Elderberry Wine

HAPPY NEW YEAR! To start off 2014 I thought I would write a post on elderberry wine making. A piece rather than a pot.

This year's elder trees were laden with berries. It was a bumper crop. Sometime in autumn, I'm not sure exactly when, Lauren and I went picking near the GWR station (Gloucestershire Warwickshire Railway) in Winchcombe. Within half an hour we had a basket that was almost too heavy to carry. This was the easiest part of the whole operation. This wasn't all of them actually-- we had a bag full too.

Pick yourself a basket full of elderberries!

The next part is removing the berries from their stalks. This sounds easier than it is. You have to do each one individually. Some people do this with a fork but I found it quicker by hand. This took us several hours. We watched a film whilst doing it but by the end Lauren was pretty fed up with removing tiny berries from stalks. I advise you try to find some small children to help you.

The set up.
The next step is finding a large container to start the wine in. I borrowed a large pancheon from Matt for this purpose. This is what they used back in the olden times rather than plastic brewing buckets. The only disadvantage with old pots such as this pancheon is that they were glazed on the inside with lead.

The issue with lead glazes is that some of the lead can eek out into whatever you are cooking or brewing. This is especially the case if you are using acidic materials such as fruit juice. I figured that since this pancheon has been in use for over two hundred years, all of the dangerous lead had already leaked out. Who knows? Its especially hard to say as lead poisoning only comes on late in life. On that note, its time to throw the elderberries in!

Next comes water. As water is the main component of the wine, you want to try to use the best possible supply... spring water or distilled water. I did not have access to either so went with tap.

Next comes the fun bit. Squishing the berries! Some people use a block of wood or a potato masher, but I figured feet were the best option. Don't worry-- I did wash them thoroughly before stepping in. It helps if you are completely naked but I didn't want to scandalise the world with pictures of that, hence the towel. It was pretty cold and raining too.



Squish the berries this until they are all broken up and your feet look bloody; approximately eight minutes.

Squishing complete!
Before covering this and leaving to sit for 24 hours, remove a cup of the juice/berries. This is to make a yeast starter. Put it into a container with a teaspoon of sugar and a packet of wine yeast. This should make the yeast happy, activating it and getting it used to the idea of elderberries as a food source. After the initial 24 hours its time to transfer the mixture into a brewing bucket with the yeast and other ingredients (pectolase, tartaric acid, nutrient and vitamin B1). The recipe I used is at the end of this post. I increased the quantities as my glass jar holds 4.5 gallons.

A week later it was time to decant the liquid into my huge glass jar. This was not particularly easy. The elderberries had all mushed up and has to be sieved out. Our method was to pass the pulpy liquid through a sieve and then a muslin bag. This was very messy but worked okay. You can see the system in action here:

The only problem being the significant amount of sediment left in the bottom. To combat this I let it settle and then racked the wine off into a bucket and then back into the glass jar. I did this twice to try to end up with a clearer finished product.

Now all there is left to do is wait. I am not entirely sure how long I should be waiting, perhaps a year, perhaps longer, but I can say it was tasting pretty decent before I left England. Four and a half gallons of undrinkable wine would not be ideal.

Here is a picture of the elderberry wine in storage... in a shed in the garden. In the background (bottom right) you can can see a wonderful Tim Hearn cider jar which he gave me a couple of years ago, and  above it on the chair is my Dad's whisky barrel.  This is full to the top with gorgeous amber liquid (45 litres of it), soon to be bottled.


Here is the recipe I worked from. The people at theinfoco.com are very nice and sent me this recipe for free! They also have a book available to purchase of over a hundred recipes.

Elderberry Wine

4 lbs of Elderberries 
3 lbs Sugar Burgundy Wine Yeast

1 Tsp Pectolase
2 Tsp Tartaric Acid
1 Vitamin B1 Tablet (3mg) 1 Tsp Yeast Nutrient
Campden Tablets

First make a yeast starter with the juice from a handful of berries, 1 teaspoon of sugar and a cup of cold water in a clean wine bottle. Add the yeast and plug the bottle with cotton wool. Leave for 24 hours.

Meanwhile, fork the elderberries from the stalks into a plastic bin and crush with a piece of wood. Add 5 pints of water and a campden tablet. Cover and leave for the same 24 hours.

Add the sugar, the additives and the yeast starter. Stir to dissolve the sugar and ferment on the pulp for 4 days, stirring twice a day.

Strain off into a gallon jar and fit an air lock. Top up with cold water when fermentation dies down.

Ferment to dryness (about 1 month) or an SG of 1000 or less. Rack into another jar, top up with water and refit air lock.

This wine requires a minimum of 6 months maturing and after this point it can be sweetened if required with between 1⁄4 lb and 1⁄2 lb of sugar per gallon, adding a little at a time and tasting. 

This Is Another Free WineMaking Recipe From TheInfoCo.com – WineMaking@TheInfoCo.com