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Elderberry wine with no elderberries?

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Cher

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Is it possible to make a passable elderberry wine from concentrate? Or perhaps dried berries? Elderberry jelly is our absolute favorite and I have a hankering to try making perhaps a 3 gal batch of elderberry wine. Unfortunately, it is too late for actual berries here and the small bag of frozen juice I have is nowhere near enough for wine.

So, I ordered a gallon of Vintner's Best Elderberry Fruit Wine Base. It is billed as real juice and most of the big online stores carry it, so it must be ok, right? Has anyone tried it? Is it really ok? Mine arrived and I'm a little concerned that elderberry is not in first, second or even third place on the ingredients list. It is behind corn syrup, apple and pear juice concentrates and followed by grape juice concentrate.

Is this enough elderberry to be worthy of the name, not to mention tying up one of my carboys for a year? People who make elderberry wine from fruit seem to use a lot more berries that seems like is in this and I don't want to waste my time on something that will be a generic fruit wine with a hint of elderberry. The gallon claims to make 5 gal. of wine but I was planning to reduce that. Still, I'm concerned this is not going to be good. I have not opened the container to smell and taste, but the ingredients list worries me.

There is a confusing array of elderberry winemaking concentrates available. Does anyone have thoughts on
1) Vintner's Harvest Fruit Wine Base -- similar name to what I have but seems to be all fruit and juice, which is ok as I'm fine with adding sugar and adjusting acid, etc.
2) Vintner's Harvest Fruit Purée -- no skins or seeds in this one, apparently.
3) Elderberry concentrate from homewinery.com -- this seems to be another just add water sort of concentrate, but I've read some good things about it.

Can I make a decent elderberry wine this year without actual berries using one of these products or something else one of you can suggest, or should I just wait until next year and save all the berries for wine?

Thanks for reading and for any advice you can offer
Cher
 

cmason1957

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I made an elderberry and a black currant from the cans of juice. I don't think they are vintners harvest, but some other name. They didn't have much taste. I blended the two, added some blackberry wine, and some sugar. Still not great. Not sure where this melange is going. But I haven't been happy with them.
 

Julie

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Yes I believe you can make a good elderberry from concentrate. I have not used Homewinery's elderberry but I have bought some of their other concentrates and was very pleased with them.
 

Cher

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Cmason, thanks for sharing your experience. Do you recall whether you mixed those concentrates at the recommended rate for "a medium bodied wine," usually 5 gallons, or a more robust wine at 3 gallons or so? Seems like they would all be thin and low on taste at 5 gallons for a can or jug. I mean, the volume of concentrate is pretty small to make that much wine.

Julie, thanks for the positive feedback on homewinery concentrates. In hindsight, wish I'd ordered from them. But I haven't opened this jug so it isn't too late, I guess. Do you recall whether the concentrates you tried were mostly composed of the fruit it was named for?
 

salcoco

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I would suggest using dried elderberries available from any wine supply shop. see recipes on Jack Keller's web site . winemaking.jackkeller.net
 

montanaWineGuy

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I'm in the process of leaning this as well. I steamed the berries and with the concentrated juice began three 6 gallon batches of Elderberry wine. They have been fermenting very active now for three(?) weeks now. I'll know something in another couple of weeks when I rack them for the first time.
 

garymc

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I bought a 96 ounce can of a Vintner's Harvest elderberry wine base about 4 years ago. I don't recall that it had other juices in it. In fact, I'm pretty sure it didn't. It was $49.99 for the can, which was supposed to make a 3 or 5 gallon batch, depending on how full bodied you want the wine. I made a 3 gallon batch and it was excellent. I thought it was really expensive for 3 gallons of wine, but I've since been scouting for wild elderberries, wading through the poison ivy and chiggers to harvest, growing elderberries and watching the birds eat them, messing with the sorting and cleaning, dealing with the green goo, and thinking about maybe buying the Vintner's Harvest again.
 

Julie

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As far as I know, their concentrates are just the juice of that fruit.
 

Cher

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Thank you all for the very helpful comments. Based on Cmason1957's experience at making 3 gallons from something similar, and the small amount of elderberry in my Vintner's Best base, I don't think this stuff will please me, even at 3 gallon strength.

Still pondering how to proceed, but I'm going to try and find some dried elderberries as Salcoco suggests or an all fruit product like the Vintners Harvest Fruit base garymc used with good results or the concentrate from homewinery.

I have two further questions, if y'all don't mind.

1) How many pounds of elderberries do you use to make a gallon of wine? 3 or 4 seems to crop up in some recipes but then some also add grapes or even raisins.

2) Assuming I get hold of either dried berries or fruit concentrate, I will obviously need to add sugar to reach an appropriate beginning SG. Would it be ok to use this Vintners Best wine base as the sweetening agent? It has corn syrup, apple and pear concentrates along with elderberry, grape and some acids. I can return it, but will have to pay shipping so would just as soon use it if it won't do any harm.

Thanks,
Cher
 

Cher

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Wow, montanaWineGuy! 18 gallons of elderberry wine. How many pounds of berries did you steam to get that much juice?
 

Stressbaby

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I make my elderberry with 5#/gallon fresh-frozen. It certainly doesn't need any more than that, but I generally cold soak them.
 

montanaWineGuy

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salcoco

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nominally Jack Keller's recipe call for 4-5 ounces of dried elderberries per gallon of water. I would use your fruit wine base add whatever recommended water and 4 ounces of dried elderberries per gallon measure your specific gravity and add sugar to reach a sg=1090. this should give you a robust wine.
 

