I like to brew wine; It's only a hobby but I'm obsessed!
This is the place to be if you want to see what another brewer is up to or want some encouragement to start or diversify. I've posted heaps of recipes (clicky) and 2 wine-making vids (here for wine made from cartons of juice blog / youtube, and here for Blackberry wine on the pulp blog / youtube).
If you're new here then do explore, take this link for tips about where to find what you're interested in.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

4 Elderflower Quickies. Made in June & July 2015

Looking back I can't believe it was June before i did my first brew of 2015. Being that it was then elderflower season there was no way i would miss out on this, so it was the kick in the pants i needed to brew!

Regular readers will be familiar with my elderflower wine production wine. So I'm going to post all 4 wines here. New readers may want to look back at previous blog entries for elderflower quickie wine to get a fuller description.

This year's significant experiment was playing with the added acids. Mrs Critter Wine prefers her wines to be easy on acidity. So i guessed the main problem for her may have been tartaric acid. So i made some without that and used only citric acid, which has a fruity flavour.

Personally speaking i get on fine with the clean crisp acidity of tartaric acid. So i continued to use a blend of that and citric acid for some of the wine. The result was not a marked difference. However Mrs CW hasn't commented on the acidity being too much for her, so perhaps it worked? Then again she didn't comment for any of the variations, so perhaps she's adjusted?

What i noticed is that the citric acid only version is a little softer. But only a little, and so i can't rule out deceiving myself. Having said that i perceive an edge to the acid blend version that i prefer. Anyway, enough rambling, here's the recipes i used in 2015.


1st Batch: 5 Gallons
NB i left the flowers and must in the secondary fermentation vessel for 2 weeks. Not what i'd recommend, but more on this later.

10 Litres Reg Grape Juice (Don Simon, pure pressed)
3 Kg Sugar
5 Teaspoons Pectolase
4 Teaspoons Citric Acid
2 Teaspoons Tartaric Acid
4 Teaspoons Yeast Nutrient (Tronozymol)
Yeast (GV1)
Water to 5 gallons
3 Litres Elderflowers

OG: 1076

2nd Batch: 5 Gallons
NB this must for this wine was left in the primary fermenter for 2 weeks. It had therefore more or less finished fermenting when i moved it to secondary and added the flowers. Not what I'd recommend but more on that later.

Almost exactly the same ingredients and quantities as above. The only differences being that i added no pectolase and used the lees left from the previous brew instead of adding fresh yeast. OG, not surprisingly, was also the same.

3rd Batch: 5 Gallons

Very similar ingredients to above wines but with a variation in acids. Here's the list, for clarity.

10 Litres Reg Grape Juice (Don Simon, pure pressed)
3 Kg Sugar
5 Teaspoons Citric Acid
4 Teaspoons Yeast Nutrient (Tronozymol)
Yeast (GV1, lees from previous brew)
Water to 5 gallons
3 Litres Elderflowers

OG unknown cos my hydrometer broke, but it's safe to assume the same as above, i.e. around 1076.

4th Batch: 5 Gallons

Back to an acid blend, but different to batches 1 and 2. Also a difference in juices. The ingredients list then, again for clarity.

4 Litres Reg Grape Juice (Don Simon, pure pressed)
6 Litres Reg Grape Juice (Asda, Pure Pressed)
3 Kg Sugar
3.5 Teaspoons Citric Acid
1.5 Teaspoons Tartaric Acid
4 Teaspoons Yeast Nutrient (Tronozymol)
Yeast (GV1, lees from previous brew)
Water to 5 gallons
3 Litres Elderflowers

OG unknown cos i hadn't replaced my broken hydrometer. If my memory serves me Asda RGJ is a little sweeter than Don Simon. So OG may be a few points up, i'd guess no higher than 1080 tho.


For all wines this is a summary of the method.

1st Batch:

Flowers were collected on a dry and sunny day. They were put into bin bags, on their sprays. The bags tied up and left overnight. Next day the bags were shaken for a few minutes so they fell off their sprays. The flowers (and the pollen) were measured in 3 litre batches and put in freezer bags. Measure the flowers without pressing them into the measuring jug. And only shake them down enough to get a flat level for easy reading against your measure. Put them in the freezer.

Dissolve the sugar in hot water. Dissolve the acids and nutrient in water. Add all ingredients (except the flowers and yeast) to a fermenting bucket and stir well. Ensure the temperature is not too high to knobble the yeast. Measure the gravity.

