Thursday, December 22, 2011

Experimental: Elderberry Wine

This was my first attempt at "wine". And why did I try to do this? My good friend, Dan (pictured below), has 2 elderberry trees in his backyard. And they produce a lot of berries (for some reason the birds have not found his house). I know we were not going to make something that would be considered exquisite by a wine expert, but we were aiming for a nice country wine. There are a lot of recipes on the web, but as I know by being a homebrewer that it is important to be critical of each ingredient. And I know about what is important for good fermentation from beer making.

Recipe: Elderberry Wine
O.G.-1.100  F.G.-.998  ABV-13.6%   Batch-1 Gal

Grain Bill Ingredients:
3.5 lb Elderberries (Frozen as picked)
2 lb  Sugar (12%)
1 - 12oz Red Grape Concentrate
1 juiced lemon (needed for acid*)
2 juiced oranges (needed for acid*)
*If you have an acid balance kit then you can use this after fermentation
1 gal container - 1/4 packet of Red Star Pasteur Red (rehydrated in warm water)

San Diego Alvardo Tap Water
1 tsp Wyeast yeast nutrient
1 tsp Fermaid K

Boil Details:
We added all the ingredients including the all the frozen elderberries and mashed all the berries. (We started with a potato masher and then Dan decided to just use his hands). Then we stirred as we brought it up to a boil to help dissolve the sugar. It boiled for only a few moments and then was cooled in the sink.

Ferment Details:
O.G.: 1.100
Ferment Temp: Pitched at 70 and kept in low to mid 70s
F.G.:  .998

We poured everything (juices and berries) into the 2 growlers. We then pitched the yeast once the must was at the proper pitching temp. The wine fermented actively for a week and then was allowed to age for a few more months. We plan to make this once a year and perfect our recipe.

We recently bottled the wine after a Charger game (we sampled a lot because this was during our 6 game losing streak). The wine turned out surprisingly well, with great color and very nice berry flavors. There is still some alcohol heat, but that is understandable since this is so young. I really liked how the Russian River version turned out, with much bigger fruit and berry notes. We bottled half straight up and then Dan bottled the other half with different fruit juice mixes to make some great Sangria.

(Dan please post you Sangria combinations in the comments or on your blog and give me the link)

And Dan still has 3.5 lbs of Elderberries, any ideas? (elderberry mead, dark elderberry sour...)


  1. "Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries!" How about an Elderberry Belgian Dark Strong? Saison? You could pull off some wort during the boil and add it to a separate kettle for a quick boil with the berries. Turbinado or liquid Belgian candy sugar will help dry it out.

  2. Nice with the quote.

    I was thinking it would go pretty nicely with a Belgian Dark Strong. I was trying to think of good commercial examples that are aged in red wine barrels (all that keep popping in my head was Consecration).

    Saison might be interesting, I like the idea of using home grown items in a Farmhouse beer.

    And did you see all the wild yeast on the berries. I tried this year to harvest it, but it turned out terribly. I will try again next year.

  3. Sorry it took so long, different ingredients we tried were.......
    RR= Russian River Barley-wine Yeast
    CH= Champagne Yeast

    3 parts RR wine / 1 part Jamaica
    3 parts CH wine / 1 part Savila Mango
    3 parts RR wine / 1 part Kern Apricot
    3 parts CH wine / 1 part Tamarind
    3 parts RR wine / 1 part Strawberry
    3 parts CH wine / 3 parts Boone's Sangria
    3 parts RR wine / 3 parts Madriaria
    3 parts RR wine / 3 parts White Franzia
    3 parts RR wine / 3 parts CH / Pinch of cinnamon
    3 parts CH wine / 1 part Jamaica / 1 part Tamarind

    And what we decided to mix up was.....
    8 parts CH wine / .75 oz. Mango / .75 oz. Apricot / 1.5 oz. Strawberry
    8 parts RR wine / .75 oz. Mango / .75 oz. Apricot / 1.5 oz. Strawberry
    8 parts CH wine / 1.5 oz. Jamaica / 1.5 oz. Tamarind
    8 parts RR wine / 1.5 oz. Jamaica / 1.5 oz. Tamarind

    They are all delicious, excited to try our vertical taste test again next November.


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