How to Make Elderberry Wine

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Finished elderberry wine recipe, in a glass
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Elderberry wine, made correctly, is every bit as good as wine made from its cousin the grape. Aged, oaked and mellowed, wine from elderberries bears a close resemblance to some of the huskier, more brooding red grape wines; Mourvedre and Petit Verdot spring to mind. Elderberry wine is a wonderful drink when the weather turns cold and you find yourself in front of a fire with friends and food.

Even so, for years I have hesitated to write about elderberry wine on this site. It’s not because what I do is some sort of secret, it’s because what I do involves a lot more time and technical tinkering than almost every other fruit wine recipe I’ve ever read. I make wine pretty close to the way professional winemakers do — I have to, in a state full of grape snobs. It’s a method more science than art.

Balance is what I seek. A fine wine has acidity, alcohol and tannin all in proper proportion. One the prime problems in fruit wines is lack of balance. Some fruits are too acidic. Some too sweet. A few are too tannic. Grapes are the fruit closest to achieving perfection all on their own, which is why they “won” in the great winemaking game of life.

Elderberries, as it happens, come very close to this as well. They have excellent tannin levels, wonderful color, and reasonable amounts of sugar and acid. All you need to do is adjust these levels and you are on your way to making a wonderful wine. As you read these instructions, keep in mind that this method also works with other fruits. Other good wine fruits include: plums, blueberries, blackberries, huckleberries, apples and pears.

Oh, and for the record, I make elderberry wine only from the Western blue elderberry, Sambucus mexicana. You can also use the Eastern blue elderberry, S. nigra. Do not make wine from red elderberries.

Picking elderberries off the stems.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Picking Elderberries

It all begins in the field. You want to pick elderberries that are at their peak of ripeness. How do you know when that is? For starters, the elderberry season runs from July to early October, depending on where you are. Within that period, you will get some bushes ripening before others, and even on the same bush you’ll have some clusters riper than the ones next to it.

Look for a cluster that is fully ripe — no green berries — and whose stem has turned pink. If you want to get extra picky, only choose those clusters that already have a few elderberry raisins on them: These will be the ripest.

I snip off the whole cluster with shears and put them in paper grocery bags. At home, I strip the berries from the clusters by hand. A lot of people prefer to freeze the fruit before stripping the berries. This does make the process, which can be tedious, a lot faster, but you absolutely must thaw only a few clusters at a time. Once thawed, the berries get mushy. Pre-freezing also takes up a lot of space, which I don’t have. But either method works fine.

Crushing Elderberries

Now you need to juice or crush your fruit. I normally do this in a clean five-gallon bucket. You can do it all by hand, or crush it with a potato masher, a blender, or your very clean feet (watch out, though, elderberries will stain your skin for days), or even a blender.

Be careful with blenders or food processors, though, as you will want to avoid crushing too many seeds. Seeds contain bitter elements that can overwhelm your wine. Crush just enough to get broken-up fruit.

Elderberries are not pectin-rich, but many fruits do contain a lot of pectin. Pectin is great for setting jam, but not for wine. To prevent your wine from jelling, buy pectic enzyme for these fruits. The enzyme eats up the pectin, and using it also extracts more flavor and color from the fruit skins. Fruits high in pectin include citrus, blackberries, apples, cranberries, gooseberries, and plums. Other low-pectin fruits include apricots, blueberries, cherries, elderberries, peaches, pears, raspberries, and strawberries.

Once you have crushed your fruit, you will need to add water for volume. My recipe below is for 3 gallons, which is a good starter volume. Three gallons makes 15 bottles. For experienced winemakers,  5 gallons is better. Once you have added water, it is time to break out your hydrometer and acid test kit.

Mix the juice and water and pour a little into your hydrometer’s test tube. Drop the hydrometer into the tube and read the scale. Most hydrometers have several ways to measure sugar levels on them, and I prefer Brix (pronounced “bricks”), which is the scale professional winemakers use. An ideal red grape juice being made into wine will have a Brix rating of about 24.5; an ideal white grape juice is about 22.5. You want your sugar levels above 20 and below 28 Brix.

Sugaring Elderberry Wine

It is not likely that your elderberries will be in this window. “Fixing” your juice requires some math. The following formula is adapted from one I found in the excellent book, The Way to Make Wine.

