Tag: Gooseberry wine


The first sparkling wine I made nearly took my eye out with the explosive force when we popped the cork. After Ms Gazette had stopped laughing and the cat was found we had a great strawberry champagne that was far beyond what I had imagined I could make and was better than the commercial bottle I used as a control. The second was a little nerve racking as it was 12 bottles for a friends wedding but that all went swimmingly too… he still talks to me at least.

Strawberry Sham-pagne

I already plan to make an elderflower shampagne and might make a dandelion fauxseco this year and have just turned last years gooseberry wine into the latest batch of er… sparkling wine. Crisp dry whites are probably best but I may well try and carbonate a second run medium bodied elderberry & blackberry wine about this time next year. You’re making it so go crazy as the world is your lobster.

I am assuming that like me you are making a small batch of champagne – six to twelve bottles using a British gallon or two of wine. If you are making a bigger batch have a read through this exhaustive guide by Jack Keller: http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/sparkling.asp

The process is surprisingly easy using a simplified “méthode champenoise” to create a second fermentation in the bottle. As the new fermentation happens the gas is trapped and dissolves in the wine creating all those lovely bubbles. As there is a lot of pressure created you must use champagne bottles. They are made with thicker glass, stronger necks and may well be shaped or have a domed base to deal with the pressure. Along with those you need some hollow plastic corks and cages. The bottle is stored upside down so that the yeast collects in the corks cavity and either compacts enough to be removed when opened or the bottle can be riddled – freezing the wine in the cap then swapping it for a new sediment free one. The cage and upturned bottle keeps the cork in place so the pressure does not create a wine time bomb popping the cork out.

Sparkling wine corks
Hollow plastic “corks” for sparkling wine.

There are a few yeasts that can be used for the second fermentation and the most popular is EC1118 though others like Premier Curvee, WLP715 or CL23 are all available. The yeast does not need to be used for the the initial fermentation when making the base wine so you can match two yeasts to make the best base wine and then carbonate with the sparkling wine yeast. Most people will just happily plough through with EC1118 as it is easy, dependable and tastes excellent.

The gooseberry wine was over six months old and at the age I normally bottle. When making it I did not use any campden after the primary fermentation so that there is little to hamper the new yeast as it is already being introduced to hostile alcohol rich environment. The wine was totally dry at 0.99 gravity so I know how much it will carbonate as the sugar is directly responsible for the carbon dioxide produced thus pressure created. No sediment was falling being nice a clear and almost totally degassed naturally. 17g of sugar will make an American style four atmosphere fizz and 25g creates a French style six atmosphere fizz. Sparkling wines are always more carbonated than bears that will be between one and a half to three atmospheres. If using a young wine with lots of carbon dioxide still dissolved plan for the US style four atmospheres for safety.

Sparkling wine kit and ingredients
All you need to turn your wine to sparkling wine.

Two days work will need to happen before bottling so make sure you have the nights set aside. Also kit needs to be scrupulously sanitised as you go.

First a starter needs to be made to kick start the second fermentation. Separate 750ml of wine from the demijohn into a sanitised litre bottle or jar. Reseal the demijohn and pop it away safely, as there is head space here is a slight chance of oxidation but unlikely. The wine needs 13g of sugar and perhaps a 1/4 tsp of yeast nutrient stirred in before adding the yeast. Some yeasts like Vintners Harvest/Mangrove Jacks have the nutrient already present so have a check. When the yeast is added seal the bottle as you would with any other fermentation with a bung and airlock and allow the yeast to sit and hydrate for a couple of hours. Some yeast may float some may fall but if it is happy it will start to swell and dissolve and it is then ready to stir in thoroughly.

Sparkling wine seperated
Starter and base wine separated. The yeast makes the starter look paler.

There will never be a heavy bubbling during this second fermentation as the yeast is really pushing towards its limits in an alcohol rich environment. There may be small bubbles rising, some may collect on the surface and there will certainly be gentle airlock activity. The must should be kept at more or less room temperature rather than in a cooler bulk ageing environment.

Sparkling wine starter
Happy yeast fermenting in the starter.

After 24 hours add 40ml of sanitised water to dilute the new alcohol and add another 13g of sugar to feed the yeast and leave for another 24 hours. This time will allow the yeast to acclimatise as much as possible and minimise the chance of a stuck second fermentation.

