Small Batch Homemade Fruit Wines

Making homemade fruit wine is such a satisfying experience – watching your fruit transform into something completely new and delicious. The length of this post may make it seem like a difficult process, but it’s really not that hard to make a small, gallon batch. So pour yourself a glass of wine, settle in, and read on. For the printer friendly version, click here.

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Last winter we decided to try our hand at home brewing. We started with beer, and you can read our first brews adventure here. Then we tried some kit wines which you can read about in this post. The next stage of the adventure was to try some small batches of fruit wines, which we started this spring. They are actually surprisingly delicious! And I say surprising because I normally am not a lover of fruit wines because I find them too sweet. However, these “first wine” recipes, copied with permission from Joel, the owner of our local brew store, Corvallis Brewing Supply, are designed to be dry wines and they are really tasty.

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Before I get into the details of how to get brewing, I just wanted to quickly (ish) list and describe the ingredients that you will be adding to your wine and why. These can all be purchased at your local brew store (if you have one) or by clicking on the links attached to them. Skip ahead if you just want the hows and not the whys.

Fruit! – OK this one is obvious, but the one thing I wanted to point out is that you can use fresh or frozen fruit for this. Use only the best quality fruit. Nasty fruit will make nasty wine.
Yeast – These little guys are what is going to turn the sugars in your fruit into alcohol. There are a large number of yeasts available on the market, but you don’t just want to use bread yeast for making wine. They are cheap, so buy a packet of the kind called for in your recipe. A few common ones for wine are Montrachet, K1V-1116, Cote de Blancs or Lalvin D-47.
Dextrose – Dextrose is fermentable sugar that is added to feed the yeast and produce alcohol. Some fruits don’t have as much sugar content as others, so extra sugar is added to balance the sugar and acidity and produce a good product. Grapes, for example, require a lot less added sugar than cane berries, such as raspberries and blackberries. This is due to the properties of the berries themselves. Table sugar, which is sucrose, can be used instead of dextrose, but it can produce a different quality product. Dextrose is a simpler sugar that can be broken down faster by the yeast, which can lead faster fermentation and to a crisper and cleaner tasting end product. I haven’t personally done a side by side comparison yet, but when I do I will let you know what people preferred. I’ve only so far tasted wines using dextrose. When using table sugar in a recipe that calls for dextrose, use 0.8 pounds for every pound of dextrose that is required.
Pectic Enzyme – This is added to your fruit wines because it will help break the fruits down and make the sugars available to the yeast to ferment. Pectin is a compound found in plants cell walls, and what this enzyme does it help to digest that for the yeast, making more sugars available. You could certainly still make wine without it, but it aids in the process. It also can help produce a clearer product by digesting the pectins.
Yeast Nutrient – This is added to give some other nutrients to your yeast so that they aren’t surviving on sugar alone. It contains vitamins and minerals, think of it as giving your yeast a multivitamin. I like the way Joel put it – think about how you would feel if all you ate was sugar. This is why you add some nutrient.
Diammonium Phosphate – This is another thing that is just a helpful nutrient to give your yeast. It’s a nitrogen source which helps the yeast along. If you are getting a rotten egg type smell from your wine, it could be because you should have added some D.A.P. Some recipes do not call for it, and I think it’s one of those things that’s not always necessary, but it only takes a very small amount so I figure why not use it. Also, as a side note, some of the things labelled “yeast nutrient” on amazon and elsewhere have this in them already, so check the ingredients to see what you’ve got.
Campden Tablets – These tablets are made of Potassium Metabisulfite, and they serve a couple really important purposes. They are not something you want to be leaving out of your recipe. Sulphites in your wine prevent a few things – the growth of bacteria and wild yeasts and oxidation of your wine. All things that you really don’t want to have happen. But as a sad side note, the suphites in wine are often the thing that give people that red wine headache. Fortunately I don’t have that issue.
Acid blend – This is a combination of three acids – citric, tartaric and malic, which come from citrus, grapes and apples. They are used to lower the pH of the wine and give the wine balance.

