Category Archives: Recipes

A list of recipes for homemade wine, mead, cider, and liqueur – a great place to start.

Raspberry Wine: A look at existing recipes

I’ve written about commercial raspberry wine before. It’s usually made with 100% raspberries – not diluted with water at all, and that means big bold flavor and aroma. Residual sugar is very high, but balanced against very high acidity. These wines are Texas-sized in every respect. Home winemakers do it differently.

Made well, this wine is fragrant, subtle, dry, and goes with anything except heavy tomato and meat dishes. ~ Terry Garey

So how exactly do homemade raspberry wine recipes differ? Let’s find out. Here’s a look at some popular recipes that have stood the test of time.

Terry Garey’s “Furst Raspberry Wine”

Recipe for 1 gallon (3.785 liters) of Raspberry Wine
Ingredient US Measure Metric Measure
Water 3.75 quarts 3.6 liters
Sugar 2.25 lb 1 kg
Rasberries 3 – 4 lb 1.4 – 1.8 kg
Acid Blend 0.5 tsp 2.5 ml
Tannin 0.125 tsp 0.5 ml
Yeast Nutrient 1 tsp 5 ml
Campden Tablet 1 1
Pectic Enzyme 0.5 tsp 2.5 ml
Wine Yeast 1 packet 1 packet


The raspberries can be fresh or frozen, the campden tablet is optional, and she recommends Montrachet or Champagne wine yeast.

  • Dissolve sugar in water, then boil
  • Put raspberries in a straining bag, then crush
  • Pour hot water over the berries, then add acid, tannin, & nutrient
  • Wait for the temperature to come down, then add the campden tablet
  • Wait 12 hours (if not using a campden tablet, just wait for the must to cool), then add the pectic enzyme
  • Take a hydrometer reading (SG), wait 12 hours, then add yeast
  • After fermentation begins, stir daily
  • After fermentation subsides (about a week), remove the straining bag with the fruit
  • Rack to a secondary fermenter when the SG drops below 1.030
  • Rack again when you notice sediment
  • Wait six months, sweeten if desired, then bottle


I’ve got a soft spot for Terry Garey. Her’s was my first winemaking book, and I still think it’s a great way to start. I’ve made her raspberry wine, and liked it. It’s great in the summer with shrimp & pasta salad!

She emphasizes quality fruit, “perfect, flavorful, fresh berries” and starting the wine as soon as possible after picking (hours or less). Her book is worth buying just for the recipes, but it’s more than that. It’s a terrific source for ideas on blending – she recommends cherry, blueberry, or blackberry to blend with raspberry, for example.

Jack Keller’s Raspberry Wine Recipes

Red raspberries make a fragrant, subtle wine. It should be made dry so that a subtle hint of tartness carries its distinctive flavor to the sides of the tongue as it is sipped, chilled. ~ Jack Keller

You really can’t look at raspberry wine recipes, or any wine making recipes, without looking at Jack Keller’s website. He presents two dry raspberry wine recipes here. These are made in the style of traditional country wines, in fact the first recipe was adapted from Terry Garey’s (great minds think alike!). No need to repeat that one, so let’s look at his second recipe:

Red Raspberry Wine #2
Ingredient US Measure Metric Measure
Water 7 2/3 pints 3.6 liters
Sugar 2.5 lb 1.1 kg
Rasberries 2.5 lb 1.1 kg
Acid Blend 1 tsp 5 ml
Tannin 0.25 tsp 1.25 ml
Yeast Nutrient 1 tsp 5 ml
Campden Tablet 1 1
Pectic Enzyme 0.5 tsp 2.5 ml
Wine Yeast 1 packet 1 packet
If there’s one thing I would do differently, it would be to defer the acid addition. Once the finished wine has aged for a bit, a few months maybe, measure the acidity and taste the wine. Then add acid as necessary.

More alike than different

A little less fruit. A little more sugar, acid, & tannin. The procedure is slightly different too (click through to see that details, plus some info on making a “second wine”). Garey’s recipe calls for a straining bag and warns against pressing the pulp, for example, while this one does not mention a straining bag and instructs you to press. Compared to commercial raspberry wine, though, these two recipes are nearly identical.

In fact there’s quite a consensus on how to make raspberry wine at home. I did an internet search and found quite a few recipes. I selected five of the highest ranked (I’m not sure what Google knows about making or drinking wine, but you work with what you have) and made a spreadsheet of the ingredients. Four of the five clustered together, with one outlier. I could probably make that spreadsheet into a composite recipe: “Meta Raspberry Wine” or “Internet Raspberry Wine”. It would look a lot like these two recipes, but what I’m interested in is why the divide between commercial and home winemakers? Each style is good and has it’s place – make both!

