Elderberry wine

  • Makes 2 bottles
  • A little tricky

Try your hand at winemaking this autumn using one of the UK's most bountiful hedgerow fruits. This light but rich elderberry wine is perfect for the cooler months of autumn.

Elderberry wine recipe (Photo by: Dejan Kolar via Getty Images)

If you’ve never tried your hand at wine-making before, this is a fun way to try it out. If done well, this homemade elderberry wine recipe can produce a drink to rival many supermarket brands. And occasionally, you’ll produce something truly exquisite.

Just like grapes, elderberries can differ year on year. Some years every tree seems to be weighed down with massive clusters of plump, juicy fruits that all go ripe at the same time. Other years are leaner. But elder trees are so abundant, you should find enough berries for this recipe.

Traditional mulled wine recipe



  • Large fermenting bucket with lid
  • Demijohn
  • Bung and air lock
  • Syphon tubing
  • Thermometer
  • Hydrometer (optional)
  • Elderberries 2kg/4lb, remove stems and any green berries
  • Boiling water 5 litres/8.7 pints of
  • Sugar 1.5kg/3 lbs
  • Lemon 1, juiced or 1 tsp citric acid
  • Pectolase 1 tsp
  • Campden tablet 1, optional
  • Yeast nutrient 1 tsp


  • Step 1

    Freeze the berries overnight, as this makes it easier to prise them from their bitter green stems. It also breaks the skin and allows juice to run more freely.

  • Step 2

    Put the berries in the fermenting bucket and crush, squeezing out as much juice as you can. I recommend a clean pair of rubber gloves for this job. Gently squish the berries in your hands and try not to crush the seeds inside.

  • Step 3

    Whack in the sugar and pour over a litre of boiling water, stirring until the sugar has fully dissolved. Add the rest of the water, the acid and yeast nutrient. If you wish, take a hydrometer reading to see how strong it is. The campden tablet (if using) should also be added now – this kills bacteria but can cause headaches in some. If you do use a campden tablet, leave the mix for 24 hours.

  • Step 4

    Check the temperature is below 32°C before adding the yeast. Ideally, this should be made into a yeast starter but if that sounds too technical, sprinkling the yeast over the must (unfermented wine) still works.

  • Step 5

    Leave to stand for 3-4 days so vigorous fermentation can take place and then siphon into a demijohn. Leave it for around a month.

  • Step 6

    Syphon it into another demijohn, leaving the lees (aka sediment) behind. This process is called racking and should be repeated between 1 and 3 more times depending on how much sediment builds up. Top up with boiled-then-cooled water each time as you will lose some liquid.

  • Step 7

    When the air-lock stops bubbling, your wine is ready to bottle. Cold may pause the fermentation process, so if you are not sure then move your demijohn to somewhere warmer. The steadier the temperature is kept during fermentation, the better. A hydrometer allows you to be sure. Take a hydrometer reading after each racking. As soon as the reading is stable for three days, your wine is ready to bottle.

  • Step 8

    When ready, siphon your wine into sterilised bottles adding corks. Don’t use screwtop bottles. Let your wine sit for at least a month, if not a year or two, before drinking. If this is too difficult, make 10 times this amount and hide as much as you can.