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Fruit Wines - California Wines

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Fruit wines are produced by fermentation from fruit other than grapes. Most fruit wines average about 12 per cent alcohol by volume, but a few types are also marketed at 20 per cent alcohol, the latter being produced by the addition of fruit brandy or spirits from the same kind of fruit from which the wine was made.

Berry wines are fruit wines derived from a number of berries, of which the blackberry, boysenberry, elderberry, loganberry, raspberry, red currant, and strawberry are the most popular. Fruit wines other than those made from berries include notably those produced from cherries and apples.

Fruit wines had been available in California to a limited extent when Robert H. Gibson, in the belief that an extensive market for berry and other fruit wines could be developed, entered this field on a large scale in the late nineteen forties. His venture met with success and he became the modern California pioneer in the field. Other wineries followed suit, either by added production or by purchasing fruit wines and marketing them under their own brands. The importance of fruit wines was acknowledged by the California fairs, where they are included in the yearly wine judgings.

There are no set rules used in the labeling of the origin of berry and other fruit wines. Wines produced from fruit grown in California can legally be designated on the label with the name of the state. Several fruit wineries, however, frequently do not use the word "California" in connection with their labels. Some use the term "American," notably for those wines produced from out-ofstate fruit, and many labels refer only to the fruit itself without any designation of origin.


California has the largest berry production of any state in the country. All berry wines are highly flavored, fruity, and sweet, each with the typical character and taste of the particular berry from which it is derived.

Blackberry Wine

The blackberry, or bramble, is a native of the temperate regions and is particularly abundant on the Pacific coast, where it grows from British Columbia to Southern California.

There are over 600 named varieties of blackberries, of which the boysenberry is the best known for wine production . Blackberry wine is produced at both 12 and 20 per cent alcohol by volume.

Blackberry Wine of the Boysenberry Variety Boysenberries constitute over three fourths of the cultivated blackberry varieties grown in the United States and about 9o per cent of those raised in California. The boysenberry is practically black when ripe, with a slight blue or purple tinge. The wine it yields is the most popular of all berry wines, possessing an especially fine aroma and flavor.

The name of the boysenberry has been the subject of much controversy. While it was generally recognized that it was a blackberry variety, the alcohol-tax authorities objected to the use of the blackberry name in conjunction with it. Robert H. Gibson, together with several California berry growers associations, entered into litigation to protect the standing of the boysenberry, considered the finest of the blackberry varieties. During this litigation the origin of the boysenberry was brought out.

About 1920 John Lubben, a saloon operator of Alameda, received some rootings of the shrub from an unidentified customer who ran a nursery, and Lubben planted them at his ranch near St. Helena in Napa County. The berry's superior qualities were soon recognized, becoming a favorite under the name of lubbenberry. One of Lubben's employees on the ranch was Rudolph Boysen, who later moved to Anaheim, near Los Angeles, taking a supply of young lubbenberry plants with him. In about 1933 Boysen showed the plants to Walter Knott, who sold produce from his ranch at a roadside near Buena Park. Knott realized the special qualities of the berry, raised it in large numbers, and renamed it boysenberry in honor of the man who brought him the first plants.

The court decided that while the tax official in question had the right to make the ruling-a right which Gibson and the berry growers had disputed-the ruling itself was an incorrect one. Rather than proceed with further litigation a compromise was reached with a new ruling of the Tax Bureau, affirming that it would be correct and permissible to call the wine "Blackberry Wine of the Boysenberry Variety:" The nationwide publicity given to the case naturally proved of great value to the sales of berry wines in general and of that of the boysenberry varietal in particular.

Blackberry Wine of the Boysenberry Variety is produced both at 12 and at 20 per cent alcohol by volume.

Elderberry Wine

This wine is made from the umbrella-shaped purple berry clusters of the American, or sweet, elder, which grows in moist soil from Manitoba east to Nova Scotia and south to Texas and Florida.

Elderberry wine is purplish red in color and has the typical tangy flavor of the fruit. It is marketed at an alcoholic strength of 12 per cent.

Loganberry Wine

The loganberry is a vigorous plant with bright red, tart, and highly flavored berries. While belonging to the over-all class of bush berries, or Rubus, it is not a blackberry, although it has sometimes been called the logan blackberry. The view that it is hybrid of the wild blackberry of the Pacific coast and of the American red raspberry has also been disputed.

What is certain is that the loganberry was raised by judge J. H. Logan from seed in his garden at Santa Cruz, California, in 1881 and was named after him. The loganberry is grown commercially in large quantities in the states of Oregon and Washington. Luther Burbank, the famed botanist of Santa Rosa, Sonoma County, originated a similar plant, called the Phenomenal.

Loganberry wine is brilliant red in color and has a pronounced fruity flavor of its own. It is produced at 12 per cent alcohol by volume.

Raspberry Wine

This wine is derived from the red raspberry and possesses the delicate aroma and flavor of that fruit. Its alcoholic strength is 12 per cent.

Red Currant Wine

Produced from the small tangy berries of the red currant shrub, from which the popular jelly of that name is also made. The wine is light red in color, less sweet than most other berry wines, and contains ia per cent alcohol by volume.

Strawberry Wine

In California strawberries are raised notably in the Santa Clara Valley, where much of the wine derived from that fruit is also produced. Strawberry wine is delicately flavored and is marketed at an alcoholic strength of 12 per cent.


Grouped together here are those fruit wines derived from fruit other than berries. Of these cherry wine and apple wine are the most popular. Pear wine, sometimes called perry, and peach wine have also been produced.

Apple Wine

California apple wine is made principally from the Gravenstein apple, which is especially well suited far the making of wine because of its fine flavor, high sugar content, and juiciness. It is grown largely in the vicinity of Santa Rosa and Sebastopol in Sonoma County.

Apple wine can also be designated as cider, although this term usually indicates the unfermented and non-alcoholic juice of apples. Although some apple wine of low alcoholic strength has been produced, notably during the war, it is generally agreed that, to make a satisfactory quality which will remain stable after being bottled, it should be zo per cent alcohol by volume.

Cherry Wine

Cherry wine has become increasingly popular during recent years. Most of the better cherry wine is made from the sour or pie-type cherry, which gives the wine a brilliant red color and a strong fruity flavor. It is marketed at ra per cent alcohol by volume.

Use and Service of Fruit Wines-All fruit wines are at their best when chilled, to bring out the full character and flavor. They can be served in the afternoon or evening as refreshing and flavorful beverages, either straight or with ice and sparkling water.

Berry wines can also be used in a fruit wine highball with the addition of a slice of lemon or with dry vermouth. Red currant wine makes an excellent beverage when mixed with vodka, charged water, and cracked ice in a tall glass.

Fruit and berry wines can be used to flavor fruit salads, puddings, ice cream, and fruit sauces.