Many of the home wine makers I know stick to a single wine elderberry. In a survey of home wine makers it was by far the most popular country wine and I can understand why elderberries are the closest fruit to wine grapes in colour, juice content, tannin and acidity. The resulting wine can easily match a good grape wine.
Like wine made from grapes, elderberry wine needs to be kept for at least a year to allow the tannin to mellow before drinking. The oldest I have tried was a venerable thirty-seven years. It was light, sweet, fruity and perfect, with the tannin subdued to a mere minor note. An extra piquancy was provided by the fact that it was the last bottle of its line.
Elderberries are conspicuous inhabitants of the hedgerow, appearing from August through until late September. There is little with which they might be confused though dogwood has berries of vaguely similar appearance but in smaller bunches. A very common and embarrassing mistake is to return to pick elderberries from the same tree where you picked elderflowers in the summer. There won’t be any.
- Yield: 6 75 ml bottles
- 1.5 kg elderberries
- 1.2 kg sugar
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 5 g sachet red wine yeast
- There really is nothing to this crush the berries gently (so as not to crush the pips too much) in the bottom of a fermenting bucket with the end of a rolling pin, add the sugar then pour over 4.5 litres boiling water. The hot water will kill all the bugs so no Campden tablet is needed.
- Allow to cool, check the specific gravity and adjust if necessary. Add the yeast nutrient, aerate, then pitch the yeast. Ferment for a week, stirring every day except the last, then siphon or strain into a demi-john and fit an air lock.
- Rack off into a second demi-john when fermentation appears to have ceased. Bottle once the wine is clear if you want a dry wine or sterilise and sweeten as described here. Leave to mature for a year before drinking.