The past couple of weeks saw me scavenging around for wine bottles. Well, these are not specially crafted bottles (like the decanter) but just pretty ones that I wanted to store the wine in and possibly gift someone. It is really sad that in a place like Mumbai where it is almost impossible to return empty handed from a shopping trip for anything that you fancy, I did not find a single bottle! Shoppers Stop, Lifestyle, Home Centre, Home Stop and my local crockery-wala – the answer was always ‘no’. Finally I went to Andheri Market and asked for a wine bottle or bottle to store wine and got puzzled looks in return. Eventually I had to shed my inhibitions and bluntly ask for ‘sharaab ka bothal‘ (liquor bottle) and got smirks instead. As if I was going to a liquor shop to buy my quota of booze. Tsk tsk!
The only option I was left with was to actually empty my collection of liquor/wines in my bar at home (which my man only likes to collect although both of us don’t go beyond an occasional beer or wine while we entertain guests). Anyway, a big lesson learnt – never attempt making wine at home unless you have enough bottles to store it in! (and of course a large glass/ceramic jar to make the wine in).You see, after I made the ginger wine (which is tasting better with every passing day) I caught this major obsession to try out wine after wine from my mum’s handwritten book [I am clarifying this as I got mails from readers asking if my mother had published a book – well, no, she hasn’t authored any although it’s not such a bad idea , I must tell her!:-)]
So coming back to the Rice wine, the very name gives you a feel that this could be the typical oriental variety. Rice wine features prominently in Chinese & East Asian’s cuisines. The Japanese Sake (pronounced as Sa-Keh) is gaining popularity thanks to restaurants that bring world cuisine especially the Sushi to the table. Although in Japan Sake is more of a general term for all kind of alcoholic beverages, the rice alcohol is called the Nihonshu and is made through a brewing process more like that of beer than a regular fermenting process that the wine calls for.
So that makes us Mangaloreans the pioneers in making sweet wine made of rice by the fermenting process (ha! Just kidding). Rice wine looks & tastes almost like toddy (palm wine) in its nascent stages. Mine turned out a bit more strong since I was over ambitious about making the entire quantity of wine (with 4.5 litres of wine when my ceramic jar could hold only 4 litres of liquid). So as and how the rice & sugar was added to the water, the water started spilling out of the jar. Tsk tsk! Too bad I didn’t realise that the jar needs to be really large to accommodate all that water, sugar & rice – I had the Thirsty Crow story unfolding right in front of my eyes 🙁 I did remove a litre of water from the jar, so that explains why the wine is a lot more strong than intended – but that’s ok, I can drink my blues away someday in the future and get totally intoxicated, haha!
I think Ginger & Rice wines are so apt for the Christmas season – Mangalorean tradition says so. Grape wine however is an all season wine and is more associated with the wedding celebrations (but let’s not get into the discussion of whether they even serve genuine wine at weddings these days)
Do try this wine right away if you want to taste it just in time for Christmas. Instead of the customary 3 weeks, you may keep this wine to ferment for 17-18 days (or until the frothing stops) and then decant. Bottle it just before serving. Making it for New Year is not such a bad idea (assuming you have already made the ginger wine for Christmas)
- 4-1/2 litres boiled & cooled water
- 350 gm raw rice * see notes
- 1.5 kg sugar
- juice of 3 limes (or lemons)
- 120 gm raisins (preferably golden)
- 1-1/2 tbsp dried yeast (I used DCL)
- 50ml brandy
- a clean & dry 6 litre glass or ceramic jar (‘buyaon’ in Konkani/ ‘bharani‘ in Kannada)
- a long spoon or spatula to stir the contents
- clean & dry empty wine or liquor bottles (approx 3 standard bottles)
- a strainer
- a large, clean & dry steel vessel to strain out the contents
- a clean & dry funnel to pour the wine into the bottle