What Do You Need?
Our grandparents were resourceful and could make wine with simple tools and bare minimum of ingredients. It’s still possible, but let’s make it easier by using equipment designed for wine making. Here's a list of today's basics:
This would be a bucket of some kind. Food grade is suggested as you don’t want any off-flavours tainting your wine. You will need to cover it somehow. If you are using a lid, and it’s air tight, you will need to drill a hole and add an airlock. Cheesecloth or even a tea towel will work too. At the shop, we sometimes use plastic wrap secured by a loop of elastic. Just remember to pop a little pin hole in the top or the plastic will pop off with the gases made during fermentation.
Most wines need to be stirred during the first few days. A long handled stainless steel or plastic spoon is best. Wooden spoons are not recommended. They can harbour bacteria.
It is a glass tool that measures the sugars in your wine. Very important for knowing if your wine is fermenting properly. Here's a LINK to how to read your hydrometer.
Not really necessary, but very handy when making fruit wines with lots of seeds or mush.
Racking Cane, Hose and Clip
This makes siphoning your wine much easier. It allows the sediment to be undisturbed and you will need it again when bottling.
Carboy (see photo)
This is where your wine will spend most of its time. Plastic is light and easy to move. If you are not aging long term in the carboy, plastic is sufficient. If your wine will be sitting for 6+ months in the carboy, choose glass. There’s many different sizes available. Sometimes having 2 carboys per batch is quite nice, especially when you need to transfer one batch to another carboy to remove sediment and improve clarity.
Bung (My kids find this word funny!)
A rubber stopper used to seal the airlock into the opening of your carboy.
This is a very important piece of equipment! When filled properly, it will protect your wine from nasties like bugs and oxidation. Check it often, almost daily. The airlock fits into the bung on the top of the carboy.
You might get lucky in finding some of this equipment from friends or family that have made wine in the past. Check Facebook for people selling their equipment. Although it might seem like a huge investment, sometimes buying an equipment kit pays off. New buckets, carboys and spoons are not scratched up and have places where bacteria can hide to cause problems in the future.
Next Post: Ingredients needed to start a country fruit wine
Step 3 - Selecting Your Fruit & What to Bring to Your Appointment
So you’re ready to make Country Fruit Wine! You have picked and cleaned your fruit and now you are anxious to start fermenting. Here’s a couple of things to think about first, because we’ll probably ask when you come in….
What fruits are you using? Are you using more than one kind of fruit?
Most of the fruits we grow in our area make great wine. If you don’t have enough of 1 type of fruit, mix it with another.
How many bottles do you want? Full batch or half?
A full batch of wine is about 30 bottles. A half batch is 15. Think of Christmas, housewarming or hostess gifts. Most people are surprised how quickly 30 bottles disappear!
Do you want a wine with lots of body and fruit flavor? Do you want a lightly fruit flavored wine? How much fruit do you have? What was the flavor of the fruit when it was frozen?
I recommend a minimum of 4 gallons of fruit for a full batch (23L) of wine. If you want more body and more fruit flavor, use more fruit (5-6 gallons). If you want a lighter wine, use 4 gallons. If you are making a ½ batch, use ½ the fruit.
If your fruit was nice and ripe when it was frozen, it will be more flavorful. If it was lacking in flavor or didn’t taste too good when it was frozen, it won’t be any better in the wine. Know the quality of the fruit you are using.
Growing seasons play a huge role in the wine making process. If it was a wet year, the fruit could have more juice, but be less flavorful. If it had less sun, it might not be as ripe. If it grew in dry conditions, it might have more natural sugars and might have a stronger flavor. It is possible to get a completely different wine from one year to the next from the same fruit tree!
How much alcohol do you want in your wine? What kind of sugar do you want to use?
When using previously frozen, and uncrushed, fruit in our recipes, the alcohol amount can vary. However, we use a process called Chaptalization - meaning sugar is added to boost the original gravity (OG) of the wine we are trying to make. For our shop’s recipe, I recommend using 4-5kg of sugar per 23L batch. 4kg of sugar in most of these wines usually gives us a 10-12% ABV (alcohol by volume). 5kg can give us 12-14% ABV. If you are making a ½ batch, use ½ the amount of sugar.
We have used up to 8kg for a full batch, but we are getting into dangerous territory here. Too high of an OG and the yeast has a chance of dying. We`d be with a stuck fermentation and that sucks! Also, having a high ABV sometimes overpowers the flavor of the fruit, especially in the lighter wines. All you are going to taste and feel is the burn of the alcohol.
