Rowanberrry Wine

Back in the 1600s there was much toing and froing from here to our Celtic brethren in Wales. Actually it goes back far longer than that, between St Aidan coming from St Davids to build a Church in Ferns and of of course the bould and brave Strongbow marrying Aoife Mac Murragh. But todays post is about a drink called Diodgriafel. A brew made from Rowan berries. Popular with the peasant folk it was said, and with the abundance of berries growing freely and barley touched by birds or deer its no surprise!

The berries are poisonous raw. They won’t kill you but they taste horrible and will give you a bit of tummy trouble so most people make a jelly out of them. But the jelly is very nice mixed with crab apple, this was a popular side dish on medieval dinner tables when paired with beef!

But back to Diodgriafel, the only written account we have is this brief mention:

 “make a drink called Diodgriafel by infusing the berries in water“.

I’m assuming there is some sort of natural yeast within the berry that makes it ferment. But if that sounds a little too close to prison hooch, below is a lovely recipe I received from a friend which makes a gorgeous sweet wine….

Rowanberries with glass of rowanberry wine

You will need:

  • 2kg rowanberries, snipped off with scissors, cleaned of any bits and washed
  • 1.2kg sugar
  • 0ml white grape juice concentrate
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 tsp of wine tannin
  • 1 tsp pectolase
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • Sachet of white wine yeast
  • About 4 litres of boiling water

Most of the above you will find online, if you live in a city you may be able to source them locally.

You will also need a food-grade bucket, a funnel and some muslin and a Demi-John. This is a special glass jar for brewing. And remember, everything will need sterilising, that’s extremely important!


Put the berries in a food grade plastic bucket and mash them coarsely with the end of a rolling pin or an empty wine bottle wrapped in some grease proof paper until they are thoroughly mushed up.

Boil the water then stir in the sugar until dissolved, bring to the boil again and immediately pour over the berries. Cover and allow to cool. Add the grape concentrate, pectolase, lemon juice and tannin. Cover and leave for 24 hours then stir in the yeast nutrient and yeast (activated if necessary).

Cover and leave for a week, stirring every day for the first five days. If your brew has separated nicely into three layers – sludge / liquid / sludge – carefully place the end of a siphon at a strategic height and siphon off the liquid into a clean demi-john – though a bit of sludge won’t hurt. Otherwise strain through clean muslin using a funnel (bounty kitchen towel and an upturned coke bottle with the base removed can work as a funnel and muslin alternative!)

Top up to the bottom of the neck with boiled and cooled water if necessary. Fit your bung and fermentation lock and leave to ferment for a couple of months.

Pour into a fresh demi-john and leave until all fermentation has stopped for a week, then bottle.

Rowanberry wine tastes better the more time it has to mature so try to hold off for a few months at least!