Using dried elderflower - when and how to add

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Betty23

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Dear all:

My wife loves elderflower. I've seen recipes for straight up elderflower wine, which I plan on making one day. But I have a stash of fruit and grape juice that I need to get through first.

I have a cheap pinot grigio kit and also have cans of VH apricot juice. I'm considering adding dried elderflower to both batches as I think the flavors would go wonderfully. The question is, how and when? Options?

1. add dried elderflower to primary
2. add dried elderflower to secondary
3. add dried elderflower during bulk aging
4. make an elderflower tea and add to primary or secondary or during bulk

I would be grateful for advice as I've never done this before.

Sincere thanks
betty
 

winemaker81

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I looked at a few recipes for elderflower wine, which all included making a tea as part of the process. I'd incorporate that in the combined wine, essentially cannibalizing the kit/fruit recipe with the elderflower recipe.

For the Pinot Grigio, figure out how much water you need to reconstitute the kit to it's normal volume, e.g., 23 liters. Read recipes for elderflower wine and use that information to make a tea -- since you have a wine base, sultanas and sugar can be omitted. Twenty-fours hours after starting, using the elderflower tea to reconstitute the kit, and proceed from there using kit instructions.

For the apricot concentrate, do the same making any necessary substitutions.
 

BernardSmith

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My wife's and my favorite country wine is elderflower and I make small batches several times a year. Winemaker81 is right. Make a tea. For elderflower wine I use about 2 oz of dried elderflowers per gallon. I boil the flowers with either table sugar or honey and let the tea cool before straining out the flowers (easiest way is to place the flowers in a nylon straining bag.
What I might do if - if - I was considering blending the elderflowers with apricot or grape wine is to make a batch of GOOD elderflower wine at about 10-12% ABV with acidic and tannic adjustment as necessary and then bench test blending with the finished PG wine and the finished apricot wine. If it turns out that the best flavor is 1 part PG to 10 parts elderflower then you will still have lots of Pinot Grigio left and if it turns out that 1 part elderflower to 5 parts apricot floats your boat then you will have lots of elderflower left but you may end up with THREE acceptable wines and not just two if you focus on making each wine so that it is enjoyably drinkable without blending. Of course, if the best blending ratios are 1:1 then you may need to get more elderflowers ... but that ain't a huge sacrifice when elderflower wine or mead can taste soooo good.
 

Betty23

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Excellent, thank you @winemaker81 and @BernardSmith. I think I'll do as you described for apricot wine.

I actually already got the pinot grigio going. For this one, what about adding the elderflower tea to the carboy for bulk aging? I'll have space for it because I would have lost volume from racking off the lees. Instead of topping up with a like wine, I can top up with the tea?

I guess you both think that the tea is necessary and that simply putting the elderflowers themselves into the carboy during bulk age is ineffective?

Thanks again for your responses. Very helpful.
betty
 

BernardSmith

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Not so much "ineffective" but I certainly can not say a) how long a wine will take to EXTRACT flavors from the dried flowers and b) what flavor that extraction will have. As I wrote, I use ONLY boiling water to make a tea to extract flavors. Water is a solvent that extracts DIFFERENT compounds from the solvent, alcohol. Feel free to add elderflowers to your wine but then you will know how the wine affects the flavor profile of the elderflowers.
 

Raptor99

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Or steep them in boiling water, then add both the flowers and the "tea" to the wine. That way you can extract flavors using both methods. A useful experiment would be to do three small batches: 1) steeped only, 2) add flowers directly to wine, 3) steep + add flowers to wine. I wonder if there would be any detectable difference in the flavor?
 

Betty23

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Great, thanks to you both. I think I'll make the tea for the pinot, and perhaps do both with the apricot. We'll see! It's part of the fun. I'm sure it will be great either way. If I could, I'd share a bottle with you!

Cheers,
betty
 

winemaker81

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I'll have space for it because I would have lost volume from racking off the lees. Instead of topping up with a like wine, I can top up with the tea?
In general, adding additional water (tea) will dilute the kit beyond the intended volume, which alters the balances (alcohol, acid, etc.). However, if you make the tea with minimal water (1 to 2 cups), it shouldn't matter.