(Target Brix – Initial Brix reading) x 0.125 x gallons of juice = pounds of sugar to add

Let’s say you have crushed 12 pounds of elderberries and added water up to the 3-gallon mark. You check the sugar level, and it comes out to 17 Brix. You want it higher, around 24 Brix, meaning the difference between your target and your initial Brix is 7 points. Following the formula, you multiply 7 x 0.125 x 3, meaning and you find you need about 2.6 pounds of sugar to hit your target. Easy, right?

Not so fast. Sugar acts weird, so once you have determined your target sugar levels, dissolve the amount you think you need in a little water and add in four batches. After each batch, stir the juice, wait 5 minutes or so, and take another reading. Keep adding until you are within 1 to 2 Brix of your target. A rule of thumb is to shoot low with fruit wines, and here’s why: They will often pick up sugar overnight, so your initial Brix reading can be artificially low.

Temperature adds another wrinkle. Your Brix reading will be skewed if your juice is really cold or warm. Hydrometers assume your juice is 60°F. If the juice is instead, say 45°F, you need to subtract a half-Brix from what your hydrometer reads. If your juice is 75°F, you need to add about a half-Brix. You don’t need to alter the temperature of your wine to do the hydrometer test, but you do need to know it.

Checking Acidity

Phew. OK, now you have enough sugar to ferment a wine with roughly 12 to 14.5 percent alcohol, – perfect for table wines. But what about this crazy acid thing?

The acid test confirms that your juice has enough acid to withstand aging without going bad. Acid also makes the drink taste bright, not dull. There are several ways to measure total acidity. I use a test kit where you take some juice, put a few drops of one chemical in it, then add another chemical drop by drop until the juice changes color. The number of drops you use of the second chemical corresponds to the total acidity of the juice.

Fruit wines can be all over the map on acidity. You want the total acidity (TA) to be between 6 and 10 grams per liter. In most cases, you will need to add tartaric acid, although blackberries, blueberries, cherries, cranberries, plums, and strawberries are generally high enough in acid already.

Always test your acidity, even with high-acid fruits. You might not need to adjust it, but it is good information to know. If you find your acidity is too low, use this formula: To increase the TA by 1 gram per liter, add 4 grams of tartaric acid for every gallon — yeah, I know I just gave you a formula in both metric and English measurements. Sue me. Always recheck your TA after each 4-gram batch you add, so that you don’t add too much.

Too much acidity makes an unpleasantly tart wine. More water and sugar will offset this.

Still with me? Just remember, this is the hard part. Do this and you’ve gone a long way toward making a drinkable, age-able elderberry wine that has the potential to age well – and this , which is a helluva lot more than many fruit winemakers can say.

Now, ready for the yeast? Hold your horses. First, I advise adding into the juice a pinch – less than 1 gram — of K-meta, potassium metabisulfite. This is your insurance that wild yeasts will not jump on your sweet, lovely juice until you are ready to add the good yeast. Simply sprinkle it on and stir the juice.

Cold Soaking Elderberry Wine

This next part is optional. I recommend “cold soaking” your elderberry wine for up to 3 days. It extracts more color and body from the skins of the fruit, and is an excellent choice when working with blueberries, huckleberries, and plums, too. You know those big, burly Cabernet Sauvignons from Napa? Almost all of those wineries do this. Here’s how you cold soak:

  • Cool your juice to below 50°F, by any means necessary. Put it in the fridge, or drop in either a sealed ice pack or a plastic soda or milk carton filled with ice into the juice. Don’t let the juice climb above 50°F or it might begin to ferment. Keep changing the ice cartons as they melt to keep your juice cool.
  • Cover the juice. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap over it—right on the top of the juice and crushed fruit. You want no air touching the juice, if at all possible. Advanced winemakers pump carbon dioxide over the juice, which is heavier than air, forming a gas seal. Gas canisters are available at brew shops.
  • Be sure to add any pectic enzyme when you start this process. You want it to get to work before you add your yeast.

Even if you don’t cold soak, you will need to add pectic enzyme and any tannin into your juice on the first day, about 12 hours after you put in the K-meta. Cold -soaking or no, once you’ve added any pectic enzyme or tannin, cover the bucket and walk away until tomorrow.

