This blog is a record of the wine that I make and drink. Each flavour made and each bottle drunk will appear here. You may come to the conclusion that, on the whole, I should be drinking less.

Monday, 4 May 2020

Rose Petal & Orange Wine 2019 - The Making Of...

This year I have scaled back my rose petal wine production. I think that I have more bottles of rose petal in the house than any other flavour and 2018's vintage was poor. Going cold-turkey, though, was never the plan so I have made a single batch of rose petal & orange.

The Rose Petals
Obviously November is not the time of year to be gathering rose petals. In anticipation of this flavour, I started freezing roses past their first flush of youth from June. Mostly they were white roses, as that is our most prolific bush, but I did manage to get a few reds in there as well.

Oranges are available all year round so I left this wine until November and I decided to buy my oranges from the Fruit Stall in Chapel Allerton, albeit that this meant the wine is about 80p more expensive than it might otherwise be. They were large and juicy oranges, though, and I only needed five of them.

On Saturday evening, 2nd November, I thinly peeled one orange and covered its peel with a pint of boiling water, leaving this to one side. I then juiced all five oranges, which gave me a pint of juice, and put this in my bucket. Next I measured two pints of frozen rose petals, which is half what I used last year, and put these into the bucket with 3 lbs of sugar. I boiled 5-and-a-half pints of water and poured this in, releasing a heady aroma. On Sunday morning I added the water that had been covering the peel (but not the peel) and a teaspoon each of yeast, nutrient and pectolase.

The wine in its bucket
Ordinarily I would have put this in its demijohn on Thursday or Friday, but I was out both nights, so it waited until Saturday morning, 9th November. It was a quick job and I am left with a peach-coloured liquid.

The colour on racking was beautiful - a light dusky orange - and the wine has cleared entirely. I couldn't tell from my tiny sip, however, whether this was going to be any good or not. It didn't need much sugar, but I dissolved 2 oz in half a pint of water and poured that in.

The wine when first in its demijohn

If you want to see how this wine turned out (hint: very well indeed), click here


  1. Hello,

    How do you freeze your rose petals so they don't shrivel?
    Thank you.

    1. Hello - I just put them in a plastic bag very soon after picking and put that bag in the freezer immediately. There is a bit of shrivelling and discolouration, but not much - and I pour boiling water over them during the wine making process anyway, so I don't see shrivelling as a bad thing. Best of luck with yours! Ben

  2. Thank you. I'd tried freezing a handful of broom flowers, it didn't go well, they went rotten.

    I love your blog, it charts what you do, how it tastes, how you improve and test your own flavours over a long period of time. There's so much to read, although the potato wine eludes me. A lot of conversations between the Husband and I are bla bla bla Ben, Ben did bla bla bla, or I think we should do/not do Bla bla bla because Ben bla bla blas. We've just started making wine because we're locked down and bored. We haven't finished the jam from last year so it's making freezer space. We're currently gathering rose for your Rose and orange, ginger wine and when the Elderflowers come out we're trying rhubarb, Elderflower and mint. We have ginger, tashkent, garden and another we can't remember the name of.

    May I ask, do you still make your ginger wine and did you up the amount from 3 1/2 inches to 5 1/2 inches? Also do you do the second run of elderberry wine?
    Thank You again.

    1. Hello again - and thank you.

      I wrote a long reply, and that disappeared into the ether. I'm now on Chrome, and this appears to work!

      Anyway - delighted to hear that you are enjoying my blog. I don't think you will find the Potato Wine on it, though. I am pretty certain that by 2011, I had either drunk all of it or poured it down the sink (it was about 50:50). It is detailed in the book, but only second hand copies are available on Amazon (it wasn't a great seller, and I think the unsigned copies are far rarer than the signed ones!).

      Definitely make the Rhubarb, Elderflower and Mint - it is one of my better ones. I have yet to make mine for 2020, but must do so this weekend (which is the weekend I turn 50 - eek!). Elderflowers are another flower that do not freeze well. They go brown instantly.

      As regards ginger: over the recent years I have been measuring in weight rather than length (so 6 oz the last couple of years). 5 1/2 inches sounds about right.

      I haven't done a 'second run' of elderberry wine, and am not sure what that is. Is it where you use the must from your initial batch to make it again, but not quite as dominant an elderberry taste?

