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Home Winemaking
We started home winemaking Wine label many years ago but then found ourselves too busy to devote much time to it. When we came to clear out at my mothers wine cellar at Bath we found a number of full demijohns and on checking there were even more under our own stairs. Trying some of our wines which were up to twenty years old quickly convinced us we should start again!

We have always found that fruit wines come out best and will keep for years, especially if left in the demi-johns. We have made wines from kits/grape concentrate but results have been disappointing and the wines start downhill after a year or so. Wines made from Blackberries, Elderberries and even Raspberries keep much longer and we opened our last bottle of 30 year old Elderberry to see in the New Year of 2007 which was still in its prime.

White wine never keeps as long - or need as long to mature. We used to regularly made a light dry white from Gooseberries which is drinkable in a year and could pass for a grape wine after two - it is ideal for Mussels. Kitchen Full of Wine We have also found some older Gooseberry which was much fuller bodied, slightly sweeter and tasting much more of the fruit. It was still slightly petulant and was something we wanted to try to repeat - we should have kept better records! See 2000 and 2001 for progress.

Several people have asked me how we make our wines so I started this page by firstly putting together some advice and tips - they assume you have perhaps made a kit wine and at least understand the basic terms. It has been gradually augmented by the recipes and specific techniques we have developed as time has gone on. The methods employed have however become increasingly standardised as time has gone so if you want to make a wine we have not covered then have a look at the Standard Method Mixed Fruit Wine for ideas. I have also added a supporting page with some relevant technical background and useful facts to help one make a wine of the strength and final specific gravity (sweetness) one wants.

Since restarting making wine we have been producing about 4 batches a year, 3 of them being favourites such as Gooseberry, Blackberry and Morello Cherry with a trial batch of something different such as Elderflower, Loganberry, Plum, Mixed fruit, Blackcurrant or our specialty Stoneberry from a mix of stoned fruit and berries. We try to keep them for at least 3 years to mature before bottling and drinking.

Tips and the Basics of Winemaking

Favourite Recipes

Early Summer Wines

Elderflower Wine - a two demijohn batch (1999)

It is really too early to call this a favourite wine as it is the first time we have made it. Lots of people have however asked why we never make it as it is one of the classic flower wines. Whilst we were returning home down the Kennet and Avon in mid June the trees were laden with blooms at every stage of maturity so we decided we would have a go. We picked and trimmed the last day away and kept the florets in the fridge loosely packed ready to start the next morning. In retrospect it would probably have been better not to delay and to have poured boiling water over immediately and then have store the cooled juice with a campden tablet added. Our method follows. It is worth noting that there are many different species of elder from those with a very delicate bouquet through to those with a really pungent cat pee smell so it is worth trying a number of sources and selecting from those trees with the best bouquet. See below for alternative of using Thorncroft Elderflower Cordial if you want to add some of the bouquet to other wines at a time when fresh elderflowers are not available.

Elderflower Blends (4 + 2 demijohns) 2006

We are currently trying a couple of Elderflower blends, firstly 4 demijohns of a light Gooseberry and Elderflower wine which I hope will bring out the best of both - the picking season may just overlap enough in late June but this time I am using frozen gooseberries from the previous year. The second blend is a 2 demijohn batch of Victoria Plum and Elderflower which I hope will give a light rosé with the tannin from the plums complementing the bouquet from the elderflowers made with frozen plums from last season.

The elderflowers were picked on the canals, prepared as above but immediately covered in boiling water and left to infuse for a day with a campden tablet added before storage in bottles with an additional campden tablet in each bottle. More details will follow as we progress.

Elderflower and Gooseberry

Elderflower and Plum

Gooseberry and Elderflower (2 demijohns) and straight Gooseberry (2 demijohns) in 2008

The Elderflower and Gooseberry blend above was turning out very well by 2008 but we were away during the elderflower season so we have tried adding Thorncroft Elderflower Cordial which we found first in Culpepper - it is organic and without additives - one 375ml bottle was added to two demijohns out of a 4 gallon batch of gooseberry as an experiment. The one with the Elderflower cordial cleared quicker and has a light taste and bouquet of elderflower which is less pronounced than when we used our own infusion.

