Rhubarb Wine Recipe

I’ve been anticipating this since May, and now it’s finally time to make Rhubarb Wine. I grow the rhubarb in my garden, harvest several times (freezing each harvest), and make a gallon or two of wine every year. Here’s how I do it:

Ingredients For 1.5 gallons (about 5.7 liters) of must

3-4 lb (1.4-1.8 kg) rhubarb
Sugar to specific gravity 1.090 – up to 4 lb (1.8 kg) sugar
0.125 tsp (0.3 g) tannin
1 tsp (5 g) diammonium phosphate (DAP)
1 tsp (2.3 g) pectic enzyme
sulfite to 50 ppm (equivalent to 1.5 campden tablets)
yeast

How do you juice rhubarb?

I’ve tried things like cutting it up and putting it in a blender and soaking in water. The best ways to “juice” rhubarb are freeze/thaw and sugar extraction. I usually do both. As you harvest the rhubarb, wash it and cut it up into 0.5 inch (1.25 centimeter) pieces and freeze them. When you are ready to make wine, thaw the rhubarb and put it in a strainer. I usually get 2/3 – 3/4 cup/pound (350-400 ml/Kg) of rhubarb juice this way. Once you’ve strained the juice, sulfite it. Next, place the rhubarb in a container and cover with about 1 lb (about 450 grams) of sugar. Let it sit until the sugar has dissolved (about two or three days), then strain off the liquid. Place the rhubarb back in the container and cover with water for a few hours or overnight. This is a rinse to get every last bit of “rhubarbness.” Strain the liquid and discard the spent rhubarb. At this point, I dissolved the tannin, DAP, and pectic enzyme in 0.25 cups (about 60 ml) of water and added it to the liquid.

Measure then adjust the sugar

I repeated the sugar extraction step, so I used 2 lb (about 825 g) of sugar, and ended up with 2.36 quarts (2.23L) of SG 1.114 liquid. I’m going to switch to metric measures, because calculations are easier, and report numbers with much more precision than I can measure so that I don’t carry rounding errors from one step to the next. I’m aiming for 5.68L of must with an SG of 1.090. Adding 3.568L of SG 1.075 sugar water will yield 5.8L of 1.090 must. An SG of 1.075 implies 232 g of sugar in each liter of solution (not 232 g added to 1L of water!). So 3.568L at 232 g/L means 828 grams of sugar. I boiled 1L of water, took it off heat, dissolved the sugar, and brought it back to a boil. Once it was boiling, I took the pan off the heat and cooled it in a water bath for 15 minutes. I used a measuring cup to determine the volume of sugar water (1.45L) and added it to my fermenter. Then I added tap water until I reached 3.568L total.

I added the sugary rhubarb juice to the sugar-water in the fermenter and measured the specific gravity. I should have 5.8L of SG 1.090 must, and I measured the SG as 1.095 – my kitchen scale and measuring cups were never going to be very accurate, so I’m calling that good!

What about the pH and titratable acidity?

If you’ve read many of my posts, you’re probably wondering why I haven’t mentioned the acidity of the must. I’m always going on about how important pH is to stability and titratable acidity (TA) is to taste. What’s going on? I’ve made rhubarb wine for years, and I’ve found that using rhubarb at a rate of 1.5-3 lb/Gallon (180 – 360 g/L) of must consistently gets me close to 6 g/L acidity. So I’ve decided to wait until it ferments out, then measure the acid and make any corrections.

Isn’t the oxalic acid dangerous?

Some wine makers neutralize virtually all the acid in rhubarb, then add back acid (tartaric, citric, or a blend). They do this to remove the oxalic acid, which is toxic and present in rhubarb. Removing the oxalic acid will change the wine; I think it detracts from rhubarb’s unique character. Most of the oxalic acid is in the leaves, and I make rhubarb wine with the stalks only (so should you!). It’s true that the stalks contain some oxalic acid, and while I don’t know what the precise amount is or exactly how much of this acid can be dangerous, I can tell you that I’ve made – and consumed – rhubarb wine this way for years with no ill effects. Obviously, I wouldn’t be doing this if I thought it was harmful, but you’ll have to make your own judgment about that.

