Tuesday, 17 August 2010

No 22 - Elderflower Champagne

Posted by Rosie

So, why did my making of elderflower champagne merit a post of it's own and was it linked to that some what flippant (albeit very true) comment at the end of my last entry - "A few failed but only one became a potential killer - more of that another day ........."?

Last year I tried to make elderflower champagne in plastic fizzy water bottles, messed up the recipe somewhat and with added yeast ended up with a not very nice drink. I subsequently left the bottles in the shed unaware of the ferocity of this seemingly innocent drink. Suffice it to say I didn't release the pressure and the after a while the bottles exploded and covered the contents of the shed in my not very nice attempt at champagne.

This year I used a different recipe, did exactly as instructed and used grolsch topped lemonade bottles. I opened a bottle a while ago with the gentle pop of a delicious tasting, gently fizzing taste of summer. Wonderful. I felt so proud of my first successful foray into alcohol production.

A few days later a friend rang and rather shakily said that one of her bottles had exploded, shattering her and her husband in broken glass. She was unhurt but realised how serious it could have been. I promptly covered my bottles with a towel until Simon could move them away from their potentially dangerous location on the front room windowsill. But it was late and we thought before panicking too much we'd open one to ascertain the fizz build up. Simon did the deed and once again the bottled popped gently and the champagne was a gently fizzy delicious drink. I stopped panicking and decided to move the bottles the next day.

Now picture if you will, our front room. The windowsill is on the far side of a large room. The table is in the middle of the room and against the opposite wall is the computer. Picture Simon, myself and Lou sitting around the table enjoying a glass of elderflower champagne. As our glasses emptied and the night drew on we each went our separate ways, Lou to another room, Simon upstairs and I went to the computer.


Literally seconds after we all moved one of the bottles exploded sending glass everywhere. There wasn't one part of the room without glass in it and the largest piece, some 10cm long landed UNDERNEATH the computer chair where I was now sitting and must have flown in a direct line via where I had been sitting at the table not 2 seconds earlier. Who could have thought that something as innocent as elderflowers, sugar, water and lemon juice could wreak such havoc and potential danger? And who could have believed that we could have been so lucky to have all moved away from the exploding bottles just seconds before?

Apparently (as I now know) the lemonade bottles are not strong enough and you should use either proper champagne or cider bottles with wired on corks or plastic bottles and remember to release the pressure. I've about 9 months to decide whether I will risk elderflower champagne again and if so which bottle I will use.

Incidentally, Simon opened the 2 remaining bottles - one popped gently lie the two we had already opened and the other went with a heck of a bang and despite being left open the champagne continued to fizz for several days. They were all from the same batch and whilst 3 fizzed perfectly 2 went mad.
Why - I do not know?


  1. Eek.

    I use plastic screw-top-lid bottles for this very reason; the chap I got the recipe from (were you using Hedgewizard's one?) warned me of this problem... Better luck next time. We have also had similar build-ups of pressure in two or three of the eight bottles of elderflower cordial we made; they've started to ferment despite having had a small portion of camden tablet in to prevent such things... Determined!

  2. glad no one was hurt.

    I use plastic fizzy bottles, and feel the outside, daily.. and as soon as they go tight.. move to the fridge - where it at least is slowed down.

    we still forgot one bottle once, and it exploded.. but much less dangerous with plastic.

    given your history with elderflower explosions... no... i would not tempt fate again!

    as i said - glad no one was hurt... could have been a much worse story..


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