Why Make Fruit Wine?
First and foremost fruit wine is a fun extension to your fermentation profile. A huge advantage of fruit wines is their ability to be produced through the year. While fresh wine grapes only have 2 main harvests (One in Fall for Italy and California, and another in Spring for South America), fruits ripen at different times throughout the year, allowing the vintner to ferment many times during the year. Additionally, with all of the varieties of fruit available, you can produce a plethora of different wines; each with unique flavors and characteristics. One of the most common misconceptions that turns people off from making fruit wines is the belief that fruit wine has to be sweet. While some fruits improve with the addition of a bit of sweetness, others are best as dry wine. For example, dry blueberry wine can present itself wonderfully, giving off dark fruit flavors which resemble a hearty Burgundy or powerful Cabernet.
What’s in the Fruit?
Almost every fruit can be converted to a wine, but not all fruits are created equal. Some fruit, such as strawberries, have a very delicate profile and make wines that are best when served fresh. These wines often have a very quick turn around and can be fermented and bottled relatively quickly. Others, like black currant, are like a hearty Brunello and only get better with time. These bolder wines will take more time to ferment and bottle, often benefiting from extended aging on their skins. When your planning your fruit wine, take these factors into consideration. For an excellent article on different capacities of fruit can be found HERE.
Getting the Most Out of Your Fruit
Every fruit requires special considerations in order to present themselves with maximum flavor. One of the best examples of this is strawberry wine. Unlike the making of many other wines, strawberry wine requires a very unique process to break down the fruit for the best extraction of flavor and quality. The strawberries must be macerated in a sugar to create a liquor before the fruit can be fermented. Another fruit which can change depending on its preparation is the blueberry. Extended contact with the fruit’s skin can lead to a much darker wine. If you take it off of the skins almost immediately, you will get a blush wine, but longer time on the skins will create a darker and more tannic wine.
Boosting Your Booze
While most wine grapes can be fermented without any sugar additions, most fruit wines require an additional boost of sugar in order to get them to an ideal percent alcohol. The general rule of thumb that I use is 1 lb of of corn sugar will raise 1 gallon of wine by 5% abv. I use this basic ratio whenever I’m making a fruit wine since I can scale it to whatever size batch I’m fermenting. While corn sugar is a staple used by wine makers due to its high fermentability and almost undetectable taste, it is not the only sugar that you could use. Its possible to use any sugar to boost your alcohol potential but each one comes with distinctive flavor contributions and different levels of fermentability. Possible sugars include brown sugar, table sugar, honey, and agave nectar.
Picking Your Yeast
When deciding which yeast to use, you need to decide what you want your wine to become. The first decision you need to make is the hue of wine you are planning on making: white, blush, or red wine. As a general rule of thumb, I prefer to use red wine yeast for darker fruits (blackberries, blueberries, black currants, and cherries) and white wine yeast for lighter fruits (strawberry, peaches, and apples). Additionally, red wine yeast work well with fruits which are fermented on their skins (such as the blueberry wine). Next, decide if you want your wine to be sweet or dry. You can either use a yeast with a low alcohol tolerance and boost your sugar content of the must, or you can ferment to complete dryness and then back-sweeten. Finally determine what yeast will work best for the temperatures you will ferment at. If its the middle of the summer and you have trouble controlling temperature, pick a yeast with a high heat tolerance. Alternatively if its winter and you can’t easily heat up your carboy, pick a yeast with a good threshold for cold. I’ve outlined a few yeasts and my suggestions about which fruits they would work well with. Much of this information is from second hand sources so please use it with a grain of salt and use your own intuition.
Recipe: Blueberry Wine
- 15 Lb Blueberries
- 10 Lb Corn Sugar
- Approximately 4.25 Gallons Water
- 5 Campden Tablets
- 2 Tablespoons Acid Blend (Or Amount Determined by Titration)
- 3/4 Teaspoon Pectic Enzyme
- Yeast: Montrachet
- Potassium Metabisulfite
- Potassium Sorbate
1. Crush your Blueberries: To do this you are going to place your washed blueberries into a large brewing bag. Place the bag in a large bucket (Not your fermenter) and crush. You can crush with either your hands, a mallet, or whatever instrument you concoct. Don’t be tempted to use a blender or food processor since this can break the seeds and pulverize the skins, which can lead to unwanted off flavors.