Add the yeast. Cover. Once a day, for the next few days, stir the must sloshily and recover. After 5-7 days transfer to secondary fermentation vessel under airlock. Make sure to leave plenty of sediment in the primary fermentation vessel cos you'll want it for the next batch. Add 3 litres of flowers in a tied up muslin bag, or two.

After another 5-7 days remove the bagged flowers and rack the wine to demi-johns and fit airlocks. Leave for at least 4-5 weeks. By which time it'll be clear. Amazingly it'll also be ready to drink. It'll improve for the next 4 weeks or so. You can bottle it now if you want.

2nd, 3rd and 4th Batches:

Dissolve the sugar in hot water then allow it to cool. Dissolve the acids and nutrient in water. Add all ingredients (except the flowers and yeast) to a fermenting bucket containing the lees from the previous brew, stir well. There's no need to add yeast. Measure the gravity.

From here proceed as above for batch 1, tho you won't need to stir daily during primary fermentation.

Miscellaneous Bits and Pieces

As i mentioned earlier i didn't rigidly stick to my preferred timing. I got ill and couldn't tend to the brewing. The good news is that it doesn't seem to have made a difference. I won't be repeating the 2 week primary fermentation, neither the 2 week long flower infusion at secondary fermentation. But it's good to know it need not spoil the wine if you get a little slack.

Looking Back on 2014

So I didn't hit my target volume of wine in 2014, I came quite close tho.

A highlight was making a big batch of a quickie wine that i dabbled with the previous year, passion fruit. It was a very nice quickie, as good as any straight-up quickie i've made previously. By straight-up i mean nothing added to the quickie base as in elderflower or green tea & ginger wines.

It was a good year for making various blackberry wines too. One of which was particularly good.

The orange wine formulation and method is coming along nicely. It's no longer so sweet but remains a sweet wine and maintains it's strength. In my early days i used way too much sugar, which didn't completely ferment. These days i'm still using enough "excess" sugar to deliver a sweet wine but it's not overkill. I think my most recent recipe or 2 have nailed it now.

Each year's orange wine will be a little different tho. This is because the ratio of various citrus fruits changes depending on what's available to me, and the fruits must also fit my pretty limited budget. However it always works out with a great balance of similar and complimentary flavours.

Of course Elderflower wine was the usual biggest brew. It remains a firm favourite with friends and people who have a distrust of homebrew quality. It also remains a favourite of ours personally, and making a lot means it's our everyday wine.

And talking of favourites another batch of green tea & ginger was made and again delivered in trumps. If possible the next time i make this i'll use the same green tea.

2015 was another quiet brewing year. But that's for a number of posts i'll be writing soon.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Orange Wine: Recipe

Making orange wine is a labour of love, but it's worth it. This is a delicious drink worth saving for winter. It's sweet, strong, zesty and has a texture like a liquer.  Last time i made it was a couple f years ago. Last time i drank it was about a week ago. That was a glass from one of the few remaining bottles and so, with added pressure from Mrs Chateau Hippo, it was time to make more so we'd have some next winter. And any other time we want a dessert wine cos this is the only one i make. It's that good. One size fits all.

And for you oldskool types out there, who love CJJJ Berry (and who doesn't when it comes to brewing wine) you'll find this recipe very familiar, but tweaked. We all tweak as brewers, cos we all think that either we know better or we know ourselves well enough to adapt a recipe for our tastes or preferences. So i tweaked CJJJJJJJ Berry. Back in his day of course there probably wasn't such a thing as organic fruit, it was likely just called fruit. I'm using organic cos i like it in every way, but in this recipe it's actually important to use organic regardless of your beliefs. You will be using the skins of many fruits and pesticides etc are on those skins, so take no chances. you're not meant to consume pesticides. If you don't believe me then look some up, do some research, and pay attention to COSHH (chemicals and other substances hazardous to health). Washing isn't the whole solution here, the zest will be infusing for days. Get organic, and it'll taste better anyway. Which is a big deal with homebrew right!