Plum Liqueur Recipe

Liqueur is simpler than wine because it’s not fermented, and though some will age well, most are ready to drink quickly. That’s why I wanted to make liqueur from my small plum harvest. Like all fresh fruit liqueurs, this one will need some time for extraction – pulling the sugar, color, and flavor from the fruit into the liquid. In a way, that extraction step is a bit like the primary fermentation step in making wine. Making liqueur starts to look very different from winemaking, however, when you think about alcohol, sugar, clearing, and aging. I’ll have more to say on that later, but first, here’s the recipe:

Ingredient Amount US Measure
Plums 1 kg 2.2 lb
Table Sugar 500 g 1.1 lb
Vodka (80 proof) 2 L 2 L*
Fruit Protector 22 ml 1.5 Tablespoons

* Yes, “2 liters” is the US Measure of vodka. Don’t believe me? Go into any liquor store in the US and try to buy vodka by the quart. Go right now, I’ll still be here when you get back 🙂

I based this recipe on a recipe for Umeshu, Japanese liquor made from unripe plums. It’s different enough from other liqueurs I’ve seen and different enough from Umeshu (made from unripe ume plums – which I understand are more like apricots than plums) to be interesting. It’s also easily scalable. How often do you have exactly 1 kg of plums? When I made this recipe, my plums weighed in at 825 g, so I scaled everything by 0.825:

  • 825 g plums
  • 413 g sugar
  • 1650 ml vodka


You’ll need a container that can hold all of the ingredients (like a bucket with a lid), a strainer, and a jug with stopper. After that, it’s quick and easy:

  • Clean and sanitized the container.
  • Add plums.
  • Pour sugar over plums.
  • Add vodka.
  • Stir.
  • Cover and let sit in a cool dark place for a 2-4 weeks, stirring occasionally.
  • Strain into a cleaned and sanitized jug. Let sit in a cool dark place for 4 more weeks.
  • Bottle.

Sugar and alcohol

There’s more alcohol in liqueur than in wine (about 20% by volume), and you add it directly (as vodka, usually). Liqueurs are sweeter too – from 15 – 30% sugar (by weight). Sometimes higher. Making a recipe revolves around the amount of alcohol, sugar, and water you want in the final product. This recipe will yield about 25% alcohol (by volume) and 18% sugar (by weight). I wouldn’t go below 20% alcohol, but feel free to vary the sugar and alcohol to your taste.

If you’re wondering why I report alcohol content by volume and sugar content by weight, it’s because you’d get some weird results if you tried to figure sugar content by volume. Try dissolving 2 cups of sugar in 1 cup of water (you may need to boil briefly). Once it’s back a room temperature, you’ll have about 2 cups of syrup. So is it 50% water and 100% sugar? If you do it by weight, it’s roughly 60% sugar, 40% water – adds up to 100%, like it should. I’d do alcohol that way too, but it’s just too common to report alcohol by volume.

Fruit Protector

Were you wondering about that ingredient? It’s a combination of sugar, vitamin C, and citric acid that’s used in home canning to keep fruit from browning. I’ve seen it in some liqueur recipes, so I decided to try it in mine. As a winemaker, I’m tempted to use sulfite for the same purpose, and I also wonder about how acidity affects the final taste. It’s available in supermarkets, and you can order it online.

Those are things I’ll look into later. Right now, it’s time to open a bottle of plum liqueur and hit the send button 🙂

Raspberry Wine: How the pros do it

Winemaker magazine has a good article on commercial raspberry wine and how two wineries make it. There are striking similarities between the two, but each has a unique style and that means there are some important differences. Lets look at both and see what we can learn.

Denny Franklin of Pheasant Hollow Winery

Mr. Franklin aims for a must of 21-22 Brix, ferments dry, then sweetens to 4-6% sugar. That’s a lot of sugar, but the high acidity of raspberries leaves it tasting less sweet that you might think. He notes that pressing can be difficult and advises patience – be slow and deliberate. He doesn’t use recipes, but provides a lot of info on the typical quantities he uses. I was able to scale those down and distill his method into a recipe:

Ingredients for 6.25 – 7.5 gallons (23.7 – 28.4 liters) of Raspberry Wine
Item US Measure Metric Measure
Frozen Raspberries 40 lb 18 kg
Sugar 10 lb 4.5 kg
Water 1 gallon 3.8 liters
Superfood 7 g 7 g
Pectic Enzyme unspecified unspecified
Bentonite 7 g 7 g


  • Use frozen raspberries, dissolve sugar in water then add to raspberries
  • Add pectic enzyme and stir
  • Pitch yeast (Lalvin EC-1118) when the must reaches 50F (10C)
  • Ferment at 75-80F (24-27C), punch down the cap twice per day
  • Press when it has fermented out (about 7-8 days)
  • Fine with bentonite (1 g/gallon)
  • Cold settle at 26-30F (-3 to -1 C)
  • Filter or age & rack until clear
  • Stabilize and sweeten to taste ~ usually 4-6%, 0.68–1.0 lb/gallon (81–118 g/L)

Christine Lawlor-White of Galena Cellars Winery

Lawlor-White offered less detail about quantities, so no recipe. But experienced winemakers should be able to make good use of her method. She notes the same difficulty in pressing as Mr Franklin, and suggests rice hulls. She doesn’t specify a residual sugar level or discuss sweetening, but I’ve got to think she’s not out to make dry wine with 100% raspberries.

