Vin de Noix is a French liqueur made from “green walnuts” — made from immature walnuts that haven’t ripened yet.
The liqueur is a dark brown colour, with a touch of astringency in its taste. It is not as sweet or thick as the Italian equivalent liqueur, nocino.
It is served as an aperitif, in small glasses.
Vin de Noix is a country recipe. The walnuts must be harvested before the shells start to harden on them. As for nocino, the immature walnuts are traditionally picked on the 24th of June, St Jean’s Day, though the French tradition goes further and says that after that, the latest they should be picked is Bastille Day, the 14th of July. Some people will call brews made with ones picked on St Jean’s Day “noix de Saint-Jean” to distinguish them from ones made with walnuts picked closer to Bastille Day, and discuss the merits of each.
To the walnuts are added sugar, red wine, and an alcohol. Some recipes will call for a pure, distilled alcohol; others will call for “marc” (a form of brandy.) Using marc can give the flavour added complexity. You just use a drinkable plonk for the wine. Orange zest, a vanilla bean, walnut leaves and / or cloves are often added for additional flavour. If testing a batch along the way reveals it to be turning out to strong for your taste, you can dilute it with more red wine.
There are many different viewpoints on how long you should let the nuts steep (generally, recommendations range from 40 to 90 days), and whether you should start them off in all the alcohol including the wine, or just the alcohol first, then add the wine after two to three weeks afterwards.
In France, many people it at home. It is particularly popular in the south of France, Provence.
It is also made commercially. One such maker is the Distillerie d’Haute Provence, which is in Forcalquier, Provence.
40 green walnuts
1 litre alcohol (brandy, marc, eau de vie, vodka, grain alcohol)
5 litres red wine
1 kg (2 pounds) sugar
Optional from the following list:
12 walnut leaves
1 orange, zest of
4 to 8 cloves
1 vanilla pod
Wash and quarter the lemons. Put all the ingredients into an 8 quart (8 litre) vessel that has a lid. Stir, cover. Let steep in a cool, dark place for 6 to 9 weeks, shaking or stirring occasionally. Then, strain through a fine cloth such as cheesecloth or butter muslin. Adjust taste with sugar to sweeten or red wine to make it less strong or less sweet. Bottle, cap or seal bottles, and store for another month or so before starting to serve.
After straining, you can discard the walnuts, or use them in ways that nocino makers do (see Nocino.)
Brennan, Georgeanne. Green-walnut wines are steeped in tradition. San Francisco: The San Francisco Chronicle. 20 May 2004.