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The Sops of Wine Apple

When you imagine biting into an apple, there are probably a few different flavors you’ll recall – sweet, tart, tangy, even tropical.  But what about wine?  If you taste a Sops of Wine apple, a hint of wine is what your taste buds are rewarded with!

This is an unusual apple most people haven’t heard of, but if you’re an apple lover, it’s worth knowing about.  Keep reading to learn about the Sops of Wine apple.

Closeup of a single crimson-colored apple on a tree, similar to a Sops of Wine apple.

History of the Sops of Wine Apple Tree 

The general consensus is that the Sops of Wine apple is an antique apple from England that was developed around 1832.  However, there are some historical references hinting that its roots actually stretch back as far as the early 1600s.

  • In 1629, it was mentioned in John Parkinson’s work “Paradisi in Sole”: “Sops in wine is so named both of the pleasantnesse of the fruit, and beautie of the apple.
  • In 1758 it was listed as the Rode Wyn Appel by Johann Knoop.
  • In 1886 it appeared in Robert Hogg’s publication “The Apple and Pear as Vintage Fruit”: “It is considered a good culinary and cider fruit.
  • In 1905 S.A. Beach mentioned it in his work “The Apple of New York”: “A very ancient English culinary and cider apple.

There may be two specific apples this name referred to because their flesh looks like bread soaked in wine. It’s hard to be sure which apples since there seems to be no record of the Sops of Wine apple’s parentage.

Confusing the issue even more is how many other names the Sops of Wine apple goes by: Bell’s Favorite, Bell’s Early, Bennington, Dodge’s Early Red, Early Washington, Strawberry, Sapson, Sapsonvine, Shropshire Vine, Sops in Wine, Sops on Wine, Warden’s Pie Apple, and Washington.

The taste of the Sops on Wine apple is similar to the Esopus Spitzeburg apple (a favorite of Thomas Jefferson) but it has better disease resistance than Esopus Spitzenburg.   Wine of Sops became a popular apple in the south where it was called “Hominy” or “Homony.”

Deep crimson colored apples.

Sops of Wine Apple Tree / Apple Characteristics

The Sops of Wine is a semi-dwarf apple tree that grows 12-15’ tall.  It’s a vigorous grower with white blossoms in the spring that produce early- to mid-season fruit.

The fruit is a medium-sized, oblate apple with yellow-green skin covered by a crimson blush.  Inside, the flesh is smooth with red flecks in it.  These flecks give the flesh a wine-stained look and the amount of “wine stain” depends on the tree’s growing conditions and zone it’s grown in.

It’s a crisp, firm, and aromatic apple, but not a particularly juicy one.

After harvesting, reports are that the apples last up to 16 weeks in cold storage.

Closeup of apples cut in half, revealing red-flecked flesh.

Common Uses For Sops of Wine Apples 

People classify this as a “culinary or cider apple,” which means it’s very good for cooking, cider, and apple wine.

What Does the Sops of Wine Apple Taste Like?

The Sops of Wine apple doesn’t just look like it has drops of wine staining the flesh – it tastes a little like it too.  The flavor is described as wine-like, “crisp,” “subacid,” and “piquant.”

But remember how it’s possible there’s more than one apple going by this name?  That might account for others describing the apple as tasting sweet and savory, with a hint of banana and a touch of tannin-like bitterness.

Eating raw

This apple makes a decent snacking apple, but it’s probably better as an ingredient in a recipe that calls for fresh apples.

Cut apples with red-flecked flesh.

Cooking

Any recipe that cooks or bakes apples seems to be fair game for these apples.  The color of the apple flesh makes for interesting applesauce, pies, tarts, or turnovers.

Cider / Wine

With it’s signature flavor, this apple is used to make ciders (hard and otherwise) and apple wines.

Closeup of glass of apple wine with whole dark crimson apples in the background.

Canning / Freezing / Drying

Apples can be canned as apple slices or you can make them into things like fried apples, applesauce, apple butter, or apple pie filling for canning.

