White Wine From Cherries?

Isn’t cherry wine is supposed to be red?

I mentioned white cherry wine in passing here, but most people think of cherry wine as a red. The only commercial cherry wine I’ve tried is a red – crushed, fermented on the skins, then pressed. Every recipe I’ve seen involves either fermenting on the skins or fermenting red juice. When I first made cherry wine, last year, I wanted to make it like a conventional grape wine rather than a “country wine” (4-6 lb of fruit per gallon, with added water, sugar, and acid). I made a red cherry wine. In fact, it never occurred to me that I might make a white.

So why a white cherry wine?

There’s a story about white Zinfandel, and how difficult it was to get it accepted. Reviewers reviewed harshly and judges judged skeptically because everyone knew than Zinfandel was supposed to be red. Eventually this new white was judged on it merits and has become a popular wine. Now, I’m not sure if this story is actually true (anyone out there know?), and I don’t even drink white Zin, but why not a white cherry?

How do you make white cherry wine?

Two of the cherry trees I grow, Montmorency and White Gold, will produce fruit with clear juice. I was looking for that specifically, because I wanted to make white wine from them. The idea is to keep the process as close as possible to a conventional white wine from grapes. Crush and press the fruit, adjust the sugar and acidity of the juice, then pitch the yeast. I’m open to diluting with water if the acidity is too high, but I’m hoping that won’t be necessary. I’m also willing to be flexible about what “too high” is. If the acid profile looks like Riesling, I may just treat it like one rather than “correct” it to more normal levels. If I get enough fruit from each tree, I’d like to ferment them separately. That way I can see how each tastes on its own, then try different blends. Plenty of ideas, not enough cherries!

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4 thoughts on “White Wine From Cherries?

  1. Pingback: Washington Winemaker » Blog Archive » Montmorency Cherry

  2. Darrel Martin

    I have 30 lbs of Montmorency Cherries from my tree and want to make a wine from them. I came upon your blog and was wondering how things went with your wine. Did you produce a white form these cherries? Do you have a recipe to share and how did it turn out?

  3. Erroll Post author

    Hi Darrel,

    “Plenty of ideas, not enough cherries!” I harvested 2 lb of cherries this year from my bonsai orchard; a quarter of those were Montmorency. So for me, white cherry wine is a long way off. I made red wine from store bought cherries twice, and I liked it.

    To make white wine, juice the cherries and measure the titratable acidity (TA), specific gravity (SG), and volume of the juice. The TA will be too high, and the SG too low, so you’ll have to adjust both. This means adding sugar to raise the SG and diluting with water and/or balancing the finished wine by sweetening. I would suggest using Lavlin’s 71-B to ferment the wine because it consumes some of the malic acid.

    Diluting with water to lower the TA will change the SG, and adding sugar syrup to raise the SG will change the TA. That makes the adjustment tricky – here’s how to do it:

    First determine how much liquid (in the end it will be sugar-water, not plain water) will dilute your juice to the desired TA by using this formula:

    VL = ( VI * TAI / TAD ) – VI

    VL = volume of liquid
    VI = initial volume of the must
    TAI = initial TA
    TAD = desired TA

    So, lets say you have 8 liters of must with a TA of 12 g/L (I’m just pulling these numbers out of the air), and you want a TA of 8 g/L

    VL = (8 liters) * (12 g/L) / ( 8 g/L) – 8 liters
    = 12 liters – 8 liters
    = 4 liters

    So if you just added 4 liters of water, the TA should be right where you want it, but the SG would be way off. The next step is to determine how much sugar to add, dissolve it in water to make a syrup, add water to 4 liters, then add the 4 liters of sugar water to the must. What we’re really after, then, is the SG of 4 liters of sugar water. Going back to our example of 8 liters of must with a TA of 12 g/L, lets say the SG is 1.040.

    SGL = VI / VL * (SGT – SGI) + SGT

    SGL = SG of the liquid
    VL = volume of the liquid
    VI = the initial volume of the must
    SGT = the target SG
    SGI = initial SG

    Using the values from our example, and a target SG of 1.090, we get:

    SGL = (8 liters) / (4 liters) * (1.090 – 1.040) + 1.090
    = 2 * 0.050 + 1.090
    = 0.100 + 1.090
    = 1.190

    That means we need our 4 liters of sugar water to have an SG of 1.190. To do that, make a sugar syrup with all the required sugar then add water to 4 liters. How do you know the right amount of sugar syrup? One more formula:

    VS = VL * (SGL – 1) / (SGS – 1)

    VS = volume of sugar syrup
    SGS = SG of sugar syrup
    VL = volume of liquid
    SGL = SG of liquid

    VS = (4 liters) * (1.190 – 1) / (1.310 – 1)
    = (4 liters) * 0.190 / 0.310
    = 2.4516 liters

    Let’s call that 2.5 liters of syrup and 1.5 liters of plain water. I hope the math doesn’t put you off. Since I don’t know what yield you will get from your cherries, what the SG will be, or what the TA will come to, I can’t just say so much water and this much sugar. You should be able to plug in the numbers you get and determine how much to add to your juice.

    Once you have the must adjusted the way you want (I suggest an SG of 1.090 and TA of 8 g/L as in the example), then add nutrient, according to the package directions, and yeast (I recommend Lavlin 71-B for cherry wine because it consumes some of the malic acid. After it was fermented out, take more measurements, taste, and sweeten the wine if necessary. This will be a fun project, and I hope you let me know how it turns out!


  4. Pingback: Cherry Wine Recipe | Washington Winemaker

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