Cherry wine is a beautifully sweet way to use up a bumper crop of fruit this summer.
Fresh cherries are a beautiful thing, but they won’t last long. Growing up in California, we’d gorge on pounds of them fresh every day in season, but still, there’s no end to the cherry harvests.
Not living in Vermont, we grow what’s known as “tart cherries” or “pie cherries” which are packed with cherry flavor. As their name suggests, they’re quite tart eaten out of hand.
They’re perfect for preserving, and they make an exceptional cherry wine. (Don’t worry, you can substitute any cherries in this recipe.)
Extracting Juice for Cherry Wine
Generally, when I’m making fruit wine, I let the sugar do the work of juicing the fruit. Just muddle the sugar together with the fruit and it’ll naturally draw the juice right out.
I used this technique for making peach wine and strawberry wine this past year. That technique would work just fine with cherries.
Start by mashing the fruit and sugar together with a potato masher (pitted or whole, no matter). Make sure it’s well mashed to open up the cherry skins. (Don’t use a food processor, damaging the pits will result in a bitter wine.)
Allow the fruit to macerate in the sugar for at least 24 hours, then strain through a jelly bag or cheesecloth.
Alternately, if you’ve pitted the fruit, just place the fruit and sugar into a fermentation bucket and leave them in for the primary.
This time though, I’d just bought a steam juicer to help with the big batches of black currant jelly we make every year. The cherries came ripe shortly after, so I decided to juice the cherries with my new toy.
I started with exactly 10 pounds of cherries in the juicer, which is more than you’ll need in this cherry wine recipe.
After about 90 minutes of slow steaming, the cherries had completely released their juices. The draw-off tube allowed me to harvest the juice without any messy straining or cheesecloth.
I was able to collect a full gallon of juice from 10 pounds of cherries. As I said, this is more than you’ll need for cherry wine.
Though this is a one-gallon cherry wine recipe, there are other things that need to be added into the carboy. Cherries don’t have nearly as much sugar as wine grapes, so you’ll need to add sugar.
Cherries also lack the right balance of tannins and acid to make a well-rounded wine, so I’m adding a bit of tannin powder and acid blend powder.
If you’d like to make cherry wine without buying any winemaking additives, there are substitutions outlined in the article I wrote on making small-batch wine. For example, lemon in place of acid blend and black tea in place of tannin.
How Much Fruit is Needed for Cherry Wine?
I started by removing one quart of the juice, and I set it aside to make cherry jelly. That left me with 3 quarts of cherry juice.
Assuming you’re not interested in making cherry jelly, starting with 6-8 pounds of fruit would work just fine. Many recipes start with 5 pounds of fruit, and I’d say it’ll depend on the flavor of your cherries.
Black cherries have a more intense flavor, with a rich wine-y note. Tart cherries contain a lot more water and most sour cherry jam recipes involve nearly an hour of cooking to cook them down.
I suggest starting with 6-8lbs of tart cherries, or 5-6 pounds of sweet black cherries.
How to Make Cherry Wine
Start by extracting the juice from fresh cherries. This can be accomplished in a number of ways, including:
- Using a juicer
- Muddling the fruit with sugar
- Freezing then thawing the fruit
- Using a Steam Juicer
Place the juice in a carboy and add the winemaking additives. I’m using sugar, tannin powder, yeast nutrient, and acid blend.
Tannin powder helps improve the mouthfeel of the wine and rounds out the taste.
Yeast nutrient helps the yeast thrive since cherries don’t contain all the same nutrients as grapes.
The acid blend brings out the natural sweetness of the fruit and adjusts the pH to help the fermentation proceed smoothly. Sour cherries have a ph between 3.1 and 3.6, while sweet cherries are 3.7 to 4.5. If you’re using sour cherries, adding acid is optional, and if you choose to include it, use only 1/4 to 1/2 as much.
Sugar, of course, feeds the yeast and raises the alcohol content so the wine will keep and adds residual sweetness.
Everything goes into a fermentation vessel, along with a small amount of water to fill if necessary. Add the yeast and cap with a water lock as they go to work.
Allow the cherry wine to ferment in primary for one to two weeks until vigorous fermentation has slowed.
After the wine has calmed, use a siphon to rack the wine over into a clean fermentation vessel, leaving the sediment behind. If you left the whole cherries in the fermenter (using a wide mouth bucket fermenter to avoid clogs and make cleanup easier), then this is the time to remove the fruit.
Siphoning will kick off the second round of fermentation.
Allow the cherry wine to ferment in secondary for 4 to 6 weeks (or longer). Once the fermentation is complete, bottle the wine in wine bottles with corks and allow the mixture to bottle age for at least a month (preferably longer) before drinking.
Cherry wine is a refreshing way to enjoy the fruits of summer.
