Making Elderflower Wine and Champagne
You can find many recipes for elderflower wine or champagne online. They are pretty similar in the ingredients but differ in the execution. With most of these recipes you don’t really know what you will finally get. Of course, we all like a little excitement. But going into the cellar to fetch a possible anti person mine to serve the guests, really is too much for me. I won’t even talk about giving explosive gifts or sending them in the mail. I don’t know about you but having a recipe that creates a good tasting and shelf stable elderflower wine or champagne is of uttermost importance. This is why i created the second part of this article. It talks about different methods to make your product shelf stable.
You can play with different ingredients. Add more elderflowers if you like the aroma to be very pungent. You can create a lighter wine/champagne by adding more water. I like mine to be more concentrated, because you can add water later to taste. The sugar can be replaced by honey or molasses. You can even add fruits or spices.
- 25 – 50 Elderflower Heads
- 6l Water
- 1kg Sugar or Honey
- 2 untreated Lemons or Limes
Collect the fresh elderflower heads. Try only to take the flowers and as little of the stems as possible. Leave the flowers on the tree that have bugs on them. It is best to go and collect the elderflowers when it did not rain for some time. Try also to collect them at a tree that is far away from main roads because dust will settle on the flowers.
Add 5.5l of water to a fermentation bucket. Don’t wash the flowers, just put them in the bucket with the water. Chop the lemon into rings and add them to the bucket. Put 1kg of sugar into a pan and add 0.5l of water. Heat it up and stir until the sugar is completely dissolved. Now add the suger/water mixture to your fermentation bucket. Let the mixture sit for about 24 – 48h.
With a mesh or strainer, filter the liquid to a new bucket. Prepare some yeast. I have made good experiences with dry beer yeast. Wine or champagne yeast should work equally well.
If you feel adventurous you can put a part of the liquid in a separate containers like a pet bottles (don’t close them while fermenting) and let it ferment spontaneously. Don’t do this with the whole batch, the chance of getting something good is rather small.
After adding the yeast let it ferment for a few days and decide how you would like your final product.
Methods to make it shelf stable
There are a few different methods to make your product shelf stable. Some are more difficult but they all create a product where you don’t have to worry about it to be exploding in your face.
This is my preferred style of elderflower champagne. There are about 3 different methods for creating a shelf stable sweet and sparkling elderflower champagne. I talk about all of them further bellow.
This is the most difficult and dangerous method. It is the one i use the most because i don’t have a counter pressure bottle filler and i think it creates the best product.
Have a taste of the wine every day while it is fermenting. When it has reached your preferred sweetness and taste, fill it into bottles and close them.
You should now open a new bottle every 4h to check the carbonation level. This can be reached pretty fast. I had bottles over carbonate in as little as 12h. There should be no liquid overflowing when opening a bottle. If this happens, you waited to long. It is better to be safe and start pasteurizing when the carbonation is still a little bit too low.
When carbonation has reached the ideal amount, pasteurize the bottles by putting them into hot (80C) water. Let them sit in the hat water bath for about 10minutes. Put a lid or towel on top of the pot. I never had bottles explode with this technique but when using flip top bottles some of them vented because of the high pressure. Don’t put too many bottles in at once, or the water temperature will drop too much. After about 10 minutes, take the bottles out and let them cool down. Reheat the water bath and repeat the process until all the bottles are pasteurized. They are now ready to drink or store as long as you want.
WARNING: Never pasteurize bottles that are over carbonated. Handling hot liquids under pressure is a dangerous process. Wear safety glasses and gloves and a thick jacket.
With Counter Pressure Filler
For this you will need a counter pressure bottle filler and kegging system. When the wine has reached your preferred sweetness, pasteurize it by transferring it to a pan and heating it to 72C. Transfer it to a keg and force carbonate. Fill your bottles with the counter pressure filler.
Back-sweeten with unfermentable sweetener
This is another way to create a sweet and sparkling elderflower champagne. I have not tried this method yet. Let the wine ferment out completely, before filling the bottles, use a priming sugar calculator and add the calculated amount of sugar. Also add some form of unfermetable sweetener like stevia.
Taste your wine every day when fermenting. When it has reached your preferred sweetness, add it to a pan and heat it to ~72C. Fill your bottles with the hot liquid and close them immediately. Store them somewhere cool to let the yeast settle out.
Let the wine ferment out completely until there is no sweetness left. This can take up to 2-3 weeks. Use a priming sugar calculator and right before bottling add the amount of calculated sugar. This is important, if you add too much sugar you create the feared bottle bombs. Let the bottles sit for at least 2 more weeks at room temperature.
To create a dry elderflower wine, let it ferment out completely like above and fill it into bottles.
I tasted a bottle of pasteurized elderflower champagne that was over a year old. It was still good and the carbonation was fine. So this is a good way to stabilize your wine or champagne and be able to drink it over the whole year.