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49 responses to “How to Make Elderberry Wine”

  1. Mickey

    Just stopping in to say that your blog is one of the most well written and inspiring I have found! I seriously look forward to every one of your posts :).

    I have never made wine from start to finish myself, but have helped at my uncle’s winery in oregon (mostly picking and crushing). He has elderberries on his property, and this has inspired me to start a little side project the next time I am there!


  2. Kevin

    Excellent details! Makes me feel like I could just jump right in there and do it. Most of the good elderberry patches here are in ditches along gravel roads = dusty berries.

    I’ve always been curious about the wild grapes here. Lots of people make muscadine wine since the fruits are quite large I guess, but I have never heard of anyone using the much smaller “possum/fox/summer grapes”. Although, I have heard that summer grape (V. aestivalis) genes are part of the cultivar ‘Norton’.

  3. Christine

    Ahhh! I just made a pathetic attempt at elderberry+fruit wine, today before reading this post. Our plants only gave about six heads of berries, so I supplemented with raspberries and frozen strawberries to make one gallon. Thank you for such a great in-depth reference! I’m a fly by the seat-of-my-pants type of scientist, but next time I will follow your advice. The disappointment in failure is enough to right me.

  4. David Eger

    Looks fantastic! Love the tart, herbaceous flavor of elderberries. I’ve made Elderberry cordial, but never wine. Will try making this soon.

  5. adalynfarm

    I’ve got about 4# of blackberries in the freezer right now, and I’m waiting for more to ripen! Your post could not have been more timely.

  6. What I’m Digging | Small Measure

    [...] attention this week: *11 foods you can stop buying & start making. *Hank shares his recipe for elderberry wine. *Georgia’s tips on getting started in hunting. *Moss graffiti! *Learning to eat like Julia [...]

  7. Joe

    Hank …Great article, this year will be our first try at Elderberry wine..My neighbor Lady has the little wine making operation I am the Berry Picker.. I will pass this info on to her..I will let you know in a year or so how it all turned out..Somo Joe

  8. Brew Your Own, Part 3! (Making wine from wild plants) | BuzzQuack

    [...] Elderberry Wine [...]

  9. T Welch

    Another good way to mash the berries is an empty wine bottle. Just grab it by the neck and use it for a masher. Made 5 gallons from berries off a single tree! Wonderful stuff.

  10. bob horan

    glad to see I am not the only one using elderberries for them !

  11. Jojotogi2

    Hey Hank! I’m a home vinter who’s taking his first swing at making some elderberry wine this year. I was wondering, what yeast did you use to ferment your vintage? Do you have the specific company name and number?

  12. Joe T

    Hey Hank!

    Great post. I was wondering, what kind of wine yeast do you use when you make elderberry wine?

  13. Joe T


    Thanks! I just started a batch the other day and I’m following your suggestions and cold soaking it.

    One more question, though. During primary fermentation, does your must form a lot of krausen (head foam)? I’m doing a large batch and I’ve got maybe 2-3 inches of airspace in the 6 gallon bucket. I’m concerned that if it foams up there might be some blow over and foam/wine will push the airlock out.

  14. Arwen & Dean

    Hi Hank,

    Great blog post! This has really given us the motivation to give making Elderberry Wine a go…. As we are newbies to this would you recommend us buying a starter kit or is it worth investing in all the items you mentioned above (can we make do with “whatever we have to hand”?)

    Many thanks,
    Arwen and Dean.

  15. Joe T

    Hey Hank!

    Do you know of any recipes for how to make wine out of Toyon berries? I’m aware that they’re toxic raw, but use I’ve been told like in elderberries the cyanide burns off and when they’re cooked. And I’ve heard through the grape vine (no pun intended) that early settlers in California used to ferment them into wine and spirits.

  16. Wyllt Roberts

    I made elderberry wine last year using your recipe just siphoned off the lees with my wine into new carboys to oak. I’m in the UK so elderberries season is late, so will be racking about a year later.i have no problem waiting to years to taste but its the friends and family that you have to fight off. I picked up a helpful trick from my local homebrew shop – use a fork to strip the berries! It’s a huge time saver. Thanks for you blog – my wife is starting to think I might actually have pulled off a decent wine, she was quite cynical to begin with and now starting a blackberry dessert wine at the moment.