Elderflower concentrated base wine for blending 2009

We picked a large number of elderflower heads from a selection of bushes at the George Billington Lock on the River Avon, the one that runs through Stratford. The intention was to make a very intense Elderflower Wine to blend with other wines. The 70 or so heads we picked gave us 4 litres of florets measured when shaken down rather than compressed. We added boiling water to just cover them and steeped for 24 hours before sieving and adding a campden tablet to preserve it. 2.8 litres of florets equivalent of extract was used to make the wine base and remaining 1.2 litres of florets was used for our first attempts at a Elderflower cordial.

For the wine base we added the finely chopped zest and juice of 5 lemons and 250 grams of well chopped sultanas. We dissolved 500 gms of sugar in water and boiled for 5 minutes before adding the sultanas and lemon zest. We added the elderflower extract, 20gms of citric acid and then 5 gms of pectic enzyme once it had cooled. Everything was poured into a demijohn as we were on the boat and had not got our usual bucket. Left for 24 hours and a starter bottle of yeast started and progressively divided before adding to the wine. After 5 days it was filtered through a course sieve as we had no bag for straining with us and returned to the demijohn and another 600 grams of sugar added as fermentation had slowed to almost nothing.

George Billington Elderflower and Gooseberry (5 demijohns) in 2009 and 2011

This is a standard 4 demijohn batch of Gooseberry blended with our concentrated Elderflower base from the George Billington Lock to make 5 demijohns of the Elderflower and Gooseberry. We added 2 litres of the elderflower 'base' which was equivalent of 1.3 litres of florets and 500 gms of sugar equivalent with the intention of duplicating the balance of the 2006.

Elderflower Cordial 2009

We used the remainder of our extract from above which was 750 cc and contained the equivalent of 1.2 litres of florets. We added 25 grams citric acid, the 5 chopped lemons left over and 1.5 kgms sugar. It was brought up to the boil and allowed to cool producing 1.6 litres of cordial which was stored in sterilised wine bottles in the fridge. Overall slightly sweet at an appropriate dilution for the elderflower taste. The Elderflower steeped lemons saved and added to sweets - almost like a jam in texture when cool - nothing goes to waste.

Elderflower Cordial 2011

We picked 50 florets of various sizes from a selection of bushes round the basin at Llangollen on 29th May and cut off the smaller florets - total volume when lightly pressed down and allowed to spring back was 3 litres. Care was taken that all flowers open but non were losing petals or brown. 1.5 kgs of sugar and 1.2 litres water was brought to the boil and 4 small unwaxed lemons added with the zest peeled off and roughly chopped and the remainder sliced. Also 50 gms of citric acid. After boiling for 5 mins until the lemons were soft the elderflowers were added and pushed down using the next level of the steamer and left to cool with a lid and cloth over the top to protect from flies.

After 2 days this was coarsely strained off - we only had the sieve in the steamer. The juice was out into sterilised wine bottles and we got 2.5 bottles. We added half a campden tablet to the whole bottles which we planned to use for winemaking.

The lemons and peel were separated from the florets and the florets rinsed with a few hundred grams of water and added to the lemons with 400 grams of sugar and boiled and gradually reduced on the stove to produce a 'marmalade' - nothing goes to waste. We put it into two sterilised and warmed over the stove jars and it set very well.

Summer Wines

Dry Gooseberry (4 demijohn batch 1999 and 2 demijohn batch in 2002)

We are aiming for a dry wine without any stewed fruit taste. This type of gooseberry is like an Entre deux Mers and ideal for Moules. We therefore did not use boiling water but depended on freezing and thawing, a longer fermentation and pectic enzyme for the extraction. The fruit was soaked in sodium metabisulphite solution for ten minutes (teaspoon per Modules) and then top and tailed as soon as each batch was picked in the garden. The batches were then frozen until the wine was made in early July. They were crushed by hand to break open each berry as they were added to the fermenting bin - a long job for 8 Kgrams. The detailed description covers the 1999 batch with differences indicated.