You may never have thought of freezing apples, but slicing them and freezing them for later use is a great way to make sure your late-season apples don’t go to waste.

Dried apple slices are another great option for preserving your apples for later use.

Recipe Ideas

Apple Coffee Cake

Sweet Cinnamon Apple Squares

Rustic Applesauce Pork Chops

Apple Pancakes

Closeup of baked apple turnovers on parchment paper.
Apple turnovers.

Health Benefits of Apples

There are lots of health benefits from making apples a regular part of your diet.  They’re a low-calorie source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Where To Buy Sops of Wine Apples 

These are uncommon apples and probably only sold at farmers markets or by orchards that grow them.  You’ll need to do some hunting to find them.

Can You Grow the Sops of Wine Apple Tree At Home?

Yes, this apple tree is available to home growers.  

Apple trees with crimson colored apples growing on them.

Growing the Sops of Wine Apple Tree

In the following sections we’ll go over the basics of things to know before adding an apple tree to your garden.  For more detailed information about growing and caring for apples, click here for our comprehensive apple tree guide.

Where To Grow It

This is a cold-hardy tree rated for zones 4-9.

Sunlight

All apple trees need a location that receives full sun (at least 6 hours a day).

Spacing

Plant Wine of Sops apples 15-20’ apart.

Row of apple trees in orchard.

Soil

Apples need soil that is well-draining and loamy, with a pH of 6.0-7.0.

Water

While they’re getting established, newly planted apple trees need regular, deep watering during their first year.  Place a hose set on a trickle to fully soak the ground.  Keep an eye on the planting site to make sure there are no standing water puddles around the tree.

Pollination

Wine of Sops isn’t a self-pollinating apple, so it does require a nearby pollinator.  Recommended apple varieties for pollination are:

Granny Smith apples on a tree.
Granny Smith apples.

Apple Tree Care 

Wine of Sops apple trees only require average apple tree care, with the exception of some specialized pruning.

Fertilizer

Feed apple trees half a pound of 10-10-10 fertilizer spread in a circle around each tree three weeks after planting.

Spraying 

Spray your apple trees to treat or prevent diseases and pests.  But make sure you know when, how, and what to spray.  Read our blog post about spraying apple trees for all the information you’ll need.

Pruning 

The one area of care where a Sops of Wine apple deviates from normal apple tree care.

Sometimes this tree produces too much fruit which results in small apples.  To avoid this, thin fruit in June so that you leave 1 inch between apples at maturity.

To learn how to prune like a pro, visit our blog post about pruning apple trees.

Closeup of pruning a fruit tree.

Diseases & Care 

Apple trees are susceptible to certain diseases and some are more serious than others – the Sops of Wine apple tree is prone to apple scab, for example.  To know how to identify, treat, and even prevent them, click here for our blog post about common apple tree diseases.

Pests

Besides diseases, pests are another concern for any apple grower.  Like diseases, some pests are more troublesome than others so knowing the signs to watch for is key.  Click here for information on identifying and eradicating pests, as well as preventive measures to keep pests from returning.

When to Harvest Sops of Wine Apples

Sops of Wine apples begin ripening in early September through October.  To know when and which apples are ready for harvesting from your tree, visit our guide about knowing the right time to pick apples

Where To Buy The Sops of Wine Apple Tree

As you might have guessed, this is an obscure apple and tracking down a tree to buy is going to take some effort.  Few online nurseries list it in their inventory and even those may show it as “Out of Stock.”  Persistence is going to be the name of the game if you want this apple to be part of your garden.

Wrapping up The Sops of Wine Apple

Antique apples are varieties that have existed for at least 50 years.  Like heirloom tomatoes, antique apple seeds have been passed down through multiple generations and the fruit comes in a wide variety of colors, sizes, and flavors you won’t find in your grocery store produce department.


Even if the Wine of Sops apple has only existed since the early 1830s – and not the early 1600s – it still fits the definition of an antique apple and this piece of apple history would be a rare gem in your home garden.