Tag: Elderflower wine


Elderflower wine in secondary fermentation
Elderflower wine – five days old in secondary fermentation. Currently it is very dark but mostly from the raisin body and it will fall out.

Elderflower wine is possibly one of the most well known country wines along with The Good Life’s pea pod wine. While pea pod wine may be a long running joke (though by all accounts very nice) elderflower wine is a serious business. It is a bold confident wine with unique flavour that can stand next to any “proper” white grape wine rather than be an approximation of one. It has a lovely aroma and crisp floral taste that can be made into a very sweet or ultra dry wine. It hides to alcohol taste so never tastes too “hot” so to speak and can be easily adapted into a champagne. As few bottles are sold commercially it is unique enough to impress people if you share it and they will not be too bothered about the hippy drippy foraging you did to make it… just don’t get drunk and drone on about it. Not bad at about 70p a bottle once made!


Elderflowers picked
Elderflowers waiting to be stripped

Most flower or leaf wines require a huge volume of ingredients usually the equivalent of the wine you are making. A gallon of dandelion wine needs a gallon of loose flowers picked. Elderflowers are packed with flavour so they only need half a litre of flower heads to make the 4.5 litres of an English gallon of wine. As they are so floral it is best to treat this like a white wine and go for a long slow fermentation. Do not boil the flowers as some recipes recommend simply pour over boiling water to blanch then steep them, doing it in a stainless steal pan will keep temperatures lower when fermentation starts dispersing some of the heat that fermenting yeast generates. It is best to use a good white wine yeast that prefers lower temperatures like Vintners Harvest CY17, SN9, CL23 or the champagne yeast EC1118. All this will ensure that the delicate floral aroma does not “boil” off as the yeast hits its stride.


Use a hydrometer to get the best results.

Elderflowers are a native to Britain and so many of the recipes suffer from British ideas about making overly alcoholic moon shine passed down from dotty grandparents. A hydrometer is very much needed and ignore any suggestion of adding 1.5kg of sugar to a gallon of wine. It will either make a stomach churningly sweet wine or head hurtingly alcoholic one. I made 10litres and only added about 2kg of sugar in total which was 1.09 SG on the hydrometer. If you want a sweeter desert wine it is far better to ferment to dryness and then stabilise and then back sweeten at the end to ensure it is to your taste. If you wish to make a sparkling Sham-pagne do not go past 1.08 SG so that the repitched yeast in a secondary fermentation can survive and carbonate in the bottle.

I have never oaked any of my white wines but I may choose to this time as the spiced and caramel flavours imparted will probably compliment the elderflowers well while also adding a little “buttery” mouth feel. As it is an experiment I will separate this 10 litre batch into two demijohns with one oaked and one left natural. I doubt it will need much so I will add 6g of oak chips for a couple of months at the end of bulk aging.



Suitable yeasts – white wine yeasts like EC1118, CY17, SN9, CL23
0.55L picked elderflower heads
1kg-ish sugar to 1.09SG
250g raisins lightly chopped
1/2 mug of earl grey tea
Juice and zest of 3 lemons
1 tsp yeast nutrient
White wine yeast
4.5L boiling water

Elderflower wine ingredients

  1. Pluck the elder flowers from the stems removing as much green as possible.

    Elderflower wine prep
    Picked elderflowers, lemon zest and chopped raisins can be blanched together with boiling water.
  2. Place the elderflowers, chopped or minced raisins & lemon zest in pan and pour over the boiling water, add most of the sugar and stir in thoroughly so the flowers are submerged.
  3. Leave to cool to room temperature and fine tune to the desired starting gravity of sugar at 1.08 or 1.09 SG. Add the lemon juice, tea, yeast and nutrient and stir in.

    Elderflower wine primary
    A cap of flowers and raisins naturally forms as fermentation occurs. Push it down with a sterile ladle regularly to stop oxidation.
  4. Ferment in primary and punch the cap of flowers and raisins down four times a day if possible (at least once a day at least)
  5. Rack and filter to secondary though muslin to remove the solids when fermentation starts to slow. This will be at 4 to 10 days after pitching the yeast. Squeeze the muslin thoroughly to get all the raisin and elder taste.

    Elderflower wine in secondary fermentation2
    Secondary fermentation at six days old
  6. Rack at five weeks then another 10 weeks after that (and three months after that if needed)
  7. Stabilise and back sweeten if desired.
  8. Bottle at six months of age.

Can be drunk nine months after starting – 12 for best results.



Elderflowers picked
Elderflowers: Small flowers of five cream petals with yellow stamens on large sprays.

Elderflowers have started to bloom around Vintner Mansions and they have a special place in my wine making as it was the first ever wine I made. Sweet, dry or sparkling it is great stuff that goes down a treat. Elderflowers can also be added to rhubarb or gooseberry wines for a little twist, steeped in gin for a sweet summer cocktail, deep fried in tempura batter or even as a non-alcoholic cordial.

This is celebrity chef and part time Worzel impersonator Hugh Flannery Whittingstall’s recipe for cordial that Ms Gazette made while the wine is being started.


Elderflower Tonic
Elderflower cordial

For an alcoholic hit elderflower gin can easily be made. The stripped flowers of 15 heads, a slice of lemon zest and a few tablespoons of light brown sugar to your own taste. Submerge it all in a decent supermarket gin and shake every day for a week before filtering to get a gingery floral gin ideal for a Tom Collins.

