One of the most rewarding wines I’ve ever made was a sweet cherry wine. In general, cherry wine tends to be rich and robust in its overall character. The tartness is mellow from the malic acid that dominates the cherry family. The tannins are firm giving the wines made with it a wonderful structure and body.
The one I made a couple of years ago from the sweet cherry wine recipe below turned out exceptional. It took a few months to age, but once it came around, turns out, it was well worth the wait.
The cherry flavor came through nice and fruity and lingered into a rich, earthy aftertaste. It had layers of flavor that you do not always expect in a fruit wine. Some of this I attribute to the brown sugar called for in this wine recipe. Some of it I attribute to the fruit acids. The Lalvin RC-212 that was used in this cherry wine recipe could have helped out in this department, as well.
Since spring is here it won’t be long before cherries will be in full-swing, so I thought this would be a great time to share it on the blog. The cherries you use can make a difference. As its name implies, you want to be sure to use sweet cherries as opposed to sour cherries. According to my notes, I used a mix of Bing and Lambert cherries, but there are many other varieties of cherries that I’m sure would work.
Sweet Cherry Wine Recipe
(Makes 5 Gallons)
18 lbs. Sweet Cherries (pitted)
9 lbs. Cane Sugar
3 lbs. Brown Sugar
1 tbsp. Yeast Energizer
Pectic Enzyme (as directed on the package)
2-1/2 tsp. Tartaric Acid
2-1/2 tsp. Citric Acid
1 Packet Lalvin RC-212 Wine Yeast
10 Campden Tablets (5 before fermentation, 5 before bottling)
This is a fairly straightforward sweet cherry wine recipe, so for the most part all you need to do is following the basic 7 wine making steps on our website. The only thing different that you should take note of is that the cherries need to be pitted. You do not want the pits in with the fermentation. Also, you do not want to over process the cherries. This can cause the wine to be too bitter. Cutting the cherries in half as you pit them is sufficient. If you are using a cherry pitter, all you need to do is lightly crush the cherries after they are pitted.
I also like to pre-dissolve the brown sugar whenever it’s called for in any wine recipe. This can easily be done by taking 2-parts water and 1-part brown sugar and heating it on the stove until liquid. You will need to stir continuously at first so that the sugar does not burn on the bottom of the pan.
Even if you only make 2 or 3 batches of wine each year, I would urge you to give the sweet cherry wine recipe a go. It makes a remarkable wine that it hard not to like. It’s also pretty easy to make. And as always, you can make it as sweet or as dry as you like, by back-sweetening the wine to taste.
Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.
When taking a specific gravity during fermentation, what was the reading you allowed it to get too? For sweeter and for dry wine?
-Thanks for the recipe!
Joe, I recommend that you always ferment any must to complete dryness — SG of .998 or less. If you do not want the wine sweet, add: sugar, honey, whatever right before bottling along with potassium sorbate (wine stabilizer) to help eliminate a any chance of re-fermentation. You can read more about this here:
Making Sweet Wines
Sounds delish. It’s a real shame that cherries over here in the UK are so expensive
Since reading this article, I’ve been watching our cherry tree. Yesterday, my husband picked enough to have 18 lbs after pitting in the fermenting bucket and we started the must. I took a starting hydrometer reading, but it is extremely high. Is this because of the displacement of the cherries? Also, can an accurate starting reading be taken when there is fruit rather than juice?
