12/13/2017 TimberGardener 0Comment

The ‘test batch’ of blackberry wine turned out surprisingly great, so over the summer of 2017 we picked enough blackberries for a 5 gallon batch.  We saved some time and some skin damage by taking hand pruners and nipping off the loaded ends of the canes (to battle later).  Many blackberries produce fruit on primocanes, or the 1 year old growth, so pruning them is good for the plant and doesn’t affect the next year’s yield at all.  In fact, many of you probably have raspberries in your garden and you may prune back the canes once they are done.

I wanted to give this wine a little extra dimension, so along with frozen blackberries I also added tart cherries and rhubarb.  The tart cherries smell amazing, I can’t wait to try a cherry wine next year!

As a disclaimer…this batch of wine was a mess.  Nothing was done in the right order, I was cobbling together a bunch of recipes, and I didn’t have a big batch of sanitizer so it was a little bit of a struggle!  Read this post to see how fruit wine making REALLY goes sometimes…and hopefully in the end it still comes out okay!  I started this wine on Decemeber 9, 2017.

Blackberry Wine #2

26 lbs blackberries
1 lb rhubarb
2 lbs tart cherries
1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfate
5 tsp pectolase
4 cups boiling water
5 tsp yeast nutrient

1 1/4 tsp tannin
2 tsp tartaric acid
1 tsp acid blend
2 Tbsp bentonite mix

Sanitize a fermenting bucket and add all fruit to bucket.  Pour hot water over berries.  Allow to thaw, then add 5 tsp pectolase, 1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfate, and 5 tsp yeast nutrient.  Mash/stir thoroughly and allow to sit for 24 hours.

Day 3: Dissolve 11 lbs of sugar in about a gallon of water.  Add in the tannin and mix thoroughly.  Stir in acid powders and bentonite sludge.  Pour everything in to fermentation container.

This gave me nearly 5 gallons of must, but with the solids I’m going to lose quite a bit of liquid.  I’m going to boil and add another gallon of water.

Measured titratable acidity: 0.35%, definitely on the low side, but the ingredients haven’t had a chance to really mix.

Stirred heartily to really mix the must, then tested acidity again.  Still 0.35%.  Brix is at 30 with the solids strained out, which is about 17%.  HOLY alcohol.  This let’s me add more water later, but I’d better use a yeast that can stand really high alcohol!  Tasted the juice, it tastes as good as it smells.  Added 5 tsp tartaric acid and 5 tsp citric acid to lower the acidity to a level that the yeast will do well.  It should change the acidity to just over 0.6%.


Pitched dry yeast Premier Cuvee by sprinkling it on top of the must, it is good to 18% alcohol.  I’ll plan to adjust the concentration and test the acidity again when I move the (future) wine into a carboy.

(The real story: I pitched the yeast before I adjusted the acidity.  Gah!  I don’t stir in my yeast because if you let it sit on top the outer structures are able to hydrate and protect the yeast cells, and they can also get used to their new environment.  I poured my powdered acids around the edges where there wasn’t much yeast, and I’ll shake it a little to dissolve them.  I should have tested the brix before adding the sugar…I was planning to add 4 more lbs later, but since I had a few extra lbs of berries it raised the sugar quite a bit.  Also, I mixed in the bentonite sludge before I tasted the juice, so I guess I drank some of that.  Nothing that will kill you, it just looks like liquified kitty litter.  This wine is full of wins so far.)

Day 4: The wine is starting to bubble, slowly but healthily.  I stirred the foaming yeast in and made sure the acids were mixed in.

Day 5: All the fruit is pushed to the top, a good sign!  Whoa, there is a LOT of fruit in a 5 gallon batch!  The liquid is starting to release a lot of carbon dioxide when it is stirred.

Day 6: The juice is starting to smell more like wine than juice.  Now is the time to dilute this batch before the abv gets too high and the yeast starts to struggle.  I want to bring this down to about 14%, so I’ll need to add 1 1/3 gallons of sanitized water.  This also means I will need to adjust the acidity, but I can test for that any time.
After I stirred this morning I licked the spoon…I think this is going to be a good one!
I added 1 gallon of boiled and cooled water in the afternoon.

Day 9: Transfer Day!  I had punched down the floating fruit in the morning, but in the afternoon I carefully scooped it off with a sanitized ladle.  I’m sure that helped a little, but this batch seemed SO pulpy!  We strained the rest (slowly) through a fine strainer and cheesecloth, and I don’t remember another wine taking so long!  The rhubarb was pretty bad, too!  Some people leave their fruit in a jelly bag the whole time and then just pull the whole thing out, but I feel like the fruit won’t have enough contact with the juice.  I added an 1/8 tsp of k-meta to the new 5 gallon glass carboy to ease the transition.

This wine smells phenomenal!  My first blackberry wine took about 6 months to get to the bottling stage, so I might be the proud owner of 25 bottles of mixed berry wine by June!  I better start cleaning more bottles.

Day 10: The airlock is bubbling every second and there is almost no foam, which means: fermentation continues to protect the wine with a blanket of CO2, and it probably isn’t going to foam over through the airlock and onto the kitchen floor, like it does when I move it too early.

Day 31: Racked the wine into a clean 5 gallon carboy.  There was a think layer on the bottom, about 1 1/2 inches thick.  We topped off with apple juice.  This wine has a great mixed berry smell and flavor.  I think the apple will only help that.  I still need to add 1/3 gallon of sterile water, but I’m waiting to see if it starts re-fermenting before I overfill it.  The wine seems dry already.

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