A bowl of elderberries
Photo by Hank Shaw

The Ferment

Day Two (if you are not cold -soaking) begins with your yeast. Start by mixing into the juice half the amount of yeast nutrient, the diammonium phosphate, that you intend to use for the whole wine-making process. Now get your tap water hot, measuring it with a thermometer until it hits 100°F. Pour a one-half- cup of the hot water into a measuring cup and then add the yeast. Just sprinkle the yeast on top of the water. Wait 5 minutes before stirring it in gently. Wait another 15 minutes. Now you can add your yeast to the juice.

If your juice is colder than 70°F, just let the yeast sit on top of the juice for 30 minutes. This lets it acclimate to the colder juice; shocked yeast can die, or delay fermentation. If you are cold- soaking, you will want to let your juice come up to temperature early in the day, and pitch the yeast when it has warmed to at least 60°F. After the yeast has acclimated, stir it in and put the bucket cover on. Now walk away.

Yeast will take a day or so to get rolling, but by morning you should see it bubbling, and the temperature of the juice should have risen. Now your job is easy. Take the juice’s temperature every day. This helps you track fermentation. It will rise steadily as fermentation gets started, then drop as the initial fermentation finishes, usually after 3 to 6 days.

For elderberries and other dark fruits, during the fermentation you will also need to churn the juice at least twice a day, and up to four times a day. Simply stick your clean arm in the juice and swish it around. This aerates your yeast and blows off any hydrogen sulfide (an unwanted by-product of yeast fermentation), and will result in a wine with more color and body.

If you are making white fruit wines, aerate the juice no more than once a day; skip it altogether if you have nothing floating on the top of the juice.

On Day Two of the fermentation, add the rest of your yeast nutrient. This will help the yeasts eat up the last of the sugar.

Pressing Elderberry Wine

The initial fermentation should be done in 3 to 6 days; five days is normal. After the temperature tops out, ideally at about 80°F for reds, the temperature should drop toward room temperature. When it does hit room temperature, that’s a good sign the initial ferment is done. Now you’ll need to separate your wine – because that’s what it is now – from the solids. Serious winemakers use a grape press. I’d suggest something called a press bag, which is essentially a giant jelly bag. Get ready to be messy.

First, ladle off the “free run” juice into the 3-gallon carboy – this is what looks like wine in the bucket , not mushy fruit. Try not to get any debris in there. If this is impossible, pour a bit of the debris-laden juice though a fine-mesh sieve into another bucket, or a big bowl. Using the big carboy funnel, pour the strained juice from the bowl into the 3-gallon carboy.

Now you will want to get all the wine locked in the elderberry skins into the carboy. Scoop the skins into the press bag (you can use a standard jelly bag, too) and squeeze it over that fine-meshed sieve — with a layer of cheesecloth over the mesh — into a bowl. It will get gunked up frequently, so you will have to rinse the cheesecloth from time to time. Pour the strained juice into the carboy. This step will result in a cleaner, clearer wine down the road.

It is vital that you fill your carboys to within an inch or so of the bottom of the airlock stopper. This prevents your wine from oxidizing and protects it from wild yeasts or bacteria. After filling, you may have more than 3 gallons. If so, pour any excess into a glass container that will just about hold the amount of excess; you want to minimize air in the containers.

If you find yourself short of the 3 gallons for some reason, top off the new wine with a comparable wine: For elderberry wine, I typically use a commercial Mourvedre or Petit Verdot to top off. You want the wine to come up to about a one-half- inch below where your rubber stopper will be. Don’t worry about this no longer being “your wine.” The amount of commercial wine you add in the entire process will be less than 5 percent.

Mopping Up

Top the carboys with their airlocks and stoppers, and put them in a cool, dark place. This is especially important with white wines, which can oxidize and turn amber if left in the light too long. You will soon notice two things: First, the suspended solids in the juice should be settling to the bottom. Second, the wine will be bubbling slightly. This is called secondary fermentation, and it is important that this step be done before you bottle, unless you like exploding bottles.

I let my wines age in the carboys like this for several months before I begin to mess with them. A good rule of thumb is to wait two 2 months. After this time elapses, you will need to “rack” your wines. This is where that second 3-gallon carboy comes in, as well as the wine siphon.