Annette, thanks for the great questions. You are correct in your assumption that the beginning hydrometer reading might be off, but it is not because of the displacement of the cherries. That will not affect the reading at all. But, what will make it off is the fact that not all the sugars are being measured. All the natural sugars in the cherries are not being account for in the beginning hydrometer reading. Some if the sugar is still bound within the fiber of the fruit, so when you take a sample for your reading, the concentration of sugar in the cherries are not being read. Fortunately, it is usually not enough to throw the reading off by any significant amount, but if it is throwing the reading off in any direction, it is giving you a reading that is lower than reality, not higher. As to why you are already getting a higher reading than you should, this can be made up after the pulp has been removed. When you go into your secondary fermentation you will want to bring the volume of the batch back up to 5 gallons with water. The recipe takes this into account and should give you a wine with a reasonable amount of alcohol…. Ah, it just hit me! That’s what you meant by “displacement”. Yes, the fruit pulp will be replace with water as you go into secondary, and that is why your reading right now seems to be a little on the high side. Again, thanks for the great questions.
I have just made a batch for 10 liters (2.5 gal) using 10 lbs yellow cherries and 6 lbs white sugar. So I had cut the recipe in half only using white sugar. After adding the campden tablets I checked the SG with a refractometer in Brix and it was off the chart. I diluted it 50% and got a reading of 20.4 Brix. This would mean a Specific Gravity of 1.1832 and Potential Alcohol By Volume of 29.7%. This can’t be right even if I was to top off with water when racking. Not sure what to do, add more cherries and water? And to what starting SG??
Scott, if the brix are actually 20.4 then the specific gravity would be somewhere around 1.080 with a potential alcohol of about 11 percent. I would take another reading to make sure it is correct. You want the starting gravity to be between 1.060 and 1.100.
Spring Means Time To Make Some Cherry Wine??? Cherries ripen in the late summer, so late Summer means time to make some Cherry Wine, NOT NOW!!!
You should have Spring Means Time To Make Some Rhubarb or Strawberry Wine. Any decent winemaker knows you only make wine with fruit in season…
Kurt, cherries are being harvested right now in California and as the weeks go on will work their way up to Washington.
Cherries are being harvested right now in British Columbia
I read your recipe for sweet cherry wine which makes 5 gallons. How would you calculate for 3 gallons? Thks
Bill, all you need to do is divide all of the ingredients by 5 and then multiply that amount by the number of gallons you wish to make. The only exception is the yeast, you will use the entire packet of yeast to make 1-5 gallons.
Made this and it looks great. Can’t wait to try it. In the meantime do you have a recipe for a peach wine. I have an abundance and thought this would be a great way to use them up. Thanks
Can I omit the Camden and still get good results?
Nancy, you can make the wine without using sulfites, however what is a concern is keeping the wine from spoiling after it is made. The one time that we do recommend adding the campden tablets is prior to fermentation to kill of any bacteria that may be on the fruit. Any free sulfite that is in the wine at this point will be long gone by the time the fermentation has completed. The sulfite will readily dissipate as a gas. The article below will discuss this subject in much more detail.
Making Wine Without Sulfites
I highly recommend the new Skylar Rae cherry grown at the Stemilt orchard in Wenatchee Washington! This is by the sweetest Cherry in existence!
Please explain the importance of pitting the cherries. Thank you.
Ronald, you want to remove the pits so that you do crush them when you crush the fruit. If the pit is left or crushed, it will cause bitterness in the wine.
Ah Ed – “you do NOT crush them when you crush the fruit” – you omitted “not”…….
Ed: I make my cherry wine and cherry molecule from Nan King Cherries that ripen around May here in Illinois, but I leave the pits in during the initial primary fermentation. The Nan King Cherry is a bush, has a semi sweet flesh, is a heavy feeder and has extremely high production. I use natural fertilizer and compost heavy.
How long does cherry wine have to age before it is drinkable? Also how does aging affect the cherry wine.
Willy, within the first 30 days of aging most people experience enough improvement in their wine’s flavor and bouquet. The first 30 days is when a significant portion of the improvement happens. Continued aging will also reap additional benefits, and each additional month will provide marginal improvements.
Does your 5 gallons consist of 19 litres or 23 litres?
Andrew, five gallons of wine is approximately 19 liters.
If I were to use corn sugar instead of table sugar, how would that change the flavor profile? Would it be helpful or not to make that small change?