DONE! I know that was a lot of ingredient listing, so I’m sorry if that bored you, but I for one don’t like blindly throwing things into a recipe not knowing what they are for, so I wanted to lay out for you why we need a tiny amount of a bunch of different things. So there we go. Now on to the making of the wine. In the table below are 8 options for good first recipes to try. Already have one of these fruits in the freezer? Awesome! What are you waiting for!?!

Each of the recipes below makes a gallon of wine. They all have the same ingredients, just in slightly different proportions based on how acidic the fruit is, and based on its relative sugar content. The method will be the same for whichever recipe you try. And as a side note, before you begin I highly recommend keeping a brewing journal of dates and ingredients etc. Especially when you are brewing multiple things at a time. I must confess that I am currently not 100% sure which jug is blueberry wine and which is blackberry.

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Home made wine is really not a lot of work, you actually only have a few active days when you are doing something to the wine, and the rest is a waiting game. Considering that the cheapest fruit wines I really ever see are $25 and you can make a pretty good wine at home for far less than that, I think it’s well worth it. So here is how it’s made:

Day 1:

On the first day what you’ll be doing is preparing the fruit and mixing all the ingredients together except for the yeast. Remember, when picking fruit only use the best quality fruit. Crappy fruit will make crappy wine. Also use nice ripe fruit, but not overripe. Think about when you taste a berry that’s not quite ripe. It is less sweet because it does not have as many sugars as when it is fully ripe, so a fully ripe berry will make a better wine.

Step 1: Clean and sanitize your equipment. All you’ll really need day 1 is the primary fermenter and maybe a masher or spoon to stir with. For the dos and don’ts of what to use as a fermenter, head here. I made mine, and the reason for that was because I planned to do a bunch of small one gallon batches, and we own only a huge 8.5 gallon primary fermenter for beer, so it made sense to have a little one too. Anyways, that can be sanitized either by dissolving a campden tablet in a gallon of water and letting it sit for a few minutes, or I like this sanitizer. While the equipment is drying, prepare the fruit.

Step 2: Give your fruit a good wash, check for any bad spots and remove them, and remove any stems and pits. Things like strawberries, blueberries and raspberries basically just need a good wash. For the peaches I would blanch and peel them first. Chop and remove the pits and place them in your primary fermenter.

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I like to then give the fruit a light mash to release the juices.

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Step 3: The next thing you’ll do combine all the ingredients except for the yeast. I top it off with water to just above 1 gallon in my 1.5 gallon fermenter (4.5-5 quarts), but go ahead and top the water up to 1.25 gallons if you’re using a larger fermenter. Give it a stir to dissolve the powders and cover it. Leave it for 24 hours. This gives the campden tablets time to kill yeasts and bacteria already in there, and the pectic enzyme to start breaking down the fruit for the yeast you’ll add the next day. Don’t wait longer than 24 hours though, or you may have your ingredients spoil. You need to get the fermentation going or other things will colonize your fruit. And that is just plain nasty. And sad.

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Day 2: 

On day 2, you will open up your primary fermenter and pitch the yeast. Half of those 5 g packets is enough, so if you are planning on making another wine with the same yeast in the near future save the other half in the fridge. All you need to do is sprinkle the yeast on and close the lid back up. Make sure you have an airlock on your fermenter, and fill it will sanitizer or alcohol.

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Now we wait for a few days. Within 12-24 hours you will notice bubbles coming from the airlock as fermentation begins. You can probably hear the yeast working too.

Day 2 or 3:

About 12 hours after you add your yeast, you want to give it a little stir. Sanitize a spoon and stir the must (that’s what wine that’s not wine yet is called).

