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A General Procedure And Some Improvement Tips On Making Fruit Wines

Use fruit that is known to make a good wine. The fruit should be ripe, but not over-ripe, and in good clean condition, free from mould. Remove any foreign material such as leaves, stems, and insects. Personally, I find that wines made from vegetables or flowers tend to be a waste of effort and money as they usually yield inferior results. RHUBARB is the only exception I would make to this rule as it gives a very good wine when made properly.

To get the best colour/flavour extraction, first FREEZE the fruit before mashing or chopping. As ice crystals form, the cell walls of the fruit are ruptured, resulting in a greater release of juice when thawed. Although the colour is sometimes lighter, this method yields a fresh, fruitier flavour than pouring hot or boiling water over the fruit as this destroys some of the delicate aromas and flavors.

Before proceeding with fermentation, do an ENZYMIC EXTRACTION on the fruit once it is fully defrosted. This is done by placing the fruit in a primary fermentor and mashing or slicing it, and then adding 1/3 to 1/2 of the water called for in your recipe. (Water should be at room temperature, 20 Celsius.) Crush 2 Campden tablets and dissolve in the fruit/water mixture. Add the amount of Pectic Enzyme specified in your recipe and stir well. Leave for 36 hours, by which time the mashed fruit should be digested to a very soft consistency by the enzyme. This enzymic extraction results in even more juice being released.

At this stage you can either (A) separate the pulp from the juice/water by straining and adding the balance of water and remaining ingredients, or (B) add as much water as possible to the primary and other ingredients and then do a fermentation on the pulp for no longer than 4 days. If fermentation on the pulp is carried out too long, bitterness is frequently extracted from the seeds in the fruit.

Make sure your SPECIFIC GRAVITY is in the correct range. For most recipes this will be 1.090 - 1.095. Add more sugar or grape juice concentrate if necessary.

Use a pure, high yeast strain. The author prefers Lalvin EC 1118 as this is a fast starter, fermenting out cleanly, even at temperatures as low as 10 Celsius. This yeast will also handle high sugar levels and is capable of producing up to 18% alcohol. It has a low foaming tendency and throws a firm sediment. As if these traits were not enough, the Lalvin EC 1118 has a strong "killer factor" - that is, it has the ability to discharge protein substances which kill other yeasts that happen to be sensitive to these substances, thus preventing wild yeast cells with unknown characteristics from making inroads at the start of the fermentation.

After 4 days, transfer wine to a glass carboy and follow normal procedure of leaving wine in a warm place of 15 - 20 celsius and let wine ferment until specific gravity of 0.995 or less is reached.

Rack wine into a clean carboy and add POTASSIUM SORBATE to prevent renewed fermentation. Usual dosage is 1/2-1 tsp. per 4.5 Litres of wine. Add also 1 crushed CAMPDEN TABLET per 4.5 Litre of wine. The Campden tablet adds a small dose of potassium metabisulphite, which acts as an antioxidant in the wine, thereby giving your wine longer bottle life. Any wine at this point should be degassed by stirring the wine 4 or 5 times daily (in the carboy) for 2-3 minutes each time. Dissolved carbon dioxide gas forms CARBONIC ACID that tends to make the wine taste too sour and dry, causing many people to over-sweeten their wines to mask this. Also, since carbonic acid is very unstable in warm temperatures, the corks in your wine bottles might be forced out during the summer, resulting in your wine and all your hard effort being lost.

Once degassing is complete, add a clarifier. For fruit wines, this author finds that SPARKOLLOID POWDER seems to be the best all purpose finings as it firms up the sediment in your carboy. Amount to use is 1 tsp. per 4.5 Litres of wine. To use this clearing agent, bring to a boil 1 cup of water in a saucepan and add sparkolloid. Reduce heat, simmering for 3 minutes. Add hot liquid to carboy and mix well with wine. If wine is going to be sweetened, now is the best time to do this as some sweeteners may cause cloudiness which the clarifier can then take care of. Wait 2 WEEKS for wine to clear before filtering and bottling.


Many old recipes call for the use of light raisins. They are used to give the wine extra body and flavour as fruit wines frequently tend to be thin when made from just fruit. Using raisins has three disadvantages:

1) They are usually expensive to buy in the quantity needed to give good results in the wine,

2) A "raisiny" flavour is added to the wine, even when light coloured raisins are used, and

3) They take up a lot of room in the primary fermentor, space which will be needed to accommodate all the fruit you will be using.

Better results are obtained today using grape juice concentrate which costs less than raisins and yields a fresh, fruitier flavour that supports the flavour of whatever fruit you are using. If you are working with a deeply coloured fruit like Blueberry, Blackberry or Black Currant, then you can also deepen the colour of the wine by using red grape juice concentrate. With ligher coloured fruits such as Strawberry, Partridgeberry or Bakeapple, just use white grape juice concentrate, as this will add only a slight yellow colour that the fruit pigments easily mask.

When sweetening, which many people do for their white wines, they simply make sugar syrup and add this to their taste. However, this only adds sweetness and really does not do much to improve the flavour, which is why most people considered sweetening in the first place. The author finds that a better method would be to add half a cup or a cup (125ml-250ml) of white grape juice concentrate and 100ml of glycerine. This mixture imparts greater body while giving the wine a fruitier aroma and smooth taste.

To oak or not to oak, that is the question? Well, for most fruit wines it would be better not to, as the flavour of the oak just does not quite blend with the flavour of many berries and fruits. However, two exceptions do come to mind. Experience has shown that Blueberry takes quite well to oak, and so does Dogberry. Anything else is open to experimentation by the home winemaker.

People also frequently ask if they can substitute Yeast Nutrient for Yeast Energizer? NO, not a good idea! Regular yeast nutrient (dibasic ammonium phosphate for those who are chemically inclined) only supplies the yeast with the free nitrogen that they need to multiply. Yeast Energizer is a blend of debasic ammonium phosphate with the b vitamin complex, the minerals zinc and manganese, and ground yeast hulls which supplies fatty acids and lipids. The gist of all this is that these substances are needed by the yeast cells if they are to build strong cell walls, multiply quickly, and most importantly, not quit fermanting your batch of wine.


Alban Walsh used to be a co-worker of mine. He is a wealth of knowledge on this subject. Since he had the above readily available for anyone interested I decided to include this here as it is extremely informative and answers a lot of questions many home brewers of berry and fruit wines may have.


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Page last updated 01/25/01

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