If using Sweet Cherries (Black Cherries)
- 5-6 lbs Cherries
- 2 lbs sugar
- 2 tsp acid blend
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1/8 tsp tannin
- wine yeast (See notes)
If using Sour or Tart Cherries
- 6-8 lbs Cherries
- 2 1/2 lbs sugar
- (Optional) 1/2 to 1 tsp acid blend
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1/8 tsp tannin
- wine yeast (See Notes)
- Sanitize all equipment before beginning with one step brewing sanitizer.
- Juice the cherries (see note) and then dissolve the sugar in about 3 quarts of juice. Stir until completely dissolved (heating is usually not necessary).
- Add the remaining winemaking additives, including acid, tannin and yeast nutrient. Place the mixture into a one-gallon fermentation vessel (narrow neck carboy).
- Dissolve the wine yeast in a small amount of water and allow it to bloom for about 10 minutes. Add the yeast mixture to the carboy.
- Add water (or more cherry juice) to fill.
- Cap with a water lock and allow the mixture to ferment for 1-2 weeks in primary until vigorous fermentation has slowed. If the mixture bubbles up into the water lock, remove it, clean it out and re-apply.
- Rack the cherry wine into a clean carboy, leaving the sediment behind. Re-cap with a water lock and allow the mixture to ferment for another 4 to 6 weeks (or longer).
- Bottle the cherry wine in wine bottles and bottle age for at least a month (or longer) before opening.
Juicing Cherries ~ The cherries can be juiced in a number of ways. Left unpitted, they can:
- go through a steam juicer (about 90 min)
- be frozen then thawed (a few days start to finish)
- be gently mashed with sugar to extract their juices into a sugar syrup, being careful not to damage the pits (about 24 to 48 hours)
If pitted, the cherries can be added directly into a brewing bucket with the other ingredients and left to ferment in a primary. Don't use a narrow neck fermenter for this, it will clog. Open ferment for about 5-7 days with a brewing bucket before straining out the cherries and proceeding with the ferment.
If using just the juice, you may begin with a narrow neck fermenter.
Sweet v. Sour Cherries ~ Black cherries have a more concentrated flavor and I'd suggest using 5-6 lbs of black cherries (weighed whole) for a gallon of cherry wine. Sour cherries contain much more water, and I'd use 6-8 lbs.
Similarly, add a 1/2 pound more sugar for sour cherries.
Sour cherries are considerably more acidic, and you can skip the acid blend all together, or add much less.
Wine Yeast ~ There are lots of options, and most any wine yeast will work. Good choices are:
Lavin B71 Wine Yeast
Montrachet yeast (Red Star Premier Classique)
Premier Blanc (Champagne Yeast)
Fruit Weights ~ If buying fruit at the farmer's market, a quart box of cherries weighs about 1.5lbs.
More Summer Winemaking Recipes
Hoping to make another batch? Fill your carboy with these…
Hi there, You use t, he terms, “carboy, primary, and secondary. I have no idea what you mean. Would you please give an explanation and where to buy these items?
Thanks so much,
A is a gallon size glass jug made for fermentation.
Primary is the first stage of fermentation while your wine is very active.
Secondary is the second stage of fermentation where your wine ages and improves its flavor.
Do you think the sugar could be replaces with some honey? I figured I could leave some sugar to help extract the juice and include the rest of the sugar as honey to add more complexity.
Mmmm….cherry mead would be amazing. Honey adds a lot more body and complexity, and pretty much always tastes better. If you use honey, know that it will ferment a bit slower (as honey is harder to digest for the yeast than straight sugar). Be sure to use yeast nutrient, which helps. I’d suggest a longer secondary fermentation, like 4-6 months, and then a good bit of bottle aging. That said, it’ll likely come out much better in the end. I have a primer on making mead here.
For the second fermentation, should you see bubbles? When I racked it over for the second round, no visible fermentation happened. It’s been about 24 hours. Should I add a tiny bit more yeast to finish it off?
The secondary is a much slower fermentation process. It is not uncommon to see very little activity during this stage.
Can I use the cherry mush that I strain out for jam or something else? Any suggestions?
You could try using it for jam, there might be plenty of flavor in there for that. I have a good sour cherry jam recipe posted too. Be wary of the pits though, that may be tricky unless you pitted the fruit before juicing.
Hi from the UK. I used just under 10kg of sour morello cherries and extracted the juice using a steamer (great tip and buy). I only managed after 90 minutes to extract just over a gallon of juice. I love the simplicity of this recipe and that the cherries don’t need to be stoned. However I can’t see how you could get away with only 6-8Ib of tart cherries to produce a gallon of juice? I used approx 20Ib of cherries all of a good size. Are you adding a lot of water? Thank you!