It might be a good time to start and clean and sanitise the bottles and caps at this point. The bottles should be spotlessly clean as always and the caps can either be boiled for ten minutes and left to cool or sanitised in campden or no rinse sanitiser. If boiling the caps to sterilise them be sure to make sure they are cool and thus strong enough to push into the bottles. Hot caps are soft and deform easily!

Recombining to make the sparkling wine
Recombining the base wine, starter and sugar.

Once the starter is viable and happy the remainder of the wine should be prepared. Decide on either a four or six atmosphered wine. Four atmospheres will need 17g of sugar added per bottle thus 102g per British gallon. A European style six atmosphere wine will need 25g per bottle thus 150g per British gallon. Add the sugar to the demijohn and stir into the wine thoroughly. Then add the starter and stir thoroughly again.

Filling the bottles

This sugar and yeast rich wine is now ready to pour into the champagne bottles and cap. Personally I choose to use a jug rather than an auto-syphon as it allows the wine to be stirred between pours dispersing the dense sugar and yeast evenly. Cages are essential should be used twisting to get a good tight seal – this may take a few attempts as the brittle wire will tear if over tightened. Once capped upend and stand on their heads and cellar. After a month give the bottle a swift twist to encourage the sediment to settle into the caps but resist the temptation to shake the bottles.


Sparkling wine cork and cage
Caging wild sparkling wine is not cruel.

Fermentation may take about a month but the originating fruit will determine how long the wine should be matured. Rhubarb and gooseberry will need at least 18 months from the initial fermentation, elderflower about a year and strawberry possibly as little as six to nine months.



Tannin I think is often misunderstood in fruit wines. Feared even. It is often talked of in terms of minimising tannin levels as if it should be totally removed from wine and wine making altogether. Often tannin it is actually added either as a pure additive, as tea or in oak chips when it is ageing. Oak chips provide “hydrolyzable tannins” that provide greater mouth feel with a softer taste to the harsher “condensed tannins” that are present in fruit juice in low quantities and more prevalent in some fruit skins, seeds and stems.

Tannin left after elderberry
Excess tannin that settled during last years elderberry wine.

Both red and white grape wines have tannin present but it is far more prevalent in reds as it macerates on the fruit for longer. Little tannin is extracted aqueously but as the ethanol level rises so too does the extraction of tannin. Grape wines are the basis of fruit wines as the taste template we use as a reference. Home wine makers are beholden to those norms. Sadly not all fruit has the same characteristics of grapes so adding or managing tannin becomes important to replicate the balance between sweet, acidic sour and bitter tannin tastes of grape wines.

White fruit wine ingredients vary in tannin content. Elderflowers for example need tea added as the petals are naturally low in tannin. Gooseberries – the “hairy grape” has tannin present in the pips and skins so does not need any additives and I have found that pressing after an initial short maceration helps manage the tannin content to match that of a traditional white or rose wine. This is done two days into fermentation when the solids are removed, pressed then tossed away and the remaining wine happily sits in primary fermentation for a few days more.

Last years gooseberry wine

Red fruit wines have more variance in finished tannin content due to personal preferences in taste and style as well as the initial tannin content of the fruit that makes them. Some people may want a full bodied tannic blackberry wine, a medium bodied blackcurrant or perhaps a light bodied almost rose elderberry wine made from a second run fermentation. The tannin levels vary between the base fruit but it can be managed to make the style of wine you want. Because of this tannin becomes far more about management than simply addition or removal as with a white wine.

Always plan ahead and have an idea of the wine you wish to make. Generally it is thought that high tannin content and low tasting acidity and higher alcohol content work with each other as a flavour profile. This means that an idea of the final ABV and initial sugar content derived from a hydrometer reading is useful. Fresher tasting younger style wines will need less tannin, but if you have a preference for full bodied wines, with both time and will power to age your wine more tannin can be present.

Strained walnut liquer
Walnut leaf wine macerating. The liquor is brown from the tannin and can be seen as a floating white film on the left image.

I can think of few fruit wines other than oak or walnut leaf wine and possibly some dandelion wines that use stems. Stems should always be removed from fruit as they are high in harsh tannins. This is especially so in something like elderberry or elderflower wine as the stems are toxic as well as tannic! A good eyeball and preparation of fruit will help you make a good wine.