Clean the inside of the new carboy by adding a pinch of K-meta to it, then swishing around a lot of water. Pour out and rinse well. Now add 1 gram more of K-meta: This will help the wine age safely. If you fail to use sulfites, your wine can develop “off” flavors or aromas or even turn to vinegar.

To rack your wine, use the flexible tubing to siphon it from the old carboy into the new one, making sure you get as little of the sediment that has fallen to the bottom as possible. To do this, set the full carboy higher than the empty one.

Now put one end of the tubing midway into the full carboy, and get yourself close to the other carboy. You will need to be quick on this next step: Suck the air from the tube, pulling the wine with it. The moment you get a splash of new wine on your lips, stick the tubing into the new carboy. Suction should siphon the wine from one carboy into another. It is better to leave some wine in the carboy than to transfer too much sediment.

Due to the sediment, you will have a lower volume of wine than you thought. What to do? You have a choice: Add some more commercial wine, or add oak cubes. Oak cubes simulate aging wine in oak barrels. I add oak cubes for my elderberry wine. How many? Depends. I buy French oak, toasted medium, which are pretty mild. A heavy-toasted American oak will be stronger. The more powerful the oak flavor, the shorter the time it should stay in the wine. In no case would I use more than a handful in a 3-gallon batch.

If you do add oak cubes, taste your new wine after 3 months to see if it is getting oaky. If it is, siphon the wine off the oak cubes into a clean carboy and replace the lost volume with table wine.

Bottling and Beyond

When can I drink my elderberry wine, you ask? No earlier than 6 months, if you want decent wine. Honestly, elderberry wine needs at least a year. Wine ages differently in the carboy than in the bottle, and both steps are necessary. I typically bottle my red wines after a year or so. I then age them in the bottle for several more months before drinking. But that’s just me. You can bottle anytime after 4 months or so.

When you bottle, be sure to use real cork if you plan on aging your wine a long time. Synthetic corks do not allow a wine to breathe, so they’re fine for whites and roses, but not for your big elderberry, damson, blackberry, or blueberry reds. Do yourself a favor and label your bottles. You will forget which is which if you do not.

What if, after all this, you make a bad batch? It happens, after all, even to me – and I have been making wines for more than 20 years. If it is OK, just not really worth drinking, go back to the brew shop and buy a “mother ” to make wine vinegar out of it; a mother is a starter culture for making vinegar. Pour all the iffy wine into a big crock or pail, and drop the mother in. Keep the crock covered (but let air get in), and within a few weeks you should have vinegar.

What if it is really bad? Well, it is no sin to chuck it. And the great thing about making fruit wines, is that unlike the grape harvest, which comes but once a year, you can make a fruit or flower wine anytime. Salud!

Elderberry wine in a glass
5 from 20 votes

Elderberry Wine

This is the basic recipe for red fruit wines. It will work with blackberries, blueberries, plums, or any other dark fruit or berry. All these wines age very well, and do well with added oak. If you make them correctly and age them a few years, you can shock your wine snob friends. Serve it first, and tell them what it is later.
Course: Drinks
Cuisine: American
Servings: 3 gallons
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 9 to 15 pounds elderberries, stems removed
  • 10 quarts water, spring water is best
  • 3 to 6 pounds of sugar (see above for exact amount)
  • Tartaric acid (see above for exact amount)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons pectic enzyme
  • 3 teaspoons yeast nutrient
  • Wine yeast

Instructions 

  • Crush the berries by hand, or pulse them in a food processor in batches just enough to break up the berries. Do not liquefy them.
  • Pour the crushed berries into a large pot with 10 quarts of water. Add 3 pounds of the sugar. Bring to a simmer, then turn off the heat. Heating elderberries makes them easier to digest, and helps set the color of the wine.
  • Pour the juice into a freshly cleaned 5-gallon bucket and let it cool to room temperature. Test the juice for acid and sugar. Both may be a little low, so be prepared to add another 1 to -3 pounds of sugar and possibly tartaric acid. Add tartaric acid to get the juice to about 7 grams per liter. You might not need to add any – I’ve had elderberry batches that needed no additional acid and, others that needed a lot. We’re dealing with a wild food, and wild foods are variable.
  • Add the pectic enzyme (and tannin, for blueberries and blackberries and blueberries), and chill to below 50°F in the fridge or with ice packs. Lay a sheet of plastic wrap on the juice to keep out air. Keep the juice covered and at this temperature for up to 3 days. The longer you cold soak, the more flavor you extract. (But you run a higher risk of oxidation, which will turn the wine an unappetizing brown, or of spontaneous fermentation, which can ruin the whole batch.)
  • On the third day, bring the juice up to room temperature. Add half the yeast nutrient as the juice warms. Once the juice is at room temperature, hydrate your yeast and add it in, then follow the above directions from here.

