Before the fall wine

The Vinter by David Teniers the younger
Cheers little dude

Back in the early 1600’s it proved to be rather popular to move to a city, a trend that continues to this day. It was around this time that people really stopped having such a strong link with the seasons. They were less connected with the countryside that fed them. Up until this point, many would refer to the Autumn simply as, “harvest time”. What did urban dwellers care about harvest time? They didn’t pick fruit or plough fields and instead would whizz about the 17th century in hackney carriages and horse-drawn coaches. They needed a new word and so started using the phrase, “fall of the leaf”. They still had access to trees and so this made sense to them. The word Autumn from the Latin Autumnus, the god of changes, also started to curry favour and one took hold in the States and the latter here in England.

We tend to stay in a little more and perhaps drink a little more during these months. Hibernating and taking stock of the year that has almost passed whilst contemplating the year ahead. For the foraging drink maker it may start to feel that there is less around, but you can always make something.

This year I have been experimenting by using just what I can hold of and have come up with the recipe below. You can freeform a little if using, consider each ingredient as a suggestion rather than a hard a fast part of a whole. The main thing really is to get some kind of diversity in there and to keep adding the sugar until everything becomes balanced. Don’t fret too much about the wine either, I’ve even used wine that has been corked and the rest of the flavour mask it’s imperfection. But do consider using a bold fruity wine such as Malbec or Shiraz, elderberry or blackberry.

The fig leaf idea comes from the guys at the White Lyon bar in Hoxton, London – well from Ally who works there and Abi, the brand ambassador for the Botanist Gin who introduced me to their delights. Fig leaves, it would seem, give up the flavour of figs – remarkable!

Before the Fall wine – The recipe

Think mulled wine when making this, but it is more than that; the walnut adds some depth and a backbone the spices add another layer of complexity, the hogweed comes in at the end with some spice and the fig leaves are well, just rather nice! This becoming a firm Autumn favourite.

2 bottles of fruity red wine
1 tablespoon hogweed seeds (ensure they are not hemlock or giant hogweed seeds)
One root of herb bennet/clove root – washed and grated.
1 walnut leaf (careful not to use black walnut leaves and do ensure you are using a leaf that is still all green).
4-8 fig leaves depending on size
1 teaspoon pink peppercorns
50ml rosehip cordial
50ml brandy or cognac – I used Remy’s 1738 Royal Accord, but you can go cheaper.
about 250g/1 cup brown sugar – more if needed.


Pour the wine into a large saucepan and start to heat. The trick is not to whack the heat on full, don’t even simmer – just getting it so it starts to be warm. The more you heat it the more alcohol you’ll loose and you don’t want that.

Once as warm as a cup of tea that you still might just drink start adding the ingredients one by one, adding the sugar last. I taste as I go along. Some flavours will be given up immediately, other will take a while. Keep stirring.

When it comes to adding the sugar add half and see if you like it as is. If not add the other half. If it is still rather astringent then add more, a tablespoon at a time and keep adding until you like the flavour.

Can be served warm or cold.