Vin de Noix ~ You can make your own

For the second year in a row I have made Vin de Noix (Green Walnut Wine/Aperitif) to give as Christmas gifts. It's been a very popular gift, and one you might consider making yourself.

If you are not familiar with the French beverage Vin de Noix, or her stronger sister, Liqueur de Noix, they are an aged alcoholic beverage which begin life months earlier in June around the time of St. Jean's Day.
(Saint Jean Baptiste Day on June 24 is the feast day of St John the Baptist, a Jewish preacher who baptized Jesus in the River Jordan.)

Stock photo

The third week in June happens to be the perfect time for the gathering of green (unripe) walnuts and walnut leaves. The walnuts should be immature, and the skin tender enough that the entire nut can pierce through with a needle.

In the (US) states Vin Noix and Liqueur de Noix are not that commonly available commercially. However, I am aware of one producer, a distillery in California; Charbay .

Charbay is a family-run artisan distillery & winery based in St. Helena, in the Napa Valley. Their walnut liqueur product is called Nostalgie, a rich, intense (and pricey) walnut liqueur ($75 for 375 ml). It is made from walnuts infused with double-distilled brandy that is aged in oak barrels for 2 1/2 years and then infused with a secret blend of herbs and spices.

You may also find Vin de Noix, Liqueur, (or Nocino, the Italian version) at some restaurants, as well. But I prefer to make my own, it is less sweet than most and is a satisfying experience.
Making your own Green Walnut Vin requires very little work; just the initial gathering and mixing of ingredients, then allowing time to do its thing and some tasting sips along the way to check the progress. An aged bottle of this unusual aperitiv makes a one-of-a-kind gift, and each year it will be a little different depending upon the ingredients you choose to use.

The harvested green walnuts and leaves

I no longer have a walnut tree on my property, but there are plenty of walnut trees, and old abandoned walnut orchards near where I live so procuring the green walnuts is not a problem. Just ask, and most walnut tree owners will gladly share some of their green walnuts with you.

However, if you don't have access to walnut trees, I understand there are a couple of commercial sources in Northern California that will ship both the green walnuts, (and will include a few leaves if you ask.)

The filled jars with the wine, vodka, oranges and spices.

Last year I used larger jars (as you can see in the photo above), but this year I used the European jars similar to these, the 1.5 liter size:

Photo from: VillgeKitchen

Oxygen must reach the mixture in order to develop that desirable deep color. I cover my jars with cheese cloth, then just balance the lids on top.

In some Italian versions of this walnut drink (known as Nocino in Italy) the wine mixture is left in the sun to steep over several days.

But every French version I have researched directs to keep the mixture, in a cool, dark place and undisturbed; which is the way I do it.

Here it is after 2 months, strained, bottled and tightly corked~

Where it continues to age in a cool, dark place.

I've redesigned the label this year, (the 2008 is a surprise.)

But this is the one I made for the 2007 vintage; I used a dry-brush effect on photo of the green walnuts and just printed them out. (I used the first photo in this post.)

Labeled and ready for gifting:

You can leave the corks plain, seal them with sealing wax, or cover with a piece of fabric.

I simply used clear cellophane secured with a wine bottle ornament from the wine shop.

A bottle makes a very special gift, and combined with Port Sippers makes an extra special gift. (Thank you Monique for introducing me!)

This is the recipe I use for Vin de Noix, the less alcoholic drink than the liqueur (Liqueur de Noix) version. I prefer the less alcoholic one; this is more of an aperitiv beverage. Try a little warmed up, garnished with a slice of orange on a chilly autumn day. Or over ice with a garnish of orange on a hot summer day; it's very refreshing!

Part of the enjoyment of making this is adding your own special touches, for example I add orange slices, Walnut leaves and Meyer leaves to mine, but you don't have to.
You can adjust the amount of spices, too. One hint though, do taste it each week or two to see how it is progressing; both times I have removed the spices at about the third week of aging, so they do not have a chance to overpower. Half the fun of making it is that you can help guide the final outcome by your choices.

This is the basic recipe I use for my Vin de Noix It produces about a dozen gift-size bottles, plus extra. I used orange slices as a flavoring ingredient. (The following ingredient ratios are for each jar, using 1.5 liter jars.)
Place the following in each 1.5 liter jar:

About 10 green walnuts each jar , quartered (warning; walnut skins stain everything they touch so you will want to wear gloves, and cut on a non-porous cutting surface). I use a plastic board and scrub th board and knife immediately afterwards with hot soapy water.
1/4 to 1/2 cup vodka (however strong you want to make the final product)
You will need a bit of sweetness; you can make a simple syrup (sugar disolved in water) or other sweetener, I used maple syrup:
1/2 cup (grade B maple syrup)
1/3 vanilla bean
2 whole cloves
1/2 piece of a cinnamon stick
1/2 of a star anise
1 teaspoon Schezwan peppercorns, or 2 cracked black peppercorns
2 slices of an orange
1 or 2 walnut leaves (depending upon size)
1 or 2 lemon leaves
Then fill jars the rest of the way with an inexpensive (but drinkable!) red wine. Something non-sweet like a Zinfandel or Merlot. It will take about 5 (750ml) bottles to fill all 6 of the jars to the top.

