Apr 02, 2018

It’s common knowledge that wine is made from grapes. The wineries on Cayuga Lake that distill products even use grapes in their liquors.  But, there’s other fruit wines- are those also made from grapes?  I decided to dive into the ‘non grape-wine’ world and see what kind of facts I could dig up.

After asking around for information on the process to make a ‘fruit wine’, such as Raspberry, Strawberry, etc., I’ve come up with 2 verdicts: 1) the base is a white wine, but often mixed with either fresh berry juice or a fruit flavoring. After sampling what seems like a million wines, I don’t think I could tell which was made which way- both is equally delicious!

The other method is making wine from actual fruit, rather than the juices being added to grape wine. I chatted with Bill Martin, owner of Montezuma Winery, who enjoys experimenting with wine flavors and tends to nerd-out when asked wine-related questions, which is completely okay in my book! I asked him how the ‘making’ process differed from grape wine to other wines. Turns out, the answer is not as black and white as you’d think. He says his facility has specialized equipment that is different from grape handling equipment, so it requires different work, but not necessarily more work than making grape wine.

But to add to the grey area of this question, “Making fruit wines is actually more challenging than making grape wines, at times. Each fruit is different. For example, we handle cranberries different than we handle pears. On top of that, each fruit has its own varieties. Think about apples and all of the varieties that there are. All of the varieties make different wines. A fruit wine typically has different chemistry than a grape wine too, which causes for a plethora of stability issues.” Not to mention that it isn’t a common practice to make ‘non fruit-wines’. So all of the suppliers that they buy from are typically focused on wine, meaning there isn’t much that is specific to making fruit wine. They just have to do trials to see what will work best, but oftentimes, trial and error results in an incredibly delicious wine!

Montezuma is also the only winery on Cayuga Lake that produces Mead, or honey wine, which is how the Martin Family originally got started. Fun fact: Mead is the oldest alcoholic beverage known to man! The first archaeological evidence of honey mead was in Asia between 6500 and 7000 B.C. Mead is made with three simple ingredients; honey, water, and yeast.  The more honey you use, the sweeter it’ll be. So this is NOT a grape based wine, either.

The number of different types of wine that we can make seems endless; from different types of grape wines, to different types of fruit wine, add in honey and the list truly does seem endless. This doesn’t even touch on making any of these sparkling. I think the whole wine making process is fascinating, whether its grape, fruit, or honey, and always gives me a bigger appreciation for what’s in my glass.