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The Fruit Wine Story

Orchard fruit like peaches makes a smooth, subtle wine that's as satisfying as the sound of summer crickets.

Making wine out of fresh fruit is a time-honored rural tradition discovered by modern winemakers. Photo by Edible Grande Traverse.

Jump to fruit wine faq

Crisp apples in the orchard. Strawberries in from the field. Plums with bloom on their sour, purple skins. Raspberries fattened in the summer sun…

It doesn’t matter what fruit is your favorite because somewhere between Key West and Point Barrow, Alaska, a winemaker is turning that fruit (whatever it is) into a wine that’s as nice to drink as the fruit is good to eat.

Fruit: A Whole New Universe of Wine

"Had a great Bosc pear wine this afternoon ... yes fruit wine can be taken seriously folks, and it should." — Twitter post, Michael Pinkus, TheGrapeGuy

"The nose is pear, no doubt, and the palate is lively with lots and lots of pear aromas. Better yet, send a little air through the mouth and you get the complete package of Bosc pear, skin and everything, the sensation is amazing - pear in pure liquid form." — Wine critic Michael Pinkus describes a pear wine, August 25, 2010. Photo by Edible Grande Traverse.

Red and white wines have a famously large range — from powerful Shiraz to delicate, flowery Sauvignon Blanc. Wines made from grapes have complex notes that remind the drinker of almost everything under the sun; from fruit and spices to grass and wood.

Wine made from fruit other than grapes is just as diverse, and its cascading flow of possibilities opens up a whole new world to wine drinkers:

Fruit wine can be sweet and fruity or not sweet, more complex and nuanced.

And fruit wine is not just made from one fruit (grapes) but from every single fruit imaginable that is not a grape.

And most fruits have numerous varieties with a range of flavors. Apples, of course, are different from figs. But beyond that, how many different kinds of apples are there? Tons! An apple wine could be made from a single kind of apple or a blend of Golden Delicious, Macintosh and Fuji apples — with each type offering unique flavor, color, acidity and sugar content.

To further complicate any attempt at simple labeling, fruit wines are sometimes blended with grape wine in ways that create whole new twists and flavors: Merlot-raspberry, for example, is popular.

And, unlike reds/whites, some winemakers introduce natural flavorings like ginseng, maple syrup, and mulling herbs to certain fruit wines — expanding fruit wine’s range even further.

But wait, there’s more!

Fresh local fruit is made into every style of wine that reds/whites are: effervescent sparkling wines; rich, decadent dessert wines; port-style delights; liquors; brandies; and high- alcohol, low-sugar eaux de vie for the cocktail crowd.

Plus, some of the strangest, most unlikely fruits are made into wine. Wineries in Hawaii make wine out of local pineapple. There are wineries in Florida that make wine from local key limes. A winery in North Dakota gathers chokecherry that grows wild on the prairie. A winery in Washington makes wine from huckleberries foraged from bear country in the surrounding mountains.

Wines like this are hard to find, but they exist.

Dominic Rivard is an expert on fruit wine who studied winemaking at the University of California-Davis — the United States’ most prestigious winemaking institution — which trains the winemakers in Napa Valley and Sonoma County. His fruit wines have won hundreds of international awards, and he is the author of the book The Fruit Wine Guidebook (Bacchus Enterprises, 2009). Rivard hints at the impressive range of fruit wine this way:
“Fruit wines can be vinted in a number of ways and made from a variety of different fruits and berries. Putting a general label on the category is difficult. The wines range from dry, still table wines, to light, fruity, sparkling wines, to intense, sweet dessert-style products.”

If you explore our fruit wine search function you can find wines you might never have imagined, just waiting for you to order.

And each batch is different — as unique as the winemaker who crafted it by hand.

Fruit wine has almost endless possibilities, and as if that wasn’t enough, the quality of fruit wine has never been better because of its migration into the hands of professional winemakers.

The Big Picture

Seven hundred wineries in the United States now make some form of fruit wine, hard cider, honey wine or exotic (pumpkin, maple, rhubarb, hazelnut etc.) wine.