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Days 2-5:

While your wine is fermenting, you will notice that the fruit is constantly floating to the top. To make sure that all the fruit gets fermented, and you don’t get massive air bubbles building up underneath the fruit, you need to break that mass up a couple times a day. This is called “punching the cap.” This is my favourite stage in the process, not only because of its silly name, but also because every day you get to open the lid and smell the fermentation in progress. Using a sanitized spoon or masher, gently punch the cap, then place the lid back on. This is also a great time to make sure you don’t have any weird or nasty smells. It should smell strongly alcoholic but not like acetone, or rotting eggs, or burning rubber, or anything weird. Take note if it has any unappetizing or strange odours.

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 Day 5ish: 

Around the fifth or so day, you’ll notice the cap not floating quite as much, and the bubbles have begun to slow in frequency. At this stage it is time to strain off the solids. There are a couple of ways that you can do this, but this is the setup I have rigged up. If you are only doing one gallon, just straining it without additional equipment is reasonably easy. If you have a full 3-5 gallon batch going, a fruit press or something more suited to 20 or so pounds of fruit may be necessary.

What I do is use a funnel (it’s actually the hopper from my food strainer) covered in a dampened layer of muslin, and strain the wine into a half gallon jar. This funnel happens to fit perfectly into the mouth of the half gallon jar.

Clean and sanitize the funnel, 2 half gallon jars and a one gallon glass jug (this is where your wine is going next). Dampen a section of muslin or cheesecloth and drape it into the funnel. Carefully dump the wine from your primary fermenter into the funnel. It won’t all fit at once of course so let it strain and add some more.

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Once one jar it full you will want to transfer the funnel carefully to the other jar. When almost all the liquid is drained through, you can squeeze more out of the fruit if you want. Since I use a cloth that lets very little solids through, I give it a really good squeeze at this point. The cloth I use isn’t linked to here since it’s from a craft store and I was having a difficult time finding exactly what I wanted to show on amazon. Anyway, if you are using a coarser (bigger holes) mesh you probably won’t need or want to squeeze it a ton or you’ll have solids coming through. Now, if you don’t have a funnel set up, you can probably get away with straining it with your kitchen strainer and a layer of cheesecloth, again if you are doing a small batch. A jelly bag would work well too.

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Now you have your wine strained. It’s time to transfer it into the gallon jug where you will finish the fermentation and age the wine. Make sure the jug is cleaned and sanitized. What I do at this point is actually just pour it carefully into the jug using a smaller funnel. This is not necessarily the best way to do it, but I’ll explain why I do it this way. If you just strained the fruit through a much coarser funnel or press, you will have larger particles that need to settle out. These are called the “gross lees.” If you use a coarse strainer, strain all the wine into one container, and allow the gross lees to settle out. I don’t really have any issue with this because I strain it through super fine cloth. However, if you have gross lees, or chunky bits, in your wine, let them settle, then rack the wine into the gallon jug instead of pouring it. You also mix in less oxygen this way, but I figure we’ve already mixed it in when straining it so it’s probably no biggie. Also, in this next waiting stage, any sediment is going to settle out, so if you get a bit it’s OK. Once your wine is in the gallon jug, top it off with a bit of water if you don’t have quite enough. You shouldn’t need to though if you had 1.25 gallons or squeezed the fruit well. Add another campden tablet to the wine. Place the airlock into the jug. You want only a tiny bit of space between the airlock cork and the wine to avoid oxidation of your wine. I would at this point recommend vodka or something in your airlock since at least with my iodine sanitizer, once the iodine evaporates you can get mould growth in your airlock. Mould = BAD. Awesome, now you are done for  a while! Place your jug somewhere cool, out of the sun, where it won’t be disturbed.

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Day 5ish until ???

After the transfer day, wine making is just a waiting game. You will continue to have some fermentation for a while, but eventually the bubbling will slow and cease altogether. Admire your wine and patiently wait. Good wine does not happen over night. At this point, it’s up to you when you want to bottle the wine. At the very minimum, you want to wait until the wine is clear and all the sediment has settled to the bottom. You also don’t want any more fermentation occurring, so if there is any activity in the wine, do not bottle it. You will have to wait at least a couple of months. Joel’s instructions suggest between one and nine months. Yes, that’s a huge range. One is probably not going to be enough in many cases for it to be crystal clear, and in nine it’s probably drinkable (aged enough to be tasty and ready). I think 3 or 4 is probably plenty. Remember, as long as it’s clear, and done fermenting you can bottle it because it will still age and mature in the bottle. But wine that is bottled without good clarity isn’t going to clear anymore in the bottle.

