We all remember the itchy pain of being stung by nettles as children, but if that hasn’t put you off this prickly plant then perhaps we can convince you it is a wondrous weed.
For starters, butterflies can’t get enough of it, which is good news for our native British species the Red Admiral and Painted Lady. Many people also consider nettles a tasty addition to a variety of dishes. They lose their sting when the leaves are boiled and add an earthy tang to soups and risottos.
If that’s not enough to persuade you, maybe our nettle wine can take the sting out of your memories of nettles.
Lyme Bay Winery Nettle Wine is dry, light and crisp with the summery character of nettle and hints of melon and grapefruit. Old fashioned and delicious, it’s great served chilled as an aperitif or with seafood, chicken and summer salads.
We need about 20kg of nettles to make about 3000 litres of wine. Our team of pickers, armed with gardening gloves and up-turned buckets (to save their backs) strip, or de-stem, the young nettles and collect the leaves in large containers.
“The best time of year for nettle picking is early/mid spring as we are looking for the young growth which imparts a fresher, more delicate flavour to the wine,” says Tom Gooding, our production manager. “The leaves are then soaked for 6-8 weeks on a white wine base; racked, filtered, delicately balanced and finally bottled.”
Make your own
If you fancy having a go at making your own nettle wine, Tom says it is best not to pick flowering nettles as the seeds contain a high level of toxins that can irritate the digestive system. It is also important to avoid picking from any environment where there may be a suspicion of cross contamination – the most common example of this would be nettles growing close to main roads.
“It is worth noting that for anyone looking to make their own nettle tipple, the more neutral-tasting the base liquid the better,” adds Tom, “as nettle is a very delicate flavour and easily overpowered.”
Nettle wine recipe
7g nettle tips
Juice of 2 large lemons
1 tsp wine yeast
Boil the nettle tips in about 1 litre of water for 15 minutes, then strain the liquid into the fermenting vessel. Let the nettles cool and squeeze any remaining liquid into the fermenter.
Dissolve the sugar in the hot liquid and add the lemon juice. Make up to about 5 litres with cold water, and add the wine yeast when it has cooled to body temperature.
Cover the wine and put in a warm place to ferment, stirring once a day. After 10 days strain it into a demijohn, fit an airlock and leave to ferment.
When bubbles stop rising through the air lock you should see a layer of dead yeast at the bottom of the demijohn. Siphon off the wine into a sterilised demijohn, leaving behind as much sediment as possible.
Move to a cool place and leave to clear and mature for about six months. Siphon off the clear wine, bottle, and store for a couple more months to condition before tasting.
The easy route
If you can’t wait this long to sample the delights of nettle wine then you can always place an order with us and we will ship some out to you faster than you can say “pass the dock leaf”.
We’d love to see you here at the Winery shop so do pop in if you are passing, or get in touch with our friendly team here at the Winery via email at [email protected] or by calling us on 01297 551355 if you’d like to order by phone.