It’s official. I may have gone over the edge with this whole tomato thing. As you might have gathered from this site, I love all things tomato. But wine? It makes my feet tingle just thinking of the possibilities! For anyone who has canned or made fermented things like sauerkraut, home winemaking is totally within your reach. The real difference? It takes a lot of time to age, often up to a year or more before your wine is ready to drink. But the amount of work you actually put into the endeavor is small. Prepping, fermenting and bottling really only take a few hours input and output. The rest is waiting. Patience is a virtue, darn it!
It all started with me giving my honey a beer brewing package for his birthday from Northern Brewer, who also has winemaking supplies. So I bought myself a wine kit, too. While he made a batch of American Wheat beer, I read up on wine. I tried my hand at some homemade wine back in my college days, but it was hard to get all the supplies, and frankly my experiments really sucked. They tasted like bad cough syrup. Home brewing and winemaking have come a long, long ways since then. It’s now quite easy (and affordable) to gather equipment and whip up a batch of something quite good. So of course I skipped all that and went right for the crazy stuff. Grapes? Boring. Tomatoes? Now we’re talking.
The process of starting the wine was quite simple. I used yellow heirloom tomatoes from my garden, mostly Kellogg’s Breakfast variety with a few sungolds and ground cherries thrown in for good measure. I added sugar, herbs, lemon juice and zest, and water to the mix. Then I added some specialty stuff that you’ll need to get from your local or online winemaking supply store (but I’ve also given you some home substitutes.) I added yeast energizer, which is like a vitamin for yeast (or substitute raisins), tannin (or black tea), a campden tablet (more on that later) and wine yeast. Most people advise against using bread yeast. Specialty yeasts have developed over the centuries for specific things, like bread, beer, wine, bourbon and whiskey, to name a few. These yeast have special properties, like holding up to low or high heat, acid, alcohol or sugar, and producing unique flavors. There are also wild yeasts, which are in the air or on your produce. If you want to try bread or wild yeasts, go for it. But know that your wine may be funky as all get out.
Below you will find a complete, detailed recipe, equipment list and instructions for making tomato wine. There is definitely room for improvisation in this recipe, like red tomatoes for yellow, or all cherry tomatoes, or honey for sugar, different herbs or wine yeasts. But just like canning or charcuterie, cleanliness is super important. This is a product that sits around for up to a year. No telling what could happen if you don’t work clean. This project will have several updates as the wine develops and is finally ready to drink. So start your batch now and count the days until tomato wine-o-clock!