Medium/Full Bodied Gooseberry (4 demijohn batch in 2000 and repeated in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2006 with five demijohns in 2005)

The description following was repeated in 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004 and scaled up in 2005 before returning to 4 demijohns in 2006. We are aiming for a medium dry wine with a more obvious Gooseberry taste - this is a wine which we have made several times before and does not need to be bone dry. We extract more of the Gooseberry flavour by using boiling water as well as freezing and thawing, a long fermentation and pectic enzyme. This year the fruit was frozen before toping and tailing because we were about to go away and some of the fruit was less ripe than I would have liked. Gooseberries can be cooked when under ripe, in fact they are best like that as the skins harden as they ripen. I prefer to wait until the seeds are definitely turning brown for winemaking. The batches were then frozen until the wine was made in mid July. The fruit was soaked in sodium metabisulphite solution for ten minutes (one teaspoon or a couple of campden tablets per tub) when almost thawed and then each berry was toped, tailed and crushed by hand to break open each berry as they were added to the fermenting bin - a long job for 8 Kgrams.

We usually have trouble clearing Gooseberry made using a hot extraction so we use extra pectic enzyme and leave it longer than usual before adding the yeast. This seems to work as 6 weeks from start the 2000 wine was very clear with a very firm sediment and quite drinkable already when racking!

The 2001 had an extra .5 kg fruit and .3 kg sugar and has been very slightly slower to clear although the gravity was .995 (Note - a calibration error was discovered on our hydrometer and this was probably more like 1.005). It looks as if the extra time with Pectic Enzyme works well and at long last we have the possibility of crystal clear gooseberry wine.

In 2002 we made a 5 demijohn batch with 1.4 kgs added sugar per demijohn. Boots no longer do winemaking supplies and we now use 4-5 grams of Young's Cellarman Pectolase enzyme per demijohn (available from Wilkinson's hardware stores in 17 gm tubs).

The fruit used in 2003 was quite green and we will aim for a drier more acidic wine to make sparkling or to drink with a meal - it finally had 1.35kgs added sugar per demijohn and a gravity of 1.000 when sealed.

The fruit was a mixture of green and ripe in 2004 and we made a 5 gallon batch using 4.5 tubs of fruit.

The method below was that used in 2000 on which the other years was based although the sugar added has crept up:

Loganberry (2 demijohn batches 1999, 2002, 2003, 2005 and 4 demijohns in 2006)

1999 was the first time we have had enough Loganberries to make wine and we decided to aim for a dry and fairly light wine - say 12.5% alcohol. The books say you do not need a very large amount of Loganberries so we went for one kilo per demijohn - much less than we use for Blackberry. The fermented out cleared remarkably quickly and was crystal clear when we racked it off the lees after 10 weeks. The sediment was almost solid - the CWE yeast mixture contains both nutrient and some bentonite which is a clay type finning agent. The 2005 has been made with slightly more fruit (1.1 kgs/demijohn) and was aimed at a 14.5% alcohol. The following is the 1999 method.

Blackcurrant (2 demijohn batch 2000 and repeat with 3 demijohns in 2001 and 2004 and 2 demijohns in 2002 and 2003)

We do not have many Blackcurrant bushes in the garden so this was first made using some new and some fruit frozen from a previous year. We used a 4 and a 3 litre tub and aimed for a tasty wine at about 13.5% wine. It fermented out quickly and was quite clear when we racked it off the lees after 6 weeks and crystal clear at the second racking a year later with very little extra sediment although it continued to ferment for as couple of years. On tasting we noted that next time we should possibly use less Blackcurrants as it was extremely tasty. We therefore made a batch the following year with the quantities reduced to 4.4 Kgs Blackcurrants (two tubs) for three demijohns but the same basic method but returned to the original quantities in 2002, 2003 and 2004 but aiming for a higher gravity and slightly sweeter wine.

Plum+ (plus Sultana, Sloe and Banana) 1 demijohn experiment 1996

Plum is a wine which is difficult to get exactly right. Plum alone is very short in body and has a slight tang if you make up by using more fruit. The best stoned fruit are old fashioned Damsons if you can get them and Morello Cherry is of course a favourite of ours. The accepted logic with Plum is to add Sultanas or Wheat to Plums to get more body. We have not fancied wheat but have made a few gallons of plum (from a friends farm) with sultanas. This turned out a wine which still seemed to lack something for drinking by itself, but made a perfect base for a punch where the taste and tannin from the skins complemented the cider, fruit, fruit juice and ginger wine we added. A huge amount went at our Silver Anniversary party and virtually nobody drank wine (other than some home made!).