After a style is in mind a recipe needs to match it. Blackberries have some tannin present in them and are a good example where the recipe can change the style of a wine. The berries left to themselves will create a traditional medium-bodied wine that could be drunk at nine months in age if you are very very lucky. Blackberries with a tea added will make a fuller bodied wine that will need 18 months ageing before it approaches drinkability.

Pressed blackcurrants
Pressing fruit means that juice can be kept and tannin rich skins discarded

Elderberries have the opposite problem and as they have a high proportion of thick skins and seeds compared to the juice they provide when crushed or pressed. When processing tannin rich fruit it is important not to break the seeds or pips as the interior has the harshest tasting tannins that could ruin a wine if extracted in large quantities. Blending in a foot processor or an extremely thorough press could crack the seeds and release it. There are several methods to control the amount of tannin extracted. Cold maceration allows an aqueous extraction of the least harsh tannins from the skins before the berries are crushed. In conjunction with removal of the fruit mid way through primary fermentation less tannin will be extracted. Pressing the fruit pre-fermentation then discarding half the skins and allowing those remaining to sit for the duration of primary fermentation could also work. This will allow the extraction of different tannins as the seeds will be exposed for far longer.


Alternatively whole elderberries could be left to ferment with months in bulk ageing to allow the tannins combine and fall out of suspension as sediment that is left behind when racking. This very much leaves it to chance. In addition or an alternative certain settling agents like gelatine or isinglass can be added to remove tannin when racked. It should be noted that tannin can also act as a natural settling agent combining with certain proteins as it ages and settling agents could interfere. Mechanical filtration though filter pads is a final way to remove tannin but that can also remove other flavour compounds… apparently… the jury is still out on that discussion.

Oaking blackcurrant wine.

Oaking a wine occurs neer the end of bulk aging just before bottling. This replicates the aging process in a wine barrel. Few white wines are aged in oak barrels but it is not unheard of and I may try it with my elderflower wine next year to simulate a Chardonnay style. Whites are generally unsuited to oaking with chips as the higher acidity (lower pH) conflicts with the tannin tastes. Typically less than 10g per litre of oak chips are added to either white or red wines and they can sit for a few days to three months extracting the oak flavour. A home made port is an exception as it is so rich and more than likely sweet it can with stand the high tannin extraction, ranging from 20 to 30g of oak chips added per gallon and resting for up to three months or more. Oak is not a tannin addition like tea and is not meant to provide the whole tannin content, merely to compliment it with a range of usually lighter tannins to add complexity as top notes. All oaked wines will need longer to age than an un-oaked wine of the same recipe as the tannin will gradually bind over time to create a rounded mouth feel and balanced taste.


Gooseberry wine 2017
Gooseberry wine at seven days old. Just entered secondary fermentation.

My grandparents used to live in the stranger parts of Northumberland with a huge gooseberry bush in the garden that would produce enough gooseberries for crumble for about 19 months of the year which would always be the ending to huge family dinners.

It’s a car park now.


I will never be as green fingered as my granddad and personally have no intention of entering any leek shows but I do want to grow some gooseberries for wine and have invested in some bushes. While I gently kill those through neglect I have to rely on shop bought ones. Gooseberries are seasonal and the pink dessert gooseberries emerge later in the season around July. Pink gooseberries are less tart with a lighter floral flavour than the more common green version. Both can be used to make wine and there are good reports of green gooseberry champagne but I am yet to venture into it. You can use 100% green in a recipe, a combination or 100% pink. It really is down to personal preference and availability but most recipes decide to do a 2/3 split towards the pink.



Gooseberry wine 2016
Gooseberry wine 2016 vintage – opened to test the recipe for this year.

Last year was bit of a nightmare for my gooseberry wine as it was the first time I ever had a stuck fermentation. The yeast would not start fermenting and in the end I had to adjust the acidity with precipitated chalk and use some hardy champagne yeast to get it going. It did provide an opportunity to have two demijohns with differing yeasts in each. It is a nice light white that has cleared to perfection tasting a little like a rosé and as I was restrained and made it a lighter ABV at around 11% the alcohol does not dominate the taste. Ms Gazette seemed particularly taken by it and as she usually likes the full fruitier wines I make rather than the oddities like gorse or oak leaf.

Pressing the gooseberry at 2 days
Gooseberries pre and post press to extract as much juice as possible.

