I was chatting to a French friend the other day. He expressed astonishment at the idea that wine could be made from anything other than grapes. I have never seen any in France, but they can certainly be made. Wines made from other fruits and veg are available commercially in England; I saw some in a garden centre I was perusing. I think they're generally called country wines. But they were ten quid a bottle. Ten quid buys a very drinkable bottle of grape wine, and I know where I'd rather spend the money. But you can make your own country wines much cheaper.
When in the UK recently I bought some gear for making wine, as described here. I had to buy it in the UK because you can't get demijohns like these in France: I've never seen them, not even at jumble sales.
The French word for demijohn is Dame-Jeanne. The simlarity is clear. The legend is that a queen Jeanne took refuge from a storm in a glass blower's workshop, and he demonstrated the technique, blowing an enormous glass jar that he named after her. I had always wondered why they're called demijohns since I have never heard of a unit of quantity called a john.
I had intended to make damson wine when the glut arrives towards the end of Summer, but impatience has got the better of me. Since I have a good crop of parsnips, I have, following instructions from the River Cottage Handbook on booze, started a batch of parsnip wine. It is currently fizzing away nicely on a countertop in the kitchen. I will let you know how it goes.
At ten quid a bottle, I will recoup my investment on the first batch, assuming it's drinkable.
Incidentally, I was checking out the recommended maximum unit count of alcohol one is supposed to consume per week. As I understand things, moderate alcohol consumption has health benefits; these get overwhelmed by the negative effects of alcohol as the rate of consumption increases. The 21 units per weeks was established at the point where the benefits and dangers cancel each other out, where life expectancy reverts back to the no-alcohol figure.
The trouble is, assigning hazards to health from alcohol involves a certain amount of estimation. Whereas it is clear that in almost all cases, death from liver cirrhosis is due 100% to alcohol, how about a death arising from breast cancer, where alcohol increases the risk but isn't necessarily the cause? Assigning a precise figure to the proportion of deaths where alcohol is a contributory factor is difficult and subject to error. This gives the nannying temperance brigade some wriggle room.
Regardless of any recent changes to the recommended maximum weekly intake, I'm sticking to the figure of 21 units per week as a reasonable estimate of where the risks and benefits cancel out. Not that that means I intend necessarily to limit myself to that figure, but I recognise the fact that more than that is likely to be detrimental as opposed to beneficial.
The good news is that there are 10.2 units of alcohol in a bottle of strong (13.5% ABV) red, which means that Anita and I can share 4 bottles per week and still be under 21 units each. That's actually less than we usually drink. We'll soon fix that.