This blog is a record of the wine that I make and drink. Each flavour made and each bottle drunk will appear here. You may come to the conclusion that, on the whole, I should be drinking less.

Monday 12 September 2011

Elderberry Wine - The Making Of ...

Things do not bode well for this wine. And I am cross. Only 12 bottles-worth! For years I have been making triple batches of elderberry wine, yet this year it is only a double. It would not even have been that had Claire not convinced me that 5 lbs 6 oz of fruit was only a little way from the 6 lbs that I really needed, and that freezing what I had picked would be inconvenient. She pacified me with cake, but I am still cross. I predict a thin, sub-standard twelve bottles of elderberry wine. But we shall see.

Anyway, Autumn has come early this year - the trees were starting to colour in mid-August and all fruit is early. As I am Doing Stuff for the next few weeks without a break, today - Monday, 5th September - was the only convenient time to begin this wine. I might struggle for elderberries if I had left it another fortnight.

I drove to Hetchel Woods and decided to do the three-and-a-bit mile walk associated with this wine rather than go straight for the elder trees. It was, after all, a sunny Autumn day. Or it was for about the first twenty minutes of the walk. I watched the light dim rapidly as heavy rain clouds accumulated. I then stood under a tree for ten minutes, pretending that this gave me adequate shelter as water cascaded around me. I should have known then that not all was going to plan for this wine.

When I got to my usual field, the rain had stopped but my feet and legs were wet. There were plenty of elderberries and, according to past instructions, I picked a plastic bag and a half's worth, knowing that this would be nine pounds of fruit, and wandered back to the car - ignoring several opportunities to pick more.

Back home I started stripping the berries from their stalks and became monumentally bored in the process. Radio 4 helped a little. Weighing the elderberries was depressing. I didn't even pick enough for a double batch. Not really. Bah! So I have mashed what I did pick with greater ferocity than usual, on the basis that this may release more juice, and I have covered the resultant pulp with 12 pints of boiling water.

I added the yeast and a teaspoon each of nutrient and pectolase the next morning. I was going to strain the elderberries and add the sugar on Thursday night, but I came back from Madeleine's at 10. The process would have taken an hour and a half, so I thought "Sod it" and just added 5 ½ lbs sugar, leaving in the elderberries. I doubt it will make much difference.

I sieved this into demijohns on Monday morning, 12th September - which took less time than anticipated. I had to top each demijohn up with about half a pint of water. It is a fabulous dark purple colour, so at least something has gone right.


  1. Thanks for posting this! I've never made Elderberry wine but the idea has been on my mind over the last few days. I have done a bit of internet research on recipes and found advice to not allow the elderberries to stay in the juice as it's fermenting due to the tendency of a black layer to build up inside the demijohns - has this happened to you in the past? Am just wondering because I'd like the fruit to stay in the liquid as long as possible to extract flavour but am concerned about the repercussions.

  2. Hi Tanya. I left the elderberries in two years ago, and there was no noticeable build up inside the demijohns. Or not that I remember. And even if there was, you could clean it off (I find a jay cloth threaded through a flute cleaner works well). And I always wonder, like you, about getting rid of the fruit very early on in the process. So, I suspect (and hope) that leaving the elderberries in makes little difference.

  3. Great and thanks...I'll give it a go then!

  4. I was going to do a large batch of elderberry this year but never found the time to collect the berries and then on the last week when I've had a little time to do it the berries have mostly gone. Oh well, it's my own fault for not getting up and doing it while I could. Will have to aim to make some elderflower wine next year. On the plus side my other wines are smelling ok. Will be putting them in bottles soon to mature

  5. Berries have been in short supply this year for some reason. Perhaps it's the weather patterns. My berry harvest was not as abundant as last year. I decided to freeze what I did manage to get for another time.
    It's years like this that make us appreciate what we are able to forage and make and to feel truly blessed when we have a bumper crop of fruit.
    I'm sure you shall feel better after having a glass of wine.

  6. Morlock - pick what few there are and put them in your freezer. Then, come December, you can make a mixed fruit wine.

    Dan - elderberries weren't in short supply on this side of the Atlantic, just early (and I didn't pick enough). Sloes are the fruit that often suffer from poor harvests - though this year they are abundant. And I get to try last year's sloe wine over the weekend.