I started this on December 31st, alas missing my target for total brews in 1014, 50 gallons, and making a mere low 40's instead. Must do better this year! But the quality of what i made last year is a great consolation prize, and i didn't drink for half of december, which probably adds up to 2 gallons worth ;)

Recipe - 3 gallons

Juice of 30 Organic Juicing Oranges
Juice of 18 Organic Italian Clementines
Juice of 6 Organic Lemons
Juice of 2 Organic Pink Grapefruit
Juice of 1 lime
Zest from Organic 24 oranges and 4 Organic lemons
4.5 kg Sugar
2 Tspoon Citric Acid
2 Tspoon Tartaric Acid
4 Tspoon Pectolase (Pectic enzyme)
6 Tspoon Yeast Nutrient (tronozymol)
Water to 3.5 gallons
Yeast (Gervin 3, GV3)

Original Gravity 1124


This is a labour of love so use your time well. Start with a clean and tidy working area, you'll need the space. put the sugar in a large pan and add about a gallon of water. Bring it to the boil and so  dissolve the sugar, stir occasionally to make sure there isn't a lump of sugar burning on the base. While you're letting that happen wash the oranges and lemons you'll be zesting.

Now zest the oranges and lemons, fastidiously. You don't want any pith in your wine, it'll make it bitter. Which is not the same as sour, it doesn't work. Be a real stickler for this. I use a potato peeler to get the zest off and then still take a sharp knife to the skin to remove all traces of pith. If you know the expression "the most dangerous thing in a kitchen is a blunt knife" then you'll know the value of a regularly sharpened knife. Sharpen it and you'll save vast amounts of time and won't chop your fingers off or pulp the zest. If you have a scary grater that you've injured yourself with previously then its probably a good thing to use. But resist the temptation to get as much zest as possible, instead aim for getting the very best quality zest only.

By the time you've done this the sugar solution will probably be boiling. Tip it into your fermenting bin and put the lid on. The steam will do a great job of sterilising it, tho you should have made sure it was clean and chemical free already. Chop up the zest into pieces about half the dimensions of a match stick. Put the zest into a muslin bag and tie it up. Add to the fermenting bin and put the lid on.

Now juice all the rest of the fruit. Hold on, don't use a juicing machine. This must be old skool stylee. A juicing machine will add loads of tiny wee fragments of pith, pips and juice that has been in contact with macerated pith and pips. This'll make your wine bitter and you won't like it. So you gotta get that old skool orange juicing gizmo or squeezer out and give yourself some hand cramps. No other option. And if you're not in practice then you may need to up the fruit content by 10-30%. I have strong hands and use them a lot for repetitious stuff (which all sounds quite deviant but actually i walk with crutches ... so it's very boring!). In short i get more juice from my fruit than most would. Is that showing off ;-)

Add the juice to the fermenting bin and put the lid on. Then dissolve all the other stuff (except the yeast) in water, 0.5 - 1 litre should do it, and add to the fermenting bin. You've probably got somewhere close to 2 gallons in there, so make the volume up to 3 gallons and measure the gravity with your hydrometer. Hopefully it's way high, even beyond your hydrometer scale. Mine was something like 1135, off the scale so couldn't tell, had to guesstimate. I added enough water to make the volume up to 3.5 gallons. Including the muslin bag of zest. The gravity then was 1124. Last brew was 1122 and that wine was delicious. So i stopped there. it's close enough.

Then i added my yeast. This is probably the most important wine to make a good choice of yeast for. Something sweet and strong really needs a yeast that you can depend upon to do what it says "on the tin". I used to use Vintner's Harvest Sauternes yeast, and it worked great.. Then i couldn't get it and was told that Gervin number 3 (GV3) was great for sweet wines with high alcohol by volume and start's fine in a super sweet must. So i use that, sprinkle it onto the surface, put the lid on, tightly.

As for all your other brews after a few days to a week or so move the wine to secondary fermentation, and when you do remove the muslin bag of zest. I think you can err on the side of length for this brew. Maybe primary ferment for upto 10 days. Keep an eye on it tho. It may be slow to start due to the high sugar content. So it may need extra sloshy stirring (i use an old skool egg/cream whisk) to help the yeast bud (breed). Or may need more time to get busy. This is a sweet strong wine, everything about it takes longer.

When it's stopped fermenting, which may be weeks or months, then rack it to fresh demi-johns. That is siphon so you leave the sediment behind. And if it's still fermenting after 2 months and has deposited a substantial sediment (0.5 - 1.0 cm) then rack it anyway and let it ferment more with a much reduced sediment. It may take a long time but the sediment can taint the wine. ultimately the best bet is to keep an eye on the gravity too. If it's not going down quickly then leave it on the sediment cos it'll need all the yeast it can get. But if it is going down rapidly then you can afford to remove most of the sediment. There's a bit of an art to this, and you'll probably get close enough to a brilliant result however you do it. From there on you'll be refining this wine.

The wine, if i remember right, always clears without needing finings. Don't expect to drink it until it's at least 6 months old. A year is a respectful wait and worth it. And if you have enough capacity to set a bottle or two aside and forget about them then some years later you'll be in heaven when you open one.

 If - at the bottling stage - you're at all unsure about whether to use stabilisers like campden tablets and potassium sorbate (both) then use them. This is sweet wine with  a high tolerance yeast. There will be enough residual sugar for more fermentation and as conditions change your tiny invisible yeasts may burst back into life, start to bud, and ferment. If this happens in a bottle you'll either blow the cork, or if using a screw cap your bottle will go off like a glass grenade. In a normal wine the low final gravity at bottling is often safety enough. but with a high final gravity then caution is wisdom.


I'd advise anyone making this wine to go wild and do your own thing with the fruit combo. Keep the lemons in there at around 2 per gallon. Then for all the rest of the fruit juggle it about. If you;re not feeling too bold then keep the oranges and mix up the clementines, tangerines, satsumas, mineolas etc etc according to what you like and/or what is cheap and/or available. You will end up with a citrus wine like mine but different. It's differentness is it;s delight. so the subtle difference resulting from your own mix of "little oranges" will only really matter to you. and that is because you are paying most attention, not because you're a super-hero ;-) I like adding grapefruit cos i'm quite partial to it, i eat them like oranges occasionally and never add sugar to them. This wine has residual sugar, it's sweet. so if you like sour anyway then try some grapefruit. Similarly if you like what lime has to offer throw that in too, replace 1:1 for lemons.

Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Green Tea & Ginger Wine; Recipe

So this is an old favourite wine as my regular readers will know. I wish i could copy last years wine cos it was great,and i wish i could copy a recipe from 3 years ago cos after those years of laying down the wine was exquisite. Alas, it was not possible. But with experience you get good enough with you art to adapt. So this is an adaption, and so plays it's part in the evolution of the wine. I'm confident enough in my abilities to brew 5 gallons of it anyway. And if you like a curry, and also like a crisp interesting wine then give this a go. It's a match made in heaven.

Recipe: 5 Gallons

10 Litres Red Grape Juice (Asda, pure oressed)
3.1 Kg Sugar
200g Fresh Root Ginger
200g Luponde Green Tea (East Afrikan, fairtrade, suki-tea.com)
Zest of 3 Lemons (organic)
Zest of 2 Limes (organic)
5 TSpoon Citric Acid
5 TSpoon Pectolase
4 TSpoon Yeast Nutrient (Tronozymol)
Yeast (GV5, lees from previous brew)
Water to 5 Gallons

Original Gravity 1075

There should be a picture of mine here, but my phone isn't talking to my laptop, so here's a link to  suki-tea.com


Remove the lees (sediment) from the fermenting bin and keep in a sterilised sealed container like a bottle. Lots of hit liquids will be added, they'll kill the yeast, and you want it alive
Pour the red grape juice into a fermenting bucket.
Add the sugar to a pan of water (1 gallon is enough), dissolve by bringing to the boil. Then pourinto fermenting bucket.
Put the tea into two muslin bags, add a gallon of water, bring to a simmer, turn off heat, decant liquid into fermenting bucket, cover bucket. Refill pan with another gallon of water, bring to simmer, turn off heat, tip pan contents (including  muslin bags of tea) into fermenting bucket, cover bucket.
Dissolve citric acid and pectolase in warm water, add to fermenting bucket with cold water to make the volume up to 5 gallons.
Cover and leave overnight.

Next day add yeast nutrient and yeast (lees set aside) to fermenting bucket. Cover and leave for a few days. After 5-8 days move to secondary fermentation vessel under airlock. Remove muslin bag of green tea and add muslin bag of finely chopped zest of lemons and limes and also finely chopped peeled root ginger.

After a further week or so remove bag of zest and ginger, rack to demi-johns, and leave under airlock until fermentation stops. Then, if you wish, stabilise with campden tablets, potassium sorbate and add finings. Or wait for the wine to clear in it's own time. It should be quick, like within a couple more weeks. Bottle when you need the demi-johns or when you want to drink it. This should be ready to drink 6-8 months after pitching the yeast. So, for me this means June, cos i started it in December.


So i couldn't find white grape juice and i was gutted to be honest. Green tea and ginger wine that looks pink or red just doesn't seem right. But having said that there really needn't be that much difference. You can get a white wine from red grapes after-all. So i reckon the red colour in the grape juice hasn't come from a long exposure of red grape skins and juice. As it would cost money for this i reckon i have good grounds for my hope being well placed. In other words this is like pouring boiled water onto a teabag, the colour comes out way before the flavour. So i got over the visual deception obstacle. Besides if the skins are left in the juice for a log time it only mean more flavour and more astringency. so i'll live with that and give it more time to age is that is the reality. Maybe it'll take a year to age? It's no big deal is it.