With nothing left to do, it’s time to pitch the yeast. They’re the real wine makers, and they should have this must turned into wine in the next week or so. Then I’ll rack as needed, and bottle in about a year. It’ll be drinkable soon after that, but it ages very well, so keep a few bottles if you can.



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47 thoughts on “Rhubarb Wine Recipe

  1. Christina Anderson-Heller

    Hello from Lynfred Winery! You had posted a question about our Rhubarb wine on our blog so I thought I’d come find you. Here is the answer from our winemaker:

    We use frozen Rhubarb and do not add water to the mix. We keep the fruit for a few days in the tank and just add sugar to bring it up to ~20Brix. Then, when we reached 56 or more degrees of temperature we inoculate the juice with a selected yeast culture.

    In the past we used Calcium Sulfate against the Oxalic Acid but we haven’t done this practice since late 90’s. The result is a very tasty wine, food friendly that needs some sugar to be in balance.

    Andres Basso

    Director of Winemaking

    General Manager

    Lynfred Winery

  2. Erroll Post author

    Thank you so much for getting back to me. I’ve often wondered about making rhubarb wine from just the juice, and now I definitely want to try it – I also want to try your wine! I’m going to ask around and see if the local (I’m on the west coast, near Seattle) shops carry it.

    Erroll

  3. agnes fletcher

    wow, it’s great to see so many different approaches to making rhubarb wine. I’ve used hot water with dissolved sugar and poured it over the rhubarb in a straining bag, added all the usual suspects and ended up with wonderful wine, just got “Best in Show” at our local county fair with a bottle of it in fact. I want to experiment with different methods so may try some that are written here. I grow a few grapes in the back yard and can’t wait to harvest. Thanks for sharing ideas, dwinemaker

  4. bob

    I use honey instead of adding sugar to the juice, but I have found the freezing process as important as the sugars or yeasts. I will try your recipe with the rhubarb harvest this fall, if the deer do not kick down my new fence.

  5. Erroll Post author

    Hi Bob,

    I will try your recipe with the rhubarb harvest this fall

    I’ve never made rhubarb wine with honey, but now you’ve got me curious. Maybe I’ll try your recipe too, and we can compare notes!

    Erroll

  6. brian b

    Honey always seemed an expensive experiment to me, but if you use it, doesn’t that qualify your product as a rhubarb mead? But I always found that after the yeast were done converting it, flavor became a function of the yeast and not the original fructose, glucose or whatever form of sugar used (I tried maple syrup once: no vestige of it’s character left afterward).
    I go for the pseudo-pasteurization of flash boiling it, helps break it down celluraly (like freezing) and kills off bacteria without campden tabs. This year I’m mixing cranberries into the must and going from there in my Hail Mary recipe fashion.

  7. brian b

    If you make with honey you’ll have fining issues over time, due the pollen in the honey unless you counteract with a fining agent. It does leave a more alkaline, slicker sort-of sweetness I think (which could explain the difference between mead and wine).
    Oddly enough, although I’m not the ‘brian b’ of the last comment, I agree with his findings: flavor is a function of the yeast after conversion: no sense spending alot more money on different kinds of sugars, the yeast convert them as they will and taste is much a function of their action. Unless you can tell the difference. Might be fun to experiment with brown, unrefined sugars versus refined whites, molasses, what have you. I think the big question is which sugars the yeasts like best/convert easiest.
    Making rhubarb/cranberry this season (among the usual elderberry/currant, and the unusual: dandelion/chanterelle, and most likely a variant apple in the fall).
    I found White Labs Yeasts work exceptionally well, if you can pony up.

  8. Erroll Post author

    Hello Brian and Brian!

