Elderberry Wine

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Apimyces

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Has anyone got any experience making elderberry wine, in particular, elderberry wine made with nothing but elderberries and yeast, without any added water, sugars, or other fruits or sweeteners.

The thought of adding water, and then sugar to compensate, appalls me. But that's what every recipe seems to say.

Many elderberry cultivars have around 11 brix degrees, which is enough for 5.8% ABV. Far enough from traditional wines, granted, but still very respectable as an alcoholic beverage and very similar to many ciders.

So I was wondering, has anyone tried doing elderberry wine with nothing but elderberries and yeast? What kind of results did you get?
 

Yooper

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The problem with 100% elderberries is that they are very tannic and acidic. That's why water is generally added, to bring that to a drinkable level. The sugar is added to provide the fermentables for the yeast, bring up the ABV.

If you can stand the taste of 100% elderberry wine, then it wouldn't be an issue.
 
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Apimyces

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I'm looking more into the topic. EB can have similar TA than grapes, though the windows for both are great (depends on cultivar I guess), so the acidity doesn't overly worry me. I'm fine with low alcohol; "session wine", haha!

Now the tannins... This would appear to be the reason why many sources that I have since found seem to say that pure elderberry wine is better after aging a year. But hey, that's what I'm used to anyways, I always age my meads at least a year. Tannins can cause astringence, I read... I guess tastes will vary on this one. I know a blackcurrant farmer who does many kinds of wines. My wife likes all of his products, I find the pure wine to be a bit astringent for my tastes. Never asked him his recipe or how long he matures it, though. I don't mind it at all in the fortified recipe, though. So maybe I'd be willing to compromise on the "no sugar", for some recipes at least (but not on the "no water"). Some red wines, especially if left a long time with the pulp which includes stems, can be very high in tanins themselves. Worst case, gelatin can be used to reduce tannin levels (or casein, or egg yolks, or other proteins).

Darn it, seems like I just set myself for another batch of minute variation trials.
 

bernardsmith

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Apimyces - I am a great believer in trying to avoid diluting fruit juices with water wherever possible. I have not yet tried to make a wine from elderberries (we love elderflower wine and if you make the wine from the flowers... ) Anyway, what I might do is juice those berries and see how they taste. If the juice is too astringent then Yooper's point about the tannins will need to be addressed - and you may need to add water or take some other action) If the juice is just right then you may have a winner with the berries you have...
 

stella_tigre

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You could always make an elderberry mead (diluted with water, add honey.) Or dilute with some apple juice which would cut tannins but not affect the abv as much.

I've got elderflower mead going, aging right now. Used orange blossom honey, it smelled nice!
 
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Apimyces

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I've tasted raw elderberries, I didn't mind it. In small quantities, at least. Reminds me a bit of haskap. I've got second-year plants ready to transplant soon (Victoria, Scotia, and Kent), and some younger plants are going to arrive soon (Bob Gordon), so I expect to have a small harvest this year. How much, who knows... hopefully enough to get at least a gallon of juice, preferably a few.

I really dislike to idea of diluting anything with water, unless it's too sweet (like honey). I would rather add gelatin or the like to reduce tannins so as not to dilute the taste and acidity, if they prove to be in excess.

I make a lot of mead, and I don't like adding fruit in it, so I have a hard time seeing myself add honey to my fruit wines. :p I preffer pure flavors, so if I want alcohol, I'll just add sugar (the alternative would have been adding grain alcohol, which is more expensive and includes water, so why bother?).

If I get at least three gallons' worth, I'll make a plain recipe with just juice and yeast, one plain treated with gelatin, and one with added sugar to bring the alcohol to 12% ABV. I don't really expect to get enough fruits for that this year, though.

Elderflower wine I would presume would absolutely require water, though? Like with dandelion wine, requiring water to extract the aromatic compounds and sugars. I might consider trying to make elderflower mead... :p But then again, picking the flowers can reduce the fruit yields a lot, so I don't see myself doing that much.
 

bernardsmith

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IMO, elderflower wine is the wine of wines. Of course, you need to add sugar and water but the flowers provide an exquisite flavor. I discovered elderflower wine about 25 years ago in London and fell in love with it. I have made elderberry wines from dried berries and the two wines are as different as cheese and chalk
 
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Apimyces

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Guess I'll have to try it if it's that good. :D

A lot of the recipes I try to perfect, however, go with the intent of, eventually, having my craft brewing permit. Aside from my personal puritan views of what should and shouldn't go in a product, the regulations can be fairly strict as to what I'd be allowed to do, and there are clauses for the sources of the fermentible sugars. For dandelion wine, for example, the government agent told me it'd be impossible, because you have to use a lot more white sugar than the amount of sugars you get from the dandelion, thus the regulatory ratios on sugar source cannot be met. Essentially, it'd be considered dandelion flavored sugar wine, and unless I can grow my own cane (no way in hell), I couldn't meet the "grow you own ingredients" craft clauses. I suspect the same would come from elderflower. I could possibly get a similar effect with a high sugar neutral tasting ingredient, though, but I'd have to do trials. Alfalfa honey? Sugar beet? No idea. :p Not enough alfalfa by me, though I do have sugar beet seeds.
 

bernardsmith

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Agaian, this is just my opinion but elderflower wine does not play well with honey as the fermentable sugar. Honey seems to do something with the flavor of the flowers... but I guess that is the great advantage of being an amateur wine maker... I do not need to bow to such regulations. But interestingly, my first experience with elderflower wine was with a commercially made wine in the UK . Does all this mean that wines based on flowers rather than fruit are in fact impossible to make commercially here in the US of A. If so, how sad that is.
 

stella_tigre

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Agaian, this is just my opinion but elderflower wine does not play well with honey as the fermentable sugar. Honey seems to do something with the flavor of the flowers... but I guess that is the great advantage of being an amateur wine maker... I do not need to bow to such regulations. But interestingly, my first experience with elderflower wine was with a commercially made wine in the UK . Does all this mean that wines based on flowers rather than fruit are in fact impossible to make commercially here in the US of A. If so, how sad that is.
Well, I'm hoping that the fact that the honey was orange blossom will blend well with the elderflowers, but it was a very small batch. This year I will try EF wine using fresh flowers. I have to gather them elsewhere for a few years, since my two bushes were just planted last year and are none too large.
 
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Apimyces

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Agaian, this is just my opinion but elderflower wine does not play well with honey as the fermentable sugar. Honey seems to do something with the flavor of the flowers... but I guess that is the great advantage of being an amateur wine maker... I do not need to bow to such regulations. But interestingly, my first experience with elderflower wine was with a commercially made wine in the UK . Does all this mean that wines based on flowers rather than fruit are in fact impossible to make commercially here in the US of A. If so, how sad that is.
I'm not in the US. In Canada, alcohols are managed by provincial rules. And I aim for a craft permit, which is a specific category with its own rules and restrictions. Some of these restrictions don't apply to other permit types, much less in other territories.
 
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