  • Use frozen raspberries, freeze fresh ones, to get better extraction
  • Sugar to 23 brix, 8-14 Brix from raspberries & 1 Brix for each 0.084 lbs. (0.038 kg) sugar
  • Sulfite frozen raspberries to 50 ppm, then cover with dry sugar
  • Stir in sugar when the raspberries have thawed
  • Pitch yeast when must reaches 50F (Lavlin EC-1118 or V-1116)
  • Ferment between 50-60F (10-16C)
  • Skim off cap w/slotted spoon and discard to avoid cloudy bitter wine from ellagic acid contact
  • Press after 5 days, even if still fermenting, to get the wine off the fruit ASAP
  • Press with rice hulls to improve yield

One’s like a red, the other like a white

Both use frozen raspberries, neither dilutes with water, and both pitch the yeast at 50F. They both recommend Lavlin EC-1118 yeast. Mr Franklin makes his raspberry wine a lot like a conventional red wine: punch down the cap, press after it’s fermented out, ferment at a relatively high temperature. Lawlor-White, on the other hand, ferments cool and presses early. She also scoops out and discards as much of the cap as she can. It’s more like a white or rose. And yet, I imagine her white is full bodied and brimming with flavor – unlike any white or rose you’ve ever had.

Lesson learned: Avoid acid reduction – sweeten instead

What really stands out is that they both make undiluted raspberry wine, while nearly every raspberry wine recipe I’ve seen calls for a small amount of fruit (3 lb or so per gallon) and a lot of water. The reason for this, aside from cost savings, is that raspberries are so high in acid. Yet, neither winemaker mentions reducing the acid, and here I’d like to talk about my own experience. My last raspberry wine was from juice, like Lawlor-White I don’t want my raspberry wine fermenting on the fruit, and much less water than most recipes. I tried to make a dry wine and reduce the acid. It was a pretty drastic reduction and I think it affected the flavor. I wasn’t happy with the result, and I now recommend sweetening to bring raspberry wine into balance.

Red or white?

As I said, I’m wary enough of fermenting on the fruit that I make raspberry wine from juice. That said, the decision to make it like a red or white is a stylistic difference. The only way to know which is right for you is to make both and try them. Yes, that means drinking a lot of raspberry wine, but you’ll just have to take one for the team and drink up!


Last year, I made mulled wine. That was a first for me, and this year I thought I’d write about an old Christmas favorite.

Item Quantity
Eggs, seperated 12
Cream 8 cups (1900 ml)
Liquor 3 cups (700 ml)
Sugar 0.75 lb (1.75 cups, 340 g, 400 ml)
Vanilla Extract 2 tsp (10 ml)
Salt 0.5 tsp (2.5 ml)
Nutmeg as a garnish

The liquor can be brandy, whiskey, rum, or any combination. Be creative, but stick to 80-proof liquor (the full amount 151 Rum will ruin the recipe).


Step 1
Beat yolks with a hand mixer until light in color
keep beating and slowly add:

  • 0.75 lb sugar
  • 3 cups liquor

let sit for one hour

Step 2
while beating the yolk-sugar-liquor, slowly add:

  • 8 cups cream
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract

refrigerate for three hours

Step 3
Add 0.5 tsp salt to egg whites beat until “almost stiff” – soft peaks
fold into the rest of the mixture

Step 4
pour into cups and sprinkle freshly grated nutmeg

Variation – Cooked eggs

Use this variation to minimize the risk of food poisoning from salmonella in the eggs.

Substitute 4 cups of milk for 4 cups of cream. Discard the egg whites.

In step one:

  • Beat the eggs and sugar, but not the liquor
  • Gradually bring the milk to a boil
  • Slowly add it to the sugar-yolk mixture, beating constantly
  • Heat in a double broiler for 3 minutes or until thick – stir constantly, do not let it boil
  • let sit for one hour

Step two is the same, except that you add all the liquor and the salt

Skip step three. Step four is the same.

Variation – Egg products

Another way to make a safer eggnog using processed eggs, sold as a liquid, instead of raw eggs.

