Haskap, also called honeyberry, is a super fruit now emerging in the marketplace and is starting to get known for its ability to make truly amazing fruit wines! This is an exciting development and wonderful for us fruit wine lovers.
Many home winemakers are discovering this fruit and some forward thinking and innovative commercial producers already have been selling haskap wines to discerning wine clientele.
Let’s learn a bit about this amazing fruit and why we should be thinking about making wines from it (or at least buying a few bottles from some producers).
What are haskaps?
Haskap (also called Honeyberry) is a member of the Honeysuckle family. It has a recent history of being commercially grown and was first introduced in Canada in the mid 1960’s. Originally, the berry comes from the Japanese island of Hokkaido and used to be named “hasukappu” by the local natives from that island.
The fruit itself is a small oval berry, sometimes described as being in the shape to an elongated Blueberry and can be about 2.5cm long. The skin usually is a very dark blue, and its flesh is of a deep crimson colour and its seeds are tiny, very much like the seeds of blueberries. Haskap juice is very sweet, almost as sweet as the brix level of a ripe wine grape (20–22’ brix) and the colour is so concentrated that it will stain almost anything it touches!
Haskaps have a wonderful unique flavour. The best way I can describe the taste would be like a cross between blueberry, raspberry and elderberry. In my books, that’s a winning combination! An explosive amount of flavour is combined in this small super fruit.
The fruit itself is one of the healthiest fruits available. It stands out when compared to other fruits and by a long shot!
Haskap is very high in anthocyanins, vitamin C, phenolic compounds and other important antioxidants. Traditionally, they have been used in Japan to reduce blood pressure and relieve digestion issues. Haskaps contain traces of Selenium. This is an element that Japanese people have used in traditional remedies to restore youth. People from that island have some of the longest longevity known on earth. Perhaps there is some truth to this!
We all know that berries such as the blueberry are high in antioxidants and phenols, however, recent research has put haskap at having five times the amount of of phenols in blueberries and certainly even more than in red wine grapes.
To explain this a little clearer, phenolic content in fruit is directly associated with color and flavour intensity. The phenolic content of red wine, for example, comes during the winemaking process. This is because most varieties of red grapes have white flesh. The juice of most grapes is actually white, even in red grapes. The redness and phenol content comes when wine is allowed to ferment in contact with the skin. Its colour and phenols actually comes from the skin, not the juice.
As for haskap, the phenols are present in both the skin as well as its deeply coloured flesh and juice.
Lots of antioxidants!
Antioxidants are capable of counteracting the damaging effects of the natural process of oxidation in human or animal tissue. They comprise of vitamins, minerals and enzymes which are proteins that assist in chemical reactions in the body. Antioxidants have shown that they play a role in preventing the development of diseases like cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Rheumatoid arthritis, and cataracts plus other ailments.
Haskaps are not just high in polyphenols and antioxidants but also other flavonoids such as: Rutin, Ferulic acid, Epicatechin, Genistic acid, Protocatechuic acid, Caffeic Acid, Ellagitannins, Quercetin and others which can help fight cancer and other diseases.
The traditional way that antioxidant levels are measured is by using the ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) method. I while ago, I have written on ORAC levels of fruit wines and more can be found through this LINK.
Research by Dr Rupasinghe is known for his research on haskap and has confirmed that they contain some of the highest antioxidant values of all the berries tested.
In his own words “The results indicated that haskap berries possessed the highest antioxidant capacities and total phenolic contents, specifically total flavonoid among the tested fruits and could be used as a promising fruit source of natural dietary antioxidants”
Why does haskap make such good wine?
Now, we know that haskap berries are very healthy. But do they taste good?
On their own, although certainly very edible, I find that they are not as tasty as eating fresh blueberries or raspberries. But once processed into juice or wine…wow! The fruit is a natural for quality winemaking. Once the juice has had the chance to ferment and age a little, it quickly develops similar flavour complexities and characters of well-made red grape wines.
Making wine with haskap a real pleasure because of its high brix (sugar) content and concentration. Because of this, the fruit is very versatile and can be processed into a very wide range of wine styles. The dilution ratio of the juice used in winemaking will determine the style of wine it can create.