Personally I was a little less satisfied as while very nice I thought it could do with a few changes to the recipe and methods used to make it. The biggest change is pressing the gooseberries two days into the primary fermentation rather than leaving them until the wine moves to secondary at seven to ten days in age. Last years I think was left too long on the skins so an ever so slight after taste entered the wine, with a slight metallic zinc like hint – not enough to ruin it but certainly there. This has been apparent for both of last years wines so it was not yeast or stuck fermentation related as they both varied. The taste was apparent when ever the wine was racked so it seemed to be introduced early into the fermentation. Pressing the gooseberries early with the resulting juice re-entering primary it seems like this has been a success and will be a regular method from now on. I used a press I have invested in but some muslin and strong hands powered by elbow grease are certainly acceptable to squeeze the flavour out. In addition I have decided to jettison the MA33 and EC1118 yeast used last year and moved to Vintners Harvest CY17. I had the last few elderflowers in my freezer so they have been thrown in too. This is simply an addition and the wine will be more than happy with out them.

Gooseberry cold maceration
Top – gooseberries in water then covered thoroughly. Bottom – gooseberries post cold soak three days later then crushed to break the skins

A process used last year was a cold maceration to extract colour, aroma and some flavour out of the berries before they even entered primary fermentation. This required the fruit to sit covered in sterilized water and kept under 15° C – that is 59° Fademheit in American. A cold soak is not needed but it is an easy addition that really seems to pay dividends.


Gooseberry wine fermenting
Quick check with the lid off – Just after being pressed and still in primary fermentation.

With the cold soak and despite the earlier press the juice is a lovely peachy pink hue that is unlike any other wine I have made. Last year the colour seemed to dull just before it was bottled and I believe that gooseberry wine is photosensitive with sunlight dulling the colour but otherwise leaving it unchanged. There are similar issues with prickly pear that turns from a similar pink to amber and beetroot wine turns brown! Orange wine will also dull so all of them need to be either in a green or brown demijohn or be covered thoroughly and kept in the dark as much as possible.




Suitable Yeasts – CY17 or EC1118. White or rose wine best as a lighter 11% ABV. Can be back sweetened but does not need it. Unsuitable for oaking. Can be turned into a sparkling wine. 18 months before opening.



  • 2kg Gooseberries (use pink dessert gooseberries as much as you can)
  • Optional – flowers from 10 sprays of elderflowers
  • 1kg-ish Sugar to 1.08SG
  • 3.5 litres of water
  • Half teaspoon pectic enzyme
  • 1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
  • Yeast



  1. Wash the gooseberries and rub off the top and woodier tail (freezing is optional and a week will break down pectin by a half)
  2. Cold soak for 3 days in two litres of boiled then cooled water in a covered container keeping it below 15°C. FULL GUIDE HERE
  3. After the cold maceration crush thoroughly add the rest of the boiled then cooled water (the elderflowers can be added to the water as it cools if you are using them) sugar, pectic enzyme and leave for 24 hours for it to work.
  4. Pitch yeast and yeast nutrient. Leave to ferment for two days.
  5. Remove gooseberries and press. Add the juice back to primary and discard the skins.
  6. After another four to seven days fermentation will slow (gravity will be at about 1.02) move into secondary fermentation in a clean demijohn with airlock.
  7. Rack at four or five weeks to remove the exhausted yeast, then every two or so months if needed.
  8. Bottle at six months of age and drink at 18 months or later.


Gooseberry wine 4 months old: left MA33 / right EC1118

Click here for the Gooseberry Wine pt1

Click here for the Gooseberry Wine pt2

Click here for the Gooseberry Wine Recipe

The gooseberry wine was started at the start of August and has almost 4 months ageing and has just been racked. the colour has sadly changed from the pink and ruby to a rich amber colour and is crystal clear. There was a slight sediment at the bottom and some tannins as small black particles. The lees that was left behind gave a sharp crisp taste and the acidity will hopefully mellow over the next eight months. The wines were made with 2 differing yeast and the MA33 yeast had a mellower and nicer taste than the EC1118 yeast. I chose to stabilise the wine as it will need to be back sweetened in three months just before bottling. Next year I might make champagne and skip the stabilising to allow the yeast to carbonate it.

A reminder of the colours now gone as it entered secondary fermentation.



Phwoar… look at these babies! Two demijohns of gooseberry wine, one into secondary fermentation with the pinker version having yeast suspended and well in a primary fermentation party.

