Method

Sparkling wines, like liqueurs, may be prepared from any kind of berry or fruit. The resulting drink, however, is much sweeter and more delicate than any kind of liqueur. It sparkles (shipit) like champagne, hence its name “sparkling” (shipovka). When preparing sparkling wines, attention must be paid to the choice of both the berries and the vodka. The berries must be completely fresh and ripe, and French brandy or cognac is essential (or “old” [staraja]* good vodka, as it is still called in several places in the Western provinces).

To prepare this sparkling wine, pour 14 bottles, or 7 shtof of pure, raw [i.e., unboiled] water into a glass carboy, add 7 pounds of finely pounded good sugar, mix with a spoon until the sugar completely dissolves, and add 7 pounds of fresh, ripe berries or fruit. Pour in 2 bottles or 1 shtof of “old” vodka or French brandy, shake the carboy several times, and cover the neck with a thin piece of canvas. Tie it up and place in a sunlit window for 12 days. During this period thoroughly stir the berries every morning with a clean spatula, being careful not to crush them or, alternatively, shake the carboy several times. After 12 days in the sun, the berries will circulate up and down, and this shows that the sparkling wine is ready. It must now be strained through a canvas or napkin folded in four (but do not use cotton cloth, as for fruit liqueurs). Strain into another carboy and let stand on ice for 3 days. Note that juice should not be squeezed from the leftover berries and mixed with the already filtered sparkling drinks as is done when preparing fruit liqueurs.

After 3 days the fizzing will have settled down. The wine should then be strained once more through a piece of canvas folded in four and bottled carefully. Use only champagne bottles (other bottles will burst eventually) and do not fill them completely. The corks must be the very best, and they must be boiled before using.** Cork the bottles as securely as possible, driving the corks in with a wooden mallet. Use a thin wire or a strong cord to attach the corks to the necks of the bottles, as is done with champagne. Dip the necks of the corked bottles into resin or tar and store all the bottles in a cold place, but not on ice, with their necks downward, buried in sand. Let them stand in this manner for 1½–2 months. During this time the wine will ferment and, if a bottle or two bursts, then it proves that the sparkling wine is ready. You may expect many bottles to burst if you use inferior corks or ordinary bottles instead of champagne bottles. This beverage cannot be kept longer than 1⅓ years before turning sour. The very best sparkling wines are made of kumaniki*** raspberries, black and red currants, ripe gooseberries, etc.

[A pleasing alternative to this sparkling wine is sparkling macedoine. It is made like the above recipe (#2104), but combines a variety of berries and fruits (especially cherries, black currants, raspberries, melons, peaches, and pineapple) either in equal parts, or by adding more of any preferred fruit. It has an inexplicable aroma, and many prefer it to all other sparkling wine.]

*Related to this “old” vodka is today’s Starka vodka, which is a variety of strong vodka that is aged before bottling and is the same color as French brandy.

**Bottles had to be securely stoppered to retard the spoilage of their contents. This led to a wide discussion in nineteenth-century domestic literature of the most suitable stoppers and corks. “The choice of corks is highly important. Some corks are very porous, and, although they stop the bottle well in appearance, they allow the wine to evaporate. Hard and dry corks have this effect. The best corks are those which are fine-grained, soft, yielding to the fingers, and showing few pores" (Good-holme’s Domestic Cyclopaedia of Practical Information, 594; see also Godey’s Lady’s Book and Magazine, March 1856, 267-268.)

***This is a regional word for a kind of blackberry. Kumanika can refer to any one of three different berries: (I) The European blackberry, Rubus fructicosus, (2) the European dewberry, Rubus caesius, or (3) Rubus nessensis. (Macura, Russian-English Botanical Dictionary, 262.)

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