Friday, July 11, 2008

Walnut wine

This afternoon, I started to prepare this year's walnut wine.

According to the traditional recipe for walnut wine, one should start to gather green walnuts after the feast-day of Saint John, which falls on June 24. Up here on the slopes of the Vercors, the fruit mature more slowly than down in the Isère valley. Today was the limit, though, because the wood of the future nut shell is starting to form.

I've figured out that, inside my plastic cask, there should be room for the walnuts in the wire basket and about three dozen liters of red wine. In fact, I use a volumetric ratio of 7:2:1 for wine, walnuts and (later) alcohol. More precisely, my intention is to macerate ten liters of walnuts in 35 liters of wine.

To measure out the chopped-up walnuts, I used an aluminium jug (in fact, a Greek implement for serving a liter of retsina wine). I had a rubber glove on my left hand, to hold the walnut while I was cutting it into four or five fragments, but my right hand, holding the knife, remained bare. Consequently, it soon looked like this:

These ugly brown stains won't disappear for a week or so. Throughout the region, one can easily recognize fellow walnut-wine makers.

[Anecdote: The first thing I did this morning, before even thinking about making walnut wine, was to lodge an application at the mayoral office in Choranche for my first French identity card. As required by law, the secretary took my fingerprint. She would have been surprised, I imagine, to encounter the fingers of a walnut-wine producer. Maybe such fingers are so cruddy that they can't even be printed!]

Tomorrow morning, I'll drive to St-Marcellin with the cask containing the chopped-up walnuts, and I'll purchase the required coarse 12-degree wine from a specialized bulk-wine dealer. Then it's simply a matter of allowing the maceration process to take place in my cellar at Gamone for at least three months.

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