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!
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.
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.
ELDERFLOWER WINE – 4.5 litres
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
- Pluck the elder flowers from the stems removing as much green as possible.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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)
- 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.
- Rack at five weeks then another 10 weeks after that (and three months after that if needed)
- Stabilise and back sweeten if desired.
- Bottle at six months of age.
Can be drunk nine months after starting – 12 for best results.