Elderberry wine at 6 days old


ELDERBERRY – 4.5 litres

SUITABLE YEASTS – R56, Lalvin R2, D80, D254, Bergundy

2kg elderberries
3.5L water
1kg-ish sugar to 1.08SG
Juice of a lemon
1tsp pectolase
1tsp yeast nutrient



400g of picked and washed elderberries. Only 3600g to go!

So generally I like to think of myself as a cross between Raffles the gentleman thief and Rick Deckard from Blade Runner, suave, street smart and a lady killer but more corduroy – this obviously means that when I am wining and dining I need something classier than a blue flavour WKD or even my own parsnip wine. This is why elderberry wine was invented.

Elderberries post cold soak with berries looking paler

Elderberries are close to grapes in terms of taste and process in making wine so recipes do nor vary much in terms of measurements – 2kg of fruit makes 4.5L of wine. While ratios are fairly standard the methods to make the wine may vary thus the taste too. Skins are thick and contain a lot of flavour so they sat in a cold soak for 5 days to extract as much as flavour, colour and aroma as possible. The berries really started to look washed out as the sterile water washed out the berries. Berries have enough tannin for a full bodied red, in fact packing so much it could be a problem over extracting it from the seeds and pulp. Acid is fairly high too.


Once removed from the cold maceration the berries were transferred to a sparge bag and given a thorough squeeze to get the juice extracted. A few hours to get to temperature allowed two teaspoons of pectolase to destroy pectin. Elderberries are generally low in pectin so I only left it 12 hours. Afterwards a decent test for both sugar and acid to be tweaked. Acidity was almost perfect requiring a small amount of citric acid added as a powder and sugar was at 1.02SG. Making 10 litres I added about 1.7kg of sugar to bring it to 1.08SG for a full be not eye watering predicted ABV of 12%

I chose Lalvin RC212 Burgundy yeast out of necessity as my usual work horse of Vintners Harvest R56 was unavailable. Its not a big worry and I am interested to see the difference between last years vintage and this. It may become my standard “red wine yeast” for the grape like berries if it works well. 30 minutes after pitching it there were a few small carbon dioxide bubbles as it started to activate and it has been an explosive fermentation bubbling away like crazy in the warmth of the current heatwave.

48 hours into fermentation with bloated CO2 filled sparge bag and vigerous bubbling.

I plan to remove the elderberries earlier than most of the fruit I use. They have had a big head start with the cold maceration and now that fermentation is happening the ethanol will be extracting the tannin from skins that an aquius maceration does not touch. As elderberries are high in tannin the staggering of the soaks and premature removal means I can control the tannin extraction to some degree. The jury is out of the pressing of elderberries with some disliking it creating bitter flavours and others preferring this as it creates a full body but long maturing wine. I will squeeze but just by hand through the sparge bag – then the skins will be thrown back into another fermentation!

As the berries are bursting with flavour they can be used for a “second run” recipe. the skins of the 4kg of elderberries will now have the flavour of 2kg as they start to tire. the flavours will also tip towards the bitterer tannic side too. To supplement the “missing” fruit I will add 2kg of blackberries. The blackberries are low in tannin but have a sweeter fruitier taste to balance the elder. This second run will be more like either a medium red wine in taste and body or maybe even a rose as there is little chance to test the flavours left in the elderberries as they are locked into the skins some what. Its a double dip bonus so if it fails miserably I have wasted £1.50 in sugar and some time.


The original elderberry wine will take twice as long to mature. best case is a drinkable wine after 12 months but due to the work picking and care I have taken making it I hope I can resist for 24 or maybe even more months before popping one open. Last years vintage still lies waiting and I have refined my recipes, processes and become more confident so hope this can be even better when it eventually opens.

Second run update in a week…


2 thoughts on “ELDERBERRY WINE pt2

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