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British Wines

These are usually made by fermenting solutions of sugar with which various ingredients are mixed in order to impart the particular flavour or character required.







The principal kinds are Ginger, Orange, Raisin, and Rhubarb Wines, but a number of others such as Cowslip, Elderberry, Gooseberry, and Damson wines have a certain vogue, more especially as domestic preparations. They are all included within the legal term "sweets or made wines,"1 which are defined as "Any liquor made from fruit and sugar, or from fruit or sugar mixed with any other ingredient, and which has undergone a process of fermentation in the manufacture thereof." (Finance (1909-10) Act, c. 8, s. 52). If the wines are made for sale, the manufacturer is required to take out a maker's licence. No tax is imposed upon the alcohol produced, but the seller of British wines must be duly licensed for the sale.



Fruit juice, it will be seen, is not necessarily an ingredient of British wines. The characteristic flavour of ginger wine, for instance, is given by ginger rhizome, of orange wine by orange peel, of rhubarb wine by the rhubarb stem. This, no doubt, is why the legal definition has been made so wide. Other fruits than those mentioned above, however, are often employed. Such are, for instance, currants, prunes, and apples. Moreover, a British wine-maker may, for flavouring purposes, mix with his product a proportion of foreign wine, not exceeding fifteen parts to the hundred. Imported grape "must" is fermented in this country, as also are 'musts' of currants and raisins, to produce a "basis" wine, which can be flavoured in different ways to make various products, such as British "port " or "claret."

1 See note at the end of this section.

British wines are usually well sweetened, and mostly contain from 16 to 26 per cent. of proof spirit (9 to 15 per cent. of alcohol by volume). Occasionally somewhat higher percentages of proof spirit are found - up to 29 per cent. or so - in these cases the wine has probably been "fortified " with alcohol. Lower amounts than 16 are not infrequent. When quantities of the order of 5 or 6 per cent. of proof spirit are present they are usually due to the fermentation, through carelessness, inadvertence, or design, of so-called 'non-alcoholic" beverages.

Preservatives are fairly common in British wines. Sulphurous acid is the most frequent; it may be derived either from direct treatment of the wine with the acid or a sulphite, or from storage in casks which had been "sulphured." The quantity ranges in general from mere traces up to 0 02 gram per 100 c.c, but larger amounts are not uncommon. Salicylic acid is occasionally present, though much less frequently than in the " non-alcoholic " preparations mentioned later on. Boric acid is also often found in small quantity, but where the proportion is less than 0 001 gram per 100 c.c. it is probably attributable to the natural juice of the grape or other fruit employed. Small quantities of fluorides have been found occasionally.

Artificial colouring substances are not much used in alcoholic British wines, though now and then an aniline colour such as "Fast Red " is found.

Copper in small quantity is occasionally present in British wine, as it is in foreign wine.

As there are no restrictions (other than the general prohibitions of deleterious substances) upon the ingredients which may be used in making British wines, most of the problems of analysis are simplified compared with those of foreign wines. In general it suffices to determine the specific gravity, alcohol, fixed and volatile acids, and sugars; and to examine the sample for injurious preservatives and colouring matters. The flavour characteristic of the particular variety of wine which the sample purports to be should, of course, be present: a genuine raisin wine must have the raisin flavour; a ginger wine must taste of ginger. This is a matter for the palate.

The following are typical analyses of the principal kinds of alcoholic British wines ordinarily sold in this country. With the exception of those for specific gravity and proof spirit, all the figures denote grams per 100 c.c. of the wine.


Analyses of British Wines.
Kind. Specific gravity. Proof spirit.
Per cent.
Fixed acid (as
Tartaric).
Volatile acid (as Acetic). Extract. Reducing sugars, as invert. Sucrose. Ash. K2O. p2o5.
Black currant .... 1.0512 21.4 0.48 0.12 17.43 14.25 Nil. 0.48 0.20 0.02
Cowslip...... 1.0453 25.6 0.21 0.17 16.57 14.56 0.55 0.17 0.06 0.02
Elderberry..... 1.0771 21.4 0.25 0.18 24.22 19.64 0.16 0.64 0.16 0.02
Ginger...... 1.0088 22.4 0.30 0.12 6.56 4.50 0.28 0.16 0.06 0.01
" ..... 1.1189 22.4 0.33 0.07 35.42 11.83 18.09 0.25 0.09 0.02
Orange...... 1.0220 26.6 0.35 0.14 10.66 8.31 0.15 0.24 0.11 0.02
" ...... 1.0806 18.0 0.33 0.19 24.57 22.23 0.12 0.24 0.09 0.02
Raisin ...... 1.0298 24.8 0.42 0.16 12.40 8.97 0.36 0.20 0.09 0.02
" ...... 1.0876 23.5 0.33 0.06 27.33 16.82 7.60 0.19 0.08 0.04
Raspberry..... 1.0579 19.4 0.84 0.12 18.84 10.22 3.81 0.32 0.13 0.02
British sherry .... .0043 28.2 0.38 0.12 6.31 3.75 0.11 0.30 0.12 0.03

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