  • Substitute an equivalent amount of egg product for the eggs.
  • Step one is the same, except that you use egg product instead of eggs.
  • Step two is the same, except that you add the salt
  • Skip step three. Step four is the same.

Commercial eggnog

It would be a lot easier if someone else did all the whipping, folding and so forth, wouldn’t it? That’s one reason to buy a carton of ready made eggnog. If you can’t or don’t want to spend time in the kitchen, you can buy one, bring it home, and just add booz! I don’t know how this compares to homemade concoctions, but it’s a simple matter to find out. If you’re going to make it from scratch, buy a commercial product too. Add the same liquor, in the same proportions and see for yourself. Don’t forget to come back and let the rest of us know what you find out.

Raw egg safety

Another reason to buy a commercial product is the slight risk of food poisoning from salmonella in raw eggs. The eggnog you buy in the store is safe because it’s either made without eggs (yeah, well they have sugar-free “caramel” too!) or because it’s been made safe by cooking, pasteurizing, or some other process. In the US, you might find pasteurized or irradiated eggs for sale that are safe. These are still raw and should be stored and treated that way. They are also rare. For the most part, consuming raw eggs (even really fresh and/or organic eggs) carries the risk of food poisoning.

What to do if you want to make eggnog? You can use the store bought concoctions. If you can find them, you can try the irradiated or pasteurized eggs. The liquid or powdered “egg products” are an option. You can cook the eggs as you make the eggnog, or you can just use raw eggs and take the risk. I haven’t decided exactly what I’ll do yet, but I probably wont go with raw and uncooked.

Further Reading

The Joy of Cooking has a great eggnog recipe, but the one in my edition (1975) was a little too strong.

I borrowed from this recipe, at allrecipes, in adapting mine to use cooked eggs.

I also like the recipe in the New York Times Cookbook. I have the 1961 edition by Craig Claiborne. His is a little more “eggy” and less sweet than mine.

Plum Wine Recipe: From Grocery Store Plums

12 lb of store-bought plums
My bonsai orchard yielded some terrific plums, but not enough for wine. So when Safeway offered plums at $0.99/lb I jumped at the chance. Here’s how I made 12 lb of plums into a gallon of plum wine.


Plums 5375 g (11 lb 13 oz)
Sugar Syrup 1250 ml (5.25 cups)
Water 800 ml (3.33 cups)
Pectic Enzyme 2 teaspoons
Sulfite 1 campden tablet equivalent

If you’ve looked at other plum wine recipes, you’ll notice I’m using a lot more plums and a lot less water than most people. I’ve made plum wine the traditional way, and I liked it. It was thin, however, and rather than adding bananas, raisins, glycerin, or anything else to give it more heft I decided to just use more plums. I go into more detail about how much water I added and why in the measure and adjust section.


I’m making this plum wine a lot like you’d make a rose. One way to make rose is to juice red fruit (or fruit with red juice), and make it like a white wine. So the plan is to juice the plums, add acid (if the titratable acidity is too low) or water (if it’s too high), then pitch the yeast.

The big difference from a conventional wine from grapes comes from the sugar and acid content of plums. That will mean bigger adjustments than for a grape wine.

Juice the plums

I juiced the plums by freeze-thawing and got a 56% juice yield (3 liters from 5.375 kg). That’s a lot higher than for the apples, but I took too long to do it. It was four days from thawing the plums to getting settled juice, and by then I noticed signs of fermentation. Wild yeast or some other unwanted microcritter was helping itself to my plums, so I needed to check the infection and introduce my yeast of choice. I added sulfite immediately, and my yeast had been growing and multiplying in a starter – they should have no trouble dominating the must.

This method can work pretty well – I juiced almost twelve pounds of fruit and more than 55% juice with Ziploc bags and buckets – but you’ve got to stay on your toes. Be quick (do as I say, not as I do!), clean an sanitize thoroughly, and use sulfite.

Measure and adjust

I took the usual measurements of the juice: SG: 1.057, TA: 10 g/L, pH: 3.31. These will be off because of the infection, but it’s better to have data that’s a little off than to go in blind. I decided on a target of 1.100 for the specific gravity and 6 g/L for the titratable acidity, and used the Wine Recipe Wizard to determine the amount of water (0.8 liters) and sugar syrup (1.2 liters) I needed. Adding this to my 3 liters of juice got me 5 liters of must.

Haven’t I forgotten something?

Most of the work is done. It’s been two months, I’ve racked twice, and there is no sign of off tastes or smells. There will be some waiting while the wine clears and ages, and I’ll need to rack (and measure and taste) a time or two. I might adjust one more time, depending on how the wine tastes and what my measurements show. I expect to bottle some very nice plum wine in six to twelve months.