      If you want to get in touch direct, please do. Send me a direct message on Instagram (where I am @benswinemaking) or Twitter (which I don't use much - but the same tag) or find me on Facebook and I will send you my email address.

      I can't tell whether you are in the UK or USA. If the USA, be aware that my measurements are UK - where a pint is 20 fluid ounces. In the USA it is 16 fluid ounces and you will need to accommodate accordingly.



  3. It hates my reply as well, this is number 4 I think.
    I am up is Scotland, so it's safe to use the same measuring jugs.

    Happy Birthday and good luck finding Elderflower blossoms. We're further north so obviously we're weeks behind you and they are almost out. We got enough for a gallon of Gooseberry and Elderflower.

    The idea of a second run of Elderberry came from the Two Thirsty gardeners Linky, It's also listed as being in their book. There's a lot there. Your correct, you don't squeeze all the juices out of the Elderberries, which also stops mustiness. Then reuse the Elderberries with a second fruit like plums, apples or sloes. If you can find any sloes, the trees near us look to be having a year off, not a blossom to be seen.

    We're going to try that later in the year. Probably with blackberries or blackberry and apple or plums.

    We've filled everything we can use as a demijohn, so we have a few demibuckets on the go. But we've managed to arrange getting more used demijohns off in the next few days so I'm really looking forward to full speed ahead. We've made 3 batches of parsnip (parsnips were reduced and the demijohns are are called Marge (full, has ginger in it), Homer (stalled fermentation, restarted) and Bart, made several weeks later and is therefore the youngest). A bramble, bramble and elderberry (saved the fruit for a second run), mostly redcurrant, some blackcurrants, two broom batches (Elderflowers weren't out so we picked more brrom because it smelled so nice), gorse double batch, gorse and rose petal (with a spray of Elderflower, we had an extra one) and Elderflower and gooseberry. The first of the broom batches smelled lovely, the second one made weeks later smells like plant vomit, so it's going to be interesting if it improves.

    We're going to make blackcurrant, ginger, orange, rhubarb, rhubarb mint and Elderflower, Elderflower wine and Elderflower cordial. Maybe mint, to stop it taking over everything which I've just found on your blog because the kids and I deserve something alcohol free.

    1. Wow - you really have caught the bug! That all sounds amazing, apart from possibly the vomit-scented broom wine. It may improve, who knows?

      I have the Two Thirsty Gardeners' book and think it is excellent (and not just because I get a mention at the back). Beautifully produced and wittily written with clear instructions. I haven't had any success with their pineapple recipe, however.

      My mint, rhubarb and elderflower is now in its bucket and I will blog about it next week, when it is in its demijohn. Strawberry wine comes next, and then gooseberry and then blackcurrant. I think I will give rose petal a miss again this year: we get through rose petal wine very slowly - it never seems like the right bottle to have.

      I will be interested to know how your redcurrant goes. I have made it a few times: the first time it was lovely, but thereafter it has always been disappointing. Beautiful colour, though - and redcurrants are such an attractive fruit.


  4. We've just had another Ben conversation, "We should tell Ben this, see what he thinks".
    We just got some new to us Demijohns so we thought racking the broom will let us look at it. We put in half a teaspoon of yeast and a teaspoon of nutrient, and started to siphon. It was foaming like a beer, several inches high up the demijohn. We lost pressure on the siphon suction repeatedly. We were stirring the demijohn and bucket to dispel the gas which was foaming so we couldn't fit all the must into the demijohn. There is no problem with the airlock (new style) so we can't understand why so much gas stayed in solution. We had to blow the bubbles out of the tube, before sucking liquid into the tube to drain. It's filled the demijohn to just below the bung and we still had 150mls left, for a normal sized gallon batch. It tasted that background legume flavour gorse also had. It was very sweet, not rank, not much alcohol and thankfully not like vomit! Which was delightful given we had to repeatedly reform the seal.

    How do you know when to rack your wines?

    We have the thirsty Gardeners book, it's overall very enjoyable and it's both their parsnip recipes we have used. I want to try their mint wine recipe. But I'm annoyed with their idea of a "handful". Whose sized hand? my girly hand, a man's hand, a great big manly hand. Husband has huge hands, does he go for all he can fit in, or try to loosely pick. They also don't have some of the recipes I'd have expected that are common or common allotment/garden fruit wines. Ginger, orange (popular wines) blackcurrant, redcurrant, gooseberry, raspberry and apple (common garden fruits).

