slowly dissolve more sugar in it so I used an artificial sweetener, calculating the amount to match the original sweetness of the orange juice. That was how I got my basic recipe. The others are just minor variations of it. Almost any food can be used because the brewing is mostly just the yeast digesting the added sugar.

Although I had only intended the orange juice wine as throw-away experiment, I bottled some up and took it to a party as a joke (my intended real contribution being flapjack cakes which I had recently also experimented on). However, the orange wine was unexpectedly quite popular so I made it again and adapted the recipe into other unusual & jokey flavours with Sweet Orange Wine, Dry Orange Wine, Tomato Wine, Chocolate Wine, Cola Wine, Mushroom Wine & Ginger Beer in the 2001. In 2002 I added Earl Grey Tea Wine, Banana Wine, Camomile Wine, Rosemary Wine Curry Wine & Chicken Wine. In 2006 I added Bay Wine & Kvas Wine. In 2007 I added Rose Petal Wine & Muscovado Wine.

I also did a couple of other experiments in 2002 to test simplifications of the basic recipe. One was the starter culture. All the recipes I read had the yeast & nutriment mixed with a small amount of water and sugar in advance of being added to the demijohn. This starter culture was to be made 2 hours to a day, depending upon the recipe, in advance and some recipes had it warmed. I think the purpose was originally to ensure that the yeast was growing strongly enough from the start to out compete any rival microbes growing in the demijohn, a requirement no longer needed in a sterile system. An experiment showed that this was not vital (although it might speed up the start of brewing) and so could be missed out and the dried yeast simply added directly to the demijohn and so I shortened the recipe. The other was increasing the sugar level slowly to enable the yeast to acclimatize to the growing ethanol concentration. However, experimentation showed that this was not vital either (possibly because the slow dissolution of the granulated sugar has this affect anyway) but I left 3 stages of sugar (and liquid) adding because it reduces the risk of initial frothing messily overflowing through the bubble-lock and because (in experimental brews) less ingredients are wasted if (as with the cola one) it totally fails.