Blackberries are one of the most popular berries and grow in a large variety of regions throughout the world. Buying these berries in stores can be very expensive and they are not as good as those that come from the wild. Blackberry bushes are very low maintenance to have and often grow without any outside help.
Many people have blackberry bushes on their property and when harvest time comes, they often have too many berries than they know what to do with. Blackberry cobbler, jam, syrup and baked goods are popular to make; but often people find themselves with too many berries and end up not picking the rest on the bushes, leaving them for waste.
Old American blackberry wine recipes have been around for generations and some of the best recipes originated in the Appalachian area. Making homemade wine, especially berry wine, is easier than people think and is low cost and low maintenance. Many of the ingredients and tools you probably already have in your home.
How to Make Homemade Blackberry Wine
Below is a list of items you will need to make a fool-proof batch of blackberry wine, along with a detailed recipe for you to follow. Also, there is a list of tips that will help you to make the best wine from the bush to the bottle.
What you will need:
- 20 pounds of freshly picked blackberries
- 1 5-gallon bucket with lid
- 1 5-gallon bucket with lid and a tap on the bottom
- Large square of cheesecloth (you can buy some that are specifically made for wine and beer making in 5-gallon buckets)
- Blender or food processor
- 4 gallons of water
- 10 pounds of sugar
- 3 teaspoons of acid blend
- 3 teaspoons of pectic enzyme
- 3 teaspoons of yeast nutrient
- 4 crushed Camden tablets
- 2 packages of wine yeast
- Large strainer
- 2 5-gallon carboys
- Grolsch bottles (about 20) or canning jars (equivalent to 20 grolsch bottles)
- Siphon (You can also get a siphon that attaches to the tap at the bottom of a 5-gallon bucket and buy them as a pair. Otherwise, you can just get a siphon specifically designed for any 5-gallon bucket).
- Argon gas
Please keep in mind that while you may have some of these items (5-gallon buckets, siphon etc.) you may want to buy them new. Having clean and sanitized items is pertinent to the success of your wine. If your supplies were previously used for things other than food storage, or have scratches, opt for a new product.
Scratches in your buckets may become a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and germs that can cause an ugly odor, taste or film on your wine. Many of these items you can get from Amazon or stores that carry wine and beer making supplies. Many companies now sell a lot of these items in a bundle specifically designed for homemade winemaking, like this one.
Steps to making blackberry wine:
- Clean and sanitize equipment. Make sure that all equipment you will be using is cleaned, sanitized, and fully dry before using. While alcohol kills bacteria and germs, residue from previous uses can contaminate the flavor and smell of the wine and even leave a film of dead bacteria.
- Pick the blackberries (20 pounds or about ½ of a 5-gallon bucket). Make sure that you pick the berries right before you will be making the wine. The fruit has natural yeasts and can begin its own fermentation soon after picking. Have all your equipment set up prior to picking.
- Sort through the blackberries. Sort through the fruit and pick out any debris, stems, and leaves. The stems and leaves have a very bitter flavor (tannins) and can affect the taste of the wine if left to ferment with the fruit.
- Put a large cheesecloth into the 5-gallon bucket without the spout.
- Using a blender or food processor, blend up the berries. After they are blended, place the puree inside the cheesecloth in the 5-gallon bucket.
- Pour in 3-4 gallons of water into the 5-gallon bucket (be sure to leave about 4-6 inches of room in the bucket so that the fermenting must doesn’t spill over the bucket. If you need to use less water for now, that is okay. You can always add some water once the cheesecloth is out).
- Dump in 10 pounds of sugar. Do not increase the amount of sugar if you want a sweeter wine. Yeast eats sugar and the by-product of this is alcohol. Increased sugar content will make the fermentation process last longer, potentially making the wine bottles explode or at the very least go through a secondary fermentation in the bottle, creating sparkling wine. Your alcohol content will be much higher, which will affect the flavor and desired outcome.
- In a small bowl, combine and mix the 3 teaspoons of acid blend, 3 teaspoons of pectic enzyme, 3 teaspoons of yeast nutrient, and 4 crushes Camden tablets. If you want, you can add in some warm water to make mixing the ingredients easier.
- Stir the ingredients into the “must” (crushed berries).
- Put a lid on the 5-gallon bucket and let it sit overnight. Make sure that there is room for the must to “grow”. If you fill the bucket to the brim, it will overflow and possibly explode if the lid is on too tight. 4-6 inches should be enough. If the must does spill over, that is okay, you are still able to use the wine that is still left in the bucket.
- The next day, you will notice a foam layer on top of the wine. Slowly pull out the cheese cloth, squeezing it so that you get all the juice out. The cheesecloth and content can be thrown away.