    To be honest we made that much redcurrant jelly last year we didn't eat we started wine making to use up the massive bag of them, and other berries in the freezer. We read your redcurrant results and added blackcurrants to try and avoid the thinness you experienced. We'll see how it goes. Maybe try an half and half blackcurrant batch to use up this years fruit. We have a pick the redcurrants or be over run with angry wasps dilemma.

    I'm very curious about your clove and ginger wine without a recipe.

    We're looking forward to your thoughts on on what is happening with the broom.

    1. Hello - this will be a brief reply, because I am at work. I think that I know what has happened. You say that you added yeast at racking stage: that will at best be a neutral act, and at worst start it fermenting again (if there is still sugar in the solution). I think that is what has happened here. I never add yeast when racking. In fact, what you are meant to do is add a campden tablet at that point to kill off any excess yeast and avoid further fermentation (but I never do, partly because I am a little scared of campden tablets - entirely irrationally - and partly because when secondary fermentation happens, it gives the wine a slight fizz).

      I rack when it looks right to rack (which I know isn't helpful - see below) and when I am doing another wine making job, so I can use my sterilising solution for both jobs. So, the earliest I will rack is 4 weeks after it goes into the demijohn, and the latest I will rack is 2 months after (these days - I used to leave it 3). It looks right when the sediment has all sunk to the bottom and there is no noticeable fizz, and it has at least started to clear. Sometimes it is entirely clear at racking stage. At racking, I will add a bit of extra sugar (depending on the taste - usually I do), but never yeast.

      I'll tell you more about clove and ginger later: but it was one that didn't work at all, in that there was no fermentation - the cloves killed it off. I still bottled it, and we will open a bottle if I have toothache or a non-alcoholic wine is required. It is very clove-y.


    2. I've explained badly, I'm really sorry.
      We added yeast a week ago. There was no alcohol smell, no bubbles, so we thought it'd stalled. Last night racked it into the new demijohn to see what was happening and added more yeast into the bottom of the demijohn.
      The gas was originating from the liquid itself. Both the original container it was fermenting in and the demijohn started bubbling once we gave it a stir.
      So much gas was dropping out of suspension in the siphon tube while the must was being transferred, the siphon was filling with bubbles. We repeatedly lost suction and had to blow the bubbles out and then get suction going again.

      Cloves, biocides, makes perfect sense. You'd have to make the ginger wine and after the second ferment rack and add cloves to infuse. Maybe some cinnamon or cassia. Please post the recipe anyway, the kids love ginger tea and it's be a drink they could make with us and drink.

      We just added a balloon over the neck of the demijohn and had the children watch as the gasses blew the balloon up!

    3. Hello Anon

      I have no idea what will have happened: sorry. That has never happened to me, and can't shed any light. Can you fit all the liquid back into one demijohn or not now? If it has decided that it will have an enthusiastic ferment, maybe put it all back into a bucket for a couple of days so that it can get it out of its system, and then put the (calmer) liquid into the demijohn? Good to hear, though, that the wine has the potential to be nice.

      On the Clove & Ginger recipe - have you got a copy of C J J Berry's book 'First Steps in Winemaking'? That is the one that I use, and where this recipe came from. He suggests 1 oz of cloves (!), 1 oz ginger (also meriting a ! but for how little that is), 3 lemons, an orange, 3lbs of brown sugar and a gallon of water (though I would cut down the water by about a pint). Slice the outermost of the peel of the citrus fruits - avoiding the pith - and put this into a muslin bag (I used an old pair of Claire's tights)with the cloves and the thinly sliced ginger. Get the water to a boil and put in the muslin bag/old tights and simmer for an hour. Remove the bag. Pour the water over the sugar in a bucket. Stir till dissolved. Add the juice from the orange and lemons. Add yeast, nutrient and possibly pectolase once cool. Proceed as normal.

      I'm not going to try it again, because it failed quite badly the first time. I will stick to ginger.

      I haven't done the balloon thing, but one of my favourite things to do with my bassoon is to attach a rubber glove to the end of it with a rubber band, stuff the glove down the bell and play a bottom B-flat. All holes in the bassoon are closed, and the hand rises from the top of the instrument. Kids love it.


  5. I think I've come up with a possible answer. The container was very full and the lid was touching the surface membrane of the liquid. That may have been enough to keep the gas in solution and slow down the reaction. So once the must was stirred the started started to escape and spill everywhere. It's bubbling furiously now.

