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Making Wine With Fresh Fruit: General Instructions And Tips

The process of making wine with fresh fruit can vary depending on the kind of fruit you’re using, but there are some general guidelines to follow when you’re making with fresh fruit. Here are some tips that should help you along on your fresh fruit wine making adventure. Also, check out our fruit wine recipe page!

Tips For Weights And Measures

  • Weigh fruit on a kitchen scale.
  • For sugar, 1 pound equals 2 rounded cups.
  • Always use level measures for measuring chemicals.
  • When converting 1-gallon recipes to 5-gallon recipes, cut back on the acid measures by 1/2 to 1/4  teaspoon.

Optional Ingredients

Many fresh fruit wines lack body and could use one or more of the following ingredients to improve their quality and flavor. Most fruit wines need a touch of added sweetness. Fruit wines should be sweetened at bottling time.

  • White or red grape concentrate: Use 5-10 ounces per gallon to add body and bouquet and character to the wine.
  • Raisins: Use 8 ounces per gallon to add body and sweetness. Use golden raisins for white or rose colored fruit wines and dark raisins for red fruit wines.
  • Bananas: Use 3 pounds of fresh bananas to add body to wines.

Getting Started

The first step is to decide what type of fruit wine you are going to make. Once this has been established look at least 2 or 3 different recipes, or follow one that you had success with in the past.

The purpose of looking at 2 or 3 different recipes is to see what the various wine makers change in the recipe and by how much. For example, some wine makers may add additional fruit or they will vary the principle acids.

Based on this research you can decide what ingredients make most sense for your recipe. Once you have decided on a recipe to follow, write it down. Be sure to record your recipe, as this will provide a record of how you made your batch of wine. That’ll make it much easier to remember what you did and figure out what you might change next time.

Step By Step Instructions For Fruit Wines

  1. Process your pulp to extract the juice. For soft fruits like plums, apricots, cherries, peaches, citrus fruits such as oranges, etc., you must have the seeds or pits removed. The seeds contain bitter resins that will leave a bitter taste in the wine. Then freeze your fruit. Freezing the fruit breaks down the cell membrane walls and results in a better juice extraction. After the fruit has thawed, put the fruit in a nylon bag and extract the juice. You can press it by hand using a fruit press, or you can cover the fruit bag with sugar to assist in juice extraction. Then put the nylon bag and juice in the primary fermentor.

    Note that wild or concord grapes can be hand crushed and pressed. Ferment with the skins long enough to get color, and then remove the pulp. After 2-5 days press lightly and discard. For white grapes, put them in a nylon bag, press to extract the fruit and discard the pulp.

    For wild roses, use the rosehip under the petals or just the petals, but don’t use any green parts. When making dandelion wine, use only the yellow part of flower. For rhubarb wine, chop the rhubarb into small pieces but do not squeeze.

  2. Gather all your ingredients, except for the yeast, and put them into your primary fermentor. This should preferably be a large plastic food grade bucket or other non-porous container. You want to make sure that you have a tight-fitting lid for the container so that no bugs or other materials can get into the bucket. The lid should be able to support an airlock or blow-off tube. This will allow for carbon dioxide gas to escape and prevent air entering into your primary fermentor. While you are gathering your ingredients, add a little extra (enough to fill a wine bottle). This extra will be used as a "top off" later in the process to help prevent oxidation.

  3. Take a hydrometer reading to see if your specific gravity (SG) is at the level it needs to be, and adjust it by adding more sugar, fruit, or water. Most wines should have a specific gravity of 1.080 to 1.090.

  4. If everything is ready and you are satisfied with your specific gravity, add 1 crushed Campden tablet per gallon of wine. The Campden tablet will kill off any wild yeast in your must. Must is what wine is called before it becomes wine. Put the lid with an airlock on the container and let it sit for 24 hours.

  5. After 24 hours add your cultivated yeast to the must. Let it ferment in the primary fermentor until the must’s specific gravity is at 1.040 or lower. Usually this will be within 4 to 7 days.

  6. Siphon your must from your primary fermentor into a sanitized and cleaned glass carboy and wine bottle; attach airlocks to both containers. Let sit for about 2 to 3 weeks.

  7. After 2 to 3 weeks, siphon again into another sanitized and clean carboy and attach an airlock. Usually at this time, siphon in the additional wine you put in the spare wine bottle that has been fermenting in order to reduce air in your carboy. You want to maintain a minimum of at least 2 inches or less of air space to help prevent oxidation. Let it stand for at least 1 month.

  8. After 1 month, siphon your must to another sanitized and clean carboy. Before attaching the airlock, test the specific gravity. If it is less than 1.00 you can add 1/2  to 1 crushed Campden tablet per gallon. The Campden tablet will help prevent oxidation. Let it stand for at least 1-2 months.

  9. At this point you can continue racking your wine, or rack it and add a fining agent to help clear it. Whatever fining agent you choose to use, follow the directions on the package. If you add a fining agent, wait at least two weeks before bottling.

  10. At bottling time you can sweeten your wine. At bottling most fruit wines should have a specific gravity of 1.00 or slightly higher. To sweeten, you bring at least 1 cup of water to a boil. After the water has come to a boil, turn off the heat and add 2 cups of sugar for every cup of water. For a 5-gallon recipe, 3 cups of water and 6 cups of sugar will be a good start. Boil the sugar and water solution for at least 10 minutes or until it clears. Add the sweetener to the wine a little at a time and take a hydrometer reading after each addition. When you are satisfied with the flavor of your wine, record the final specific gravity. Then add some stabilizer (potassium sorbate) to the wine – about 1/2 teaspoon per gallon. Do not add all the sweetener solution to your wine at once as you may make it too sweet. Add a little at a time and remember to add your stabilizer.

  11. Wine bottles are the best for bottling your wine and they are what is traditionally used. If you use traditional wine bottles, make sure that you use a #9 cork and a corker to cork the bottles. Using corks lower than a #9 will cause leakage and wine spoilage. Make sure your wine bottles are clean. You can sanitize them using "One Step - No Rinse Cleanser".

Other General Wine Making Tips

  • Pectic enzyme: When using liquid, use 5 to 10 drops in fruit wines instead of the teaspoon measure listed in most recipes. The teaspoon measures in recipes are for powered pectic enzyme.

  • Campden tablets: 5 Campden tablets are the same as 1/4 teaspoon of metabisulphite.

  • Never boil corks: Soak your corks in a solution of hot tap water and a crushed Campden tablet for about 15 minutes. Then rinse well and cork your bottles.

  • Aging: Most fruit wines should be aged at least 6 months to 1 year. Of course, some wine can benefit from longer aging depending on acid and tannin levels.

  • Stabilizer: A common wine stabilizer is potassium sorbate. Do not overuse it; the recommended dosage is 1/2 teaspoon per gallon.

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These tips adapted from a post by the Geneva Lodge Winemakers.