The sap is collected by cutting between the kernels of the tree. Some sort of container, such as a gourd, is left to collect the draining sap for a day or two. The sap begins fermenting immediately after collection due to natural microorganisms in the air (this is often spurred by residual yeast left in the collecting container). Within two hours, fermentation yields an aromatic wine of up to 4% alcohol content, mildly intoxicating and sweet. The wine may be allowed to ferment longer, up to a day, to yield a stronger, more sour and acidic taste, which some people prefer. Longer fermentation produces vinegar instead of stronger wine. The wine is drunk fairly soon after creation, since it has a short shelf life. It is especially common in India and coastal areas of Africa.
The sap used to create palm wine is most often taken from wild date palms such as the Phoenix sylvestrix, the palmyra, and the Caryota urens; palm oil palm such as Elaeis guineense; Raphia palms; Kithul palms; or Nipa palms. Coconut palms and taller palms, such as the Borassus, may also be tapped, but seldom are (the wine of coconut palms is generally known as toddy).