Notes

Note that prep time is only for that initial first day's work. Elderberry wine takes a long time to mature. 

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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218 Comments

  1. I love Elderberry wine and unfortunately a good elderberry crop happens about once every 4 or 5 years. This year (2022) is looking good. I should be picking all that I need next week (Sept13). I’ll pass along a tip I figured out several years ago in extracting the juice from the berries, but as important is removing the berries from the stems. Don’t! Just toss all into an old fashion steamer ($10 from a flea market or garage sale) and let the boiling steam do all the work. What comes out is pure high octane elderberry juice. I ferment in a 6 to 7 gallon bucket, and I’d say steam about a gallon of juice to the water to fill the 6 gallon bucket, sugar and yeast and your good. Then continue on as usual.

    1. ooh, I’ll have to start looking around for one locally. This will be my first attempt, so I’ll be buying locally sourced fresh elderberry when I’m ready if possible.

  2. Hello from the UK!

    I am in the process of picking and freezing some elderberries to give this recipe a go. Just a quick question, in the detailed description there is no mention of heating the elderberries, but in the short summary these is. Is the heating necessary or not? I am probably not going to be able to cold soak, so would simmering or not make a difference?

    Cheers,

    Paul

      1. Thanks Hank,

        I had worked out my amounts for ~ 10 litres of wine, and was about to start, then realised you’re in the US and gallons here ain’t gallons there! Need to find another 600g of berries!

        Paul

  3. The ‘cold soaking’ idea is great for more than just getting the most flavor out of the elderberries. Elderberries have a cyanide compound in them – cyanogenic glycosides – that can be poisonous. However, as soon as the elderberry is crushed, hydrolyzing enzymes are released that break the cyanide off of the glycoside. The cyanide will then take off into the air as a small amount of hydrogen cyanide when the must is acidic. The cold soak will help with that – the longer, the better. Moreover, when the fermentation gets going, the carbon dioxide will help strip the cyanide from the must.

      1. I really appreciate your article – well written and easy to follow. I’ve tried the same process with black currants that I have in my back yard and it worked out great! I’ll be moving on to elderberries later this week.
        Another thing to point out is that potassium metabisulfite should help destroy the small amount of cyanide that is produced when the hydrolyzing enzyme breaks down the glucoside. Sodium metabisulfite is often used to remove cyanide from mine wastewater where they use cyanide extraction.

  4. Finally got round to reviewing this recipie after making elderberry wine in 2019, 2020 and 2022 following this guide. Many thanks to Hank and the uploaders for providing this great and detailed guide for us all. I’ve had a great time picking, fermenting, ageing and most of all DRINKING this wine 🙂

  5. I have a lot of experience with kit wines. While frond upon by traditionalist you will make a decent wine and get equipped for a wine setup. You will learn pretty much all the steps for making win. This is the time that you need to take advantage of learning how to use the hygrometer. I failed Chemistry twice in high school and once in college. I mastered it in no time. Make notes as you go along. I am now in my seventies and my wife and w make great wines.

    We have a nursery, but, I prefer not to advertise here. It would be rude and not respectful of the rules. If we can make a great fresh fruit wine and even kind of of a fruit salad syrup for my granddaughter and her friends. We serve it with a little pineapple juice, soda water , over ice. The kids love it and what parent can object to their chit gettys free highly nutritious drink with all which anti-radical, micro and macro nutrients.
    I for one am a true believer in learning with kits with juices included. You can replace a kit easier than a year’s berry production. They preach sterilization learn by donor learn by not starting proper cleanliness. You don’t need a clean room, but, practicing good hygiene truly saves you money.