Juice from haskap can be processed into cider (blending it with apple for instance), a light off-dry wine if diluted enough, hearty oak aged table wine, fortified dessert wine, liqueur and sparkling wine. It can be made in the entire spectrum of wine styles.
In my opinion, I feel that the fruit really can shine if made in a less diluted, intense dry table wine, especially in aged for 6+ months in American oak barrels. With this style of wine, you can expect an age worthy wine that will improve with cellaring for many years to come and get better with age.
It can also be blended with other berries such as raspberry or elderberry to create an even more complex and interesting wine.
So why do haskaps make good wine and why are they great to work with? Obviously, the health component is a big plus but for me, the main attraction is its flavour and complexity and its wonderful versatility.
How is it made?
There are so many ways to make haskap wine and again, it all depends of the style of wine you are going for but here is a sample general recipe formulation to make a 5-imperial gallon (23L)batch of a dry table haskap wine. You will need to adjust this depending on the wine ingredients that are available to you but this will serve as a template to follow. If you need more specific information or to scale this up to commercial quantities, contact me:
* 7.5kg haskap
* 0.16kg sugar (or what is needed to get to a specific gravity of 1.090)
* standard amount of pectic enzymes
* standard amount of Diamonium Phosphate or Fermaid
* standard amount of yeast solution nutrient (Go-Ferm)
* 25g wine yeast (experiment with different strains but I have been successful with Lalvin W15 and 71B)
Will also need for processing:
* 20–30g bentonite (amount will vary depending of fining trials)
* rough, medium and sterile filter pads if you intend on filtering
* Potassium metabisulphite
* either malic acid or potassium carbonate to adjust acid
Basic Method of Production:
- Crush, add enzymes, let macerate for 6–12 hours and press the fruit, put juice into primary fermentor
- Add sugar, top up to 23–24L. Adjust specific gravity to S.G. 1.090–92
- Measure acids and adjust to a pH of 3.0 to 3.5 and T.A. of around 6–7 g/L.
- Add nutrient to must.
- Pitch in rehydrated yeast.
- Maintain a fermentation temperature of 16–19’C throughout the initial Fermentation process (1.090–1.025)
- Rack wine at S.G. 1.005
- Once wine has finished its fermentation (< SG 0.996), stabilize with sulphite (add 50–60 PPM depending on the pH level)
- Rack the following day and fine with Bentonite (20–30 g/HL)
- Chill the wine to 0’C
- Rack after 15 days and filter to 0.8 micron
- Add oak chips (4g/L for 15 days) or place into a small barrel for aging
- Measure FSO2 and adjust to 50PPM.
- Adjust acid to a TA of 7g/L (with potassium carbonate if needed to lower or addition of malic to increase)
- When wine is properly aged and developed (4 months), do final adjustments (blending, SO2, TA, pH, SG, RS, etc)
- Adjust Residual Sugar of wine to 25g/L or to taste
- Pad filter to 0.45 micron.
- Conduct all stability tests and adjust if needed
- Bottle the wine and age for a few months before drinking
To make haskap rose wine, or a fortified version, or perhaps a sparkling version, different general formulations would be needed. If you are not able to get enough haskaps, try blending it with other berries such as blueberry or raspberry and use a similar formulation. Blending with apple or pear would also make nice wine, perhaps add less water and substitute with apple juice for a wine that is even more complex. The possibilities are endless.
Where to get haskap wines now?
Tasting haskap wine is a real treat. There are several wine producers in Canada that make and distribute high quality examples.
These are a few of the wineries are worth contacting and buying their version of haskap wine:
Wolf Willow Wine
To try other haskap products such as the juice, jellies and a whole other array of products that this super fruit can be made into, you may also want to check out Haskapa, located in Nova Scotia.
Other excellent haskap wines and liqueurs are found in the other parts of Canada, USA, Japan and even in Scandinavia. A bit of a search online will help find them.
If you are intrigued in actually growing haskaps and get some plants, check out the listing of the many nurseries that are selling plants and recommended by the University of Saskatchewan who has done a lot of research on the fruit.
As always, have fun with your fruit winemaking and perhaps this post will encourage you to try your hand at making some haskap wine in 2016 or at the very least, try some and see for yourself what this fruit can do.
Cheers and here is to haskap!