    Honey certainly is more expensive than an equivalent amount of sugar. If you think the difference in the wine is worth it, then it makes sense to use honey. I haven’t tried it, but I think there is a difference in the fruit wines that I’ve made with honey. That makes me think it might be an improvement to rhubarb wine – only one way to find out!

    Mead (just honey and water) has never cleared to my satisfaction without fining or boiling, but fruit wine that I make with honey – or fruit mead or melomel if you prefer – has always cleared, given enough time. “Enough time” might be more than you’re willing to wait, a year or two maybe, but I think a rhubarb wine made with honey will also clear in time. Again, I’ll have to try it to know for sure.

    Anyway, your cranberry-rhubarb sounds like a great combination. I hope you let me know how it turns out.

    Erroll

  9. Jamie

    I am thinking of trying rhubarb wine this year, so far I’ve only made elderberry and dandelion flower wine. I’m wondering if it is o.k. to use the larger stalks that are too tough to eat.

  10. Erroll Post author

    Hi Jamie,

    Large stalks are fine. I’m just wondering what you meant by “too tough to eat.” If it’s just a matter of size, then you can cut them up into small pieces. If there’s something wrong with the stalks, they’ve gone off in some way, then they won’t make good wine.

    I’ve never made dandelion wine because I thought removing all the petals would be too much work. How’d it turn out?

    Erroll

  11. Dave Plummer

    A fatal dose of oxalic acid would require a human being to consume upwards of 5 kilograms (yeah kilos!) of rhubarb leaves. The oxalic acid, if anything is a bit of a natural laxative and isn’t terribly bad for you in any way.

    This recipe seems really cool. I can’t wait to give it a shot.

  12. Erroll Post author

    Thanks Dave, I never knew the details behind the common wisdom that “oxalic acid is toxic.” Let me know how your rhubarb wine turns out!

    Erroll

  13. wayne konickson

    I have a very large patch of rhubarb I want to pull and process into wine. I’ve made chokecherry,apple, beet, grape and cranberry which have been very successful. For each of the berries I’ve used a steam juicer and used pure juice without the pulp. I plan to do the same with the rhubarb.
    My question is, has anyone used a steam juicer for removal of the fruit juice for making wine? I would greatly appreciate any input anyone has regarding this method of juice removal and any successes or problems you may have encountered. Thank you very much. Wayne from way up north in Minn.

  14. Erroll Post author

    Hi Wayne,

    I haven’t used a steam juicer, but it sounds promising. I freeze the rhubarb, which lets me store multiple harvests over the course of a season, then thaw and press into juice. The freeze/thaw process ruptures the cells and is very effective in liberating juice. The last time I did this I got a yield of 462 ml/kg (7 fl oz/lb). I’d be interested to know what your yield is.

    Erroll

  15. Mike

    I’ve used Rhubarb for thirty years. Because rhubarb is a sharp flavor, with lots of acid, I like to counteract the acidity with soft fruits like apricots and peaches.

    Last year, quite by accident, I dropped the sugar bag and made a 50 50 mix of rhubarb and lovely ripe apricots, both frozen. I extracted about 95% of the rhubarb from the mixture after it had been thawed for a day or so. Turned out to be 15%, and absolutely delicious. I called it CotRhu.

    Other delights have been blueberry, peach rhubarb, and apricot, apple rhubarb. Both are amongst my most exceptional combinations.

    We have harvested almost 100 pounds from our rhubarb crop this year, almost all in the freezer to date.

    Mike

  16. Erroll Post author

    Hello Mike,

    You grow a lot of rhubarb!

    I’ve wondered about combinations with other fruit, and I’ve thought about apple. Thank you for sharing your knowledge – proven combinations are always better than trial and error.

    Erroll

  17. DebB

    I would like to try rhubarb wine for the first time. I already made juice by kind of steaming all the stalks with a small amount of water to being with in the pot. I haven’t added sugar which is why I was doing this research. Most of you had frozen rhubarb and so I’m wondering if you think it’s OK to use this juice and just add the sugar then go from there?