You can find them dried for sale but these create a darker wine without the full perfumy scent and flavour of fresh flowers. To make the best wine you have to forage for the fresh flowers. The best time to collect is early on a warm morning when pollen is at its hight to add as much flavour as possible. This will also give you time to pluck them off the green stems and then to make the wine as quickly as possible to get the freshest wine you can. If you want them as an addition to gooseberry wine it is best to freeze them until gooseberries are in season. Add them frozen and thoroughly stirred in when they are needed – any exposure to air as they defrost they will start to turn brown and give an oxidized darker amber colour to your wine.

Identifying Elderflowers
Sambucus Nigra… the elder tree

Elder trees are scrubby little things part bush and part tree at 15m tall. The trunk is stout if visible at all and there are often a few stems that form the majority of the tree. The flowers are white/cream with five petals in sprays, the leaves are also usually arranged in sets of five though could be seven in total for some species. The easiest way to identify them is not sight but scent – a strong heady perfume that smells like a department store’s perfume counter.

It is customary to point out that elder trees are toxic… except for the flowers and eventual berries. Don’t eat the leaves, don’t lick the bark and certainly don’t go digging up the deadly roots.

Handsom Boy Foraging School 2
A wild Novocastrian hunting elderflowers

To make the wine you will need about half a litre of picked flowers which is about 20 to 25 heads. As these flowers are wild, be kind and only take what you need, taking too many will mean that an arms race will develop with other foragers as you compete. The more you waste the fewer elder berries there will eventually be later in the year. Elder trees give a double dip of excellent white wine with the flowers and excellent red wine from the elderberries – the “English grape.” I usually try to take flowers from trees that have trouble ripening to full fruit, birds will take them or fruit flies will infest the partially ripe berries. These are usually trees away from water courses or in competition with other trees.

Only take flowers you can easily get to. Trampling a few nettles or cow parsley is fine as it will regrow, trampling through a salt meadow or disturbing wild life is not the nicest thing to do. If an elderflower is out of reach do not climb up to grab them as the branches are brittle, be kind and leave them for the birds. When picking check the undersides to make they are not covered in cuckoo spit or aphids as these will just have to be tossed away.

The best advice to be an ethical forager is easy – don’t be a dick.

Full recipe next time with a mountain of images but click here for last years!


I have no idea what a “presse” is but elderflowers are wasted making it. If you don’t mind looking like a mental picking the flowers and uttering some twee bollocks asking for permission from the local forest hag you can make a genuinely impressive white wine or even sham-pagne.

Generally speaking there are two errors in recipes. The first is the absolute eye wateringingly high alcohol content – 1.5kg of sugar ferments into a lot of alcohol and will honestly make all your problems go away… and the cat… and your partner. I usually use no more than 1kg per gallon to make a 13% wine. The other error is that most recipes say pop the bottle six months after pitching the yeast. Leave it a year minimum for a far more complex taste. A taste that impresses friends and gives an air of refined class rather than penny pinching alco-hippy.

The flowers can be frozen if you want to make a few batches or even bought dried if you live in an urban hell hole like Gosforth. The wine can be an outrageously sweet but delicious dessert wine, dryer table wine, spritzer if too sweet or a sparkling Faux-inet to attract Ms Babcott from no34.



  • 500ml elderflowers heads
  • 1kg sugar
  • 250g lightly chopped raisins
  • Half a mug earl grey tea
  • Juice of 3 squeezed lemons and zest
  • Sachet of yeast (EC1118 or CY-17)
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 4.5l boiling water



The elderflowers provide the top notes, raisins add the body and the tea creates the tannin base notes and mouth feel. Lemon juice adds acidity not only for taste but also the correct pH for the yeast to multiply. Alternatives can swap one lemon for an orange or the addition of fresh ginger for a bit of oomph. Any white wine yeast can be used but EC1118 gives a champagne taste even if still and CY-17 ferments a little slower to keep the aromas from boiling off.



IMG-20160609-WA0001Pick the flowers on a sunny morning to get as much pollen thus aroma as you can. Pluck the flower heads and discard as much of the green stems as you can. 500ml will give a full flavor for a gallon of wine.

Throw the flowers, roughly chopped raisins and lemon zest into a sturdy stainless steel pot (Aluminium will discolour because of the acid and imprint on the taste!) Pour over 4.5 litres of boiling water to steralise the flowers killing the unknown wild yeast and steep the petals.

Stir in the sugar thoroughly and add the half cup of Earl Grey tea. (If going full fancy pants and using a hydrometer 1.08 to 1.09SG will make a 12 to 13% wine.)

Once the liquid has cooled add the juice of the three lemons and then pitch the yeast and yeast nutrient and give a stir 30 minutes later so that it dissolves. Cover with the pan lid and wait for the magic to start, after 2 hours the flowers may mysteriously start to float, a few hours later and bubbles start as the yeast begins to respire and multiply.

IMG-20160612-WA0001Stir twice a day if you are lazy or four if a professional (you are a professional) with a nicely steralised metal spoon. Dont worry the hideous brown crown that forms is entirely normal and stirring stops any chance of oxidation of the exposed petals and pumps all that delicious flavour into the must. After 6 days or so decant through a sterile muslin into a demijohn. (If using a hydrometer the reading should be about 1.01SG) Squeezing the muslin will press as much flavour through as possible so use it as a little therapy.

After a month when there are no bubbles syphon into a fresh demijohn and top up to the neck with boiled and cooled sterile water.

After another two months it can be bottled, though racking once more and letting it bulk age will add a more well rounded flavor as the tannins will bind with less sediment present. This wine will be absolutely dry so if you want to sweeten you need to stabalise stirring once a day for four days – the addition of 6tsp of white sugar per bottle should be enough but you can go crazy.

Crack open a bottle at six months for a mere hint of what is to come. Leaving it for a year from pitch to pop will create a complex but mellow taste perfect for a summer afternoon.

… vol-au-vent Ms Babcott?