Red Berry Wine

I forgot to record this when I made it sometime in late winter/ early spring:

250g dried elderberries (equivinant to 1kg fresh berries)
2 x 500g bags of frozen mixed soft fruits (containing raspberries, blackberries, blackcurrents, redcurrents, and possibly strawberries and cherries..cant remember if these were in the mix…)
1 lt red grape juice
800g sugar
1 tsp acid blend
1 tsp pectic enzyme
red wine yeast

The night before:
dissolve the sugar and acid in a pint of water,
pre-soak the elderberries in a pint of cold water,
let the frozen mixed fruit defrost.
make a yeast starter

Next day
Whizz the elderberries, soft fruit and pectic enzyme in a blender, dump it in fermentation bucket
add the sugar syrup and grape juice, then make up to just over a gallon and pitch yeast, cover and leave it.

Break up the crust daily for 5 days, then strain off the wine through a mesh into a demijohn, top up to a gallon and ferment out.

Rack as soon as fermentation is pretty well over and a sediment has settled, when the wine is nearly clear.

Then leave it for a few months to drop its final bit of sediment, by which time the wine will be bright. Rack again, de-gass it, add sulphite (3 ml of metabisulphite solution)

Mature for a more more months, then bottle and mature a few more months.

As I write this, I’m at the point of the second racking, de-gassing/ sulphite addition. The wine has a good red wine taste- tannins levels are good, not too overpowering. Colour is perfect- a rich dark red. The aroma is strongly of soft fruit- maybe a mix between raspberries and blackcurrents, and the taste has quite a bit of that too.
If I was being critical, I’d say the body is slightly lacking for such a flavoursome , rich red. But thats not a big problem.
At a push, it could be drunk as a young wine now. Its a good wine, and will make a very good wine for winter drinking.

Alterations that I’m considering-
add a banana or two to give body
reduce the mixed fruit- maybe only use 500g instead of 1kg?


Elderflower wine

1 pint fresh elderflowers
1 litre white grape juice
1 litre apple juice
700g granulated sugar
1-1/2 tsp acid blend (or citric acid)
yeast & nutrient

In a fermentation bucket, dissolve sugar in a small amount of boiling water and let cool. Add fruit juices & acid blend, make up to 7 pints & pitch activated yeast.
After 3 days, separate flowers from stalks and add the flowers in a weighted down straining bag . Ferment for a further 4 days. Strain through a sieve into demijohn, top up to 1 gallon & ferment out as usual.
Once it’s clear, de-gass it and bottle, mature for a few months. Its best drunk young.

For 5 gallons:

5 pints elderflowers
A one gallon white wine kit
1 sachet of yeast
2 litres of apple juice
5 tsp acid blend
4 kg sugar
5 tsp nutrient

Day 1: make up the wine kit and start it fermenting in a demijohn
In a 5 gallon fermentation bucket, dissolve the sugar in 2 gallons of boiling water

Day 2: To the sugar syrup, add acid blend, apple juice, nutrient and the one gallon of white wine.
Day 4: Add elderflowers
Day 8: sieve and put into demijohns/ secondary fermenters

Pruning technique for a mature “vertical cane positioning” trained (guyot) vine

Prune every other cane back to the basal buds- these will become next years ‘renewal spurs’. The remaining canes, prune to 5 buds- these will be next years ‘fruiting spurs’ (you’ll prune these a little more later..)


1.Weigh the vine’s pruned material.

2.Prune next years fruiting spurs so that you keep 20 buds per plant plus 10 buds per pound of pruned material. Each fruiting spur should have 3-5 buds and each renewal spur should have 2 basal buds. There’s an equal quantity of renewal and fruit spurs. Example: I remove 2 lb of year-old vertical canes, so I keep (20+ (2x 10)) 40 buds. I have 16 spurs per plant- 8 renewal & 8 fruiting. The renewal spurs account for (2×8)16 buds, leaving 24 buds to be divided between the fruiting spurs, which results in 3 buds per fruiting spur.

3.At bud break, snap off the weakest branch per spur, leaving one branch on the renewal spur and x-1 branches on the fruiting spur, where x= the number of buds per fruiting spur as calculated in (2) above

Alternative, simplified version:
cut the fruiting canes out totally, down to the swollen base at the bottom of the stem. Cut the renewal stems back to 3 inches to create the new spurs. Next year, allow two uprights to grow from each spur, pinch out the lower, weaker ones. Allow each fruiting cane to crop one bunch only. As the vine matures, if the growth is very vigorous you can allow more than two bunches per spur.

4.As soon as possible after bud burst, rub-out the flower clusters from the renewal cane to stop this cane from fruiting.