  17. Foraging for Elderberries - One Acre Farm

    [...] The flavor of the raw, ripe berries is somewhat reminiscent of blackberries, but blander, and not as juicy. Cooking them greatly intensifies and improves the flavor. Raw berries can be dried and later cooked, or fresh berries can be boiled to make flavorful juice, syrup, jelly, and jam. And, of course, berries can be used to make elderberry wine. [...]

  18. Greg

    Nice write-up on Elderberry wine making. I try to make a batch each winter from frozen berries I picked in late summer. I didn’t notice in your article, and first time makers of elderberry should know this, is that elderberry wine is a lot more work than most other wines. It’s not just the picking of the berries from the stems, but elderberry juice tends to leave a green gunk on everything it touches for an extended period of time. Be prepared to spend of time cleaning this gunk out of your fermenting bucket, but not so much the carboy. Vegetable oil helps the cleaning process tremendously. Maybe you have a process to prevent this gunk from forming.

  19. Andrew

    Great article Hank – perfect to allow the novice to upgrade to respectable amateur and just what I was looking for. I was already onto my 2nd batch without your instructions, based on the whack-it-in and hope for the best approach – so far I’ve been delighted. But this summer’s crop looks like it could be good so am itching to start the potions up again – and this article gives me confidence that I might even have a clue what I’m doing!

    Thanks again.

  20. John Holland

    Do you have any opinion about a difference between glass and plastic carboys?
    Plastic ones are cheaper and more practical, but I worry about contamination if wine is left in plastic for months.

  21. Damien

    Hey Hank,

    I found the blog great. I’m getting ready to start making my first batch of elderberry wine.

    I sometimes over think things and now have two questions. 9 to 15 pounds of elderberries is a big variation in weight of berries, if I have 15 pounds could I make four Gallons? I will be using one gallon carboys, is there a difference between the ladled off “free run” juice and what comes from the press bag? Do I need to mix all the juice before putting it into the carboy?

    Many Thanks.

  22. Justin

    Great recipe – have just used it!
    One question: you say it’s “vital” to fill the carboy to within a few inches of the top, but doesn’t the CO2 produced by the ferment push out any remaining air after airlocking?

  23. Ben

    Hi Hank, I’m a bit confused on how much space I need in my carboy. In your instructions you mentioned it being “vital that you fill your carboys to within an inch or so of the bottom of the airlock stopper.” However in response to Joe T. you said “You might be pushing it with only 3 inches of headspace.” Is that because he was making a 6 gallons worth and requires more headspace? I completely agree this is more sceince than art, and this is my very first try at making any wine. I am confident given your detailed instructions but I’d prefer to avoid the mess of a “boil over” and bad batch.

  24. Ronan Roche

    Hi Hank,

    About to try this great looking recipe over here in the UK-big elderberry crop this year. Just wanted to ask you about the bringing the berries to the boil step. Is this done before the cold soak-the detailed instructions don’t mention this step? Any clarification would be great! Thanks!

  25. Heather

    This is great! We made some elderberry wine before I saw this page, and althought he recipe is similar, after our initial racking, we tasted it and it was really unpleasantly sour. It fills our 3 gallon carbo full, so don’t think we can add water or sugar now…any tips for what to add at the end in a few months or longer? How many times do you rack a wine you age a year? Thanks!!

  26. Dan

    Hi Hank,

    Thanks for a great article – as a biochemist-cum-novice home vintner, it’s really great to see such a detailed and informed write-up, it’s really helped me dodge lots of novice mistakes that can easily be made with less detailed protocols. I also really enjoy the nuts-and-bolts approach (I’m a little bit of an anorak, I know).

    Just a quick question – with regards to the acid testing, I don’t have an acid testing kit unfortunately but do have basic pH indicator strips etc.. Would you happen to know how much acidity you want in terms of pH rather than in terms of grams of acidity?

