Making Elderberry Wine

I am making Elderberry Wine!  I would say “I made elderberry wine,” but since it’s not in bottles yet, I consider the thing still in process.  But I can tell you that it is going very well.  This was my first attempt at wine-making.  I’ll tell you how I am doing it, after scouring a number of recipes online. [Update:  It turned out pretty awesome. It is so rich and nuanced, and has the character of a port wine. Now we’re aging it in the basement to enjoy around Christmas time, over a year later.  We’ve been told that it just keeps getting better and better with age, and my main regret is that we didn’t make more!  But we’ll do a bigger batch this year, for sure.]
Making Elderberry Wine It all started with a walk in the woods near our home on a beautiful afternoon in October.  Just as we were about to head home, we found an elderberry grove just loaded with ripe fruit.  We picked and picked, and got started on the process for using them almost as soon as we opened our front door.

Making Elderberry Wine

Here are some basic brewing supplies you’ll need:

1.  Strip the berries off of their stems.  The quickest, easiest way is to use a fork. Or, if you have an hour or two, you can freeze the stems and then just shake the berries off into your bowl.Making Elderberry Wine Kids love making wine! This is the perfect task to get them involved in. Making Elderberry Wine Making Elderberry Wine I actually waited a few days until I got to step two, but I would recommend you get on with it sooner– mine began to ferment and develop a yeast that I had to kill off by boiling– luckily, I still got away with it!

2.  Put them in a pot and mash them a bit– I used an old tequila bottle.
3.  Cover the berries in water, and bring them to a boil.  Let them simmer for a little while (15- 30 minutes.)  Add sugar equal to the original weight of the berries.Making Elderberry Wine 4.  Let the elderberries cool, and then put them into a food-grade plastic bucket.  I winged it, adding additional water to bring it to what I would guess is a bit under a gallon of water, total.  “They” say to add a gallon for ever three lbs. of berries.  Add a packet of red wine yeast, nutriment and citric acid (I just used lemon juice.)  Cover well, and let them sit there and ferment for 4-5 days.Making Elderberry Wine Making Elderberry Wine Here is the yeast in action, from adding it to foaming up after a few minutes.

After a few days of fermentation in the bucket, this is what it looked like:Making Elderberry Wine 5.  Strain the berries out, pouring the liquid into a sterilized demijohn.  Put an airlock on it, and stick it someplace a little warm.  I wrapped mine in a dish towel.Making Elderberry Wine Making Elderberry Wine After six weeks, I tasted it.  Elderberries are known to be very tannic, and so although it was quite astringent and kind of bitter, it did taste like WINE!  It was not sweet at all– the sugar had been fermented, so I added additional sugar (1/2 cup) after the following step:
6.  Rack the wine.  This just means to siphon it into another sterilized demijohn.  This separates the wine from the yeasty sediment that is in the bottom of the first vessel– the lees. (Pretty though, right?)  Now it’s time to let the wine sit in a cooler place– I moved mine into our basement.Making Elderberry Wine I did this a couple of weeks ago.  I tasted the wine again yesterday, and it is less tannic, but still tastes very young, of course, and has that slight effervescence of a new wine.  But it is good– and very warming!Making Elderberry Wine I don’t know if you can see the difference or not, but the first glass is after one month, and the second is after two– the wine is becoming more clear, and it has a really nice color.Making Elderberry Wine In another week, I’ll rack the wine into bottles, and let them age…  They say you can let elderberry wine age for years, and that it’s really incredible.  I’m not sure I will wait that long– some guides say it’s ready to drink after six months.

Making Elderberry Wine is really pretty easy, and definitely a fun project!  Elderberry wine can be made with frozen berries, and it can also include some other types of sweeter berries, so there are a lot of possibilities.  As I mentioned in my post about making blackberry cider, I don’t have a lot of brewing experience, and don’t follow recipes exactly.  Even so, this wine is turning out really nicely, so I think you should give it a shot! Here is a site with instructions for making  elderberry wine.

UPDATE: This wine turned out way better than my wildest expectations.  It was incredibly rich and smooth, with port-like character after one year.  I ended up making a much larger batch this year because we were so sad when we drank out last bottle from this batch!Making Elderberry Wine Have you ever made your own wine?  Would you give Elderberry Wine or another country wine a try?