From left to right, peach, blueberry, and raspberry wine during the aging process.

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Day 100 ish

Wow, has it really been 95 days? Time flew by! It is time to bottle our wine. We haven’t seen a bubble in 2 months and the wine is crystal clear! Today what you will need is 5 regular sized wine bottles (750 ml). I don’t buy these because I think that would be insane when I already drink wine. Just save your bottles and rinse them out. You will also need 5 corks (number 8 or 9), a corker (they make two main kinds of basic ones – this round compression one, these double level ones and these floor ones), a racking cane with tubing or mini auto siphon and preferably a bottle filler.

Sanitize all your equipment and your bottles and let them air dry. Very gently rack your wine into each bottle. Don’t disturb any of the sediment on the bottom of the jug. Fill your bottle up enough that you will only have a very small amount of space between the wine and the cork. I like to actually hold a cork up to the side of the bottle and see where it will sit so I can adjust the level of the wine. Once you fill all five bottles, cork them up and you are done! Store the wine in a cool dark place and enjoy your wine whenever you desire.

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If you are going to gift them, it’s super fun to make adorable labels for them (shipping labels actually work great – you can design any decorative label you want using the template in word) and add the fancy shrink wrap to the tops

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Unfortunately, a gallon of wine just barely fills five bottles, so you don’t have much left over, but be sure to sample the wee bit that remains, even if it is the sediment filled stuff at the bottom of the jug. Happy brewing!

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49 thoughts on “Small Batch Homemade Fruit Wines

  1. Wish I could taste your wine. The process is a little to complicated for me. I have made homemade beer several times from a simple recipe using the can of Pabst Blue Ribbon mixed hops starter, sugar, yeast and water. It is a very good tasting beer. If you want the recipe email me. Wish I lived closer, I would love to visit you.

    • It does seem a bit complicated from the length of this post, but if you’ve made homemade beer before I think you wouldn’t find this much more difficult. It’s just a few days of monitoring it and stirring it, then the straining part that is the only time consuming part. I think it’s super fun though!

  2. Welp, now I really want to do a lot of home winemaking, and I’m sad not to have frozen all the backyard plums I could get my hands on in June! (Some of them got frozen, but not ALL of them.) Making a note for the future!

    • Haha ya, as soon as I made the first one I just kept getting more gallon jugs and making whatever came into season next. I haven’t tasted the plum one yet but I bet it’s going to be delicious! If you have 4 or 5 pounds give it a try!

  3. […] We have recently ventured into the realm of homemade fruit wines and are love love loving it. However, I have learned at least one lesson the hard way, which of course I will share with you so you don’t make the same mistake. I hope you can learn from my dumbiness, and perhaps get excited by the prospect of making your own wines. I think it’s easier than you might expect. I’ve now posted the full instructions on how to make it, which can be found here. […]

  4. Giving this a try. However, can you use a blow off tube like when making beer in the beginning for the first few days?

  5. Is it ok to use blackberries that have been frozen for 6-8 months? I wasn’t sure if after a certain amount of time in the freezer the berries wouldn’t be any good anymore. Thank you.

    • If the berries have been frozen for a while the quality can decline even if they are still safe to eat, so it absolutely depends on how well they were stored. If they were in a bag with no extra air, haven’t thawed and refrozen or anything like that I bet they are still OK. What I would recommend is taking them out and looking at them and taste testing them. Do they have any ice on them inside the bag and look freezer burned? Taste a few and if they taste good you’re fine to use them. But if they taste bad or you’re in doubt, use them in a smoothie or something where you have other flavours to cover up a tiny bit of freezer burn. Use the best fruit if you want good wine, and the easiest way to do that is just to smell it and taste it. Happy wine making!

