Rowanberry wine: A distinctive and delicious tipple

Aficionados laud the wine’s unique taste, which develops over the 12–18 months it takes to mature.

Rowanberries — the eye-catching fruit of the rowan tree — have a high concentration of Vitamin C. Edible when ripe, these vivid crimson, pip-filled fruits should be avoided uncooked due to their sourness and a bitter aftertaste (which even birds appear to dislike). As well as a sharp-tasting jam, however, the berries can be used to make a variety of drinks, chief among them rowanberry wine.

Seldom the first choice among British tipplers, it was nonetheless a handy drink of last resort — Richard Gough, writing about his travels in North Wales towards the end of the 18th century, tells us that most of the Welsh drank cider imported from England, but the poorer North Walians in the counties closest to the border would instead mix their cider with ‘the juice of the Craviol or Mountain Ash’, which, Gough informs us, then grew wild across Denbighshire. The drink was reportedly called diodgriafel and appears to have been a staple of life for indigent families in these regions. Its associations with poverty may contribute to its current unpopularity.

That said, aficionados laud the wine’s distinctive taste, which develops over the 12–18 months it takes to mature. The production process requires more ingredients than for some fruit wines or spirits  including either white-wine yeast or sherry yeast — and, given the berries’ bitterness, the proportions of fruit to sugar are high. It is also important that the fruit used is ripe and strongly coloured, although not overripe to the point of softness.

The fermentation process is worth waiting for.

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After the initial combining process, and the sieving that takes place once fermentation has happened (usually between three days and a week, depending on the temperature at which the mixture is stored), the bottled liquid can be left to mature unattended in sterilised bottles.

The results, a friend tells me, are delicious — quite different from the effect of mistaking rowan flowers for elderflowers when making elderflower cordial.

If you don’t have the time to make your own — or the patience to wait for it to ferment, you can buy organic rowanberry wine from Healthy Wines at

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