  18. Ted

    The beauty of using a steam juicer is you get only the juice and it is soooo simple, plus you get all the flavors.

  19. Ted

    Does anyone have a recipe for blueberry/peach? If so would you please send it to:scatat@hotmail.com thank you !!!

  20. dwinemaker

    Hi, so much to learn about rhubarb wine. . I have found that the right yeast makes all the difference in the world. I have an 8 gallon bach brewing in my kitchen right now and I used Lalvin 71-B-112. It handles the acid well, though I do use calcium carbonate to bring the acid level down before I throw in the yeast. If I use 4 pounds of rhubarb per gallon I add 2tsp-3 tsp. of calcium carbonate.which brings my acid level to about 6.0-6.5. This seems to work well with no weird effects. I started the specific gravity a little higher this year, about 1.092 or so. In the past I’ve started at 1.080- 1.085 which makes a nice dry wine, which I like, but others have commented that it’s alittle too dry, so I’m trying something new. I’m so excited about starting another batch that I find myself scooping out my neighborhood for rhubarb that seems lonely and in need of being made into wine. I’m trying to come up with a good approach to these neighbors without them thinking I’m a nut. Sincerely, dwinemaker

  21. Erroll Post author

    Hello dwinemaker,

    A neighbor offered me fruit once, and I made a terrific plum wine from it. But from one nut to another, I also have a hard time just going up to a stranger and asking.

    Most of the acid in rhubarb is malic, and 71B will consume some of it. So I think you’re on to something.

    Erroll

  22. dwinemaker

    What kind of yeast have you used? I have also tried EC1118, and Lalvin K1V116. What do you think? I did get more rhubarb, but I only made it as far as my mother’s back yard. I’m thinking of waiting till my rasberries come in and doing a rasberry rhubarb mix. I could call it R&R. I think someone here memtioned that it was a yummy blend. P.S. What’s a steam juicer? I have a Beville super duper juicer, well that’s what I call it. I juiced some apples for apple wine and it worked pretty slick. dwinemaker

  23. Erroll Post author

    Over the years, I’ve used several yeasts in my rhubarb wine. But since I’ve varied the recipe and extraction process, I can’t really isolate the effect of the yeast on the finished wine. I’ve used Red Star’s Premier Cuvee, the same strain as Lavlin’s EC 1118, and was happy with the wine. In fact, if I don’t don’t have a strong feeling about which yeast to use in a wine, I’ll usually reach for Premier Cuvee/EC 1118 because it’s so reliable. That said, I’ll probably use Lavlin’s 71B on my next rhubarb wine because it consumes malic acid.

    Steam juicers use steam, instead of blades, screens and centrifugal force, to extract juice. The steam breaks down the internal structure of the fruit, releasing the juice, a bit like freeze thawing does. Here’s an affordable 12 quart aluminum steam juicer
    – and a 9.5 quart stainless steel one.

    Raspberry and rhubarb sounds like a great combo – let me know how it turns out!

    Erroll

  24. Ron Jackson

    I appreciate all all the good ideas on Rhubarb wine. I would add that rather than toss the rhubarb after extracting the juices I freeze the pulp and make great rhubarb crisps, cobblers, etc. later. It has some sugar left in it so need to adjust recipes accordingly.

  25. Anna

    Dear Erroll,

    I am just getting started with wine making. My first attempt was Rhubarb wine. I froze then thawed 5 lbs of rhubarb and extracted the juice by covering it with sugar and one crushed campden tab for 3 days. I squeezed the juice out of the pulp using my hands and a nylon straining bag. Then I added 2 lb of sugar, 1 tsp yeast energizer, 0.5 package Cuvee yeast and 7 cups of water. I started the wine on 9/6/10 and just did the second transfer to a clean secondary carboy (The wine is settling out nicely). The SG is now 1.000 (has been for some time). I have tasted the the wine and it is very tart. I have read your articles about Rhubarb and leaned that this wine needs to age but will aging mellow it out? Will other aspects of the original rhubarb taste come back with time? How so you measure titrateable acidity (TA)? What equipment do I need to do that? I would like to try rhubarb again and use your specifications but need help with how to do the tests you call for. I need more information on acidity and how this affects taste.
    Thanks,
    Anna