  6. this is the best instructions and receipt I have found, only change I’ll need to make is that all our fruit has been already juiced so will need no water and no chunks to strain out. I’ve tried to print this out but it won’t let me print it for whatever reason. Any suggestions?

  7. Awesome recipe. I have a couple of questions.

    I started the strawberry wine over the weekend. The must is pink right now. Does your stay deep red when you make your strawberry wine? I used fresh strawberries that were a deep red color.

    Also, do you ever check the SG before you pitch the yeast? If so what number are you looking for? Thanks.

    • Yes the must will definitely lighten as it ferments, mine turns out to be a light pink colour when done. Typically I don’t measure the SG for these small gallon batches, I probably should I admit, but I think it should be in the ballpark of 1.08. When making kit wines, I have measured and it’s around 1.09 so I would guess it would be in the same range to get 12-14% abv.

  8. Love your article! I’m a newbie to the wine making world 🙂 If I have the juice rather than the whole fruit (already strained) would I still do all of the steps mentioned?

    • Yes you can still make it with juice. I’m not sure how much added sugars you’d need to get the alcohol content you want though, so if you do it that way I’d recommend getting a hydrometer and measuring your specific gravity so you know your alcohol content. Happy brewing!

      • Just a thought from a four year wine maker. We steam juice the fruit we have leftover from doing farmers Market. We turn every 12 quarts of fruit into 1 1/2 Gallons of nectar, plus 1/4 cup sugar to help it work. We then can it and have it stored. For 1 Gal. Wine, we add 1 Qt nectar, 3 cups sugar, 1 Tsp lemon juice, 1/4 t Vintners Harvest SN9 Let sit till it is done or rack if you like.
        The yeast is very aggressive so their is no need for other ingredients, just an idea the works for us, very time conserving. Thank you for your site!

  9. Fabulous article, thanks!
    I think I’ll give the Tomato Wine a try, but will add some grated organic root ginger, as I can harvest both from my garden at the same time and they do go together so well as a jam that surely the wine would be glorious too. Coming in to season soon 😉
    Caitlin, I’ve a question about the primary fermentation in fruit wines. Have you found that yours have been particularly vigorous (not the strawberry on the ceiling, that was just not enough headspace) – but – do you hear really loud bubbling, or is it more of a light fizzing? Also, when I measure the SG it’s really difficult to get an accurate first reading given the amount of solids in the early few days. Any thoughts?
    Thanks … Dingo

    • Thanks Dingo. Tomato with ginger sounds intriguing! I like it 🙂 My tomato wine has received mixed reviews from those who have tried it but I think it is unique and interesting!

      Yes, I have definitely found fermentation to be quite vigorous for the first few days. I do hear loud bubbling. Sometimes if I don’t leave enough headspace in my primary fermenter I get chunks of fruit bubbling into the airlock. Gross. So what I make sure I do is leave plenty of space, and stir it a few time a day for those first few days. Occasionally, I even leave the lid a bit ajar, and some people will not even lid it at first, just place a cloth over it to keep out fruit flies and things. Air exposure is not a bad thing for the must during those first few days, but later on you do want to avoid it.

      For measuring SG with all the solids it certainly is hard to get an accurate reading. When I am just making a one gallon batch for personal consumption, I don’t really bother with it, because I trust that these recipes have plenty of sugar (especially with the added sugar). If you want to know the exact alcohol content though, I totally understand that. If I wanted to do it correctly, or especially if I was doing a larger 5 or 6 gallon batch, I’d follow the instructions from the book “From Vines to Wines.” What they say to do (for grapes, but it would work the same here) is to crush and sieve a sub-sample of berries, and then measure the SG of the juices. They just recommend 100 berries, and doing it twice, as a way to get an average sugar content for the batch. If I were doing it for a fruit wine, I would probably just crush enough to fill my hydrometer container and get a best estimate. This is why I don’t often bother for my small batches, but that would be the correct way to do it.