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51 Responses to Making Elderberry Wine

  1. Joanna December 16, 2012 at 8:08 pm #

    I miss elderberries here in Latvia, they don’t grow as prolifically as they do in the UK. Mind you I never made wine with them. One thing I have tried here in Latvia though is Marrow Rum, made with oranges, brown sugar and bakers yeast in a hollowed out marrow. It is surprisingly smooth and a bit like port to my mind – not being a connoisseur of port though I wouldn’t like to swear to it. Hope your elderberry wine turns out well though.

    • Ariana Mullins December 19, 2012 at 2:22 pm #

      Hi Joanna! I had never heard of Marrow Rum– that sounds really, really interesting! Just baker’s yeast? That is so surprising, I’ll definitely have to give it a try!

  2. wildcraft diva December 16, 2012 at 10:23 pm #

    It looks amazing! How did you manage not to colour yourselves purple?? Maybe I’ll try next year…..

    • Ariana Mullins December 19, 2012 at 2:23 pm #

      Actually, I’m pretty sure my hands were stained blue and purple for a few days after stripping the berries!

  3. Hazel December 17, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    Fantastic! It looks beautiful. I bet it’ll be amazing next Christmas.

    I’m determined to try dandelion flower wine next year. I’ve done dandelion flower jelly/syrup/vinegar…got to be wine next!

    • Ariana Mullins December 19, 2012 at 2:25 pm #

      Yes, we’ll have to save one bottle for a full year– that will be fun to open up!

      I love it when people use dandelion, it’s so common and that’s a great way to keep it from taking over everything else. This year we did dandy fritters with an almond flour batter– they were really good! I would also love to try making wine with them– possibly the easiest way to use a whole bunch at once.

  4. grassfood December 18, 2012 at 2:01 am #

    This is so wonderful. I long to have elderberry bushes that are producing. My next quest is to make wine, do you make any other types?

    • Ariana Mullins December 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm #

      Yes, actually we have made a couple other kinds. By “we” I actually mean my husband! He has made a really nice parsnip wine, and a slightly less-successful beet wine (I think it can be really good, but the recipe he followed called for way too much sugar.) We will definitely be making nettles wine in the spring, and elderflower is one I’d like to try soon. There is a great book out there called “booze for free” about turning just about anything into wine!

  5. Lisa/Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl December 20, 2012 at 1:40 pm #

    This looks really good. Please come share this recipe at my Farm Girl Blog Fest: http://fresh-eggs-daily.blogspot.com/2012/12/farm-girl-blog-fest-13.html

    Happy Holidays!
    Lisa
    Fresh Eggs Daily

  6. greatdana December 25, 2012 at 5:33 am #

    Yummy! I just bottled my pomegranate wine after almost a year of fermenting. Home made wine is good for the body and good for the soul! I’d love to try with grapes or berries. I wonder if I could get a hold of elderberries here.

  7. Lisa Lynn April 17, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

    Cool! Found you on Frugal Days and would love to have you join us on Wildcrafting Wednesday today!
    http://www.theselfsufficienthomeacre.com/2013/04/wildcrafting-wednesday-16.html

  8. Alix S April 19, 2013 at 5:44 pm #

    I really want to try this! Thank you for linking up at Wildcrafting Wednesday!

  9. Sue in NC April 22, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

    Regarding using bread yeast, it was pretty commonly used to make wine and beer during Prohibition, or so my father told me.;) When I got into brewing he told me stories, and I remember something about bread yeast spread on a piece of toast and floated in the liquid. And it can also be used to make wine, cider, etc. by people who are prohibited from having alcohol, such as our troops in some overseas locations and prisoners right here at home.

  10. Rose - The Clean Dish July 14, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

    My mom makes elderberry wine. I’m glad you shared this with us! Wonderful post :)

  11. bellavistafarm August 4, 2013 at 10:47 pm #

    Love this post!!! I have been wanting to make wine forever and am hoping to get it done when I pick elderberries. Patiently waiting for them to ripen. :)

  12. Man of the West August 18, 2013 at 4:26 am #

    Just a quick comment Ariana – based on my first try at making elderberry wine, you might want to try and keep some for a really long time – 2 years or more. Mine just kept getting better for that long, and I wished I’d saved more of it because just under 2 years was when we drank the last bottle!

    Ian (born and raised in Hampshire, now living in Iowa!)

    • Ariana Mullins August 18, 2013 at 2:27 pm #

      Hi Ian,
      You are absolutely right about it just getting better! Almost a year later, we just opened our first bottle, and I can hardly believe how wonderful it is. It will be really, really hard to save the other bottles for another year… But maybe we’ll split it, drink half this Christmas and half the next. Great advice! We will definitely be making a much bigger batch this year, so it should be easier to put up bottles for longer going forward.