  26. Erroll Post author

    Hi Anna,

    Sometimes rhubarb wine tastes of rhubarb, but not always. It does mellow and get better with age. I think the question you really want to ask is about the wine you’re making right now, “will it mellow out and have the right amount of acidity for my taste?” I don’t know! I can’t measure it from here, and different people have different tastes. The best way to learn how acidity affects a wine’s taste is to do a lot of measuring and tasting. Which brings me to the second part of your question.

    The easiest way to get started measuring titrateable acidity is to buy a kit like this one. It will come with some basic equipment, like a plastic syringe and a vial, and a small amount of chemicals to get you started. Buy more sodium hydroxide and do a lot of measuring – and not just on your homemade wine. By testing commercial wine you can find out what well made wine at a given TA tastes like, and how a given amount of acid tastes to you (but remember that each one may have different amounts of residual sugar). Also, some wineries publicize their own analysis, so you can see how close your own measurements are to those of a commercial lab.

    Getting back to your wine. Sweetening is one way to handle a wine that’s too tart, so that’s an option. I just think it’s way too soon to make that decision – young wine often tastes harsh. So buy a test kit, use it a lot, give your wine some time, then decide if it’s too tart.

    Erroll

  27. dwinemaker

    Dear winemakers, on my last batch of rhubarb wine I used Vintner’s Harvest MA33 yeast. The wine, still in the carboy, is a beautiful pink color and has a taste of grapefruitiness to it. This rhubarb wine is different than any other I’ve made, in a good way. It smells fruity and light and even though it still needs time and some tinkering I think it will be one of the best I’ve made. I recommend trying this yeast to the adventurous rhubarb wine makers out there. Sincerely, dwinemaker

  28. Marybeth

    I am always baffled at the types of yeast to use in fruit wines. I understand that the yeast will make the difference in the flavor of the wine. I usually make elderberry wine that turns out fantastic, but my fruit wines don’t usually meet my expectations. I have made cantaloupe and pear wines that seemed only very slightly remeniscent of the fruit used. I am making rhubarb wine this spring. Does anyone have any tips on making wine that is “fruity” or more reminiscent of the fruit used? I will certainly start by using the yeast that has been suggested here.

  29. Erroll Post author

    I am making rhubarb wine this spring. Does anyone have any tips on making wine that is “fruity” or more reminiscent of the fruit used?

    Hi Marybeth,

    I prefer it when rhubarb wine doesn’t taste too much like rhubarb (I’ve had some that do and some that don’t), so you and I are aiming for different things here. That’s ok – the world would be a boring place if we all liked exactly the same thing – but it means I don’t have any tried and true techniques that will work for you. I do have two ideas, though.

    The first is to ferment your rhubarb wine “on the pulp.” I usually try to juice my rhubarb, make adjustments with water and sugar so that the alcohol and acidity come out right, and ferment. But I would think that leaving the fruit in would make the finished wine taste more like rhubarb.

    The second idea is to use a neutral yeast like Red Star’s Premier Cuvee or Lavlin’s E1118. What I’m thinking is that a neutral yeast will not add anything to mask the flavor of the rhubarb. It’s a bit like homebrewers making lager – they choose neutral yeast and ferment cool so that the finished beer expresses the character of the malt and hops, not the yeast. As a side benefit these yeasts are forgiving and easy for beginners to use.

    Anyway, those are my two ideas. Hope it helps, and I hope you come back when you’ve finished your wine to let me know how it went!

    Erroll

  30. Marybeth

    I think I will try both ideas and see how it goes. I’ll probably sweeten it a bit too–I’ll be back next year to report!