      Happy wine making!

    • They are intended to be fairly dry to medium. I find the strawberry the sweetest, just because the berries themselves are sweetest, but I find the black and blueberry fairly dry. Commercially, I believe they actually add more sugar back at the end to sweeten the sweeter wines, which is not usually done at home, so these shouldn’t be overly sweet.

  10. Hi! I decided to try winemaking this summer, and yours has been the clearest set of instructions I have found – so thank you for that! I was wondering why you split the batch into 2 half gallon jars, and then into the carboy when switching from primary to secondary fermentation.. I’ve seen a few places say to do it, but no one ever explains why! I was also hoping you could maybe help me troubleshoot my first batch.. I started some strawberries a few days ago, and have had the yeast sitting in with them for 3 days now. It foams a good bit when I punch the cap, but I haven’t really noticed a ton of activity in the airlock. Granted, I haven’t been home with it much, but I feel like I did something wrong. Should I be noticing more bubbles? Thank you so much for any help you can offer!

    • Hi Pamela,

      Honestly the only reason I use the two half gallon jars is because I have a big funnel that fits in the mouth of a wide mouth jar, and the gallon jugs have a small mouth so I can’t transfer it directly. Another reason is because some people like to transfer it to those half gallons, let it settle a bit, then siphon it to not get the bits that have settled out. I strain it through a really fine cloth so don’t need to do that, but if it is a coarse cheesecloth this can be a good idea.

      As for doing something wrong, I think you are probably fine if it’s foaming and starting to smell like alcohol. You could have a bit of a leak somewhere if there is little activity in the airlock, or perhaps you have more headspace in your fermenter than I do? If you have some foaming and head on it though it sounds like fermentation is happening. Good luck and happy brewing!

  11. Just bottled my first batch of blackberry wine and it is very good. Thanks for the recipe and pictures. Very informative.

  12. I thought I followed the directions as closely as possible, but even after squeezing out the strainer bag, I only had a half gal of juice. I topped it off, but don’t have high expectations.
    When preparing the fruit in the primary, I filled the level to reach 1.25gal mark. Should I have actually added 1.25 gal to the fruit?

  13. Just tasted my first batch of strawberry wine from your recipe and it was awesome. I did back sweeten it because I like a sweeter wine but it turned out really good. I have somemore strawberry and blueberry still fermenting but I would really like to make a muscadine wine. Do you have any recipes or tips for making a muscadine wine in one gallon batch? Thanks.

    • Glad to hear your wine came out well! Sorry for the delayed response to this message. I haven’t made Muscadine wine but it would be a similar process. Typically grape wines need less adjustment when it comes to acidity because they have a nice balance of sugars and acidity, but they can also be a little more finicky getting them perfect. If you give it a try let me know how it turns out, and if I work on more grape wines I’ll be sure to post about it!

  14. I’m just about ready to bottle my first batch of strawberry wine, and I was wondering about back sweetening… Would using something like a strawberry flavored drink syrup work? I would rather add some more strawberry flavor in, but am having trouble finding strawberry concentrate!

  15. I am interested on making wine using coconut , and 2 more fruits without using water and sugar. Is this possible and how long it will take to be a good wine. The price of coconut, and 2 fruits ingredients is $ 3 to make 1 gal. The coconuts @ 10 will have 1 gallon of pure juice + 2 fruits who a little bit sweet but high in acid base. I don’t see anybody make this wine yet on the market. Any advice. Thanks
    Eddie Sr

    • Hi Eddie, I can’t say I’ve ever heard of coconut wine, but it would still be a process of fermenting sugars into alcohol so I imagine it could work. There might be some issues with balancing the acidity but you should try it out! Sorry I don’t have much other advice.

  16. I have all my “stuff” to get started on 3 different batches. Just curious where to keep the primary fermenters the first few days.? A warmer or cooler environment? Or does it not matter since the yeast has plenty of food.? Thanks! I can’t wait to get started 👯

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