Walnut Wine – wild harvest part 2

Those of you who read the last blog (click here if you missed it) will know that we harvested green walnuts on a recent walk in a valley above Nyons. As far as I know, there are only two things you would want to do with green walnuts – make wine, in fact more of a liqueur, or pickle them. Here’s how to make the wine.

The recipe was given to us about 7 or 8 years ago when on a walk near Rodez in the Averyon (home to the distinctive, rustic, but often delicious wines of Marcillac). In fact, the start/finish point for the walk was a village called Nuces, the Latin word for walnut. We picked what we needed as we went along.

Walnut Wine (makes about two litres)

12-15 green walnuts, chopped into quarters – this may be your problem. Unless you have a walnut tree in your garden, or know where you can find one (I’ve picked walnuts in Stockwell, London), you’re unlikely to find green walnuts. By the time the hard shells have formed it’s too late. The nuts should look like the photo below and you should be able to piece them easily with a skewer. Be warned – they will stain your fingers brown once broken. You will look like you smoke 60 Capstan unfiltered a day.

A green walnut picked on St Jean's day

2 bottles of red wine – the original recipe said “good” red wine, but this isn’t the time for anything grand. A relatively rich, fruity Aussie shiraz would be perfect. This time round, we used a Languedoc merlot, Aussie shiraz being as rare in France as green walnuts are in England .

300 ml of vodka the original recipe specifies “alcohol” and in France you can buy neutral spirit for preserving fruit, nuts etc. The cheapest supermarket vodka is the way to go otherwise – believe me, any subtleties in a good vodka will be swamped by the walnut flavour.

300g of granulated white sugar

You will also need one large (1.5-2 litre) or two smaller (1 litre) preserving jars. Kilner jars are ideal. The sort in the photo below can be picked up for a few euros in France. General/hardware shops in the UK, particularly in areas with large Asian communities, also sell them cheaply.

Fill the large single jar with the walnuts, sugar and vodka or share them out equally between the two jars. Top up with the wine. You will have a little wine left over if you are using a single 1.5 litre jar.

That’s it.

Two batches of walnut wine. The first using French preserving spirit (40%), the second using cheap vodka (37.5%)

Leave to macerate for 2-3 months, then strain the wine off the nuts into sterilised bottles (old glass wine or mineral water bottles with a screw-cap are ideal).

Leave for a long time and then drink in small quantities as an aperitif, if you’re feeling French, or as a digestif (or maybe with some Christmas cake?) if you’re more Anglo-Saxon. I’ve read that walnut wine should be left for 6 months. Our recipe says at least one year. Past experience suggests that after such a relatively short time the wine is incredibly tannic and bitter. And after two years, our first batch was still tannic and bitter. After 3 years it was delicious. Sorry,  patience is required. Talking of which, the pickled walnut recipe will follow in part three…



PS: I’d highly recommend getting hold of a bottle of Marcillac, if you can. It’s utterly distinctive whoever makes it (and I’ve tried nearly every producer). Mid-weight, with crunchy hedgerow fruit and a distinct mineral twang. Try it lightly chilled – 20 minutes in the fridge – which seems to highlight its individuality even more. Locally they drink it with herby sausages and aligot, the garlicky, cheesy potato purée. So bangers and mash would suit it down to the ground.

In the UK, Theatre of Wine and The Wine Society sell the wine of Domaine du Cros, The Sampler sells Domaine Mioula, Vine Trail has Domaine Laurens and Caves de Pyrene sells the wine of Jean-Luc Matha. In the USA, anybody who does sell Marcillac tends to sell Domaine du Cros. Google for a supplier. But a special mention must go to Wine Exchange in Orange, CA for stocking Domaine des Costes Rouges.

Notes: This is the blog of www.RhoneWineTours.com where we talk about whatever takes our fancy, which tends to mean wine and food. If you want to find out more about the wines and winemakers of the Rhone Valley click on the highlighted links to go to the website where you’ll find more blogs and pages devoted to the region and its winemakers. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter – search for Rhone Wine Tours. And if by any chance you would like to book a tour or a tasting while you’re in the Rhône Valley, well we’d still recommend going to the website first, but by all means contact us on info@rhonewinetours.com.


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