    I don't have it, I saw one of your wine books photos and ordered Marguerite Patten OBE's book this month, it's not arrived yet but can you recommend anything from it? I've put myself on a one wine book a month limit. I'm a bit of a fan of her. I'll get it next month.

    That's a very small amount of ginger, and an awful lot of cloves. I'm not surprised you use it for toothache, that's sounds like one sip should numb your face. I'll let you know how it goes if we try infusing a bottle. We're going to try your variation of the ginger recipe in the next few days and next week when the flowers are properly out do two comparison elderflower demijohns. Your rhubarb and Elderflower, then the rhubarb, elderflower and mint.

    We inflated a balloon with a recorder since a clarinet or horn is a bit big. The balloon came off and deflated around the room for a bit! Hours of fun.

    1. Hello. I'm not sure I have made anything specifically from that book. I will have referred to it when making a new flavour (cherry, or damson - as examples) to see what she says, and then compared her recipe with others. There is a really good set of cocktail recipes, however, which I have only just noticed - so I think I will start making some of those!

      Your experiments with musical instruments and balloons sound excellent! Have you ever tried combining two instruments. I have tried a bassoon crook (with reed) and piccolo, a piccolo head on a bassoon, and something with a French horn and bassoon - though I can't quite remember how that worked. None were very successful and I posted three experiments on youtube. The first is on this link: and the other two will probably show up if you play that one. They are at least short!

      I should have put my rhubarb, elderflower and mint into its demijohn this evening, but got diverted by a long Zoom call and then a bottle of wine instead. Oh well, there is always tomorrow..

  6. Sorry I forgot to elaborate earlier, what prompts you to rack a demijohn and how far up the demijohn do you get let the lees get before you decide this too high?
    We racked a bramble that had been in secondary fermentation in a "demibucket" for 3 weeks into our new demijohn on Tuesday. It had a faint trace of sludge on the bottom of the bucket, it's lees are now about an inch deep. That's since Tuesday! So the racking has caused a definite change, probably for the better. None of our books say how to respond to those events and how deep the lees can be before it becomes too deep. I'm assuming if it's rapidly forming you leave the wine alone until the rate of lees formation decreases. But if it's sitting steady I'm not sure when to prompt, I remember reading you thought that leaving the wine with lees lead to a musty taste so you were experimenting to see what was best for your wines.

    I can't even find a picallon with a quick google, but your video linked to A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Globe, so that's tonight's amusement! We need to get the children into playing musical instruments more so hopefully that'll enthuse them. There's free violin lessons amongst other instruments up at the minute so we don't have to worry about finding a teacher. We'll have to tell them pick an instrument. Youngest is preschool so plenty of time. Another member of the family has my E♭ tenor horn or I'd have them playing that.

    We started two batches of your version of ginger wine, one with 4 lemons, and one with 2 oranges and 2 lemons. See what is nicer.

    Thank you for your reply and the link, your bassoon and mouthpiece experiment was funny.

    1. Hello Anon

      On racking, I really just base it on time, rather than the sediment depth. Some wines throw off nearly no sediment, and some produce absolutely loads. Blackcurrant is one where the sediment is often two inches deep. The only wines where I have tried to rack it as quickly as possible (and even then, I will always leave it 4 weeks) are ones where the taste has been musty before. So, if I were to make redcurrant again, I would rack it quickly. And I racked early on Nectarine, because my peach wine had been so awful. The time to rack is essentially once the ferment has died down and you haven't noticed any change in the sediment for a while. Those that produce a large sediment are a bit annoying, because I end up putting in more water after racking, which always makes me worry that I will dilute both flavour and alcohol content. But it has never destroyed a wine. I think my largest sediment was about a third of the demijohn - and that was a mixed fruit wine one year.

      Your Saturday night's entertainment is far loftier than mine. This week the Snarkalong Film Club (where a group of friends all start watching a film at the same time and communicate via Messenger) is Lara Croft Tomb Raider 2. I am setting my expectations low.

      Glad to hear that you are introducing the next generation to playing instruments. I do worry that it is a dying art - and playing music has been so important in my life.

      Best of luck with the Ginger. I'll be interested to hear.


    2. Just an update on this flavour. I have now bottled it and the quantities I used this time were absolutely correct. It is delicious.