Book Review: Making Country Wines, Ales & Cordials

November 12, 2010

Making Country Wines, Ales & Cordials is a small little book written by Brian Tucker in 2009. It is an odd little book, as it doesn’t go though the normal basic “how to”, equipment, or warnings about cleanliness. It just sort of launches.

It actually starts with how to make a wine yeast starter, and then provides eight recipes for making soft drinks. While I’ve never discussed it here before, natural soda pop is usually fermented a couple of days to obtain a fizz, but the alcohol content is tiny. The book continues for 15 pages of beer recipes, which sort of look appropriate to my barely literate beer brewing eye.

Next is the wine section, starting off with a mulled wine before providing a recipe to actually make wine. The 41 pages of recipes for making wine do look correct to me, though they are missing a bit of racking. Another oddity is that the recipe for making apple wine takes cut up apples and places them in sugar water, removing them after they get mushy. Most apple wine recipes start with apple juice and then add sugar, which is actually the last recipe of the wine section. Some recipes use Campden tables (sulfites), and others don’t, and I can’t pick out a pattern as to why or why not.

There is one recipe labeled a “spirit,” sloe gin, which actually is a liqueur made out of gin, flavored with sloes, and sweetened. This is a popular drink in England.

The last section is two pages on how to make cider. It talks about racking off, at which point more sugar is added, which would boost the alcohol content, and I have to wonder why Tucker felt this needed to be done as cider is usually left it its natural sugars. He also adds that it should not be sulfited or pasteurized. Again, I don’t know why, as both practices are done by professionals and craft cidermakers.

I’m not sure who the target audience is for this book. It gives specific gravity measurements, but doesn’t discuss what it is, so it isn’t exactly for the novice. Yet the techniques used are sometimes sketchy for a more advanced winemaker and brewer looking for new recipes. Also, the title of the book misses the mark, as there is only one cordial style drink in it, but it has more recipes for soft drinks.

All in all, I’ve reviewed worse books, but this one does not impress me.

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