1) steeped only, 2) add flowers directly to wine, 3) steep + add flowers to wine
Interesting idea. I suspect #2 will impart the least character, as the heat of the boiling water is probably the main extraction action.

If alcohol also helps with the extraction, #3 is probably best, although it will be messier and there may be the possibility of off-flavors from the prolonged contact.

It would be interesting to make a gallon of each to see what the differences are.
 

BernardSmith

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ah, but winemaker81, you are 100 percent correct only the unsweetened "tea" was added, but the tea is typically the must for a wine. That means that the tea will include sugar to about the same density (SG) as the PG and that means that while the PG in and of itself will be "diluted" the dilution will be balanced by the flavors and the ethanol from the elderflower component. So the wine will be transformed from PG to PG AND elderflower... and this is why I suggested that the two wines be made separately and THEN combined ...Why? Because when you simply add the sweet tea to the PG you have no way of knowing how the two flavors will combine given the volumes of each are arbitrary and not part of a reasoned plan: will the PG clash with the floral wine in a way that you don't anticipate given the volumes of each? Will one wine's flavor disappear? Will they both combine collaboratively? Only by bench testing can you know IN ADVANCE of combining. Mixing both without any sense of what combination works best is like buying a plane ticket to a destination determined by a toss of a dart at a map. You might end up in Naples, You might end up in Bejing or you might end up in the middle of the Atlantic.
 

winemaker81

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@BernardSmith, good points. This is a good example of field blending vs. post-fermentation blending.

For those not familiar, field blending is where different varieties of grapes are mixed and fermented. Ya get what ya get, although if compatible grape varieties are used, it works well. Post-fermentation is exactly what Bernard suggested, fermenting and bulk aging the wines separately, and using bench testing (tasting) to determine the percentage of each of the wines to use.

Post-fermentation blending is the safest choice, e.g., the one that will produce a desired result.

Field blending requires guessing how much elderflower to use. A full amount for 5 gallons to produce a fully blended wine? 20% to produce a elderflower flavored PG? I field blend red grapes, using varieties that I know are compatible. In this situation the mix of PG and elderflower is an unknown, so the risk of producing a less pleasing result is higher.

@Betty23, while all the explanations may be confusing, read through everything a couple of times. You can make a (hopefully) informed choice regarding how you want to proceed.
 

BernardSmith

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and Betty23, you can certainly take any risk doing what Winemaker81 calls field-blending. People do this all the time when they make a pyment (honey and grape mead). It's unlikely to be undrinkably awful. It just may not be as good as it could be ("Next time, I'd use more PG" , or "Next time far more elderflower).
 

Ty520

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I've never had good experience with dried elderflowers - it takes on an unpleasant vegetal, rather than floral, quality
 

BernardSmith

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I gotta say that I make elderflower wine three or four times a year and never have had a vegetal flavor or aroma problem. How did you make this wine? Do you allow the flowers to sit in the fermenter for two weeks or overnight or just a few hours?
 

Ty520

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I gotta say that I make elderflower wine three or four times a year and never have had a vegetal flavor or aroma problem. How did you make this wine? Do you allow the flowers to sit in the fermenter for two weeks or overnight or just a few hours?
I sat it on 2 ounces in secondary to avoid blow off of aromas and flavors - I don't have my notes for it, but I think it sat for 5 days on the flowers.

Hindsight 20/20, I think the fault was in my source - I got it from a supplier I'd never used before that managed to stay in operation during the peak of COVID disruption, and I had issues with a couple other ingredients I got from them as well ( I Think I warned about them in an old post). The liqueur I made with it was disappointing as well. I think it had too many stamens and sepals.
 
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Meadini

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I made a RJS Cru Select Gewurtztraminer last winter that had a few ounces of dried Elderflowers in a separate bag(I’m not sure if the weight of the flowers). The instructions said to soak the bag in warm water for 10 minutes and add both to the must. It’s still young, and a bit tannic, but very drinkable.
 
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