Oh, and the harvest from my bonsai orchard? I thought about tossing those plums in with the store-bought fruit, but I have a better idea. There may not have been enough for plum wine, but that little harvest was just right for a half-gallon of plum liqueur! I’ve made liqueur before, but haven’t talked about it on this blog before – watch for it in an upcoming post.

Easy Apple Wine Recipe: For Leslie

Over a year ago, Leslie asked me for an easy apple wine recipe with step by step instructions. My first reaction was surprise. She posed her request in a comment on one of my apple wine recipes. That one was pretty easy, wasn’t it? I combined some apples from my backyard with some store-bought juice. All I had to do was juice the apples, add that to the juice I already had, measure the specific gravity and the titratable acidity, figure out how much sugar and acid to add, and … oh. Ok, now I remember what it was like when I was first starting out. I went looking for an easy recipe that didn’t make me run tests or figure anything out. So I thought about it for a bit, scribbled down some things I remembered about apples and apple juice, ran some numbers through a calculator, and whipped up a recipe for her on the fly.

I never heard from her and I forgot about the whole thing until I saw some apple juice at Trader Joe’s the other day. I hadn’t made a new batch of wine in a while, so I grabbed it from the shelves on impulse – I was going to make apple wine! Then I remembered.

Since a lot of people miss the conversations in the comments, I decided to update it a little and make it a top level post.

Here is Leslie’s Apple Wine Recipe:

To each gallon apple juice add three cups boiled-then-cooled sugar syrup (dissolve 3 cups sugar in 1.5 cups boiling water), one teaspoon acid blend, one teaspoon pectic enzyme, and one crushed campden tablet (or equivalent). Sprinkle a packet of Red Star Premier Cuvee, or other wine yeast of your choice, over the must.

Stir daily. You should notice fermentation in a couple of days. Once it has fermented out (a week or two), transfer to airlocked glass jugs/carboys. Top with other wine, or if you have to, water so that there is no more than one inch of room between the stopper and the wine. In a month or two, you should notice sediment has fallen. Rack into a clean airlocked glass jug/carboy. Add a new crushed campden tablet (or equivalent) every other time your rack.

When the wine stops throwing sediment, it’s ready to bottle. If you want it sweet, stabilize and sweeten according to your taste. If you just don’t know how much to sweeten, start with 3 tablespoons sugar/gallon of wine.

Ingredients for one gallon

This scales up easily. Want to make five gallons? Multiply everything, except the yeast, by five. Three gallons? Multiply by three.

  • 1 Gallon Apple Juice
  • 3 Cups Sugar
  • 1.5 Cups Water
  • 1 Teaspoon Acid Blend
  • 1 Teaspoon Pectic Enzyme
  • 1 Packet Yeast

Equipment you will need:

A primary fermenter, this is what you put everything in at first. A food grade 2-gallon bucket with a lid (not air tight, just to keep the dust and bugs out) works great for 1-gallon of wine that is fermented on skins and/or pulp. An airlocked 3-gallon carboy does the job too, while protecting juice-only fermentation from air. A 6-Gallon Carboy is just the thing for larger batches up to five gallons.

Two secondary fermenters. These are usually glass jugs or carboys that you can close with an airlock. One-gallon jugs work great for 1-gallon of wine. Why two? So that you have a place to siphon your fermenting/aging wine into.

Extra glass bottles that you can close with airlocks (wine bottles, beer bottles, and so forth). You’ll need these for wine that doesn’t fit when you rack.

Racking cane and siphon hose. You should siphon the wine from one container to the next so that it doesn’t splash and pick up too much oxygen.

A Stirring Spoon. I like stainless steel because they’re easy to sanitize by boiling; 14″ is a good size for 1-gallon batches.

No preservative in the apple juice

It’s very important that the apple juice have no preservatives – look for “pasteurized” and “no preservatives” on the label. If you see “sorbate” or “benzoate” on the ingredients, don’t buy it. It’s not that these things will do you any harm, but they will prevent the yeast from doing their work.

How to subscribe to the comments

A lot people know they can subscribe to the posts and be kept up to date automatically. But some posts generate a lot of conversation in the comments – most of this goes unnoticed. You can stay in the loop, whether it’s a reply to your question, somebody else’s question, or something totally new, by subscribing to the comments.

Update 5/23/2011 – Easy Apple Wine Recipe Bottled!

This wine was easy to make. Everything went smoothly and I bottled ten months after pitching the yeast. Using clarified juice meant the wine dropped clear, without fining, very quickly. In fact, I could have bottled at six months. But looks aren’t everything; this crisp dry white has good flavor and I’m looking forward to seeing (and tasting!) how it ages.

