Home brewing part 2: blackberry and elderberry wine

by Ollie, 03/02/2015

Last october on Halloween, Alison and I went to the community garden in Moy to join the celebrations of the harvest festival. My contribution to the evening was my first ever home made wine, an elderflower wine I had made a few months before.
I tasted it myself before I brought it to the garden to make sure it wasn't poison, would make a person blind or, would just be a nice wine. It actually tasted pretty good, although, because I had used bread yeast it had a rather funny after taste of, well, bread.
That didn't stop people drinking it though and five minutes after I put it on the garden's table the wine was nearly finished off. It seemed I had done something right.
Encouraged by that success I decided to start on another wine, this time a wine made from locally foraged blackberries and elderberries.

I decided to get a bit more serious on this one and bought some proper equipment, it would after all be a terrible waste to mess up due to bad equipment and spoil all those beautiful blackberries and elderberries. 
It's actually not that expensive to buy winemaking gear, which I bought from an online brewing shop. I was sorted for about €75.

So what did I use to make this wine? Well the most important ingredients are 1,5 kg blackberries, foraged last september by Alison and 0,5 kg elderberries foraged by myself in october. Blackberries are the most abundant fruit in our area, but blackberry wine on its own will taste more like a cordial so the elderberries are added for a bit of body and tannin.

Frozen elderberries
The ingredients are:
- 1,5 kg blackberries
- 0,5 kg elderberries
- 4,5 ltr water
- 1,5 kg sugar
- red wine yeast and yeast nutrient (quantities may vary depending on the type of yeast     used but will usually be 5 gr yeast and 1,5 gr yeast nutrient for 5 ltr of wine)
- the juice of one lemon
- 1 tsp pectolase
- 1 gr stabiliser
- 1 crushed Campden tablet

The gear I used:
- a 10 ltr plastic bucket with lid
- 2 demijohns with rubber bungs and airlocks
- a siphon tube
- a hydrometer with trial glass
- a wine thief (or pipette)
- a funnel
- a large spoon
- a sieve with a muslin cloth
- a weighing scale
- the aptly named book "Booze" from the River Cottage series, which is a mine of information on winemaking and without which my winemaking career would have been far less easy. Having said that though, there are several good websites with winemaking recipes.

And this is how I went about it:

Because work takes me away from home for weeks every now and again, the fruit had been resting in the freezer. 
I first defrosted the berries in the bucket and then crushed them with a piece of wood. Then I added 4,5 liter of boiling water. Any creatures still alive in the fruit were certainly killed by that. I stirred the whole lot and let it cool down.
my very cleverly engineered fruit crusher
When it cooled down to room temperature I added the pectolase (this is to prevent pectin haze), the lemon juice, the sugar and the yeast nutrient and finally, after a good bit of stirring, the yeast. After that I put the lid on the bucket.

I moved the bucket to the hotpress, which in our house is the room with the highest and most stable temperature, perfect conditions for the yeast to do its work.
Yeast is that beautiful stuff that converts sugar into alcohol and CO2, and for the first few days it created a big frothy head of foam. For the first 6 days I stirred the must (which is what the wine is called at this stage I found out the other day) daily, rinsing the spoon before stirring with scalding water, and then left it sitting for a day.
If you are going to try to make wine at home yourselves, make sure to put the lid back on the bucket and, ideally, have the lid fitted with an airlock. This is to prevent any unwanted creatures from getting to your wine at this stage.

Another very important issue, if not the most important one, is to make sure that ALL your equipment that comes in contact with the wine is sterilised. Unless you really like vinegar, in which case you'll be grand not sterilising stuff...

After 7 days fermenting in the bucket I transferred the wine into a demijohn using the funnel, sieve and muslin cloth, this is to get rid of all the solid bits. I then topped up the demijohn with water so that as little air as possible gets left behind, and fitted the airlock. At this stage you don't want any air reaching the wine anymore because that will affect the taste. The demijohn was then placed in the hotpress again and sat there, gently fermenting, for nearly 4 weeks. When the wine is fermenting in the demijohn you can see lots of little bubbles rising to the surface and bubbles escaping from the airlock.

After 4 weeks a bubble escaped the airlock only once every few minutes, which means the fermentation had practically stopped and the wine was ready to be transferred to the second demijohn. I then tested the wine with the hydrometer. With this little piece of equipment you can check wether the wine is dry or sweet.
Mine had turned out rather dry. Not to worry though, after siphoning the wine to the second demijohn some wine containing the dead yeast cells remained in the first one. That means the second demijohn had to be topped up again. But this time I didn't just use water but a sugary solution. I boiled some water and dissolved sugar in it (3 parts water, 1 part sugar). When this had cooled to room temperature I used it to top up the demijohn.

Now, of course if any living yeast cells remained in the wine, adding sugar would mean fermentation would start again, which would stop the wine from getting sweeter as I intended. So the wine had to be 'stabilised' (i.e. killing the poor remaining yeast cells).
To do this I added 1 gr of stabiliser and a crushed Campden tablet.
I then tested the wine with the hydrometer again and this time the wine was sweet enough.

The wine was now ready to stand  for clearing and maturing, but before I fitted the airlock on the demijohn I had a cheeky taster. Already the wine tasted fruity and sweet.

At the moment the wine is clearing just fine in a cool dark corner of the house. When the clearing is done the wine can be bottled and needs to mature for a year to reach perfection.

Wether I can wait that long to drink it is highly questionable though.


The fruit after it was crushed. At this stage it looks more like jam and rather tastes like it as well

Testing the wine with the hydrometer

My winemaking gear. It looks more like a chemistry set and in actual fact there is a lot of chemistry involved in winemaking.

The main ingredient for this wine: blackberries

1 comment:

  1. Je nieuwe beroep ?? ziet er goed uit en als ik jou mag geloven smaakt het ook lekker