Scooter68

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Just to be sure folks - Vintners' Harvest and Vintner's Best are two very different products. The first is, as far as I have investigated and checked personally 100% the Fruit Named on the label, nothing else. The second is made with a variety of fruit juices in addition to the fruit name on the label. In fact in all the cases I've checked the named fruit is NOT even first on the list - meaning that named fruit is not the only fruit juice in the containers. The ones I checked contained Apple Juice, White Grape Juice and/or Pear Juice as the leading fruit varieties with the Named Juice NOT being the major juice. In fact here is the list of ingredients for Vintner's Best® Blackberry Fruit Wine Base: High Fructose Corn Syrup; Apple, Pear, Blackberry & Grape Juice Concentrates; Water; Citric Acid; Natural Flavors

In other words you are paying a premium price for Corn Syrup, along with some Apple, Pear, Blackberry and Grape juice. Last I shopped I could by 4 lbs of cane sugar for less than $2.00 - I don't think Corn Syrup costs much more than that. And for the record I only make 3 gallon batches with the Vintners Harvest 96 oz cans. They have all turned out great.
 
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Cher

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Thanks again for all the help and advice. Particular thanks to Salcoco who saved me from a mistake regarding Jack Keller's recipe for dried elderberry wine. I had been reading "4 - 5 1/4 oz dried elderberries" as 4, 5 1/4 ounce packages of dried berries, or 21 ounces dried elderberrries per gallon. Salcoco's comment made me read that again and this time understand it. Duh.

Anyway, I managed to round up a pound of dried elderberries plus one of the 96 ounce cans of elderberry wine base (Vintner's Harvest) referenced above. That is in addition to the 128 ounce plastic jug of Vintner's Best elderberry wine base I had originally purchased. As Scooter68 mentioned, these are very different things and I regretted the original purchase upon reading the ingredients.

The plan for all these elderberry potions is to make two 3 gallon batches, one from the canned berries/juice and the other from dried. To each batch I will add half the Vintner's Best mixture (with its corn syrup, etc.) plus water and sugar to achieve a reasonable starting specific gravity. I may even use the same yeast for both batches.

The first one was mixed up last night. In addition to the canned berries (poured them into a bag but there were very few identifiable berries, almost all juice) we used 2 quarts of the Vintner's Best (which smelled pretty good, like elderberries not apple or pears) water to 3 gallons and 2 1/2 pounds of sugar which brought the SG to 1.09. Medium toast French oak chips were also put into the bag. I used a whole 8 g packet of VRB yeast rehydrated with GoFerm. It is in a loosely covered bucket, bubbling nicely and smells good. The recipe on the side of the can called for acid blend, an initial kmeta dose before yeast and peptic enzyme. The pH was 3.3 so we skipped the acid blend. The VB syrup was supposed to be adjusted for acid, so maybe that helped. With canned fruit, we didn't see the need to add kmeta and then wait 24 hours to pitch yeast. There were hardly any intact berries so not sure what the pectic enzyme will do, but we had it so added a teaspoon as called for. Don't see that it will do any harm.

The other half of the Vintner's Best (VB) syrup is in the refrigerator, waiting for a small fermenter to become available so I can start the dried batch. The plan there is to mostly follow Keller's recipe, using the VB syrup to provide some of the needed sugar and adding whatever elderberry flavor it can.

Will keep y'all posted on how this works out. Thanks again for the help,
Cher
 

WineYooper

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Have been busy so a little late with this. I have used both the elderberry & blackberry 96 oz cans & found 5 gallon batch with elderberry is really good, five gal w/blackberry is too thin so have done 3 gal and found it to be much better. Have one of each bulk ageing now. Have 40# of blackberries in freezer now so will have more on line soon.
 

Cher

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Time for an update on my batches of elderberry wine. First the one made with the 96 oz can of Vintner's Harvest. I am calling it Elderberry I. It was sweetened with half a jug of Vintner's Best elderberry syrup plus 2-1/2 pounds of sugar, as described above. Starting SG was 1.09 and the yeast was VRB.

This was a slow, steady ferment that smelled wonderful all through primary. Honestly, it smelled better than any grape ferment we've ever done. No off odors and it did not lose the elderberry fragrance, even near the end. On day 8, the SG was 1.000 and I transferred to a carboy and a jug. It foamed over when racking into the carboy, hence the jug. VRB is a kind of foamy yeast and the wine apparently keeps this characteristic, because I tried to pour the jug contents into the carboy the next day and it foamed up again. Managed to get enough in the carboy so the overage fit in a 1.5 l bottle, see pic. You can see the layer of foam, as well. Sorry it is sideways and enormous, can't figure out how to fix that.

Noticed a little H2S odor in the carboy wine. On day 11, I vacuum racked to a clean carboy and that seemed to get rid of the stinkiness. As of yesterday the carboy and bottle are now topped up, smelling nice again and have some French oak cubes inside.

We think this is a very promising young wine. Not sure why the stinky smell showed up when it moved to the carboy, but racking seems to have fixed it. Will be sniffing often to make sure it stays gone.

The color is dark, dark purple. We will see how that holds up as it clears, still a lot of solids dropping out. Thanks for all the advice. I will post on Elderberry II (from dried berries) soon.

Cher

IMG_0136.jpg
 

Stressbaby

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The color will hold up fine. I use a bit of elderberry to help with color in some of my other fruit wines.
 

FTC Wines

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I am a little late to this Elderberry Party. I have made a lot of Elderberry Wine from dried Elderberries from E C Krause. It made a fine wine as per directions. But our fav Elderberry is made from Home Winery concentrate. Very easy, no fuss or mess. But I use 1 pint of their concentrate to a gallon of must. That is one extra pint per 5 gallon batch. Sometimes I'll add an extra pint of Cab to the 1/2 gallon of Elderberry concentrate. Just ordered 4 - 1/2 gallon jugs, going to make a Blackberry/Elderberry blend. Roy ps Elderberry is one of Favorite wines and an every day drinker.
 
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