  6. Hello, I live in MO. I’m on a fixed income and I have a bunch of elderberries on my property. I have thought of making wine, jelly and cough syrup. I’ve never done anything like this before. So I am stating from scratch. I have to purchase everything to make these different items any suggestions? I’m not on Facebook or any social media. I googled to get the information that I have gathered.

  7. Hi Hank, with all the rain here in the Northeast this summer, I’ve harvested a bumper crop of 40 pounds of elderberries this season! I should mention that I’m a novice, but am a very enthusiastic elderberry wine-maker. I plan on making three, three-gallon servings with 12 pounds of berries a piece. Last year, I tried making elderberry wine with 12 pounds of elderberries using your recipe, but I put in too much taartaric acid, the must turned brown and I had to dump it. Do you have a simplified or another way of calculating acid quantities that I can use? Many thanks, Jean

  8. OK, I crushed on a Sunday.
    3 day cold soak.
    Pitched yeast on Wednesday.
    Today is the following Wednesday.
    Starting SG was 1.105 (after adding sugar) = Brix 24.8
    SG is at 1.013. Still not to zero.

    A bit worried that your instructions say 3 to 6 day ferment and I’m on 7 and still not quite there yet. My SG is not “stuck” and is dropping each day.

    I’ll probably be ready to transfer to my carboy tomorrow evening (day 8) but a bit worried it’s been on the fruit this long!

    Any thoughts or opinions on this?

    1. N.b., I just reread your comment, Linda, and I think maybe this won’t really help; however, I already typed it, — so, all disclaimers having had gone through with (i.e., to the best of my reckoning), I present you, my comment:

      My wine presented a similar phenomenon, and– Finally, at day thirteen; — that was, yesterday evening –, the specific gravity was at 1.001 or 1.002. A three-day cold soak began the process; starting at 1.076 SG, and ~3.6-ish pH achieved with tartaric acid and measured with “pretty accurate” testing strips; sparkling white wine yeast was pitched when juice warmed to 60F, then the bucket was kept at room temp (69F) for six or seven days with SG only dropping to something like 1.072, before I moved the bucket to the basement. In the basement, the fermentation took off. It is dry and tart and it pairs well with the curries that
      I have been eating.

      1. Andrew,

        I just tested my SG today – about 5 months after the start. 0.996 so I decided to bottle it. After I bottled it, I wondered if I should have backsweetened at all as it’s quite dry. Maybe a bit tart.

        What was your SG at when you finally bottled yours?

        I’m also wondering how the flavor will change now that it’s bottled?

      2. Hi Andrew,

        I just started a new batch (just under 4 gallons). Brix is about 24.3 but my pH meter said that I’m at 3.2 to 3.25 (they drift).

        It’s already quite acidic and I’m a bit worried that I’m too acidic. Have you had that happen before. I read that the solution is to dilute with water (ugg) or to add something basic like a carbonate (I guess the crushed eggshell method might work here? I have hens and tons of eggs so maybe I adjust pH this way to get closer to 3.4 or so?)
        I guess I could also add more sugar as glucose/sucrose act as bases but I could be left with tons of residual sugar that the yeast won’t be able to deal with.
        I’m pitching yeast today and am thinking of using BM 4X4 as I think it can tolerate an ABV of 16% before dying off – so that might be how I solve for the residual sugar risk.
        Any ideas? 🙂

      3. Linda: That’s not terribly acidic for wine, so I’d leave it. And you will not get a 16% wine no matter what you do if your Brix is 24.3. That will get you somewhere around 14%.

  9. Thank you Hank, will this work with choke cherries? I know their pits are poisonous. I have a bunch now and would like to try making wine with them.

    1. Loren: Yes it will, and the toxicity of the pits is volatile, so if you steam juice or cook the chokecherries, you’re all set.

  10. Getting ready to make my first batch of elderberry wine.

    Rather than using an acid testing kit, have you ever used a pH meter instead?

    Also, what sort of yeast are you using here?

  11. Wow! Very comprehensive. I am following a very simple Traditional Scottish recipe, so we will see how that goes. I needed tips on how to prep my elderberries—all those petite stems! Going to try and filter them. Wish me luck! I may not name a fine wine, but I’m very excited.