5.Summer pruning: each bunch of grapes needs about 15 leaves to ripen- any more and you shade your fruit, limiting its sugar content. Any less and you weaken the vine. At 4inches between each leaf, this works out roughly at 50cm of cane per bunch of grapes on a fruiting spur (based on the inclusion of leaf canopy on the renewal spur). Once the canopy reaches this height, trim it. Also trim the side branches that may grow.
So if you allow 2 bunches per spur, trim the canopy to 1m above the old wood.

6.In late summer, take off the big leaves at the bottom of the fruiting canes to allow sunlight and air to get at the fruit- all leaves below the fruit and 2 leaves above the fruit is recommended.

7.The following winter, cut this years fruiting spur down to 2 basal buds (at the very bottom of the stem, where it joins the old wood), and leave 5 buds on what was the renewal spur canes. These become next years fruit spurs.

Softwood propagation of vines

• Make green cuttings from any vigorously growing shoot.
• Avoid shoots that have stopped growing and are starting to harden off and turn brown.
• Take cuttings as early as possible in the spring
• Cuttings should be 4 to 6 inches (10 to 15 cm) long, with two or three leaves.
• Remove all but the top leaf and cut that one in half if it is full size, but leave it alone if it is a young, undersized leaf .
• Dip the green cutting in a paste of rooting hormone
• Use a 3:1 perlite / potting compost mix
• Plant into a black plastic pot to encourage warmth in the root zone and cover with a clear plastic lid to maintain humidity .
• Spray regularly to keep up the humidity until healthy new growth appears, then start to remove plastic bag.

This summer, I took some softwood cuttings from my vines.

First up, I tried a test cutting with madeleine angevine roughly using the above technique. The cutting was about 8 inches long, from the growth tip of a new green shoot. I stripped all but a couple of small leaves. It worked, but was quite slow. The weather was very hot,and the plant suffered a bit, but it was proof of concept. With hindsight, I think the loose compost doesnt work to well in the early stage of root formation, while the new cutting is forming an embolism. Well oxygenated water is good for this.

Then I tried a cutting from a vine in a local park. I’ve had my eye on this vine for a few years- very ornamental leaves. I’ve never seen it fruit, however, probably because the park keepers hack it right down to the ground in late summer each year, so the poor thing never develops enough stored energy. I also never get to take a hardwood cutting. So I took a green wood stem cutting (8 inch, most leaves removed, base of cutting just below a leaf, slightly scratched) and plonked it straight into plastic milk bottle filled with rain water. This worked well- possibly faster than in the soil. The cutting now has roots and is potted up in perlite rich compost similar to the cutting compost above, and is sending out new growth.

Finally, I tried 3 air layered cuttings on the red wine variety “Rondo”. A leaf was taken from the stem about 8 inches from the growth tip, the area around the leaf scratched, and a pad of moist vermiculite rapped around the leaf scar, held in place by a few layers of clingfilm and then aluminum foil. A few week later, I took off the raps and didnt notice any roots, but did notice that the stems appeared rougher textured where the vermiculite had been. I then cut the stems from the plant and put them into a milk bottle of rain water. They’d carried on growing, so what was an 8″ cutting was now 16″, so I cut each in half, one having the previous air-layered bit, one without. They were all put into rain water to root. The 3 stems that had previously been air-layered showed massive embolism very quickly. The other stems showed less embolism, and later, but also rooted.

All the above green wood cloning were done early in the the season.

carbon filtering apple wine

I have some apple wine which is far too strongly flavoured- it has quite a scrumpy cider flavour.

The wine was made using the following approximate recipe:
2 gallons apple juice pressed from mostly cooking apples
1 gallon grape juice
Acid, nutrient, champagne yeast
Water to 5 gallons

The wine is good in all other respects, and I have approximately 24 bottles left….too many to just give up on.

I intend to strip the flavour our of some of the wine using activated carbon.
Once the wine is stripped, I’ll probably blend it back in with a flavoursome white wine, although it may be tasty enough just to leave on its own.

Another thing I’ve considered doing to the flavour & colour stripped wine is to back-sweeten it with red grape juice, with the intention of adding body and colour (to make a light blush wine).

I’ve read that 5 grams of carbon per gallon is an appropriate amount to use.

The carbon is from a pet shop for use in tropical fish tanks. However, since buying it I’ve found much cheaper carbon at my local homebrew shop.

I think I’ll only carbon treat half the wine, then blend it back in with the untreated wine and taste it. I’m not sure how long to carbon treat, but I figure if I totally strip the flavour (& colour) then blend it back in with un-treated wine, I should end up with something that’s got at least some flavour.

