2018 Elderberry Batch #2

August 2018 – This batch is the first time I’m trying an experiment I’ve been considering for 30 years — feeding a wine sugar to jack the alcohol up to ~18% and sweetening it, to produce a port-style dessert wine.

I had 5-1/2 gallons of dry elderberry wine and the idea popped into the forefront. So I racked half into a 3.5 gallon carboy — this is Batch #1 and will slightly sweetened, to make an off-dry wine. Elderberry, and fruit wines in general, benefit from a bit of sugar. Without it they can be bitter and/or astringent.

Batch #2 is the remainder (about 2.5 gallons) that will be fed sugar to jack up the alcohol. My notes (below) will show how this experiment progresses.


Fruit 1 gallon Vintner’s Best Elderberry fruit wine base

1 liter Global Vintners Inc red grape concentrate

Bentonite 2.5 tsp
Yeast Nutrient 5 tsp + 1 tsp added to Batch #2 (see below)
Yeast Energizer 1 tsp added to Batch #2 (see below)
Grape Tannin 2 tsp
Pectic Enzyme 40 drops liquid
Oak 1/2 lb toasted oak chips
Yeast Red Star Premier Rouge
Sulphite as needed
Sorbate 1-1/2 tsp


Following directions on the jug, I diluted the elderberry concentrate with 4 gallons water. For the first couple of quarts I used hot tap water to rinse the bottle — no point in wasting the goodness! The bottle said the SG should be 1.077. I got 1.076, but possible differences in dilution and temperature make this spot on. I was satisfied the label was correct.

Next added the red grape concentrate. The label said the brix would be 20-22, and I should dilute with 2.8 to 3.2 liters water. I used 2 liters warm tap water, which I used to rinse the bag. Again, no point in wasting the goodness! This brought the SG up to 1.078. I considered chaptalizing it up to 1.085 …. but decided to go with what I have.

I went with 2 liters of water instead of 3 as I’m looking for body and the 3/4 gallon extended the batch sufficiently that it will fill my carboy.

Added bentonite, yeast nutrient, grape tannin (just because), and pectic enzyme.

The oak chips were on hand and I decided to add it to see what it would do.

Sprinkled the yeast on top.

SG 1.078
Racked, moving the wine into a 5 gallon carboy and 1 gallon jug. Neither container was topped up, but fermentation was active so I didn’t worry about oxidation. 08/02/2018
SG 1.010
Racked. Filled a 3.5 gallon carboy with the basic elderberry, now designated Batch #1. Click here for the log. The remainder is being fed sugar to make a port style wine. 08/11/2018
SG 1.000
Put the remainder of the wine into a 5 gallon carboy. Added 3 cups sugar.. 08/11/2018
SG 1.030
The wine is fermenting, but glacially slow. Added 1 tsp yeast nutrient and 1 tsp yeast energizer. 08/16/2018
SG 1.027
Fermentation is moving a bit faster, but I’m not happy with it. I aerated the wine, running it through a strainer while I was at it. I’ve had small bits of oak chips in the wine, which clogs the wine thief I used when checking SG.
Made a starter using some of the must and a fresh package of Lalvin EC-1118. Added that, we’ll see if it helps.
SG: 1.020
Fermentation moving but still slow. Added 1 tsp yeast energizer and 1 tsp yeast nutrient. 09/01/2018
SG 1.011
Still not doing much. Racked to a 3.5 gallon carboy as I needed the 5 for water as Hurricane Florence is coming in. Added another 1 tsp yeast energizer and 2 tsp yeast nutrient 09/10/2018
SG 1.009
Not any activity the past week. Decided the wine isn’t going to ferment down any further, so I added 3 cups of sugar for a final feeding, stirring for 3 minutes.

I’m going to let it do it’s thing for 3 weeks, then check it.

SG 1.002
Final SG 1.032
There is no fermentation activity. Added the sludge from Batch #1, hoping this will jump start the fermentation, although I suspect that I hit it with too much sugar and it’s stuck. 10/13/2018
SG 1.032
Tried jump starting again. Hydrated another package of EC-1118 and added after it foamed up. 10/14/2018
SG 1.032
I concede, this one doesn’t want to go. Added 1/4 tsp potassium metabisulfite and 1-1/2 tsp sorbate. 11/02/2018
SG 1.032
Added Super Kleer fining agent. 11/06/2018
SG 1.032
Racked and moved into two 4 liter jugs, plus 750 ml top-up. 11/12/2018
SG 1.032
Add scant 1/4 tsp Kmeta and 3 Tbsp glycerin for body. Bottled. 11/25/2018
SG 1.032


Yield 12 bottles (24 splits)
Alcohol 14.7%
Residual Sugar 8%
Winemaking Notes The first ingredient on the Elderberry concentrate label is corn syrup, the second is apple juice, the last is elderberry. The must smells good …. but the next time I do this, I’m going to look for a pure elderberry. It may make no difference, but the purist in me wants 100% elderberry.

I always add pectic enzyme to fruit wines. I’ve had to do it enough times when trying to clear the wine that it’s simply become a preventative habit. My local shop was out of powder, so I tried the liquid. It’s more expensive ($3 vs. $2) but the amount I used was tiny — this bottle will go bad before I use it up.

08/16/2018 Adding yeast nutrient and energizer kicked the fermentation up.
10/14/2018 Jump starting it again. I have no clue why this one isn’t perking. The alcohol should be around 14%, and EC-1118 should handle more than 18%.
11/08/2018 One of the guys at American Brewmaster told me that one of his wines sat for 3 months before a jump start kicking in. I suspect I stabilized this one too soon.

However, even if it’s not what I was targeting, the end result will be fine.

11/25/2018 At bottling I don’t like this one as much as I like the dry elderberry. It will be interesting to see what both taste like at the one year mark.