Mulled Wine

Adding sweeteners and spices to wine then serving it hot – sounds a bit like herbal tea with alcohol, doesn’t it? – was something I never understood. I’m giving it another look this Christmas season because I happen to like herbal tea, it’s something new (to me anyway), and I’ve got some bland wine that I don’t know what to do with. I was excited when I made wine from supermarket grapes, but in the end I didn’t want to drink it. Sweetening didn’t help, but maybe mulling will.

Mulling Spices

In researching mulled wine (in cookbooks, Wikipedia, search engines, my Mom), the same ingredients keep coming up:

Ingredient Amount per Bottle of Wine
cinnamon 1-2 sticks
cloves 6
citris (juice and/or zest) from half an orange or one lemon
sugar or honey about half a cup

Also common are vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, and cardamon. You sometimes see pepper, peppercorns, nuts, and raisins too.

Making Mulled Wine

Dissolved sugar or honey in water (about half a cup to a cup – enough to dissolve and cover everything, but no more), bring to a boil, take off heat, add spices, and cover. If using citrus juice, use a little more sugar/honey and a little less water. Let sit on low heat for about 20 minutes. Strain and add wine. Heat the combined mixture (but don’t boil) and serve hot.

This ought to work just as well with mead or cider – maybe even beer.

You can omit the water and stir everything into the wine, then heat the wine – I’ve seen recipes take either approach. I prefer to do the dissolving and extraction separately to guard against boiling the wine.

Straining out the spices might be easier if you use a tea bag or tea ball.

Citrus juice might help by adding flavor if your wine is bland. If you’re going to be zesting, for mulled wine or anything else, a dedicated zesting tool is a godsend.

Final Thoughts

I’m excited about making mulled wine this year. I haven’t decided on a commercial mix or making it from scratch – maybe I’ll try both. I’d love to hear about your experiences with mulled wine – triumphs, disasters, better methods. If you’re having trouble finding supplies, check out my new mulled wine store.

Update 12/13/2010 – A great eggnog recipe!

Eggnog is another tasty treat for the holidays, and this eggnog recipe won’t disappoint!

Bailout Blanc: White wine for hard times

Can you really make wine from Welch’s grape juice?

Turn Welch's grape juice and sugar into wine
Welch’s, or most any brand, of white grape juice is made from Niagra grapes. These aren’t considered wine grapes, and there’s a good reason for that. Still, with proper wine making technique, you can make a crisp dry white from concentrated frozen grape juice that is surprisingly good.

If you’re still feeling adventurous, why not make wine from seedless table grapes? I made a wine from store bought grapes when they were on sale, and I plan on comparing it to my Welch’s wine.


Here’s what you’ll need for a 1-gallon or 5-gallon batch. When I create a recipe for 1-gallon of wine, I aim for 1-gallon of finished wine without the need for additional wine to top up. That means my 1-gallon recipe will make up about 1.5 gallons of must. Similarly, my 5-gallon recipe will yield over 6-gallons of must. Other recipes yield the same volume of must as the expected volume of finished wine. They assume that you will top up the batch with similar wine that you have on hand – that approach drove me nuts when I was starting out! The catch is that you’ll need to have extra containers on hand when you rack. For a 1-gallon batch, plan on having two wine bottles and two beer bottles to hold what doesn’t fit in the 1-gallon jug. For a 5-gallon batch, a 1-gallon jug, a half-gallon jug, and a wine bottle should do it.

Ingredient 1-Gallon
12 oz can frozen grape juice 3 12
Sugar 1.3 lb (600 g) 6.25 lb (2.8 kg)
Water 1 Gallons + 1 Pint (4.25 L) 4.5 Gallons (17 L)
Pectic Enzyme 1.5 tsp 6 tsp
Diamonium Phosphate 1.5 tsp 6 tsp
Tartaric Acid 2 tsp (10 ml) 9 tsp (45 ml)
Tannin 0.25 tsp 1.5 tsp
Yeast 1 packet 1 packet

Sulfite to 50 ppm

Make sure the grape juice you buy is really 100% grape juice. There are a lot of fruit cocktails for sale with similar packaging that you should avoid.

Sugar and Acid

I have found the sugar content of concentrated frozen grape juice to be very consistent, so you’re very likely to get a starting specific gravity (SG) close to 1.090 by just following the recipe. It’s best to check with a hydrometer, though, and make necessary corrections up front. I’m less sure about the acid, so please check the titratable acidity (TA) of your must before you pitch the yeast.


  • Primary fermenter – at least 2-gallon capacity for a 1-gallon batch, and 10-gallon capacity for a 5-gallon batch
  • Long Stirring Spoon
  • Racking cane and 6 feet of tubing
  • Secondary – either a 1-gallon jug or a 5-gallon carboy
  • Smaller containers – a half-gallon jug, a wine bottle, a beer bottle to hold small amounts from one racking to the next
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Scale


Dissolve pectic enzyme, nutrient, tartaric acid, tannin, and sulfite in a quart (liter) of water.