    Thanks very much for your great site,


  27. Reminiscing About Harvesting Wild Elderberries | Norm's FarmsNorm's Farms

    […] Thanks for the great story, Marcia.  We wish you the best of luck with your wine making challenge, and, don’t tell your brother, but we are rooting for you!  If you need a good recipe, with lots of “how to” advice, this is one of the best I’ve found.  […]

  28. 8 Delicious Homemade Country Wine Recipes

    […] Elderberry Wine - If done correctly, this wine can rival a good bottle of wine made from red grapes. Test your skills with this classic homemade wine. […]

  29. Owen

    I am now retired and 3 years ago decided to create an elderberry “vineyard of 36 trees, I am looking forward to my first crop in coldish Scotland. Thanks for the recipe and tips which I will follow assiduously.

  30. Shaz

    Thanks so much for the write-up! The details in this post and in your book were great at inducing confidence in a first time winemaker!
    I made this recipe a bit over a year ago and just tried it. It smells AMAZING, and tastes great too – except that it’s much too alcoholic tasting. Letting it breathe doesn’t help either.
    I hope it’s not too much of an imposition to ask for some ideas of a fix and of prevention for future batches. Looking around, I’ve only found one forum person saying to add a little sugar or tannins (or acid, but since I measured the acid as per your post, I don’t think it’s that), and another saying to just age it and hope for the best. Do you have any thoughts? (Also forgot to take a reading from the opened bottle, so I’m not sure what the alcohol content is – though I hear the taste is about balance, not necessarily about ABV%. Per the yeast, it shouldn’t be more than 14%)
    The only deviations from your recipe are: 1) no pectic enzyme 2) got a little extra oxidation in there, since a tilted glass shows up around the orange of a 30 year wine 3) I used Lalvin D47 yeast, which my homebrew store recommended after hearing I like young fruity full bodied red wines. Fermentation was within the recommended temps for this yeast.

    Also going to make some Oregon Grape wine soon. :) You’ve made a new winemaker!

  31. Shaz

    Thanks for the extra info!
    It started at 24 Brix, so probably the yeast… Do you mind if I ask which you usually use? Anyway, it’s much too hot to be drinking such a big wine right now, so it shouldn’t be too hard to wait another few months (though I might still stick it in a closet to make it easier to forget).

    Just came into some golden raspberries, so of course started a wine. 21.5 Brix, and thinking to split it to add a sourdough bread yeast, which is what the Appalachian folks used to do (and I had good luck with on a kale flower wine), and maybe Montrachet, to compare. Though I didn’t add any tannins, since I didn’t fancy yet another trip to the brew shop… I was thinking to add oak chips for tannins, think that will work? Or should I head down to the store after all (how late is too late to add)? And in that vein – any idea how to measure / calculate how much to add?
    Thank you!

  32. Slokiki

    I am a total novice. This will be my third attempt at wine making. First was Elderflower “Champgne” which turned out nasty and very yeasty. I now have a batch of Elderflower wine that seems to be coming along nicely. My question is with the yeast. Is it just one package? I have seen recipes for 1-5 gallons and they just say wine yeast without the amount. Does the amount vary depending on the size of the batch?

  33. Tim

    I’m 18hrs into fermentation and I forgot to add pectic enzyme. Is it too late? Have I ruined my batch already? :(

  34. Slokiki

    One more question before I get started. Is there an ideal temperature(s) for primary and secondary fermentation? It is very hot today and will get wamer ths week. I have a root cellar that is @ 76 today but usually cooler @ 68-70ish. The house/ kitchen is @86. I am wondering where would be best for this operation. I have an old fridge set at 50 for cold soak process.

  35. Rita Garand

    I wish I had stumbled on your site before I made my elderberry wine. It tasted like a good strong cough syrup!
    The detailed info in your instructions help me understand the science of winemaking.

  36. Ashley

    Hi Hank,
    I read this recipe the other day and it inspired me to try and make my own wine.
    I went picking yesterday in the UK and have harvested quite a large amount of elderberries, but am now only realising how time consuming stripping the berries is! Is it a problem if a few of the tiny stalks are still attached to the berries? I’ve read online that some people say they’re toxic, but others say a few small red ones are fine but create more tannin in the finished article. I would be very grateful for any advice as this is my first brew!

  37. marsha

    My dad used to make wine, and his most wonderful was from the large dark
    cherries, I think they called them oxhearts, oh to be able to have a
    glass of that again

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