In order to turn it's beautiful deep black color the mix needs contact with oxygen so don't cap tightly.

Allow the jars to age, in a cool, dark place.

After 2 months of the initial aging, filter and bottle the vin de noix. Seal the bottles, and allow to mature for another month or two. At that point it is drinkable, however I always age mine longer; until Thanksgiving and beyond to give as Christmas gifts.

Do taste it along the way to check the progress, it will go from strongly medicinal, then will even out a bit, and eventually will become deep, dark and much smoother.
You can also incorporate the Vin de Noix into your cooking; I have made a walnut-sage sauce reduction to accompany a pork roast loin, and another time sauteed pork chops finished with some of the Vin de Noix, apples, rosemary and some toasted walnuts. They were both outstanding. The Vin de Noix lended a deep heady background to the sauces, unusual and delicious.

Incidentally, while the 2008 vintage is ready to drink ~ the 2007 vintage is even more mellow and really developing into something special after a year in the bottle:

If you look carefully you can see that it has developed very nice 'legs'.


  1. So gald you like les pipes Mary..Your Vin De Noix turned out beautifully.
    I love the way you topped it off:)

  2. Very informational post, Mari. ..... Full of detail and information. Love the port sippers ... I remember when Monique first posted them. (And I had no idea what they were.) ... I'm assuming the walnuts are California walnuts, not black walnuts like we have here in the midwest.

    Absolutely lovely, and looks delicious.

  3. Hello Monique and Cynthia, thank you for taking the time to leave such nice comments. xo~m

  4. Mary, what a beau post! How did I miss it...and such a lovely presentation. Lucy recipients!
    How about walnut oil, do you make that???
    I never saw those port did I miss Monique's???
    You are amazing!

  5. Mari, very interesting post. I have not heard of this drink before, but now I am anxious to try to make some this year. Mike has some of those port sippers, so this will give us something else to do with them!

    Could you tell me where you got the bottles you used for the gift giving? I made limoncello for gift-giving this year and think bottles like that would work well for it also.

    Thanks again. I love trying things like this and am now looking forward to green walnut season.

  6. Hi Kathleen and Becky!

    Becky, I got the bottles at the local Grange Co-op, (it's like a member owned hardware/farm supply place.) I looked on the box, but I don't see any identifying label for the manufacturer there or on the bottles. I think they are fairly common, and not expensive. 12- 500ml capacity for $16.

    I hope you can find them, they would be perfect for limoncello! (Which I honestly like more than the Walnut Liqueur.) :)

    Thanks for stopping by!

  7. Mari, thanks so much. I appreciate you checking for manufacturer info. I think I will look online and see what is available. I like the shape of the ones you got as it looks like they are easy to label. It's not likely I'll be able to find enough of the vintage Mohawk liqueur bottles to use again this year.

    I posted the recipe for limoncello I got from our friends in Rome, if you want to try that version sometime. It is really good. :-) Once I make the Walnut Liqueur I'll let you know how it turns out.

    Thanks again!

  8. This is so interesting! Do you know if this works with the American black walnuts as well? (Commercial walnuts are the European species, which is different. Black walnuts have a stronger flavor.) We have several black walnut trees in our back yard. The ripe nuts are so hard to crack that we never bother harvesting them, we just leave them to the squirrels.

  9. Hi Barbara, thank you for you interest!

    I've never tried this with Black Walnuts, but I did notice that the distiller that I mentioned in my blog, Charbay, state that their Walnut Liqueur contains Black Walnuts. They make theirs with Brandy, so perhaps the higher alcohol content is more compatible with the stronger flavored Black Walnuts.

    You may want to do an internet search to see what others' experiences have been. If I recall correctly, there may be an entry about this very subject on

    Good luck! And if you try it, I hope you'll let me know your results.

    Thanks for stopping by!

  10. Mari, you got me all interested in green walnuts. I never knew there were so many ways to use them. From what I've found that I'd like to try, I think I need about 25 lbs of them! LOL.

    One thing I've been collecting lately is recipes for Greek Spoon Sweets. Would you believe there is one using green walnuts? Yes, there is. Thank you again for posting about this. I've learned an amazing amount of information!


Thank you for your comments, friends ~ they make my day!

A Sampling of my food . . .


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