Sanitize your primary fermenter.

Add frozen grape concentrate.

Bring 3 quarts (liters) water to a boil, take off heat and dissolve sugar, bring back to a boil for one minute, cool and add to fermenter.

Pour the additive solution into the fermenter.

Add 4 gallons (15 liters) water to the fermenter.

Take measurments (specific gravity, pH, and titratable acidity).

Pitch yeast.

Stir the fermenting wine every day, for the next week or two, until it ferments out. Rack to a secondary fermenter (1 gallon jug or 5-gallon carboy) and any other smaller containers that you might need. After that, rack as needed (when it throws sediment) and when it remains clear and dry (specific gravity less than 1.000), you can bottle. I often bottle about six months to a year after pitching the yeast.

How does Welch’s wine taste?

Its hard for me to describe this wine, but how can you not be curious enough to try it yourself? It’s not for special occasions, but sometimes your really do want a wine that goes well with a ham sandwich or chicken McNuggets – cheers!

Update 7/6/2009 – Bottled in six months and surprisingly good!

It’s a crisp white wine that’s easy to drink, and you can make it for less that $1/bottle.

Boiling Mead Experiment: The recipe

This is for Medsen Fey, and anyone else, who wanted to know the recipe I used in my boiling mead experiment. I want to describe what I did and why. If you think I’ve left anything out, please ask! Good feedback here can improve future experiments – and not just mine. I’d really like to see others run similar trials.


2 kg (4.4 lb) heather honey from Apicoltura Dr. Precia
1.25 gallon (4.7 liters) water
0.5 tsp Yeast Nutrient
1.5 tsp tartaric acid in two additions post fermentation
1 tsp Cream of Tartar
Premier Cuvee yeast

Boiled Mead Procedure

Bring water to a boil, take it off heat, dissolve honey, boil 10 minutes, then cool in a water bath. Pour it into the fermenter.

Dissolve nutrient and cream of tartar in a small amount of water, then add to the fermenter.

Hydrate yeast in 1/4 cup (60 ml) warm water for five minutes, then add 1/4 cup must. When the starter is active, add 1/2 cup more must. When this 1 cup starter is active, pitch it into the fermenter.

No-boil Mead Procedure

Heat water to 180F (82C), take it off heat and dissolve honey, then cool in a water bath. Pour it into the fermenter.

Dissolve nutrient and cream of tartar in a small amount of water, then add to the fermenter.

Add 1/2 cup fermenting must from boiled mead to the fermenter.


I made the boiled mead one day earlier than, and pitched 1/2 cup of it into, the no-boil mead. I think I must have done this just so I wouldn’t be doing all the work on a single day. It would have been better to make up one double-sized batch, split it into two, boil and cool one, add the nutrient & cream of tarter to each one at the same time, then pitch the yeast into each one from the same starter.

I started this experiment on 2/26/2006, and I didn’t have a pH meter or acid test kit then. I checked the pH with pH paper and recorded a value of 4.2 for each one. It’s very difficult to get good results with pH paper, so take these values with a grain of salt (and a large margin of error). If you can afford (both the monetary cost and the trouble of maintaining) it, then buy a pH meter. You won’t regret it. If you must use pH papers, then use them properly.

Honey and mead are weakly buffered. That is, a small addition of acid will result in a large change in pH. If pH falls too far, it can inhibit the yeast and result in a stuck fermentation. I add cream of tartar to most of my plain meads because Roger Morse recommended it as a way of improving a mead’s buffering capacity. I honestly don’t know how well this works, but none of my meads have had a “pH crash” the way my Oregano Wine did.

I made these meads dry for several reasons. First of all, I like dry meads and I wanted to see how boiling would affect the meads I drink. It wasn’t entirely selfish, though. Sweetness can cover up faults, and if boiling did introduce off flavors (that was one of the claims I was testing) I didn’t want them to slip by unnoticed. Finally, sweetening is an extra step, and that makes it one more opportunity to make a mistake. Fewer steps, fewer mistakes, more reliable experiments – I’ll drink to that!

I didn’t add sulfite initially, but I did at the first racking and every other racking after that. This is a lot like my normal routine of sulfiting to about 50 ppm prior to pitching the yeast, then again at the second racking and every other racking after that. The purpose of an initial sulfite treatment is to suppress any micro critters that might be in the must. This gives the yeast that you add a leg up on them and allows it to take over quickly. Honey is antiseptic enough that this kind of initial treatment is unnecessary, so I usually skip it in my meads.