    1. I’ve only ever done the “traditional” wild-fermented elderberry wine (well, wild-ish… I use sulfite-free raisins to inoculate with good yeast) in a little 1 gallon jar with a Perfect Pickler airlock and minimal measurements, usually about a 1:1ish ratio of fruit to sugar by weight + enough water to top off… and it has come out great! Sometimes I mix with blackberries or feral grapes to get to the desired volume. Usually ends up delightfully sparkling, fruity-but-quite-dry, and surprisingly STRONG – though I’ve never had the supplies to measure alcohol content.

      The berries are tough to process though. I’ve heard that a fork works well to pry the berries off the stems, and I’ve also heard that freezing the umbrels will help to loosen the berries so they can be shaken off. Ultimately though, I just put on a TV show and pick pick pick, and deal with pink fingertips for a few days!

      1. HI Carolyn very interested if you could provide more detail on how you make your elderberry wine… I like the fact that it is so simple and doesn’t need sulfites.

    2. I have a steamer juicer that I use often to extract juice from elderberries to make jam. Could I start this recipe with with the elderberry juice instead of mashing the berries and soaking them? Add the sugar and then follow the recipe starting with step 2 . ( testing sugar and acidity) Should I start with 100% juice or dilute it with some water. I was thinking of juicing the 9-15 pounds of elderberries and combining that juice with the 10 qts water. What are your thoughts on this?

  12. Wondering your thoughts on using chokecherries for this recipe. My main question is whether to use the whole berry (with the pits) for the ferment. I was planning on gently smashing them to avoid breaking up the pits. I’d like to use the whole berry so that I can include the skins in the ferment. Do I need to worry about this since it’s a relatively short time for the pits to be in with the juice?

    1. Hilary: Absolutely it will work! But, chokecherries are high in acid, low in tannin and sugar, so you will need to adjust accordingly. Yes, whole berries should work.

    2. I have made chokecherry wine in the past and it was one of my best flavored wines, but yes, all of the amounts need to be different.

  13. Hi Hank,

    Many thanks for laying things out in such a way that an amateur like me can grasp the essentials of wine making. One thing thats not clear to me though is is the use of peptic enzymes. How much is added to your recipe?
    Take care. Wilfred

    1. Wilfred: I don’t use them, but if I remember right they are added early in the process. Not sure how much.

      1. I use a recipie 10 gal sugar 15 lbs elderberries welces grape contrate 3 for 5 gal batch last 5 years comes out great! Instead of cooking I put it in cheese cloth about 2-3 weeks.strain amd continue settling!

      1. It works well with dried berries. I previously always used fresh berries. In February 2018 I decided to try dried elderberries for convenience and all year round availability. I used 250g of dried berries (about 8.5 oz) to each of 4 x English Imperial gallons (4 x 160 oz). I added boiling water to the berries in the fermentation bin and the color immediately came out purple-black; no need for cold soaking. For the record, I also added 10g (one third oz) medium toasted oak chips to each gallon. After over 2 years of aging, I started drinking the wine in April 2020. It has an exquisite clean, dry flavor, with ample tannin and a deep garnet color, as good as any claret. Out of interest, I never add any sulfites like sodium metabisulfite and prefer to use the wild yeasts for fermentation when picking fresh berries. For the dried berries I used the wild yeasts in my sourdough starter for fermentation. I do use airtight-fitting lids with air-locks on all my fermentation bins to prevent any bacterial spoilage.

  14. Nicely done! Lot’s of detail (and experience) supplement the basic recipe. Only someone who has “brewed or fermented” would understand what is behind the scene in making wine from elderberries. Thanks!

  15. I’m going to be short on juice. It’s very expensive to buy. It was suggested I use dried berries and reconstitute them, then juice. While this seems like a lot of extra work, do you think the juice would be satisfactory? Also, we were discussing freezing the berries since they don’t ripen at same rate. Any issues that you know of for freezing / thawing before wine making?? Thanks so much! Mary

  16. why don’t you put S.G. Readings ( Start and Finish )
    as well as brix a lot of winemakers don’t liking using Brix.
    thanks
    kind regards
    j.jones

  17. Are you in Florida? Can I rent you out? I need major help. Ugh. Lol. Seriously, thank you for sharing this. This is a “bucket list” thing for me to do!