Next year, I should only use a1 gallon of apple juice and be more careful with the acid addition (I think I went wrong when calculating how much was needed)

Procedure to back sweeten wine

1) Only use wine that is clear, de-gassesed, mature and ready to bottle.
2) Decant a glass of wine, into which dissolve1 campden tablet (or 5ml sodium metabisulphite solution) and 0.5 tsp potassium sorbate (fermentation stopper). Ensure everything is totally dissolved prior to returning the wine to the demijohn.
3) Agitate the demijohn daily for 4 days, then leave in cool place for two weeks. If any residual yeast has settled out, rack again.
4) Measure the specific gravity
5) Add enough sugar to raise the gravity to the chosen sweetness for the wine:

Dry – 0.997 to 0.999
Medium dry – 1000 to 1.001
Medium sweet – 1.002 to 1.003
Sweet – 1.004 to 1.006
Desert wine (sweet) 1.007 to 1.010

A safe bet for table wine is 0.999 or 1000

Per gallon, 11 grams of sugar are needed to raise the gravity by 0.001.
To be safe, add 10 grams instead- better to undershoot than overshoot.

6) To add the sugar, decant around half a pint of wine into a jug, warm it in the microwave and dissolve the required volume of icing sugar into it. Return the sweetened wine to the demijohn, agitate and leave for half an hour prior to tasting
7) Leave wine under an airlock for 2 weeks to ensure it doesn’t start fermenting before you bottle it.

Useful Fencing and Hedging links

The British Trust For Conservation Volunteers provide online handbooks on, amongst other things:

hedging including how to lay Midland, Welsh and South-Western hedges)
Dry Stone Walling
Woodland management (including coppicing, greenwood working, and charcoal making)
Wetlands & Waterways

how to Save Yeast (create a yeast culture)

  1. Sterilize 2 large kilner jars
  2. Sterilise the top rim of the fermeter (paper towel soaked in surgical spirit)
  3. Add a kettle of boiled & cooled water to fermentation bucket
  4. Swish around to break up trub and allow to settle for a few minutes.
  5. Pour the liquid from the top of the trub into one of your kilner jars.
  6. Seal the jar, put in fridge for an hour.
  7. Pour off the liquid suspended yeast from the top of your mason jar leaving as much of the sediment behind as possible. Pour your yeast into the second  kilner jar, seal it and place in the fridge.
  8. If there’s another sediment after 1 hour, repeat.
  9. You can store the yeast for several months in the refrigerator until you are ready to brew again.
  10. On the day before you brew, add some wort to your yeast create an appropriately sized yeast starter for your next batch.
  11. Do not exceed 4-6 generations of reuse.

Pilsner Urquell type Lager

Here’s a recipe I intend to make in the near future:


Pilsner Urquell – 5 gallons

8.5 lb pilsner malt

8 oz  crystal malt

8 oz  cara-pils malt

4 oz Saaz Hops

Lager yeast


Water should be soft.  Mash at 68 centigrade for 90 minutes, sparge, then boil 2 hours. Add hops: 2 ounces of Saaz 60 minutes before end of boil, 1 ounce 30 minutes before end of boil, and 1 ounce in last 10 minutes of boil


Notes (not included in recipe…)

  1. Put grain into cold water & raise to temperature slowly.
  2. Possible change the 2 oz of saaz early in the boil for a decent bittering hop.
  3. Open fermentation for a few days (5 days or so?), followed closed fermentation in a cold environment for many months (spare room during winter) prior to bottling.

Apple wine dilemma.


Last autumn, I made 5 gallons of apple wine. Its turned out quite strongly flavoured of apples. Well, scrumpy really….it tastes like a mixture of cheap Spanish wine and Summerset scrumpy.   I’ve got quite a lot knocking about & I don’t know what to do with it.


For the record, the recipe was this:


2 gallons freshly pressed apple juice from our apple tree windfalls (mostly Bramley apple, with some desert apples of unknown type)

1 gallon supermarket white grape juice

Enough sugar to raise 5 gallons to 1090

2 tablespoons acid blend

Champagne yeast & nutrient

Sulphite solution

Pectic enzyme


The apple juice was pressed & put into a demijohn, 5ml of 10% sulphite added per gallon. Left overnight to settle, then siphoned off the gunk that’s settled out  & topped up with more apple juice. Back into the demijohns, pectic enzyme added, left for a day.

Next day, the apple juice was mixed with the grape juice, yeast nutrient and sugar, put into 5 gallon fermenter and air lock fitted.

When fished fermeting, racked, de-gassed, cleared & bottled.


My issue: it’s taste is far to strong of cooking apples. I’m thinking of filtering it with activated carbon. Apparently this gets rid of flavour (as well as colour…)

Once I’ve stripped much of the flavour out of the wine, I can then blend it with a flavoursome wine, perhaps the white wine mentioned below.