Wine isn’t only made from grapes. It’s also made from vegetables, berries, fruits, herbs and even flowers…all kinds of flowers, including dandelions, lavender, roses, honeysuckle and marigolds, to name just a few. Basically, any edible flower can be used to make wine, but only the petals/flower heads tend to be used because other parts of the flower, such as the stem and leaves, usually have a bitter flavor. Recipes frequently include other ingredients, such as oranges, lemons and raisins since flowers don’t have much in the way of tannin or acid. Dried flowers can be used if fresh ones are not available, but a smaller quantity of dried flowers is usually required because they have more concentrated flavor. Flower wine has been enjoyed since ancient times. Here are a few examples of flower wines from around the world…
Koreans enjoy a number of wines made from flowers including gukhwaju (made from chrysanthemums), maehwaju (made from maesil blossoms), dohwaju (made from peach blossoms), indongju (made from honeysuckle), and baekhwaju (made from a hundred varieties of flowers). These wines tend to be sweet, viscous and light in color. Dugyeonju, a wine made from azalea petals, has been classified as an intangible cultural asset by the Cultural Heritage Administration of South Korea to preserve its production techniques—particular care must be taken when preparing this wine since azaleas contain a poisonous substance. Dugyeonju tends to be yellowish/brown in color and contains about 21% alcohol. According to legend, the wine was first made when Bok Jigyom, a loyal minister of King Taejo, fell ill and did not respond to any of the medicines available. His daughter went up to Mt. Amisan for 100 days of prayer and met a wizard who told her to make wine using azalea flowers from the mountain and water from a well at Ansaem. She followed his instructions, and after drinking the wine, her father recovered.
Ancient Romans enjoyed a sweet wine made by soaking sweet violet petals in white wine, which was then mixed with honey before serving. Some say this wine played a role in celebrations welcoming the arrival of spring. Romans also added lilacs and roses to wine to enhance the flavor.
The British also have a tradition of using flowers to produce wines and flower-flavored meads. Flowers used by home winemakers include elderflowers, gorse flowers, dandelions, broom flowers, hawthorn blossoms and clover.
In the United States, home winemakers produce wine from a variety of flowers, but dandelion wine is probably the best known flower wine. While the first appearance of dandelions in spring causes some to get out their ‘weed whackers,’ others cheerfully harvest the bright blooms and make them into wine. In fact, Dandelion Wine is the name Ray Bradbury gave his 1957 semi-autobiographical novel about a 12-year-old boy enjoying a magical small town summer in 1928. In the book, the renowned dandelion wine made by the boy’s grandfather serves as a metaphor for summer. In the words of the young protagonist Douglas Spaulding: “Dandelion wine. The words were summer on the tongue. The wine was summer caught and stoppered.”