Not a wine, not plum, but nice!
Never have I come across so much confusion as to a name and even what is in a drink, with much being lost in translation.
In the beginning there was umeshu, translated variously as plum wine or plum liqueur. It is made by macerating unripe ume plums in a pure cane spirt (chochu) with added sugar. That is the same way that in Britain we make sloe gin. Like sloe gin, it tends to have a quite high ABV – 15% plus. Not a wine then but a liqueur.
However the Japanese also make umeshu in other ways. The plums may be macerated instead with sake which gives a slightly lower ABV and may have other flavours added (salt, cinnamon, yuzu fruit, teas and even brandy. The resulting ABVs range from 7% upwards, but 10% is typical.
Lastly sometimes real wine is used, so actually make a plum wine of sorts. For this offering, the maker Choya blends imported ume plum concentrate with an unspecified “european” wine plus sugar, flavouring, caramel (for the colour I assume) and water.
Doesn’t sound great nor traditional but surprisingly the resulting drink is a quite pleasant aperitif or digestif, made to be served well chilled or on the rocks or even diluted with sparkling water. It definitely tastes plumy with hints of apricots and almonds and has a nice sharpness and is light for an aperitif at 10% ABV.
So this “plum wine” we quite recommend, but if you buy another type you’ll need to read the label carefully – it will probably have ume fruit in it but the base alcohol could come from almost anything and the ABV can vary widely. And it may even be called a liqueur as under European law none of these versions are technically wines at all.
Lastly, to be really pedantic, ume are not even plums! The ume fruit tree (malus mume) is a sister species to the plum (malus domestica). So strictly not a plum wine in any sense at all.
Or this drink may well be available from your high street supplier – we’re sorry we cannot check them all but you might like to.
You might also like to see what other drinks are available from different on-line suppliers: