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By September 30, 2015 0 Comments Read More →

Elderberry Wine

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Home made wine enthusiast, keen blogger and author of Ben’s Adventures in Wine Making, Ben Hardy turns his hand to making Elderberry wine – one of the all time classic country wines.

See also:

Crab Apple Wine
Blackberry Wine
Orange Wine
Dandelion Wine


Elderberry wine is one of the classic country wines, and it has particular resonance with me for two reasons. It is the wine I have strongest memories of my father making in the 1970s. He would take his children out with him to help pick the fruit, and if we were very good (which was, admittedly, a rare occurrence) we might get a sip of elderberry wine from one of our parents’ glasses. Elderberries made an impression because I remember picking them from trees next to York’s city walls, and then being surprised by their bitter, long-lasting taste.

The second reason is that elderberry wine was my first ever home-made wine, if you ignore the kit from Boots. This was the wine that started my winemaking compulsion, and which now results in my house being stuffed to the gills with demijohns, buckets, bottles and fermenting liquids. The first batch I made, and every batch since, has been tremendous. It is also a wine that gets better the longer you keep it – though I struggle to keep my bottles for longer than two years from picking the fruit.

For a single six-bottle batch of elderberry wine you will need three pounds of elderberries, and as a rough guide, half a plastic carrier bag of heads of fruit should suffice. I pick the entire head rather than the individual berries (which would be a nightmare – see below), and usually end up with far more than I need. This is even with doing a double or triple batch.

Once you have picked your elderberries, you need to strip them from their stalks. Last year I had my father and older brother help, and you should encourage any assistance that you can get. Not only does it reduce the time spent stripping, you also have someone to talk to whilst doing it.

Most winemaking books recommend stripping elderberries using a fork. You put your fork above the elderberries, over the stalky bit, bring the fork down, and the elderberries plop nicely into your bowl. Or that is the theory. What actually happens is that the elderberries ping everywhere, and you end up with dark purple stains on your tablecloth, your work counter, your clothes and your skin. My preferred method, therefore, is to pull the elderberries off with my fingers and thumb. This only takes a little longer, as I do not pluck them individually. You can get several at once, and have better control over their destination. This will, of course, stain your hands, and you may have to do a Lady Macbeth hand-washing routine, but better that than indelible marks on your surrounds.

Once you have stripped and weighed your elderberries (putting any spare into your freezer), you are in a position to make your wine.

1.4kg (3lb) elderberries
1.2kg (2lb 11oz) sugar
3.7 litres (6½ pints) water
1 sachet yeast (I tend to use a burgundy variety)
1 tsp yeast nutrient
1 tsp pectolase



1           Sterilise your bucket, potato masher and a large wooden spoon (and, it goes without saying, everything else you use during the course of making this wine just before using it).

2           Put the elderberries into the bucket and mash them.

3           Boil the water and pour it over the elderberries.

4           Stir everything around, seal the bucket and let it cool to around room temperature. Then add the yeast, yeast nutrient and pectolase.

5           Three days after adding the yeast (during which time the yeast will have begun to work on the natural sugars contained within the elderberries), sieve the liquid into a demijohn and discard the elderberries.

6           Put the sugar into the washed and now re-sterilised bucket.

7           Pour the elderberry liquid over the sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Keep the sealed bucket somewhere warm, stirring once or twice a day.

8           Five days (or so – no need to be exact) after pouring the liquid over the sugar, transfer the liquid to a demijohn and fit a rubber bung and airlock.

9           Between two and three months later, rack the wine off its sediment into a new demijohn.

Fill the gap in the new demijohn with a syrup at a ratio of 0.5 litre (1 pint) of water to 170g (6oz) of sugar (adjusting the sugar depending on how sweet or dry your wine is at this point).

10         Bottle in March or later, and drink from September.


As mentioned above, this wine – possibly more than any other – benefits from keeping.


Posted in: Home Brewing

About the Author:

Ruth Tott is the publisher of Home Farmer Magazine, and together with her husband, Paul Melnyczuk, Editor,is founder of the company. But her background is far removed having specialised in Costume History with a Post-Grad diploma in Museum Studies to boot. A far cry from looking after chickens, growing veg and making bread!

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