That’s a world of difference from just 40 years ago, when non-grape wine was the domain of fun-loving farmers, resourceful hillbillies and industrious suburban “home vintners.”

Of course, home vintners and hooch-loving Americans with buckets of dusty, fresh-picked berries or ill-gotten apples from a neighbor’s tree still brew-up their own wine in basements, garages and woodsheds from Eastport, Maine to Guam.

In fact, there’s a whole industry that exists to support hobbyists with the equipment and supplies (and even fruit!) that that they need for their operations (check out cherrywine.com’s “Winemaking Kits” search page.)

Fruit wine started going from amateur fun to a whole ‘nother level in the 1980s, when small, professional wineries started popping up in states beyond California.

Some wineries started tapping into local traditions of fruit wine and sourcing local fruit. A few of these start-ups did so in part to survive financially, so they had wine to sell while their vineyards were being planted. Later, after their grape production was off and running and their Merlots and Chardonnays were selling, they found that the fruit wines that had sustained them were still in demand by their early customers.

So the wineries that spread east from California kept on making fruit wine — experimenting with it, perfecting it. Elevating non-grape wine from its romantic, agrarian past and launching it into its romantic, agrarian future — one handcrafted batch at a time.

Today, wineries that are making some of this country’s best whites and reds are lending their expertise, resources and sense of adventure to local fruit traditions.

Too bad it’s been so hard to find them. Until now, that is.

Welcome to cherrywine.com and the wonderful world of fruit wine & liquors, honey wines, exotics and hard ciders.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is fruit wine, wine?
What does fruit wine taste like?
What’s this about fruit wines winning gold medals?
What states make the most fruit wine?
Are there any states that don’t make fruit wine commercially?
I’ve had Boone’s Farm and/or Manischewitz before. Isn’t that fruit wine?
What are the variables that determine how a fruit wine tastes?
Is fruit wine sweet?
Is fruit wine popular?
Why isn’t fruit wine carried in stores?
Will fruit wine get me drunk?
What kind of food goes with fruit wine?
Why is fruit wine less expensive than reds and whites?
What does it cost to have fruit wine shipped?
Is fruit wine good for you?
Can you cellar fruit wine?

Is fruit wine, wine?

Yep. Just made with apples, blackberries or strawberries. Or peaches, watermelon or currants. Or cranberries or plums or pears or elderberries or pineapple. Or…anything else that grows on a tree or on a vine that’s nice and juicy and full of flavor.

Raspberry wine/juice with Merlot is a popular fruit-grape blend.

Fresh berries make great wine, which can be made sweet, dry or anywhere in between. Photo by Edible Grande Traverse.

What does fruit wine taste like?

Like fruit, but also like wine.

That is, the difference between Welch’s grape juice and red wine is similar to the difference between say, apple juice and apple wine. Pomegranate juice and pomegranate wine, etc.

You will taste the fruit used to make the wine, but there’s a lot more to than that: the intricacies of the vinting process and the art of the particular winemaker.

Chances are, if you like blackberries, you will like blackberry wine. If you like cranberries, you will like cranberry wine. If you like strawberries, you will like strawberry wine.

What’s this about fruit wines winning gold medals?

If you’ve already spent time searching for fruit wines on this site, you’ve probably noticed that some wines have won medals at the same contests that fancy wine magazines like Wine Spectator cover in their pages.

Prestigious competitions that help influence the buying habits of informed wine connoisseurs have fruit wine categories and name Best in Class, Double Gold, Gold, Silver and Bronze to the best entries.

Fruit wines that win awards are high-quality, well-made wines. But what we have found is that since it costs money to enter these contests and that the smaller, boutique wineries who tend to make fruit wines also tend not to have tons of money, they can’t afford to send their fruit wines to contests.

So, just because a wine has not won any sort of official recognition it’s a mistake to dismiss it. Many of the best fruit wines we have tried have never even been submitted to a contest!

