Saturday, May 26, 2018
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Tomato wine refreshes on a hot day

As Ohio's delicious tomatoes ripen, ambitious home winemakers may want to make a jug or two of tomato wine.

Lest you conclude I'm spoofing, bear in mind that wine is fermented fruit juice. We may think of a tomato as a vegetable, but it is nonetheless fruit. Sugar is a natural ingredient of tomato juice, so it is no surprise that by fermentation tomato juice can be turned into wine. What's more, you wouldn't need an extraordinarily sensitive nose to sniff out a hint of tomato in a glass of the wine. The flavor is weak, but not disagreeable; a glass is refreshing on a hot summmer day.

This recipe was given to me many years ago by a Trilby neighbor, the late George Soldner.

8 pounds ripe tomatoes

2 gallons soft water

8 pounds white sugar

2 oranges

2 lemons

1 yeast cake

Wash tomatoes in a crock and cover with water. Let stand for two days, stirring frequently. Strain the liquid into a pot, add sugar, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat, and add thin-sliced oranges and lemons. Lay the yeast on a slice of crisp toast, place the toast on the liquid, and let the mixture stand for about nine days. Transfer the wine to a jug. Cap with a burper (a small glass or plastic device that lets fermenting gas escape but keeps air out) or airlock, or a cap inserted very lightly.

TWO ITALIAN BRANDS, Folonari and Melini, have been familiar imports for many years. They're among wineries that produce neither great wines nor bad ones. Now, in what appears to be a healthy renewal, they have slightly altered their labels and product lines.

Folonari is at home in the northeast, the Veneto, and its wine varieties have traditionally drawn on the abundant grape culture of that fruitful region, from Venice to the foothills of the Alps. The wines, in consequence, were traditional varietals, all or most DOCs. ("DOC" is legal assurance that the wine named on the label is made of grapes grown in that region.)

In Folonari's label and content changes, three popular DOC varietals with a long past - soave, valpolicella, and bardolino - are retained, each a blend of up to three or four varieties differing in the source of the grapes and the formulas of each blend. (There's also a surprising note: formulas for white or red sangria. Is nothing sacred?)

What's new, a renaming in a pattern being adopted by European producers with an eye to wine-illiterate customers, is a handful of varietals: cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, and pinot grigio. Hardly surprising, but alongside these standard wines are two surprises: merlot/sangiovese and pinot grigio/chardonnay, pairings suggesting a thoughtful consideration of what up to now have been largely the sort of making and marketing by Australians.

And what is Melini up to? The chianti-Tuscan specialist is emphasizing three grades of chianti, all three easy to pick off the shelf, for the name, though the label is new, is the traditional bold Melini name. Of the three, Borghi d'Elsa is the closest to everyman's chianti; next up the ladder, Iassi, classico; and Laborel, classico riserva.

Average retail prices of both imports seem not to have been settled, but a $12-$14 spread - a dollar or two more for the Laborel - would seem probable. The wine will doubtless be good.

Contact Robert Kirtland at:

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