      • Clara July 17, 2014 at 4:57 pm #

        Hi Ariana, how much lemon juice did you add? Thanks, Clara

      • Alan Gorkin September 22, 2014 at 1:14 am #

        how much nutriment and citric acid? it doesn’t say….

        • ariana September 22, 2014 at 9:40 am #

          Alan, it’s one level teaspoon per gallon. Most of the packages will tell you on them.

  13. Leanne September 22, 2013 at 8:35 pm #

    Hi,

    I’ve jusr stumbled accroos your blog while looking for instructions for elderberry wine. Fantastic! I shall be reading your posts this week. Lovely blog

    Leanne xx

  14. Beerhat October 4, 2013 at 2:17 pm #

    WOW! This is really an amazing and attractive post making of elderberry wine. I appreciate your posted wonderful photos. Thanks for sharing such an interesting post.

  15. Gemma October 7, 2013 at 11:36 am #

    I found your blog looking to make elderberry wine again – last year’s was my first attempt and it was something of a surprise. I’d expected paint thinner, and whilst it wasn’t that nice on the tongue, it had the most amazing cinnamon aftertaste. Quite unexpected!

    Definitely worth a try if you haven’t had a go!

    Gemma xx

  16. Anonymous October 10, 2013 at 8:18 pm #

    I have picked elderberries for the first time ever, I am an avid blackberry picker I love free fruit . I washed and boiled the elderberries for ten minutes then mashed all the juice out on a strainer then threw the rest away. can I drink the juice or do I have to add anything else. the juice is a bit tasteless . do i need sugar . ?

  17. Anonymous October 12, 2013 at 4:15 pm #

    have just started making my elderberry wine love your blog

  18. Karlie October 23, 2013 at 3:27 pm #

    I stumbled across your blog when looking for Elderberry wine receipes. I’ve also joined a forum re winemaking but it all seems very difficult with measuring alcohol content etc. Your receipe was very easy to follow and currently have my first batch on the go as a result. Its in the kitchen and ready to be racked in two weeks time. I’ll have a try of it then and add some more sugar to it and then move it to the basement as you did. I’ll try it again as I bottle it and then Im probably going to try to leave it for a year and crack it open next Christmas.

    Thank you for posting the receipe and keep the wine updates coming – love the blog!

  19. Gary November 11, 2013 at 2:03 pm #

    Hi Ariana,
    I was just looking for an Elderberry wine recipe, and came across your blog, and this post. We have picked loads of them this year, and have a freezer full, and so what best than to make wine eh? I have never done it before, and have bucket and demi johns (bought for £1.50 each at a car boot sale yesterday). Now all I need are all of the pipes and airlocks and then awayyyy! Thanks for the usefull information. Have a good week.

  20. Reginald Lumbra July 1, 2014 at 8:45 pm #

    I would like to add an ingrenedent to your dandy loin wine and apple as well in a 6 gal batch I tried 1 gal of pear juice just pears run through the blender I found it cuts the bitter out a lot I dont spell very good its Lion not loin good luck
    REG LUMBRA ingredent to

  21. Clara July 19, 2014 at 6:10 pm #

    Hi Ariana, I have 25 pounds of berries!! I have added sugar and boiled them, and now it has cooled enough to transfer to the fermentation bucket. Can you please tell me how much lemon juice you added? Or how much you would recommend with
    25 Lbs? I am so glad that I found your site!
    Thanks in advance.
    Clara

    • ariana July 19, 2014 at 8:52 pm #

      Hi Clara,
      I used 1/2 of a lemon for my 1 gallon of wine, and the general consensus seems to be one lemon per 3 lbs. of elderberries. That would make about 8-9 lemons for you. Have fun, and I hope you get a fantastic, huge batch of elderberry wine!

      • Clara August 13, 2014 at 1:09 am #

        Thank you so much Ariana! Now I have another question for you if you don’t mind. After you strained the berries out and put the wine into the demijohn, you waited 6 weeks until you tasted it and racked the wine? Did you notice bubbling in the airlock that whole time? The reason that I ask is because mine was bubbling for a few weeks and now it has stopped and it made me a little worried… What are your thoughts?

        • ariana August 16, 2014 at 4:48 pm #

          Hi Clara, don’t worry about the fermentation slowing down– that’s normal. I’d still leave it for at least six weeks, rack it, and repeat. You want the fermentation to finish completely before you bottle it anyway. Have fun!

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