We’ve never liked berry wine.
Any time we’ve had some at a festival or wine tasting room, it was always too sweet for us. Not the good kind of sweet, but more like an alcoholic corn syrup-y sweet.
Then one day, someone gave us some of their own homemade fruit wine that was well balanced between tart and sweet with deep berry flavors. It was eye opening and palate pleasing.
We thought that all berry wines HAD to be sweet.
This was a berry wine that we would have been happy to share with our friends & family who also enjoy good wine. It was a wine that we would have been proud to call our own.
So, it prompted us to ask ourselves what berries we could make into wine? Did we need fresh berries or could we use frozen? How many berries did we need?
We started researching and looking through books everytime we found an opportunity to try and make our own. When we found frozen organic berries on sale, we made wine. When friends gave us a bunch of blueberries left over from their harvest, we made wine.
And although we only have a couple bottled at this point, we haven’t made one that we didn’t like. We’re able to control the balance of tart and sweetness to our liking and continue to get excited each time we have the chance to make a new batch.
We were able to distill the basic ingredients and techniques from all these different recipes into something that we could use over and over again no matter what kind of berry we had. This will work for a single type of berry or a blend, and blends are almost always better.
Berry Wine Basics
Prepare Your Ingredients:
Fresh or frozen? Both will work, but using fresh berries does require some planning ahead.
Choose fresh berries at the peak of the season, don’t use any that show signs of mold or fungus. Nobody wants to drink that.
Wash thoroughly and remove the stems, then freeze for at least one week.
Freezing helps break down the cell walls, making it easier to process the berries.
You can use a single variety or a mix in your wine, but blending can add more depth to the finished product.
Prepare For Fermentation:
Process the defrosted berries with a food mill or place in a mesh bag and crush with a potato masher to extract the juice. Whichever way you choose, keep the pulp in a mesh bag. This simplifies the process later and the pulp adds flavor and color to the finished wine.
Place pulp and pressed juice into your clean and sanitized fermentation vessel, add one gallon of filtered water and add one crushed campden tablet. This stops the wild yeasts from competing with the commercial yeast you’re going to use. Wait 2 days before adding your yeast.
Start Your Fermentation:
Test gravity with a hydrometer and add sugar to reach a gravity reading between 1.070-1.090, this will give you a wine of around 9%-11% ABV.
You can use whatever sugar source you want, sugar, honey, maple syrup, molasses, jaggery etc. Do note that each sugar can impart some flavors in your finished wine, so if you want something neutral just use plain ‘ol white sugar.
When adding sugar, always add some citric acid or lemon juice. This helps the sugar mix into the solution and adds balance to the finished wine.
As an optional ingredient, but highly recommended, add some pectic enzyme to your berry mix. This will help prevent your wine from becoming hazy and will assist with clarification. Give it time to work and wait 24 hours before adding in the yeast.
The berry/sugar mix is called a “must” and it’s ready for you to add your yeast. This is often referred to as “pitching” the yeast.
Pitch Your Yeast:
You can use whatever wine yeast you choose, but for berry wines we’ve found that Red Star Cotes des Blancs or Lalvin 71b-1122 works best.
Some people recommend creating a yeast starter to help boost the cell count of the yeast, which makes for a more vigorous fermentation, but most yeast packets are made for a 5 gallon volume, and we’re only pitching one gallon at a time. We’ve never had any issues pitching the yeast directly.
After pitching your yeast, give it a good stir and then cover with a towel and rubber band. Or better yet, cover with a lid fitted with an airlock.
Place in a warm spot (72-75 degrees) to ferment for about 10 days, or until the vigorous bubbling has subsided. If you want to get technical, the gravity should be at 1.020 or lower before transferring.
Now it’s time to transfer your wine to another container, referred to as “racking”. This will not only help clarify your wine, but also improve the taste.
Open your fermentation vessel and remove the pulp bag. Rack your wine into a glass carboy and top off with juice or filtered water until it is within ¾ of an inch from the top. Any more space than this will cause your wine to oxidize.
Seal your carboy with a bung and airlock and leave until it stops bubbling completely. Gravity reading should be 1.000 or less.
At this point you can rack into another carboy to age and clarify further or you can bottle it. Sometimes clarifying can take an additional 2-3 months, so if you’re impatient like us, you can add a fining agent to improve clarity and it will be ready in 1-2 days.
Taste your finished wine. Is it too dry or tart? It should taste like biting into a fresh berry, that’s the flavor/harvest we’re trying to capture anyway.
You may have to add some more sugar, honey, etc. However, this could restart fermentation. So you’ll need to stabilize with a wine stabilizer such as potassium sorbate.
Once you’re happy with the flavor and it’s stabilized, it’s time to bottle. Clean and sanitize your bottles and corks, rack until the bottles are filled to the neck and cork using a corker.
Now you just have to wait for it to mature. Berry wines will be good after 6 months, and even better after a year, so patience is the key.
All in all, it’s about 1 hour of active work and a bunch of waiting.
It’s so simple that we usually have 3-5 wines fermenting at one time. That way we always have a stockpile of wine to enjoy and share.
If you want to start making your own berry wine at home here’s our standard recipe that can be adapted for whatever berries you have on hand.
|Prep Time:||25 min|
2. Thaw berries for 24 hours, and crush using a food mill or a potato masher.
3. Place pressed juice and fill to 1 gallon with filtered water. Add pulp in a mesh bag and 1 crushed campden tablet. Wait 48 hrs.
4. Test gravity and add sugar to adjust to the desired level. 1.078 for light wine, 1.092-1.100 for full body wine. Add citric acid and pectic enzyme if using.
5. Add yeast nutrient and pitch yeast then attach lid with airlock if using.
6. When gravity is at 1.020 or less, rack into a 1 gallon glass carboy to clarify. Top off as needed and place in a dark place until gravity is 1.000 or less.
7. Once desired clarity is reached, rack into bottleing container and add stabilizer. Add sugar to taste and bottle.
8. Wait 4-6 months before opening, then enjoy!
* 1-2 lbs of sugar
* Campden Tablet
* Pectic Enzyme (optional)
* Acid Blend, Lemon Juice, or Citric Acid
* Yeast Nutrient or Raisins
* Dry or Liquid Wine Yeast
* Wine Stabilizer (Potassium Sorbate & Sodium Metabisulfite)