If you forget to bring in sugar, we do have regular white sugar for sale. But, to save yourself some money, please bring your own. You can also change up the sugar used for Chaptalization. Use brown sugar for a more caramel flavor (great in apple wines). Please don’t bring in any artificial sweeteners. They do not ferment properly and are a pain in the a$$ to work with. Extra work on your wine is going to delay the whole process and probably incur extra charges. Honey is great to use. Make an organic wine by choosing honey. Just make sure it’s liquid. If we have to use the microwave to make it liquid enough to mix into your wine, it does lose the good qualities of the honey. Solid honey is also much harder for us to use and we will charge you a surcharge for the extra work.
What is your timeline? Do you need it by a certain date?
Our current method of wine making can usually produce wines in 6-8 weeks. By that time, your wine should be ready for bottling. Some wines are quicker to clear and can be bottled within the 6 weeks with little trouble. Most berry wines will fall into this timeframe. The only berry wine we’ve encountered real troubles with is huckleberry. For some reason, they can take longer to ferment. Apple wines can be a real pain if it’s been a wet year, the apples have been frozen on the tree or have been picked way too ripe. Mushy apples usually produce a lot of sediment and can take extra time for racking and clearing. Peach, pear and rhubarb wines have more pectin and therefor can take extra time to clear. Patience is really a virtue here. Please don’t rush this process. If your wine needs some extra time, it’s best to let it sit.
Are you wanting an organic wine? Do you want a wine low in sulphites?
You can make an organic wine! All products with an organic content of 95% or greater are considered organic and may be labelled with the word "organic".
Use fruit that has not been sprayed with pesticides or fertilizers, use natural honey and PRESTO - organic wine! The ingredients we add are not more than the 5% of ingredients in the final product.
We can omit some sulphites during the wine making process. It does limit the shelf life of your wine as it counteracts the effects of oxygen and aids in stabilizing your wine for longer storage. Here’s a LINK to more information about sulphites. Let us know before your wine is made if you want less sulphites.
Sweet or dry?
Country Fruit Wines are usually meant to be a little on the sweet side. Think of eating an unripe strawberry or a green apple….. without the sweetness, it can be bitter and tart. If there is enough tannin in the wine, a dry wine is palatable. Some wines can be quite nice dry – saskatoon, blueberry, haskap, even some apples. We recommend all Country Fruit Wines to be off-dry. If you are unsure if off-dry is what you are looking for, please let us know. It is really easy to sweeten a Country Fruit Wine. It is almost impossible to take the sweetness away after the wine has been finished. You can always come in and taste your wine and see if it needs to be sweeter before you bottle.
Make sure you call us at 250-787-2739 to make your appointment to start your Country Fruit Wine. We fill up fast and sometimes calling a week ahead is necessary to get the time you want.
Remember to take your fruit out of the freezer in plenty of time before your appointment. It needs to be thawed. We cannot add yeast to cold fruit!
Don’t forget your sugar!
Next Post: Equipment used in wine making
Step 2 - Cleaning and Processing Fruit for Making Wine
After you’re done picking, don’t waste time. Get cleaning ASAP! The longer fruit sits, the more susceptible it is to bacteria. Keeping the fruit cool also helps the fruit retain its firmness. For an example, when I pick my raspberries, I put the buckets into the fridge until I have time to clean them. Remember: The cleaner you pick, the less time it takes to get your fruit ready for the freezer. Try not to put leaves, twigs or bad fruits into your bucket.
I usually clean most of my fruit by filling my sink 1/2 full with cool water and adding about 1/2 a gallon at a time. I let it soak for a little while, drowning any of those lurking little bugs. I go handful by handful, shuffling them over in my hands and removing anything not worthy. Be very careful not to rinse soft fruit with high powered spray of water. I put the good fruit in a colander to drip dry while I clean the remainder. Unwanted stuff gets put into the compost bucket. I also peel, slice and pit if needed, before freezing.
Once the fruit is dry (blotting with a paper towel helps), I freeze the fruit in a single layer, on a cookie sheet until firm, then transfer to a plastic bag. This is a great way to keep the fruit from sticking together and freezing in one huge lump. Removing as much air as possible also helps protect the fruit against freezer burn. Every bag that goes into the freezer is also labelled with the type of fruit and the year. We use this fruit in smoothies and desserts later in the year and this freezing method makes it really easy to take out the amount you need.
Why we like freezing the fruit prior to wine making…
Processing tips for making wine at our shop:
No matter which freezer bags you use, more often than not, they will leak once the fruit starts to thaw. Maybe the plastic breaks down over time; maybe the bags get snagged or nicked when in the freezer. Whatever the reason, NEVER trust a freezer bag to keep in the juice while thawing. Always put your bags into a clean container that can catch all of the leaking juice. This juice should not be dumped out. There's lots of flavor and color that can be added to your wine!