Plus, who says wine judges will have the same taste you do? If a wine looks and sounds like something you would enjoy, it’s probably something you would enjoy.

But yes, fruit wines win the same prestigious medals that grape wines do.

What states make the most fruit wine?

The states with the largest number of wineries in them that are vinting wine from fruit are:

  1. New York
  2. Pennsylvania
  3. Michigan
  4. California
  5. Ohio
  6. Washington
  7. North Carolina
  8. Virginia
  9. Wisconsin
  10. Missouri

Are there any states that don’t make fruit wine commercially?

Yes. Just one: Nevada.

I’ve had Boone’s Farm and/or Manischewitz before. Isn’t that fruit wine?

It’s easy to confuse Boone’s with fruit wine since Boone’s Farm is made by Gallo, the largest wine company on the planet, and is sold in a wine bottle and comes in fruit flavors. But it’s playing “pretend.”

Boone’s Farm has its place in the world, but it’s not wine. It’s a malt beverage, like Zima, with slight carbonation and a low alcohol content around that of beer.

Boone’s Farm only hints at the potential (and punch) of actual wine made from fruit. Still, while it is cheap — and we think Gallo would admit, cheaply made — it’s also quite popular, especially with beginning drinkers the south side of 30. (Full disclosure: we have a fond memory from college involving Boone’s Farm.)

If you like Boone’s Farm, you might really, really like real fruit wine vinted from local fruit in small batches without artificial flavors or colorings.

If you turn your nose up at Boone’s, understand that there is no fair comparison. It’s like the difference between Velveeta and cave-aged Gruyère. You might like Velveeta, but you won’t find any behind a fancy cheese counter. And you won’t find anything like Boone’s Farm on cherrywine.com.

There’s another mass-produced product often seen in stores that mimics fruit wine — Manischewitz brand.

Manischewitz is a large company out of New York with famously sweet, somewhat syrupy approach to wine that makes kosher versions of fruit-flavored wines and off-varietal grape wine.

Besides their famous Concord grape red wine, they also make blackberry, cherry, elderberry and loganberry flavors that you have perhaps tried or seen on store shelves.

But these products are actually sweetened grape wine with artificial fruit flavors and artificial fruit colors added to them. And they’re especially sweet for wines that only have 10% alcohol content.

Most wines as sweet as Manischewitz are more viscous “dessert wines” that have alcohol content around 15-18%.

Manischewitz’ syrupy Loganberry wine retails for $3.25 per bottle — three or four times less the cost of handcrafted, small-batch fruit wine.

So, though it has millions of fans, Manischewitz is not really fruit wine and is not at all representative of the fruit wines being made by boutique winemakers across the country whose products are listed on cherrywine.com.

If you like Manischewitz wines, though, know your search results on cherrywine.com will mention how sweet each wine is, and if you like sweet, powerful fruit-flavored wines, we have many listed — all with natural flavors, natural colors and real, actual fruit. Going straight to the dessert wines on cherrywine.com might be an even better strategy. But watch out, dessert wines will have a lot more alcohol kick to them than Manischewitz.

What are the variables that determine how a fruit wine tastes?

There are four main variables.

• First off, the fruit. There are all kinds of fruit and often numerous varieties of that particular fruit with a range of flavors.

Apples, of course, are different from figs. But beyond that, how many different kinds of apples are there? Tons! An apple wine could be made from a single kind of apple or a blend of Golden Delicious, Macintosh and Fuji apples — with each type offering unique flavor, color, acidity and sugar content.

Beyond that, fruit wines or fruit juice can also be blended with crisp, clean whites like Riesling or to a lesser extent, red wines like Merlots.

• Secondly, the kind of sugar added, and how much. When winemakers make fruit wine they add some sugar to the mash so the yeast has enough to convert to alcohol to get the wine in the 8%-14% alcohol range. There are many different kinds of sweeteners winemakers have at their disposal, including granulated sugar, invert sugar, neutral grape concentrate, honey and others.