We have also recently been impressed with the results of a small batch (one demijohn) of what I have called Plum+ which is very drinkable. It was started before we initiated this web page so I have less documentation than these days - the bits in [] were not documented but are my standard practice. The important points are that we used Victoria Plums (from our own tree) and added sultanas and a single ripe banana for body. The sloes were looking for a home and were used to add a little extra taste and colour. We intend to repeat and refine this recipe again using our Victoria Plums and perhaps adding 5-10% Morello cherries as well as, or instead of the sloes/bullaces (if not available), sultanas, and a banana.

Autumn Wines

Blackberry with Elderberry - 4 demijohn batches 1998, 2004 and 2008

The small number of elderberries in 1998 gave extra colour and a slight bouquet and taste of elderberry whilst the amounts were increased in 2004 to give a more obvious taste of Elderberry - the 2004 tasted very good at its final racking.

Blackberry with Elderberry and Black Currant - 5 demijohn batch in 2007

The Blackberry and Elderberry 2004 was so good we thought another full bodied blend would be worth trying. It is roughly equivalent to 4.5 gallons of Blackberry, one of Blackcurrant and a half a gallon of Elderberry - 6 gals of normal bodied wine so it will be made medium

Medium bodied Blackberry (4 demijohn batch 1999)

This was made predominantly with this years Blackberries from our own garden and frozen then slowly thawed to break down the fruit.

Medium/Full bodied Blackberry (4 demijohn batch in 2000 repeated in 2001, a two demijohn batch in 2003 and a four demijohn batch in 2004)

This was first made predominantly in 2000 with Blackberries from our own garden and from Jo and Adrian's farm, frozen then slowly thawed to break down the fruit. I started with the intention of making a five demijohn batch but decided to make it a bit richer so strained into 4 demijohns. It was so promising that the recipe here was repeated almost exactly in 2001 except we used less campden tablets - even then it was slow to start. The 2003 batch was two gallons and started life on the boat with us as did the 4 gallon batch in 2004.

Canalside Blackberry (2 demijohn batch 1999)

This was made with Blackberries picked on the towpath and overhanging the canal in late August. They were frozen in the fridge on the boat in batches. The sugar and water was not hot enough to sterilise the fruit so Campden tablets were also used. We had no pectic enzyme otherwise it would have been used although the temperature had only reached about 50 degrees Centigrade. The end result is everything we hoped - not a wine to share!

Black Cherry 4 demijohns in 1998 and 2004, 2 demijohns in 2003, 5 demijohns in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2007, 2011)

We have a large and often prolific Morello cherry tree shown on our wine label and we are looking for a staple wine. We are aiming at wine which is not bone dry to complement the flavour of the cherries. However as time has gone on the cherry tree has gone over the top or has some disease and has been less prolific, the fruit does not set and the ends of the branches wither and die when it is a dry year and the wine has become lighter in body and colour.

The description below is for the 1998 wine but we repeated almost exactly with a 5 demijohn batch in 1999 - again it proved slow to complete the fermentation and I wonder if the fruit has more sugar itself than I realised. In 2000 I measured the gravity of the must and it was equivalent to another 200 gms sugar per demijohn - no wonder it is so strong and difficult to ferment to dry! I now start with 3 kgs sugar rather than 4 Kgs in a 4 demijohn batch and add in more stages. I now use only two or three campden tablets as the colour tends to disappear although it does return during fermentation once the effect has worn off.

All that follows is for the 4 demijohn 1998 batch

A wine to repeat and repeat and repeat!

Damson 2 demijohns in 2010 and 2011

We were given enough Damsons to make 2 gallons of wine and also have our own Damson tree which is just coming on stream so the 2011 batch is half and half those from Fiona and our own. The Damson are hard and the stones do not come out so easily so they have not been fully stoned - just squeezed and mushed from frozen as much as possible. Otherwise the method has been much the same as Cherry.