  31. Pingback: Rhubarb Wine II | Sterr Bros Beer Blog

  32. Bob

    Our 500 gallon batch of rhubarb wine this year (so far!) has used almost 1300 lbs of rhubarb. Many people drop off frozen and sliced rhubarb because they hate to see it go to waste. Most of the fresh rhubarb we prepare by simply running the full-length stems through a hand-crank grape crusher. If you set the cylinders just a little wide, you can use it for plums, chokecherries, etc. without crushing many pits. The rhubarb comes out “corduroyed” about every 1/2 inch, which releases the juice beautifully, and it’s remarkably quick.
    We ferment on the pulp for a week, then press, and when the ferment is finished, we fine with bentonite, sweeten to 4-6° brix, treat with sulfite and sorbate, sterile filter and bottle. This is our most popular wine, cheap to make and rhubarb is readily available.
    Cheers to all!
    Bob

  33. Erroll Post author

    Bob,

    I’m intrigued by your idea of using a grape crusher to process rhubarb – thank you for sharing!

    Something else that jumped out at me is the amount of rhubarb per gallon of finished wine. You’re using 1300 lbs and you get 500 gallons? That’s about 2.6 lb/gallon, which is in line with what a lot of home winemakers would do. But I didn’t think commercial wineries operated like that because it would mean adding a lot of water. Isn’t that a “no no?”

    Erroll

  34. Yvonne

    HELP!! need some direction. making rhubarb wine. first time.
    followed all of the steps needed in my recipe. We are on Day 5.
    fermentation looks good. smells decent too. However…specific gravity is at 1.40…..yikes……what to do??? just leave it in the primary fermenter? or move to carboy?
    have been making wine with wine kits successfully for a year now…yum yum….wanted to try homemade rhubarb wine….am I doing things correctly??

    thanks for replies

  35. Erroll Post author

    Hello Ynonne,

    When you say the specific gravity is at 1.40, it makes me wonder if you meant 1.040. If so, your wine is fermenting normally and you can rack and let it finish under an airlock at any time. If it’s really 1.400, then no yeast will ever be able to chew through all that sugar – time to dilute with water, blend with more rhubarb and get the SG down to something manageable.

    Avoid confusion, don’t use shorthand while writing down your SG!

    Erroll

  36. Paul

    What about using corn sugar instead of white table suger as it ferments cleaner and can offer less off flavours?

  37. Erroll Post author

    Hi Paul,

    I think corn sugar would work just fine. The way to see if the type of sugar makes a difference is to make two batches as identical to each other as possible, except that you use table sugar in one and corn sugar in the other. In the end, taste them blind against each other.

    If you try this – do let me know what you find!

    Erroll

  38. dwinwmaker

    I started some aronia and blueberry wine a few months ago. This is my first attempt to make wine with aronia berries. I hear they’re a lot like chokecherries. The juice is a bit bitter so I thought using them with blueberries might tame them down. So far so good. The wine still has a bite, but it’s only 3 months old, still a baby I guess. Anyone out there ever make wine with aronia berries? There were tons of plants growing around our town library, and I thought I might be arrested for picking berries on public property, but hey, I figure I’m part of the public so why let good berries go to waste. It look me three hour to fill a five gallon pail. Ironically a police car was sitting in the middle of the lot, waiting for speeder I suspect and not crazy winemakers. If he saw me I’m sure he thought I was a poor homeless person scrounging for food like a bear in the woods. Wish me luck and I’ll update when the wine hits the bottles.

  39. dwinwmaker

    I’m closer to bottling the aronia/blueberry wine. I added an oak spiral a few weeks ago to help give it some body. I’m anxious for the rhubarb to come up, but in MN we still have below freezing weather and snow drifts five feet high. I started seeds for my garden and I’m enjoying watching them grow. dwinemaker

  40. Erroll Post author

    Hi dwinwmaker,

    I’ve made blueberry wine a few times, and I thought it might benefit from oak. Never tried it, though, so I’d love to hear how yours turns out!

    Erroll

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