Fruit winemaking basics
Start making wine with quality fruit! Apply basic winemaking procedures to making wine with fruits
other than grapes.
While you are waiting for the grape harvest, how about making wine from the many fruits available throughout
the summer like strawberries, elderberries and peaches. Let us help you with your fruit wines! Approach fruit
wine making with a basic understanding of important factors in winemaking: sugar and acid content of the juice,
quality of fruit and yeast choice.
If you are making wine from fruits and vegetables, you will need to apply basic wine making principles and
several additives. Follow the guidelines in your recipes, but do test your beginning fruit and water mix
for brix with a hydrometer and adjust as needed rather than as suggested by a recipe.
Bear in mind that many of the recipes for fruit wines were
recorded in the good old days, when sugar was added at each racking or just after a passage of
time. This kept the fermentation going until the yeast could not survive in the high alcohol
wine. That is ONE way to stop the fermentation. Those old time wines were hot and enjoyed by many
but not all. I call them nightgown wines. You had better be ready for bed before you had a
glass. Crash wines.
For instance, in the many different varieties of grapes (30) that we handle, we see readings in acid
and sugars vary widely. The same will be true of say - strawberries, depending on variety and
ripeness. Without knowing the percentage of sugar and the resulting acid in the fresh fruit/water combination,
how can one rely on a "recipe" to add sugar and acid?
In general winemaking we adjust acids up or down according to an acid (test kit) reading to around .7or.75(%)
TA (total acidity). For best results, take an acid reading on your recipe mix of fruit and water, adjust
accordingly, slowly, and retest. One of our favorite winemakers adds half of what acid he calculates he needs
Sugar is easy to test before fermenting using a hydrometer. This is an inexpensive but necessary tool. If you
add too much sugar, the yeast will ferment until the wine is too high in alcohol and too toxic to support yeast
life. This wine is hot to taste and could still be too sweet. A normal reading for initial sugar in winemaking
is around 20-23% or Brix. Once you have your sugar reading it is easy to calculate an increase. We use corn
sugar, as it is a simple sugar, readily available to the yeast and it dissolves instantly. Sucrose, if used,
should be heated in your juice, as the acid and heat convert it to simple sugars. If using honey instead of
sugar, boil and skim to remove impurities.
Use our sugar chart or easy math to calculate
the correct amount of sugar
to adjust to 20-23 percent. Three (3) cups of corn sugar is approximately 1 pound and 2 1/4 cups of cane
sugar is about 1 pound. These simple tests with proper adjustments will save you some strange experiences.
All of your recipes should recommend the use of pectic enzyme. This enzyme aids in the release
of juices during pressing by breaking down pectin, which can also cause a haze. Cover any mashed fruits with
clear plastic while sitting on pectic enzyme to reduce browning from air exposure (oxidation).
Use quality fruit! If you are not using premium fruit, you will not make premium wines! If your peaches have
brown spots on them, your wine will taste oxidized from the start as the brown spots are oxidized fruit!
We recommend the use of campden tablets (sodium or potassium metabisulfite) or potassium metabisulfite
(in a pure powder form). These additives are antioxidant and antibacterial agents. Oxidation in wine
results in browning and off flavor. As an antibacterial agent, they prevent vinegar.
Yeast Nutrient is necessary to balance the fruit nutrients for the use of wine yeast. We
encourage the use of Fermaid, which is a yeast nutrient with added vitamins, etc. Yeast recommendations for
fruity wine finishes are Red Star's Cotes des Blanc or Lalvin D-47 or 71B-1112. These are slow steady
fermenters retaining fruit taste and aromas. Many old time recipes call for champagne yeast, as it was readily
available years ago, but not favored as much now. It will ferment to a higher alcohol and retain less of the