Derek, you might notice a slight difference if you decide to use corn sugar. The article posted below will discuss this in more detail.
Using Corn Sugar In Wine
Hello, I’m making this recipe and I was curious at the step where you remove the pulp and try to leave the sediment behind. Do I also want to leave the yeast (foam) on the top behind as well. I wasn’t sure if I did that if it will continue to ferment in the carboy?
Brian, you do not need to leave the foam behind. Just simply start siphoning from the bottom leaving as much of the sediment behind as possible. For your first racking it is okay if you take a little of the sediment along just so that you get as much liquid as possible. Your final racking is where you want to sacrifice a little of the wine to make sure that you leave all of the sediment behind.
I only have acid blend (malic, citric and tartaric) powders in my stock. Can an acid blend be substituted for the individual tartaric and citric acid powders? If so, how much blend would I need to add to be the equivalent of what the recipe calls for?
Cole, it will be fine to use the acid blend. You will add the same amount so it would be 5 teaspoons.
I really appreciate your help so far. I had made a different cherry recipe I found on a different website, it had me ferment in the primary fermenter for a full 21 days before racking to the carboy. at which I had to ferment another 4 weeks. When I went to back-sweeten, I tasted it first and it was super dry and didn’t taste like cherry (I guess being dry is the point of fermenting). Once I added a “TON” of sweetener (your conditioner, and that didn’t change the taste much at all so then I had to add a bunch of concentrated grape juice) and by time it got sweet enough, it didn’t taste like cherry, nor wine.
I made your recipe and tasted a little after the 6 days of primary fermentation before I racked it and it tasted very good. Now I’m very nervous that after another 4-6 weeks of fermentation I may end up in the same place. So I was hoping you had some comments/thoughts on my previous experience. Also, when it is time to back-sweeten and bottle, do you think 1 bag of conditioner for a full recipe should be enough to sweeten the 5 gallons?
Thank you for your time, it’s very much appreciated!
Brian, once the fermentation is complete and the wine is dry, it normal for the wine to lose some of it’s fruity flavor. Back sweetening the wine is one way to bring back the fruity flavors. Below are the links to a couple of article that will discuss other ways to get more fruit flavor in your wine. As far as how much wine conditioner to use, that is a personal preference because everyone’s sweetness perception is different. I can tell you that each bottle of conditioner is sufficient to sweeten anywhere from 6-12 gallons of wine.
More Fruit Flavor
I have an acid blend rather than the individual acids. How much of the blend should I use to replace the individual measurements for tartaric and citric the recipe calls for, or would it be the same amount? Thank you!
Kimberly, our acid blend is comprised of 50% citric acid, 25% tataric and 24% malic acid. I would recommend using the same amount the recipe calls for.
why do I need water if I have enough juice. 18 lbs of cherries does not yield 5 gallons of juice. Juice is about 10 lbs per gal. thus 50 lbs of juice would make 5 gals of wine. Pulp extra.
Hank, fruit wine recipes need to have their juice cut with water in their wine recipes. This is mainly because these juices have too much acid in them. This makes their flavor too sharp/sour for drinking.
Is it okay to use frozen cherries?
Yes, it is perfectly fine to use frozen cherries.
I used yeast nutrient instead of energizer, I am already in the carboy stage 3 days. Is there a fix for this or just leave it alone? Thanks in advance for any advice on this.
John, it will more than likely be fine. Yeast Energizer actually contains nutrient plus a wider variety of other nutrients. At this point as long as it is fermenting fine, you do not need to do anything. If you find that the fermentation stops before completion, you can add the energizer at that time.
I don’t have access to sweet cherry’s, but sour cherry’s make an excellent also. I started with a hydrometer reading of 1.095, and fermented it down to .990. after stabilizing I sweetened it up to 1.010 this is the way I like it. Most all my friends and relatives like it too. I was also making Elderberry at the same time and mixed one gallon of Elderberry into five gallons of cherry. After a year of ageing this is also a great combination.