2. Extract the Juice: When you have thuroughley pulverized your blueberries, its time to extract the juice. While you could just add the pulverized blueberries to water in the fermentation bucket at this point, we decided to try and extract as much juice as possible before combining. The reason for this is two fold. First, we wanted to get a even better crush on the berries. Doing the squeeze first allow for further destruciton of the berries. Secondly, we wanted to determine the correct amount of water to add in order to get a full 5 gallons. By squeezign the juice before hand we were able to get a good idea of the “dry volume” of our skins and pulp. Once you have extracted a good amount of juice and thoroughly crushed the berries, you will pour your juice into the fermenting bucket, leaving the pulp behind in the crush bucket.
3. Add Water and Sugar: You will add both clean water and sugar into the fermentation bucket, bringing the level up to 5 gallons. We found it helpful to heat up 1.5 gallons of water and add the sugar to this mix, allowing us to be sure our sugar was fully disolved. We then poured the sugar water into the fermenting bucket. Once you must has been thoroughly mixed, you will add your pulp in a bag back to the fermentation bucket and give it a good mix.
4. Adding Nutrients, Additives, and Metabisulfite: Add 5 crushed campden tablets and mix. Next add acid blend, pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient, stirring everything to mix well.
5. Take a Hydrometer Reading: Obtain a Sample of your fruit wine must and take a hydrometer reading. Your goal is between 1.08 and 1.095, giving you an ABV of between 11% and 13%. If necessary, add sugar to bring you up to your desired level (1 lb corn sugar brings up 5 gallons by 1% ABV)
6. Off Gassing: Cover and let sit for one to two days. It is important to let the must release the sulfite gas produced by the metabisulfite. Use a very thin towel or cloth to cover the container, don’t be tempted to use a lid with air lock. this could trap the sulfite gas leading to poor yeast health
5. Pitch Yeast: Add ample yeast to make sure your fermentation kicks off to a good start. Your goal is to maintain a temperature of 70–75 °F. Too high of temperatures will lead to off flavors in your wine.
7. Punching the Cap: During fermentation, you will need to punch down your cap (pulp) around twice a day, this ensures that your cap will not dry out (leading to mold) and will thoroughly mix the wine. Remember to sanitize all equipment before touching the wine.
8. Fermentation and Additions: Fermentation will finish in about 1 to 2 weeks. During this time you will also be doing several nutrient additions. On fermentation days 2, 4, and 6 you will be adding 4.5 g of Fermaid K and 2 g of DAP.
9: Final Gravity Reading: To determine if fermentation is complete, take a hydrometer reading 2 days in a row. If the gravity remains stable, your wine has finished fermenting and is ready to be racked.
10. Racking to Secondary: first remove the bag of pulp and allow to drain. Put on a pair of gloves, sanitize your hands (with gloves on) and squeeze the bag, trying to extract as much juice as possible. Once the bag has been drained trash the pulp and skins, then rack your wine to a 5 gallon glass carboy.
11. Stabilizing and Degassing: Once the wine has had time to settle, you can degas and stabilize. Add metabisulfite and sorbate. Optionally you can add a clarifying agent such as Super-Kleer, Gelatin, or sparkoloid powder. Degas as you would for any wine. For instructions on how to degas click here: Degassing and Stabilizing Wine.
12. Racking to Tertiary: Rack the wine to the tertiary container, adding a campden tablet to ensure stability. Allow the wine to age an additional month. Longer aging will not hurt your wine as long as the air lock is maintained.
13. Bottling: After a month has passed, feel free to bottle your wine.
- Blueberry Wine – http://www.eckraus.com/winerecipes/blueberrywine.pdf
- How to Make Fruit Wine – http://www.eckraus.com/fruit-wine-making
- How to Make Heavenly Homemade Fruit Wines – http://www.organicauthority.com/juicy-spirits/how-to-make-heavenly-homemade-fruit-wines.html
- Guide to Red Wine Making – http://www.morewinemaking.com/public/pdf/wredw.pdf
- Country Wine Yeast: Tips from the Pros – https://winemakermag.com/857-country-wine-yeast-tips-from-the-pros
- Red Star Yeast Profiles – http://www.eckraus.com/RedStarProfiles.htm
- Lalvin Yeast Profiles – http://www.eckraus.com/LalvinProfiles.htm
- Yeast Strain Chart – https://winemakermag.com/yeast-strains-chart
- Winemaker’s Recipe Handbook by Raymond Massaccesi