• Thirdly, is the wine made dry or sweet? As a generalization, sweeter wines are bolder while dryer wines are more complex and subtle. But, depending on the acidity of the mash, a sweet wine could still be very complex and a semi-dry could still pack the wallop of a “fruit bomb.”

• Fourthly, a winemaker’s decision of what type of enzyme or yeast strain to use will have a tremendous effect on the flavor and aroma. These are the “secret” skills and tricks that often differentiate between a home brew and a professional winemaker’s wine.

• Casking is the last major variable. Most fruit wines are not casked in anything but stainless steel, but a minority of winemakers like to experiment with wood casking for a short period of time to add to the complexity. Casking comes into play much more often with dessert wines and fruit liquors. Eaux de vie, for example, are regularly casked in oak.

 

Is fruit wine sweet?

Some is, some isn’t. Home vintners generally make fruit wines sweet, and so there is basis for the prevailing thought that fruit wines are sweet.

But, in the hands of the professional winemaker, the trend is that fruit wines are being made more and more often as dry and off-dry (semi-dry), as most grape wines are.

Of course, sweet wines are preferred by many people over dryer styles. Sweet fruit wines have a lot to offer the palette and the pleasure center of the brain. They have a lot to offer a hot summer day. They add a lot to the romantic dinner, porch swing, picnic and barbecue.

If you like more complex wine, you’ll find that sorting your results on cherrywine.com by “sweetness” will yield a long list of dry and semi-dry wines to consider. You’ll still taste the fruit with dry or semi-dry wines, but you’ll also notice and enjoy complexities and subtleties hidden in the fruit.

Is fruit wine popular?

Yes and no.

Yes, because 700 wineries across the country make fruit wine and they tend to sell out of what they make and sometimes very, very quickly.

No, because the 700 wineries represent only 11% of the 6,357 wineries in the United States.

You generally don’t see fruit wine on store shelves unless you live near one of these 700 wineries, where they will often have a small range of retail distribution. And it’s rare to find it on the wine lists at restaurants — though with the rise of the “slow food” and “farm to table” movement, that situation is improving rapidly.

So, fruit wine is not mass-produced like the biggest brands of grape wine, and therefore not mass marketed. You don’t see ads on TV or in magazines for it.

Wine made from local fruit is popular in the communities where it’s made — it’s just not widely available to you and me beyond those 700 dots on the map. At least at the retail level.

The best way to find quality fruit wine is to use the fruit wine search on cherrywine.com. Find what you want, and order it direct shipping from the wineries themselves.

Why isn’t fruit wine carried in stores?

Despite fruit wine’s roots in ancient civilization (making wine with fruit is as old as wine itself), its continuing popularity with home vintners, and its recent maturation in the hands of professional winemakers, it’s still rarely found at retail.

That’s because it’s not mass-produced by giant corporations that are traded on Wall Street. Only 11 percent of America’s wineries make fruit wine, and almost all of them are small- or mid-sized wineries that have very little retail distribution.

That’s why cherrywine.com exists: so you can find and order wine made from apples, cherries, blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, black currant, etc. that can be shipped wherever you want.

Will fruit wine get me drunk?

Well, it is wine. Fruit wines tend to be lower in alcohol than the heaviest-hitting reds, like Shiraz (which are often 14%), but have just as much as a lot of the reds and whites you find in stores. The average for fruit wines is probably 11%. Fruit dessert wines range from 16%-20%. Fruit liquors go up to the standard 40% (80 proof).

What kind of food goes with fruit wine?

Fruit wines are as diverse in flavor as grape wines are, so there is probably nothing that can be eaten that wouldn’t go well with some sort of fruit-based wine.

Many fruit wines have some sweetness to them, and wines with a little bit of sweetness are often matched with “spicy” — be it barbecue or authentic Asian dishes. There’s a song by a country music act called Hot Apple Pie in the fruit wine montage called “Hillbillies” that pairs strawberry wine with a “plateful of chicken and summa that pie.” And that sounds good, too.