Adjusting the acidity of mead is tricky, and in this experiment I did it mainly by taste. Someone else might have added more or less acid than I did, and that would have affected the taste. Would that have changed the outcome? I don’t know for sure. I kept that possibility in mind, tasted both, and added equal amounts of acid to both batches.

Here is a summery log of the entire experiment:

Date Description
2/26/2006 Boiled: Pitched yeast, SG = 1.105 (1.098 @ 105F)
2/27/2006 No-boil: Pitched yeast, SG = 1.097 (1.094 @ 86F)
3/30/2006 Boiled: SG = 1.000, no-boil: SG = 1.000
4/1/2006 Racked both w/sulfite
5/23/2006 Racked both w/out sulfite
11/14/2006 Racked both w/sulfite, added 1 tsp tartaric acid
2/6/2008 Boiled: SG = 1.000, no-boil: SG = 1.000
2/9/2008 Bottled both w/sulfite, added 0.5 tsp tartaric acid
10/17/2008 Double blind tasting

As you can see, I got a little impatient. This was supposed to be a three year experiment, and that would have put the tasting somewhere in February 2009. I couldn’t wait quite that long, so I moved it up four months to October 2008. At times it seemed like the longest three years of my life – I couldn’t wait to pop corks and start tasting. Now that its over, it seems like those thirty months just flew by. I was surprised, I learned something, and it was definitely worth it!

Lord Rhys Chocolate Mead Recipe

I mentioned this one yesterday, when I was commenting on existing wine and mead recipes that used chocolate. Here it is in its entirety:

Chocolate Mead aka Liquid Sex Mead
Lord Rhys, Capten gen y Arian Lloer, Barony of Andelcrag, Midrealm

This recipe may be quoted, borrowed, copied, or stolen by anyone under three conditions.
1. As the originator of this recipe please offer me credit as such.
2. No money may change hands specifically for this recipe. Give it freely to any who ask in the spirit in which I give it to you.
3. It may be put into any SCA newsletter, SCA publication, or website, paid subscription or public domain only after due notification to the originator.


The originator of the recipe is not responsible for hordes of chocolate-crazed women attacking your encampment in search of chocolate mead, or Foreign Royalty sending knights to drag you into their court at Pennsic to demand bottles and recipes. All local women must now see my lady, Angelline la Petita, for a sample if you can talk her out of it. I am not allowed to carry around an open bottle anymore.

Basic Procedure

The basics of mead brewing should be mastered before performing any advanced projects. This recipe assumes a standard 5 gallon batch of mead using a 4 parts water to 1 part honey mixture (Must). – editor’s note: take a look at my Simple Mead Recipe for an introduction to mead making basics.

If you prefer your mead boiled, do so before adding any cocoa from this recipe as the foaming will remove the chocolate from the mix. Boiling is optional in mead and if you would like the pro’s and con’s, please ask. I personally boil nothing in mead making.

To your standard must, before adding the yeast, add 16 oz of Cocoa Powder (Nestles works great). Mix well before adding yeast. You will notice a lag in the start of the yeast; however this is common and due to the oils in cocoa. It will start bubbling madly in a few days, but never as much as normal mead.

Finishing and Aging


Cocoa contains a number of different very bitter oils that must be given time to break down. After the bubbling slows down put your fermenter/carboy away for one full year. Keeping the airlock on and checking the water level in it on occasion. Any other method of removing the oils will result in the loss of that little enzyme that the ladies are so fond of.

At the end of that year, rack the mead once to remove sediment and sweeten to approx. 1.030 on a hydrometer (semi-sweet) or to taste. I use Camden to kill the yeast at this point. Put the mead away for a second year. After the second year bottle normally. It will be clear, but very dark.

Some production notes: This mead leaves a very light aftertaste of chocolate that many people will not be able to identify readily. However the other effects of chocolate, i.e. orgasmic like pleasure is there. In the original test one of the samplers didn’t care for it, only one identified the flavor and tried to steal the bottle, and the other 28 thought it good with comments ranging from “very good” to “OH MY GOD!”. I make five gallons each year to share with friends, and that is all due to space from brewing. I used an apple flower honey, but any light honey should work. Just avoid heavy flavored honeys that might overpower the chocolate. In addition brew down only once, a heroic (high alcohol) mead would likewise overpower the delicate flavor.

Additional Note: The current batch now aged over two years has increased in chocolate flavor and smoothed very very very well. I no longer serve chocolate mead at less then two years of age. The Ladies of the Barony deserve nothing less then the best.

Final Note: If you let the mead age a third year some lovely Lady will force you to marry her in order to hoard the supply. My Lady Angelline has even received copies of this recipe in email, telling her she just has to try this out.

This mead is best served to the one you love ice cold, in candlelight, with a bowl of fresh strawberries for dipping. And privacy would be recommended.

Comments back to me are most welcome and maybe sent to