I started my fruit winemaking career in British Columbia over 11 years ago and a lot has changed since then. Back then, fruit wines had a terrible reputation and it was a hard sell even trying to convince people to try them. Now things are a lot different and people go out of their way to try and buy fruit wines. Quality has increased exponentially and so has the reputation.
This article by Geoff Last of the Calgary Herald is a nice expression of what is going on in the Western Canada fruit wine industry, read on:
As most of you know, grapes are not the only source for the production of wine. It can be made from just about anything with fermentable juice and sugars.
Over the years I have tasted wine made from all sorts of fruit with fairly consistent results, which is to say drinkable but typically over-sweet and a little weird.
The oddest, by far, was a bottle of snake wine — a lovely gift from a friend returning from China — that was reputed to, how shall I say, raise the spirits of the nether regions. It is basically rice wine infused with venomous snake “juice” and left to ferment for a few months. Small turtles and birds are often included in the blend, perhaps to spice things up a little and, let’s face it, once you have juiced a venomous snake you might as well go ahead and add some turtles and birds.
Fortunately there are people who take the production of fruit wine seriously and a recent tasting of such from B.C’s Forbidden Fruit Winery proved to be a revelation. Not only are these wines delicious, but they come with the added bonus of being produced entirely from organically certified fruit.
Forbidden Fruit is the brainchild of Steve Venables and Kim Brind’ Amour, two fruit growers whose organic orchards are located in B.C.’s stunning Similkameen Valley.
The farm was established in 1977, but the couple began farming organically in 1984 and recently added the production of fruit wine to the mix. They enlisted the help of Dominic Rivard, a fruit wine specialist who has also worked with Field Stone Fruit Wines, Alberta’s lone winery, located in Strathmore. (They were featured in our Taste section a few weeks ago.)
The farm produces a huge variety of fruit — there are 25 varieties of apples alone — that supplies them with a broad palate of flavours to choose from. Production is relatively small, but the current offerings includes three fruit wines and three fortified wines that sell for between $35 and $45 per 375-mL bottle.
Elephant Island Orchard Winery is another fruit wine producer located along B.C.’s Naramata Bench. They began production in 2001, focusing primarily on dry fruit wines although there are some sweet efforts as well. Its crabapple wine is apparently very good but hard to find, even in B.C. To my knowledge, only the black currant and pear wines are available here, retailing for about $25 per 750-mL bottle.
While relatively new to the market, these wineries has has been raking in the accolades, and the samples I tasted while visiting this area were very good!