Next Post: Selecting your fruit for wine making and what to bring to your appointment
Step 1 - Picking Your Fruit
I remember as a child, going berry picking with my grandparents. We'd load up in the farm truck, buckets, bug spray and a lunch Grandma had packed, Grandpa's gun in the back window, and head down to the hills of the Peace River for some berry picking. We had a "special place" they liked to go. Before the popularity and necessity of sunscreen, we'd usually return home with bug bites, sunburn and a few buckets full of saskatoons. Being out with my grandparents was always fun, but I sure didn't like picking berries. Not a fan of saskatoons, I would usually find myself a spot and stay there all day, dreaming and swatting the mosquitoes, probably whining about wanting to go home.
Fast forward 30 years and here I am, an avid berry picker. I LOVE IT! Maybe just a chance to relive times with my grandparents, maybe because I am happy to have an abundance of natural and healthy food to feed my own family. As my grandparents and parents did to me and my sister, I now pack up my kids as well and make them come picking. I still hate cleaning the berries once I bring them home. A tedious job as my OCD kicks in high gear. Never a leaf, bug or spoiled fruit would be found in my cleaned berries!
But, where do you find fruit?
If you don't have the great advantage of owning property that has wild fruit bushes, you'll need to find someone who is willing to let you onto their property. Edge of roads and on the hill sides are great areas where saskatoons can be found in our area. But remember, some of these places could be privately owned. Always ask for permission before entering on private property. Chokecherry trees can be found on the banks of the Peace River and Beatton River hills. Patches of wild raspberries, wild strawberries, wild blueberries, huckleberries, cranberries, rosehips and other edibles can be found all over the Peace area. Ask around. (PS - I would love it if someone would share their huckleberry patch with me!) Crabapples can be found in lots of backyards in most of the older homes in Fort St. John. There are cherry trees planted at the Pomeroy Sports Centre. If you have a fruit tree, don't want to use the fruit, don't want to clean up the fruit on the ground and have it go to waste - think about letting people come pick it! Leave your name at our shop and I will pass it along to those looking for extra fruit. There are a few u-pick places around as well: I know there's a saskatoon u-pick in the Grandhaven/Charlie Lake area somewhere, there's a farm up the highway that has haskaps available, and there's the market gardens at Dunvegan, AB for strawberries.
Click HERE for a great reference on wild berries in BC. Find out what's safe to eat!
Checklist for berry picking:
1) Bug spray
2) Sunscreen/large brimmed hat/shirt with long sleeves (older one so stains don't matter)
3) Buckets - I usually take 1 large and 1 small. Pick with the small and empty it into the large.
4) Music player/partner/dog/bear spray (make noise - remember you're in bear habitat)
5) Good shoes, especially if you are picking along the river hills. Hard to walk the hills in flip-flops!
7) If you're driving, make sure you have lots of gas and let someone know where you're going and when you'll be back. (Don't ask how I know this!)
8) Check the weather. You'd hate to get to the berry patch just to find out that it's going to rain and you're unprepared to pick in a downpour.
9) Baby wipes (great for getting sticky juice off your fingers, or mouth. LOL)
10) Enjoy the time in the fresh air, surrounded by nature!
Don't have the time to pick? Check out the different fruit trucks in the area. Since you want ripe fruit for Country Fruit Wines, ask if they have any overripe fruit at a discount. Make sure you check it over. Spoiled or rotten fruit cannot be used to make good wine. Check the grocery store for sales in the produce or freezer sections. We've made many batches of great wine from Costco frozen fruit too!
Next Post: Cleaning and getting your fruit ready for wine making
I have 3 bushes at my house. Thanks to roaming wildlife, those bushes have been pruned "naturally". I have only had a handful of berries from my own bushes in the past couple of years.
Thankfully, a wonderful customer who has an abundance of fruit, gave me the opportunity to come out and pick some of her berries, U-Pick style. If anyone wants her contact info, or has any other questions about haskaps, send me a message or call the shop at 250-787-2739.
We have been making wine from haskaps for about 3 years now. This fruit makes AH-MAZING wine. Use enough berries (I like 5 gallons of fruit per 23L batch) and you get a wonderfully full bodied wine, rich in color and flavor. I use my saskatoon wine recipe for the haskaps and we've had great success using lime juice instead of acid blend. Whether you like a dry wine, or a sweet dessert-style wine, this berry can do it all.
What to do with your berries if you'd like to come in to make wine....
1) Pick lots! You will want them to eat fresh, for wine, jam and syrup.
2) Rinse off your berries and clean out the leaves, twigs, bad fruit, etc. No need to crush, mash, or put them through a blender.
3) Freeze your berries. REMEMBER - if you freeze in bags, they will leak!! Make sure you thaw them in a clean container to catch the juice. That stuff stains bad!
4) Before you come to your appointment, thaw your berries and bring in 5kg of sugar also.
5) Leave all of the messy work up to us. Yes, it is messy. We've stained everything around here with haskap juice.
For more information on this berry: Click Here
About This Page...
A bit about our shop and what we are up to. We get asked about a lot of different things. Here's some info someone might find interesting. Or, some of it might just be ramblings from my overactive mind!