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Dear Dr. Vinny,
Is it possible to make wine from guava or mango fruit? If so, why isn't it popular? We have lots of guava and mango gardens in our area.
—Ramana, Andhra Pradesh, India
There is absolutely guava and mango “wine.” (Note, however, that most people and governments strictly define “wine” as coming from grapes). There are plenty of recipes out there if you want to try to make it at home, as well as a handful of commercial producers that make guava and mango wines. It’s not just guavas and mangos—people make wine from all types of fruits: berries, bananas, plums, pineapples and many others. I think the best example I ever had personally was a cherry wine.
Most wine made from fruit other than grapes tends to be made in a very sweet style, and is meant to be consumed young. Wine grapes have a unique balance of sugar, acidity and tannins that make them ideal for wine production. Remember that wine grapes aren’t the same as the grapes you find for snacking: Wine grapes have thicker skins, bigger seeds, and more intense flavors.
On their own, most other fruits do not have those same characteristics, but you can tinker with them to add sugar, acidity or tannins to create balance. For example, many of the mango wine recipes I saw suggested adding tannins, which are naturally found in the skins and seeds of grapes.
Grapes are also less fussy during the fermentation process than other fruits, which might need yeast and nutrients to help convert the sugar in the fruit (and in most cases, the sugar that is added) into alcohol. Wine from grapes is also pretty stable once it is bottled, and can age or be stored for months and years, but fruit wines seem like they don’t have as long of a shelf life, and they tend to turn color quickly, and the flavors fade sooner.
I’m not sure why fruit wines aren’t more popular. My guess is that there are already an overwhelming number of wine options out there, and there’s a stigma against sweeter styles. While there are some large-production wines that add fruit “flavorings” to wines sold in supermarkets, I haven't seen any mass-produced fruit wines, which might be the tipping point that this category needs. In the meantime, this category remains on the boutique scale. Some folks estimate that in the United States, as many as 1 in 10 wineries makes a non-grape wine, but I can’t confirm that. The good news is that there is plenty of experimentation out there by many passionate people, perhaps yourself included!
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