Passion Fruit Quickie; Recipe

At the end of last year i made a number of different quickie brews. One stood out from amongst the crowd, passion fruit. So i decided to do it again, but by the time i got around to starting it i found that i couldn't source the same ingredients. I was committed by then, so i had to adapt, and the result is a different recipe to last years, but the method is the same. I'm optimistic, with good reason, to expect a good result, and that's why i've made 5 gallons (30 bottles) of it. These wines, quickies, are a brewer's delight, they make something astoundingly good quality, in a 6-8 weeks, very cheaply. So you get to drink table wine while you let the best stuff age. Believe me, you won't be disappointed by the quality of these wines so don't hesitate to try one! This is not prison hooch, it's great quality. And if you're doing time but shouldn't be then you can probably pull this off, or something similar enough.

Recipe, 5 Gallons

5 Litres Red Grape Juice (Asda, pure, pressed)
5 Litres Passion Juice (Rubicon)
3.3 Kg sugar
5 TSpoon Citric Acid
4 TSpoon Pectolase
3.5 TSpoon Yeats Nutrient (Tronozymol)
Yeast (GV5).
Water to 5 gallons

Original Gravity 1075

And a piccie of the ingredients

Pour the juices into a fermenting bin.
Dissolve the sugar in hot boiled water (1-2 gallons is enough) and add to fermenting bucket.
Dissolve pectolase, citric acid in warm water and add to bucket.
Add water to 5 gallons.
Stir sloshily for a few minutes (i use a whisk) to add air to the mix, yeast needs dissolved oxygen to bud (breed).
Add yeast nutrient, stir and then sprinkle yeast onto the surface.

After a few days decant to secondary fermentation under airlock. The after another week or so, when the fermentation has slowed or stopped, rack to demi-johns. At this point add, if you wish, campden tablets, potassium sorbate and finings. You'll find instructions on the packets and they are easy to follow, there's no special kit or practices required. wait until the wine has cleared and if you need the demi-johns or want to drink the wine then bottle it. Or keep it natural, and wait to ensure the fermentation has finished before bottling. You'll be bale to tell if it's a good tim because the gravity won't change for a few weeks and will be below 1000. like 990 - 998.


The fruit juice i used turned out to have 1/2 as much passion fruit in it as last years choice. I didn't know when i bought it. Nevertheless this wine is really a crisp white/blush or even rose of table wine quality with a hint of passion fruit. "Hint" is the crucial word. So i'm not worried.
The choice of yeast wasn't the same as last year. i was caught having to use what i had in the cupboard. But seeing as i've had good results with GV5 before i didn't hesitate to use it again.

Blackberry & Elderberry 2nd run. Recipe

When you make a wine "on the pulp" of a fruit then you should always consider if the left-over pulp could be used again. Often there is plenty of  flavour and body in that pulp. I'm still on the journey of getting the best from it, but i can tell you that some of the very best wines i have made  have come from using the pulp again. This is delicious for two reasons. 1. It's very easy cos you use the lees (sediment) from an earlier brew to kick-start your new brew, and it's cheap cos you don't need to buy more yeast, and neither do you need to find new fruits.

This wine exploits these considerations. But be mindful that 1 kg of fruit pulp used for a second time will not be as productive as it was the first time. Half or less is is a reasonable assumption. Adjust your volumes accordingly and enjoy experimenting with me

Recipe: 1 gallon

Lees from Blackberry & Elerberry Wine
5 Litres Red Grape Juice (Asda, pressed, chilled)
270 grams sugar
Water to 1 gallon.

Original Gravity 1084

soz, no gratuitous picture!


Very briefly, much more so than is usual, so if you're new to this blog don't be discouraged, look up any method from before this one and you'll find way more detail. ... When you're left with the lees of an on the pulp brew like this one then do something with it. Add some grape juice, sugar and water to it (possibly acids or nutrient too). Then let it rip again. After a few days move it to secondary fermentation, a few days later rack to demi-johns. Stabilise by the ways you prefer, bottle when you need to. Enjoy.


I've tried doing second run on the pulp fermentations numbers of times. And i always like the results. However i am still experimenting and pushing the boundaries. with this brew i decided to try using lots of grape juice and have the pulp flavour prop it up. i Don't know how it'll work. 2015 will tell that tale.

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