Blumma Humma

Gooseberry wine should be a easy to make. No extra tannin or acid is needed so its just a case of sugar yeast and time… loads of time. It turned out to be quite stressful in the end!


The first demijohn was intended to be made with MA33 yeast as it can deal with acid well turning malic acid into lactic acid and mellowing the wine over time. The yeast did not start fermenting, or if it did it promptly stalled. There could have been a number of reasons but I think the high sugar level (though just a standard 1.09SG) may have inhibited it. High initial acid levels may have been a cause too. I waited 3 days and then used some classic EC1118 to start it off and it all went swimmingly.


The next demijohn was used to refine my methods. After the cold maceration and mashing the fruit was to measure the acid. I removed the must from the fridge added pectolaise to destroy the pectin as it got to a reasonable temperature. This allowed the juice to really infuse so that a decent reading could be taken with an acidity kit. It was a little too acidic so I added some precipitated chalk to neutralise some. It was disappointing that there was no massive bubbling as I had been lead to believe and the few bubbles that were produced were gentle.


After that I again pitched the MA33 yeast and left it with fingers crossed. The yeast is a slow starter taking 48 hours to get stuck in. This can open up the chance of spoilage with either microbes or other ambient yeasts but hopefully inoculation during the cold soak sorted it. Five days after pitching the yeast and probably three into the fermentation I squeezed the juice from the gooseberries and removed them from the must. It was an amazing amount of juice that they provide, with probably 1.5 litres squeezed out. The resulting pulp left behind is a sorry state but shows how much is juice. This also gave a chance to rack the wine into the demijohn and provide some oxygenation that MA33 needs to keep it viable.


The two differing yeasts will provide a decent chance to taste the different properties they will bring to the wine – in a years time sadly. Blackberry and elderberry foraging can keep me busy and keep my kind off it. The champagne yeast will impart a champagne style flavour and I could do a second fermentation in 6 months time to get a sparkling wine… Ms Gazette may force me, and her sister Ms Financial-Gazette may bully her into it! The MA33 will probably be mellower with the acid changing more with age and make a fruitier wine as the fermentation is slower maintaining colour and aroma.



Suitable yeast – Vintners Harvest MA33

2kg Gooseberries (use pink as much as you can)

1kg-ish Sugar to 1.08SG

3.75 litres water

Half teaspoon pectolase

1 teaspoon yeast nutrient




Gooseberries are known as the hairy grape which sounds disgusting but they behave like grapes making wine – no tannin or extra acid needs to be added to the fruit and some people even use the natural yeast on the berry to start the fermentation off! I have decided that I like predictability and control in my wine making though.

The wet summer seems to have made gooseberries scarce and the coveted dessert gooseberries even rarer. I have used a blend of 1/3 regular green and 2/3 red dessert to make what I hope is a nice tasty slightly sweet wine.

Pre and Post cold maceration of gooseberries showing the colour change

Finding the damn things was the most difficult thing. After washing and topping and tailing the mid season greens stayed in the freezer until the sweeter reds came into season – these taking longer to mature but having a sweeter taste for it. Freezing allows the pectin to break down by up to half and as I want wine not jam this is beneficial. They were further Han Solo-ed in a cold maceration in the fridge for 4 days which left them looking paler and softened right up for a good mash afterwards.



Mashing released the flesh and juice and the dreaded pectin do a further 12 hour soak with pectolase was needed to break down any remaining pectin. then pitched the MA33 yeast – good for acidic fruits. Usually I would add yeast nutrient to aid the yeast but I have decided not to to slow the fermentation down. The gooseberry aroma is very nice and I want to save it as much as possible, the metal primary fermenter should aid this too radiating some of the exothermic heat generated through the yeast respiration giving a more gentle movement in temperatures.

1kg of sugar to 1.08SG

I am contemplating removing the fruit mid way through primary fermentation depending on the taste extracted as I may not want too much tannin to be extracted. Tannin starts to be extracted as the ethanol rises during fermentation.

I have enough still frozen for a second batch. Gooseberries seem quite versatile with “English champagnes” being possible – this would require a second fermentation with EC-1118 yeast in about 6 months time. Some recipes add elder-flowers or rhubarb to compliment the flavour or use honey as a more flavourful alternative to plain old sugar. I may adapt a sherry recipe but I am still undecided on the next batch and have a week to mull things over.


Updates will be forth coming and Ms Gazette may well have made the red gooseberry jam so the first complementary recipe may arrive soon!