Ask Wine Wizard

Adding Sambuca to Wine


Lisa Watson — Parker Cove, British Columbia asks,

My wine is thin and rather tasteless and I’m days away from bottling. Can I add a little sambuca for flavor?


Well I like your moxie. Sometimes it takes a little thinking outside the box to really make our beverages sing, and in your case (though it would be anathema to a commercial winery, for which this kind of thing is prohibited by law) you just might want to give it a try.

That’s perhaps the best thing about being a home winemaker: Freedom. You can add anything you want to your wines. Maple syrup? Why not. Dried rose petals? Sure. Kitty litter — if you want (oh wait, that’s bentonite; we already can add that legally to wine).

Because of labelling laws (a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon has to be over 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, for example) and truth in advertising (not to mention health regulations) I have to hew by federal and state rules. You and all of your home winemaking buddies do not have to; you are governed only by your own tastes and what kind of crazy stuff you want to subject yourselves to. Sambuca (an Italian, colorless anise-flavoured liqueur) is an interesting addition choice, for sure. If you love it I say try it. Keep your mind open to lots of other “additive” possibilities.

Do bench trials, experiment and treat your homemade wines like cocktails. The possibilities are pretty much endless, and that is all a part of the fun that comes with being a home winemaker.

Response by Alison Crowe.