Dryer fruit wines will pair with cheeses and salads.

Other times what matters most is not the sweetness of the wine, but the fruit that was used to make the wine. For example, apple wine works like a charm with savory, non-hot sausages (think, brats) regardless of how sweet the apple wine is or isn’t. And apples do wonders for pork.

But for us, fruit wine is less about food pairings, and more about pairing the right flavor and style with the occasion itself.

What kind of wine would work for a football tailgate? Which for a romantic dinner? Which for a picnic in the hills? Which for the porch swing on a hot summer day?

Also, what wine goes with the season of the year? Strawberry in the summer? Apple in the fall? Plum in the winter?

Fruit wine fits moods, seasons, occasions and your party guests just as nicely as it complements what’s on the stove or in the oven.

Why is fruit wine less expensive than reds and whites?

The same expertise, love, patience, care and creative energy goes into making raspberry wine or pear wine, it’s just that the “art supplies” cost less for fruit-based products.

Nine fruits out of ten are less expensive than wine grapes, which require a huge, sustained capital investment on the part of the winery. Even contracting out for wine grapes is much more expensive than buying fruit juice on the market, or buying the fruit whole from neighboring orchards.

Plus, it costs wineries money to barrel their grape vintages for two years before release to the public. Fruit wine is not aged and does not incur storage costs.

Wineries simply pass the savings on to you.

What does it cost to have fruit wine shipped?

Because quality fruit wine is generally priced five dollars less than typical, mid-range reds and whites, the shipping fees you incur if you use “Ground,” simply raise the wine to the price you’re used to paying for a typical bottle at the corner wine shop.

So, about $9-$16 per bottle.

The rule with direct shipping is that the more bottles you order, the less you pay per bottle.

Plus, it’s industry standard that wine buyers get a 10% discount for ordering by the case, which is hip winery lingo for 12 bottles.

Ordering a dozen $11.00 bottles of fruit wine from a winery will put your bill probably in the $150-$180 range. That sounds expensive, but your per-bottle cost will only be $12-$15 (NOT expensive), and you will have a 40-pound package of liquid love with your name on it making its way to you.

And you will be the only person in town who owns those bottles, since the wine is not available in stores near you.

Just be sure to order “Ground” (via land). It will take a week to get across the country, but you’ll save a ton of money and enjoy the anticipation.

Many wineries offer you “expedited” shipping (next-day, two-day), but only use this pricey method in a “wine emergency.”

Is fruit wine good for you?

There’s never been any research on the health benefits of fruit wine. There has, though, been a lot of research on the health benefits of fruit. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention actively urges Americans to eat more fruits and vegetables in order to reduce chronic diseases.

Fruits are found to have vitamins and antioxidants, and some — including blueberries and cranberries — even have heart-healthy resveratrol (famous for being in red wine) and anti-inflammatory properties.

Of course, everyone knows fruit is good for you. In fact, there’s agreement among anthropologists that early humans were “frugivores,” who subsisted primarily on foraged fruit.

Beyond that, the Mayo Clinic reports that moderate intake of alcohol – no more than one drink per day for women and two for men – raises “good” cholesterol, helps reduce artery damage caused by “bad” cholesterol, and “reduces the formation of blood clots.”

Of course fruit wine is not for everyone, including expecting moms and many with certain medical conditions, such as diabetes.

Can you cellar fruit wine?

Remember the joke from The Jerk? Where Steve Martin’s character tries to impress Bernadette Peters’ character by chastising the poor waiter at the fancy French restaurant who brings an aged bottle of Bordeaux to the table? Insulted, Martin shouts, “Bring us some FRESH wine!”

If that garçon was a quick-thinker, he would have returned with a bottle of raspberry wine, since fruit wine is made to drink “fresh.”

Still, some fruit wines are fine to cellar for a year or two. It wouldn’t be necessary. Drinking a young Cabernet takes courage, but fruit wine is always ready to drink since fruit wines do not have the same level of tannins that can pucker the mouth or rub the tongue the wrong way.