I have a very good juicer (and cherry pitter) and a LARGE cherry tree (with a ton of cherries). After i pit them, can i just cut and run them through the juicer – to extract the juice?
Susan, if you are referring to a steam juicer then that is fine. If you are talking about a power juice, I would take a look at the article posted below for more information.
Making Wine With A Power Juicer
I would like to make a smaller batch of this wine. Can I make 2.5 gallons in a 3 gallon fermenter or is that too much empty space in the container? My other choice would be making 2 gallons in a 2 gal bucket, but I’d prefer to get a dozen bottles if I can. Also, do you reduce the number of Campden tablets proportionately?
Thanks very much.
Lah, For the primary fermentation the 3 gallon fermenter is fine. When you get to the secondary fermenter, I would recommend a fermenter that matches the batch size to avoid oxidation. The dosage for campden tablets is 1 for each gallon of wine.
I am making cherry wine from your Catalog 116A. I ended up with 25 lbs of cherries so I used 12lbs of sugar. I am using Two 5 lb buckets ( three gallons each) to make 6 Gallons of wine. I divide the Cherries equally in both buckets in cheese cloth bags. The bags are huge! And I drew the string of the cheese cloth string around the top of the outside of the buckets. When I start the fermentation can I put the yeast directly on the must of cherries or do I need to close the bag and put the yeast in the juice?
Scott, you can just sprinkle the yeast on top of the must.
Is it really necessary to place the Cherries in a fermentation bag, and then place the bag in the fermenter vessel during Primary Fermentation. Can you not just sieve/strain the fruit and particles out of the juice after primary.
Also, can blackberries be added as an addition to your cherries to make a Cheery/Blackberry wine.
Barry, you can leave the fruit floating freely in the fermenter. However it would be much easier to squeeze out the juice when you remove it if it is contained in a bag.
Disappointed in the apparent juice yield. Basically followed the recipe with 21 lbs. of cherries, topped up to the six gallon mark on the bucket with close to five gallons of water, and it looks like I will be lucky to end up with four gallons of juice at the end of the day. Alcohol at about 14% with still plenty of fermentation activity.
Hi, I have a 1 gallon batch of tart cherry wine that just finished it’s one week ferment. Unfortunately, I did not measure Brix at the beginning of the ferment, but right now I am only getting 1.000. I already racked it, but still have the main fermentation tank with sediment in it; should I put it back and let it go another week? Do I need to add more sugar and/or yeast? I’m brand new to all this. Thanks for the help!
Luke, a specific gravity reading of 1.000 indicates that the yeast has consumed almost all of the sugar available in the juice and converted it to alcohol.This means the fermentation is almost complete. You do not want or need to put it back in the primary fermenter. You want to let it finish up in the secondary away from all of the sediment. There is no need to add additional yeast, the packet you already added will take care of the job. The only reason you would need to add more sugar is if you are trying to make more alcohol.
I used some already processed cherries from Walkers Juice so I skipped the first few steps and didn’t use enzymes. I’m now through the fermentation process and I would like to add the cherry wine to an already finished/fined/stabilized (went through MLF) grape wine. Besides fining what other things would I need to worry about as far as bottle stability? I know the cherries have a lot of malic acid so I’m worried about it going through MLF in the bottle or something like that but also don’t want to make the wine too flabby by getting rid of all the acid. Also does cold stabilizing do much for cherry wine.. different tartrate composition? Any thoughts?
The two things I would be most worried about would be having an MLF start up again, and having tannin drop out in the bottle from the cherries.
Both issues are easy to eliminate. If you add sulfite to the wine after blending the MLF risk should be eliminated. The bacteria is very sensitive to sulfites.
As for the tannin issue, I would slightly warm the cherry wine to about 80F and then treat with be bentonite. That should drop out any excessive tannins and help to make the wine heat-stable.