- Once the cheese cloth is out of the primary 5-gallon bucket, put in two packages of wine yeast. There are many kinds of wine yeast. A generic kind or one specific to fruit wines would be best. The difference of yeasts is the byproducts it creates. Yeasts can enhance certain aspects of the wine and downplay others. Do your research and decide which one you like best if you want to get picky about which yeast you use, however most of the wine yeasts are generic and work well with all types of wine.
- Stir in yeast well. Put lid back on bucket. Let sit for 2 weeks. Do not peak or open the lid! Be patient.
After two weeks…time to strain and rack.
- Pour your wine through a large strainer into the secondary 5-gallon bucket. This will get out all the floating particles that you do not want in your wine.
- Put lid back on and wait 2 or 3 days. This will settle the wine.
- Rack the wine off into a large carboy. Spray argon gas into the carboy to get the leftover oxygen out of the bottle before you put the cap on. Oxygen is needed during the fermentation process, but now that fermentation is complete, that oxygen is not needed.
- Leave the wine in the carboy for a few weeks. This will age the wine.
- Rack the wine into a different carboy. This will mix the wine and make sure that all the yeast and ingredients that have settled to the bottom of the carboy are mixed evenly. This is not a necessary step, if you do not have an extra carboy, simply just leave the wine be for a few more weeks.
Time to bottle!
- Have your grolsch bottles or canning jars sanitized and ready for bottling. I prefer grolsch bottles because that are the size of wine bottles and have a cap that is attached and able to be sanitized. Beware of using old wine bottle corks because bacteria can grow inside of the cork and effect the wine as it ages.
- Sit the carboy of wine onto a table. Siphon the wine from the carboy into a 5-gallon bucket with a drain on the bottom that is sitting on the ground.
- Place the 5-gallon bucket filled with wine onto the table and your bottles onto the ground or an area lower than the bucket.
- Attach a filler tube that allows you to start and stop the fill process. A siphon can work but many wine making kits have a specific filler tube that also works great.
- Start filling your bottles! Leave about an inch of air at the top. Before closing the bottle, spray in some argon gas to displace the oxygen. This will allow your wine to sit without becoming oxidized.
- Place your wine in the pantry away from the light and any heat sources.
Tips for the best wine!
- People aren’t the only creature that enjoy eating blackberries. If you have a problem with birds eating from your bushes, cover the bushes with a net before the berries grow in order to protect them from birds. This is important because once the berry is open and exposed after an animal has gotten to it, the berry starts to ferment. If you have fermented or old berries picked for your wine, it will affect the taste.
- This recipe can be used for a variety of berries! Strawberries, raspberries and blueberries are some of the best berries to make wine with.
- This process is best done in a garage or area that can be stained. If you want, put down a tarp to protect the floor from stains. Also wear clothes that you can get stained whenever you work on the wine.
- This wine will turn out dryer than you probably expect. While most good wines tend to be on the dryer side, some people have a bit of a sweet tooth. If you do want to add extra sugar, do so after fermentation is completely done. If you add in extra before fermentation is complete, you could possibly cause an explosion in the 5-gallon bucket or cause secondary fermentation to occur within the bottle, creating sparkling wine. If you typically like sweeter wines, give this recipe a go as is. This will allow more of the blackberry and fruit notes to come forward.
- Want a slightly darker wine? Leave your freshly blended berries in the 5-gallon bucket for 2 or 3 nights instead of just one before you strain out the cheesecloth. Most of the color comes from the skins, so leaving the skins in with the wine for a longer period will make your wine darker (but also a bit more bitter!). Keep in mind to not peak or open the bucket until you are ready to transfer it.
What should my wine taste like?
What your blackberry wine tastes like has a lot to do with the blackberries you used. Were the berries big, juicy and sweet? If so, you will get more juice out of the berries, your wine will be of slightly higher alcohol content, and your wine will have a more fruit forward profile.
Were the berries small and tart? You will likely need to pick more berries to yield the same amount of wine as you would with fuller berries. Your wine will be slightly dryer, with a lower alcohol content and a tart, crisp taste. Overall, your wine should be crisp, slightly tart (more-so if your berries were smaller) and have notes of blackberry, raspberry and yeast.
Can you pair blackberry wine with food?
Absolutely! Fruit wines can be paired with a large variety of foods and is often forgotten about in the world of wine pairing. Dryer, tart blackberry wine is an excellent pairing for pork dishes.
The low sugar content and crispness cuts through the fat of the pork and compliments the savory dish. A sweeter blackberry wine pairs well with a large variety of desserts, especially chocolate.
Enjoy your wine making process. Remember that each batch comes out differently. After successfully completing your blackberry wine, try making other berry wines, even combination berry wines (like blackberry/raspberry or a strawberry/rhubarb).