 

Mixed Fruit I (2 demijohn batch in 1998)

Standard Method Mixed Fruit (4 demijohn batch in 2002)

This is very typical of a mixed fruit wine made whilst clearing out old fruit etc from the freezer to make space for another years crop. It was made almost precisely by, what I regard as my standard method, so I have described it more fully than usual as a model to be followed. The total fruit is about my standard measure of one ex ice cream tub of frozen fruit per demijohn. Each tub of fruit was covered in a sterilising solution of 2 campden tablets in a litre of water when almost thawed for circa 5 minutes and the solution poured into the next tub. The fruit was then hand crushed and/or stoned. The wild plums were a mixture of bullaces and sloes picked in Guernsey and were too small and hard to stone so were just broken open and crushed by hand. When completed it was covered with sugar solution which had been boiled for 3 minutes and made up to about 4.5 litres for each demijohn with more boiling water. This leaves room for the foam and crust during fermentation in the "bucket". This is cooled overnight prior to adding 4-5 grams Pectolase and between a half and one campden tablet per demijohn being made. This removes any pectin and completes the sterilisation.

Here it deviates slightly from the standard method as it started as a 3 demijohn batch but an extra tub of cherries covered in boiling sugar solution was added after it had been cooling overnight to give it a bit more colour and flavour and make it up to a four demijohn batch. The elderberries were also added for colour and a little "bite" and in their case they were boiled with a little water until they dimpled and only the juice was used after sieving and a further short boil - elderberries can add all sorts of undesirable life and need to be well sterilised.

The Must stood with Pectolase for a day and a starter was prepared and then "multiplied" by doubling the volume with Must repeatedly until there was 3 litres fermenting. I use Formulae 67 yeast which has added nutrients and a small amount of Bentonite (a clay based fining agent) at the rate recommended for starting a gallon (5 grams per demijohn) so the finning and nutrient is at the correct level rather than using the same starter regardless of batch size as they recommend. The initial starter has 5-10 grams sugar plus the yeast in 250 ccs boiled water cooled to circa 35 deg C. Each "doubling" takes between half and one hour to start vigorous fermentation ready for the next doubling. Even with this doubling the wine can be very slow to restart after doublings if a whole campden tablet is used per demijohn and I nw tend to reduce this to half.

In this case my standard of approximately half the intended sugar was in the must but the fermentation was so vigorous that checks showed the gravity was down to zero after 4 days. I like to ferment on the fruit for 5 - 6 days to extract flavour and colour. An additional 500 grams of sugar was added to keep it going. By day five the pulp was very soft as the fruit had now been completely broken down by the enzyme and yeast so it was strained through a nylon straining bag which was then squeezed until the pulp was dry and crumbly - even with the stones it only weighed two kilos.

The sugar was added in stages in a very typical manner and timing, initially to the intended 1,400 grams per demijohn (for 15% medium dry wine) and then an extra 50 grams per demijohn added to keep it in the dry/medium dry range of 1.000 to 1.005. This point took 3 weeks from fermentation starting.

Mixed Fruit - Cherry, Blackberry and Blackcurrant (5 demijohn batch in 2008)

This is another example of a mixed wine made by the standard method so only the basic ingredients will be given.

Experimental grape and left over mixed fruit pulp (1 demijohn 2008)

This was an experiment as I had a litre of red grapes from a friend. I did not have enough to make a grape only wine so I added them to the pulp from the mixed wine above after I had strained off the wine and added 4 litres of water and 500gm sugar and fermented for another 4 days before straining off. I expected a light rose colour but it has turned out to be a true red with quite a different flavour to the mixed fruit wine it was based on.

Stoneberry (4 demijohn batch in 2002 and 5 demijohns in 2003) based on a 1997 wine

This is based on a wine made in 1997 made from Victoria Plums, Morello Cherries and Blackberries (2:1:1 ratio). The name came about because it was a mix of stoned fruit and berries. The original 1997 Stoneberry was very successful but made before documentation on the web site was started. My written notes show I used the same methods I now use (frozen fruit stoned/crushed, sterilised with NaMet and then boiling sugar solution poured over it) and a few "improvements" have been made based on our other experiences with plum wines such as the Plum+ described earlier. The aim is for a slightly cleaner and more full bodied wine than the 1997.

In 2002 the fruit was hand crushed and/or stoned after freezing and thawing. This time the plums were also skinned to reduce the tannin and improve the flavour - the skins mostly just fell off after freezing. A banana was added to increase body which plums lack and a small number of blackcurrants were added to give more colour and a touch of flavour which again the plums lack, especially when skinned. We had a bottle on New Years eve of 2006 and it was excellent and probably close to reaching its peak. The 2003 was very similar except that the banana was omitted and a small number of loganberries were added to give body and bouquet.

Before You Leave

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