Muscadine wine is probably one of the healthiest foods you’ve never heard of. Muscadine grapes from the native of Southeastern United States are abundant in polyphenols, resveratrol, and ellagic acid. Muscadine grapes have more fiber than oats and contain a wealth of other essential nutrients as well. But don’t eat them raw just yet, because Muscadine grape is also one grape that is uniquely suited for winemaking. Muscadine wine is one of the few wine grape varieties that is all-American, and during the harvest season, these wine grape/plump berries can be found on supermarkets shelves across the native United States.
Making wine out of Muscadine grapes, though a lengthy process, takes only minimal effort and gives you a sweet, medium-bodied drink with a versatile set of notes depending on the wine grape variety. In this article, we’ll discuss exactly how you can make your own muscadine wine batch at home with just a few ingredients and tools. We’ll also explore all its health benefits, why Muscadine wine is still relatively unknown, and much more.
Why You’ve Probably Never Heard of Muscadine
Muscadine wine is an outlier in several ways. Most wine grapes come from the Vitis vinifera family, but the Muscadine grape belongs to the Vitis rotundifolia group. The former is native to the Mediterranean region, and many of the most popular wines today, such as Pinot Noir wine, Cabernet wine, etc., are of this variant. However, as mentioned earlier, Muscadine wine is native to the Southeastern United States. The difference in species is significant for the sweetness and alcohol by volume (ABV) content of these Muscadine wines post-fermentation, and both of them are lower than the Vitis vinifera grapes. However, by being in the Vitis rotundifolia group, Muscadine wine is resistant to a variety of environmental hazards and pests. Phylloxera, an insect that has long ruined grape yields, is unable to destroy Muscadine crops due to their evolutionary adaptation.
This brings us to the second reason why Muscadine wine is relatively unknown. The weather conditions found in the southern states (Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, etc.) are uniquely suited for the growth of Muscadines. Warm temperatures and humid climate are usually anathemas for Vitis vinifera grapes, but Muscadines thrive under these conditions.
A third reason why Muscadinewine isn’t as popular as its competitors are that they are simply not as profitable for farmers. Muscadine wines grapes are not as resilient as others and need fairly specific weather conditions to grow. Other problems have also plagued farmers of Muscadine, such as inconsistent yields, berry sizes, and flavor. Lastly, Muscadine grapes only sell for around $350 a ton, which is only about a fifth of the value of other wine grape varieties, giving farmers less incentive to grow them.
Why You Should Have Heard of Muscadine
One key reason why Muscadines wines should be more commonly consumed is that they are a genuine superfood in terms of the health benefits they provide. Muscadine wines three main compounds responsible for this: polyphenols, resveratrol, and ellagic acid. Tannin, a chemical that lends the wine its dryness and body, is a type of polyphenol, and its density is partly why sugar levels in Muscadine wines are low. However, besides Tannin, Muscadine wines contain many polyphenols that aren’t found in other wine grapes, and their antioxidant properties are highly beneficial for general health.
There is considerable debate around the exact amount of resveratrol found in Muscadine wines, and whether it grants the benefits it has come to be associated with it. These include cancer prevention, increasing life spans, improving insulin sensitivity, and others. The jury is still out on this one, but if true, it would make Muscadine a rare and unique fruit. Ellagic acid, too, has been linked with cancer prevention, with other reports finding that it can help consumers control their weight, and relieve some complications of obesity.
The second reason, as will be extensively discussed in the next section, is the fact that Muscadines grapes produce some great wine with an interesting and diverse set of notes. Muscadine grapes can be used to make both, red and white wine. The low sugar level of these fruits means that the sweetener needs to be added during fermentation to obtain an ABV of 10%. These grapes are available in several colors, such as bronze, dark purple, black, and green. The bronze and lighter colored grapes are generally used to make white wine, while the deeper ones are utilized for red wine.
Traditionally, Muscadine wines carry a medium body, a medium to bright acidity, and a distinct aroma of bananas. Depending on whether muscadine wines is red or white, the drink can carry notes of vanilla, cranberries, oak, dried fruits, melons, and many others.
Making Wine From Muscadines at Home
Muscadines frequently grow in the wild across the Southeastern US and are commonly found on riverbeds in coastal areas. They are harvested starting in August, till the start of October. During this season, you might be able to find farmers offering schemes that allow you to pick as many as you’d like in return for produce, but they’ll also be abundantly stocked in supermarkets throughout the country.
Ingredients You’ll Need:
- 2lbs of fresh muscadine grapes (dried ones won’t work)
- 2 1/2 lbs granulated sugar
- Red wine yeast
- Yeast nutrient
- Pair of gloves
- A large vessel with a one-gallon capacity
- Straining bag
- 2 large containers
- Plastic siphon tube
- Muscadine grapes are highly acidic, so you’ll want to put on the pair of gloves to protect your skin. You need to mash the grapes to extract the juice, but the outer layer is fairly resistant to puncturing. As such, there are two things you can do to solve this problem. Either go crazy with a meat tenderizer or simply refrigerate the grapes. The frost will cause the shell to peel off after a few hours.
- Strain the grapes using the straining bag to maximize the juice obtained. Squeeze the bag vigorously to be thorough.
- Boil about 3 liters or quarts of water and add the kg of sugar to it. Mix until it dissolves, and pour the solution onto the strained muscadine juice. Add the yeast and yeast nutrients as well. Stir gently, and leave to ferment for about a week. Keep stirring the solution once or twice every day.
- After a few days, you’ll start noticing the formation of sediment at the bottom of your container, as well as some foam at the top. Strain the mixture once again to remove these elements, and pour it into the second demijohn.
- Add water to ensure that the demijohn is as tightly packed as possible. Wrap the cheesecloth around the cap in a triple layer to seal well.
- Leave the wine to ferment for 6 weeks. By this stage, the juice will truly have turned to wine, and you’ll again notice the formation of sediment at the bottom.
- Use the siphon tube to rack the wine into the next container. This will remove the sediment and any other impurities contained within. Place your filled container on a higher, flat surface, and use the suction generated by manually pulling at one end of the tube to transfer the contents.
- Cap the container loosely for a couple of days to let fermentation cease altogether.
- Bottle your wine, cork, and store in a chilled environment.