I got quite a lot of juice out of ours, and it was a full gallon from 10 pounds of fruit. The ones we grow here are so soft, they really have no structure at all and they’re almost all juice (Evans Bali and Mesabi are the types we have here). I made cherry jelly with a good bit of the juice, so there’d be space in the carboy for the other ingredients (sugar, etc) but I didn’t add much water. No more than a cup just to top it off if I remember. Clearly sour cherries vary in their juice quantity quite a bit?
Do you recommend for or against using Potassium Sulfate? I watched another video where it was used both at the beginning and the end.
Do you mean potassium sorbate?
Just a comment, for cherry wine I used a pastry blender to macerate–worked way better than a potato masher. I was careful about the pits.
Great idea! Thanks for sharing!
Hi I’m very new to this and yours looks like the one I want to try , others mention Campden tablets , are these necessary thanx x
What is a water lock
I love your site and all the small batch wine recipes. I have a lovely blueberry wine that will be ready to bottle in a few weeks, and I’m currently just starting a sour cherry wine. I would like to add a chocolate note to this wine or perhaps vanilla. How do I infuse either chocolate or vanilla into the wine and at what point in the wine making process do I do this, and how much of each per gallon of wine?
I have never experimented with this before. I did find this article that might be helpful for you. Let me know if you decide to try it and how it works out for you.
How much yeast do you use? The recipe doesn’t specify this. I know your blueberry wine recipe calls for only a 1/4 pkg of wine yeast so I’m curious if the amount is the same for the cherry wine.
Did you end up making the blueberry wine? How much yeast did you end up using? You should be able to use the same amount as in the blueberry wine. One packet of yeast typically is enough for 5 gallons so 1/4 is about the right amount for a gallon.
Hi there, first time trying wine making and I’ve used this recipe. It’s at about 6 weeks now in 2nd fermentation. I didnt do any hydrometer tests so I have no idea what the alcohol content is- however, it is very sweet. Like a dessert wine perhaps. Is that about what comes from this recipe? Or did something go amiss? I realize there are a zillion factors affecting results, so I’m mostly curious how yours usually turns out? I used sour cherries, by the way. Thank you!
Im wanting a more impatient brew time …. Say 3-4 days for honey mead + cherries. Advice and/or direction, please.?
I am not aware of a method for making mead or wine in 3 to 4 days.
I’m very excited to make this recipe! My only question is: if I choose to juice the cherries by macerating them with sugar, should I remove whatever sugar quantity I used from the total that I’m adding later? What quantity of sugar would you recommend for maceration? I’m using tart cherries for my wine. Thanks!
If you are using the sugar method to macerate the cherries, then the easiest way is to just add all of the sugar to the cherries for maceration and then your sugar should already be dissolved into the resulting juice. The recipe shows 2 lbs of sugar for 5 to 6 pounds of sweet cherries and 2 1/2 pounds of sugar for 6 to 8 pounds of tart cherries.
Hi! When racking to a clean carboy, there is less than a gallon of liquid. Do I need to fill the vessel to the top for secondary? Thanks very much!
It is normal to have a little less liquid on the secondary. There is no need to add additional water at this stage.
I bought frozen pitted black cherries and I was wondering because I will be adding them directly to my brewing bucket whole will I be dissolving the sugar in 3 qts of water or is there no water needed in this recipe?
There is no need to add additional water to this recipe. You should get more than enough juice from your cherries. Any additional water will affect the taste of your wine. If you wish to put the cherries in whole, simply place your whole, pitted cherries in the bucket and then cover them with the sugar to extract the juice.
Ok great! Thank you!! I’ve seen other recipes that call for 3 quarts of water so I’m glad I didn’t automatically do that!!
If using black tea and lemon juice for tanin/acid additives….how and how much for 1 gallon?
A teaspoon of acid blend is equal to 1 TABLEspoon of lemon juice. For the tannin, I just brew up one strong mug of lipton, then let it cool, remove the tea bag and add the brewed tea. Good luck!
Do you need to stir the mixture once fermentation starts? I’m getting a lot of cherry flesh at the top that I feel should be pushed down but I’m not sure.
It is normal for this to happen as the gases are released during the fermentation process.
After about 4 weeks my wine is still in the primary as it is actively fermenting. Should I wait until fermentation slows to move to secondary? Or has it already been in primary for too long?
We’re just now seeing this. Did the fermentation slow down for you?
I have made hundreds of gallons of sweet & sour and you have a good system. One little trick I use is to sprinkle 1 tsp of yeast nutrient per 3 gallons on top of crock pot mixture then half a packet of yeast on top of nutrient without any mixing. 2 days later the yeast has really taken off at which time I start gently mixing the top of the mixture into the lower part. Advantages are as follows. (1) faster yeast reaction & alcohol creation (2) greatly reduced need for nutrient & yeast neither of which are desirable.