A much more natural way to imbibe this summer, fruit wine – also known as country wine – can be composed of any combination of fruits, flowers, and herbs.
Budget-friendly and easy to make, homemade wines allow you to flex your culinary prowess to make a wine true to your tastes, while also producing a cleaner beverage since it doesn’t contain the preservatives or pesticides that wines produced en mass often do.
Read on to learn all about how to make your own fruit wine, the ingredients and equipment you’ll need, as well as some recipes and tips to get you started.
The Basics Of Winemaking
The practice of winemaking stretches as far back as the Neolithic period in human history, with evidence that our ancestors were brewing up their own vino since 7000 BC. The basic principles of winemaking remain the same, and if our forebears could do it, so can we.
Although wine has long been associated with grapes due to their inherent balance of fermentable sugars, low acidity, and yeast nutrients, this alcoholic beverage can be made from any kind of fermentable plant matter.
The essential elements required to transform fruit into wine are sugar, yeast, and water. Simply put, the yeast feeds on the sugar and water to produce alcohol while the plant matter creates the flavor, body, color, and character of the wine. The more sugar added, the sweeter the finished wine will be; less sugar will create a dryer drink. More fruit will create a heavier Burgundy type wine while less fruit will produce a lighter, crisper, blush wine.
Striking a balance between sugars, acidity, and fruit to water ratio allows a lot of experimentation to be had. You can start by making small, one gallon batches and scale it up once you’ve hit the flavor profile you like.
Although fruit wines only require three ingredients – fruit, sugar, and yeast – to make, there’s plenty of choices within each category:
The choices in fruits for home winemaking are practically endless. Apples, bananas, oranges, berries, stone fruits, figs, grapefruit, persimmon, pineapples, and pears are some recommended fruits to try. Don’t be afraid to experiment with blends or adding in herbs like lemon balm, ginger, rose, dandelion, or rosemary.
Whatever you choose, the best wines are made from the best quality of ingredients so be sure to evaluate and select fully ripe produce with minimal cuts and bruising.
Ideally, fruit should be homegrown and organic to avoid contact with pesticides, herbicides, and other nasty chemicals.
Plain old table sugar (sucrose) is commonly used in homemade wine since it is inexpensive, boosts alcohol content, and won’t affect the flavor of the finished product.
You can also use honey, brown sugar, or turbinado sugar to sweeten the wine and feed the yeast but these types will most certainly alter the character of your wine.
Just as important to a wine’s overall profile as the type of fruit, yeast strains impart secondary flavors during the fermentation process. Depending on the yeast, the wine can turn out spicy, sharp, creamy, or earthy. For a thorough explanation on how yeast strains affect wine, check out this handy yeast strains chart.
You can browse various strains of active dry wine yeasts here. Adding some yeast nutrient will also help keep wine yeast healthy and productive.
The following chart should give you a good idea of ratios between the quantity of fruit and sugars you need to make a finished one gallon batch of wine. We’ve also included some recommended yeast strains for each fruit wine type:
Home Winemaking Equipment
You can get started by picking up this inexpensive winemaking kit that covers everything you need to turn fruit into wine. Otherwise, you’ll need these essential components:
- A fermentation vessel such as a stoneware pickling crock or a food grade plastic bucket.
- A demijohn (glass jug) like this one.
- Airlocks with rubber stoppers, like these.
- A fine mesh strainer.
- A siphon tube, like this.
- A funnel.
- 5 – 6 wine bottles per gallon batch.
- Some corks, like these.
Fruit Winemaking Step-By-Step
Now that we’re acquainted with the ingredients and equipment, let’s make some wine!
Step 1 – Freeze The Fruit
Freezing your fruit for at least three days has the advantage of breaking down the cell membrane walls which results in more fruit juice. Cut up larger fruits and remove any pits and seeds before setting it the freezer.
Step 2 – Boil The Sugar Water
Bring one gallon of water to a boil and add the sugar. Place frozen fruit in your fermentation vessel and carefully pour the sugar water over it. Give it a stir and cover with a light cloth or large plate. Let it rest for 24 hours.
Step 3 – Add The Yeast
Stir the liquid and mash the fruit with a wooden spoon. Sprinkle the wine yeast over the surface of the juice. Cover and allow it to ferment for about one week.
Step 4 – Transfer To The Jug
Set a funnel and fine mesh strainer on to the demijohn and carefully ladle the juice while removing the fruit pulp. Use a siphon to prevent sediment from getting into the vessel. If you lose volume in the process, top it back up with water to one gallon but leave four inches of headspace in the bottle. Secure the airlock on the bottle opening and place it away from direct sunlight for 4 to 6 weeks.
Step 5 – Clear Wine
Once the wine has cleared completely, siphon it into clean wine bottles while leaving any sediment behind. Secure the corks. Most fruit wines will only get better with age so let it rest for at least six months.
Beginner Fruit Wine Recipes
Here are 8 easy fruit wine recipes to try, some of which can be enjoyed while they are still quite “young”:
- Apple Wine
- Blueberry Wine
- Orange Wine
- Peach Wine
- Pear Wine
- Pineapple Wine
- Plum Wine
- Strawberry Wine
Winemaking Tips & Tricks
When it’s time to start bottling – or racking – your wine, give it a taste. You can adjust the flavor by adding more sugar water to sweeten, lemon juice for tartness, or tannins for balance.
Potassium sorbate is a wine stabilizer that will prevent further fermentation when you sweeten wine at the bottling stage.
Measure the wine’s alcohol content with a hydrometer.
To clean and sanitize your winemaking equipment, potassium metabisulfite tablets are excellent for killing off wild yeasts and other bacteria that can contaminate your next batch.