My local supermarket, Fiesta Farms, specializes in organic and natural food and they often have good deals on high grade fruit juice. One day I stumbled on an amazing sale for pure black cherry juice ($2.99/L!) and I couldn’t pass it up…
I’ve never made wine from cherry juice before so I wasn’t sure how to approach this. Most online recipes suggest watering down the juice and then adding sugar — but I wanted to try fermenting the juice straight up. I bought one bottle and measured the original gravity at 1.084, which was basically enough to brew without additional sugar. The juice was extremely thick and sweet and I considered watering it down for a smoother flavour… in the end however I just fermented the juice in its original state.
BLACK CHERRY WINE (recipe for 18.9L batch):
- 19x 32 oz. bottles R.W. Knudsen Just Black Cherry Juice
- 1 Kg table sugar
- 5 g Wyeast yeast nutrient
- Lalvin EC-1118 yeast
Starting gravity: 1.102
The process for this wine is extremely simple. Basically, dump all the cherry juice into your primary fermenter. On your stove, bring a small amount of water to a boil and dissolve the sugar to it. Dump the sugar water into your fermenter along with the cherry juice. Activate the yeast in a small cup with warm water and the yeast nutrient. Let this cool until it’s roughly the same temperature as the juice in your fermenter, then dump it in.
I made the grievous mistake of using a carboy for my primary fermenter. some fruit wines don’t ferment that quickly so the carboy is fine… in this case however, five gallons of thicky sugary cherry juice practically exploded with fermenting bubbly goodness. Less than a day after starting I dumped the batch into a wine bucket, which did only a slightly better job of containing the erupting mass of soon-to-be delicious booze.
A week later I siphoned this back into a carboy. There was an enormous layer of sediment in the bucket — I siphoned part of this, but there was so damn much I just dumped a lot of it. Back in the 18.9L carboy, there was a bit of extra room at the top, so I grabbed a couple more jars of juice and filled it right up.
Within two weeks the gravity had dropped dramatically, right down to 1.012. I don’t really know how to approach this since most cherry wine recipes do not call for pure juice. So I’ll take a similar approach to previous homemade wine… one month in primary, 1-2 months in secondary and then 3+ months in bottles.
In hindsight there are many things I’d change with this recipe. The original cherry juice was thick, heavy and disgustingly sweet — I can only assume the final product will be the same. Next time I’ll water it down and make up the difference with sugar. Also the back-and-forth between carboy and bucket can’t have been good. Racking it after a week might not have been the best. Regardless the final product will likely be a 14% fruit wine that I can water down into a cooler-style beverage. Just wait for the 2011 edition!