Making Apple Wines


Apple wines can be made easily by anyone who has a few pounds of windfalls. You can also make cider, and there's an article on the Apples page telling you how to do this.

In any decent wine you need sugar, tannin and acid. The basic recipe for a fruit wine is 4lbs fruit, 1 kilo sugar (ie a 2.2lb pack), 8 oz sultanas, and enough acid / tannin.

Wines made from apples are better if the apples are sour or acidic. This is perhaps surprising until you realise that when fermentation takes place, the sugar is removed. What's left after the sugar has gone gives the wine its taste.

The procedure is very easy - put your apples in plastic bags, sliced, with the cores and bad bits removed, into the freezer. Leave for two days. As the water in the fruit turns to ice it expands and pulverises the fruit very effectively.

Take 4lbs of frozen fruit, 8 oz of sultanas straight from the packet; place in fermentation bin, cover with water, add a pound of sugar, give a stir, add yeast, replace the lid, and leave overnight. Stir it again in the morning, when most of the fruit should have melted. It should start fizzing in a day or two; when it's going well, add the rest of the sugar and stir again. After about 10 days, scoop out all of the fruit residues and discard. Then taste the wine - does it need any more sugar? If so, add a half pound or quarter pound, stirring it in and writing the addition on the label. Keep adding until the sweetness is more or less how you like it. Leave for a week and taste again; add a little more sugar if necessary..... Then you can move on to the next stage:

Pour the cloudy half-fermented wine into a demijohn and fill up to within about 2 inches of the top. The gap is left to prevent it overflowing; often you get fruit debris floating up and forcing its way out of the top. After two days, the floating stuff should begin to sink, and you can fill it completely. Use an airlock or similar to stop flies getting in, and let it ferment for a couple of weeks. After that time there should be a residue of dead yeast and fruit debris at the bottom.

Take a second clean demijohn, put a funnel in the top, and pour the wine, all except the residue (the bottom inch or so) into the second jar. You could use a tube but it's a lot slower and messier and it doesn't do the job any better. Don't worry about a bit of residue getting into the second container.

Top up with water or apple juice right to the top, put the airlock back on, and leave it alone for a few weeks. It should start to clear in a month or two. Sometimes it takes longer...it can be six months, but if you plan ahead, this doesn't matter.

Eventually you can pour the top layer off again, either into another demijohn, and top up as before, or into two 2-litre plastic bottles, which you store until the wine is perfectly clear. When ready, use the wine by filling a couple of decanters, carefully avoiding the transfer of sediment.

A comment worth making here is that apple wines are often better if you add other ingredients - like elderberries (up to about 1lb per gallon), blackberries (up to 2lb), or a mixture of the two. The presence of red fruit also helps the wine to clear faster. You also get better wines from crab apples or mixtures including cooking apples than you do from brews containing only eating apples. If you only have dessert apples, you should add plenty of lemon juice or a few quinces or crab apples per gallon, prepared by slicing / freezing as before. Tannin is present in crab apples, sour apples and bitter apples, especially in the cores. A wine without tannins may taste OK but it tends to be a bit too light - it lacks "body".

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