After sampling cranberry wine at a local vineyard, I was determined to make my own. It’s warm, fruity and well balanced with just enough tart astringency to give it character. Instead of topping my meal with cranberry sauce, once this wine has aged properly I’ll be drinking my cranberries in as homemade cranberry wine.
Originally I planned to use fresh cranberries as it only seemed proper. We grow cranberries right in our backyard, so I was hoping to be able to make cranberry wine with our own fruit. As the season went on, it became apparent that the squirrels had made off with much of this year’s harvest (along with the plums and hazelnuts too…). That’s ok, cranberries ripen late, and knowing that ours were out of the question meant I could start early.
Most store-bought cranberry juice contains an absurd amount of added sugar, often in the form of corn syrup. It not that the extra sugar is bad, this cranberry wine will need plenty of extra sugar added to ferment properly. Corn syrup will make the wine ferment really violently, and you’ll lose a lot of the cranberry flavor when that happens. Beyond that, when I’ve had cranberry juice cocktails they rarely taste much like cranberries.
I use a wicked tart, unsweetened pure cranberry juice to make mixed drinks and I thought that would work really well in this cranberry wine. If you use sweetened cranberry juice, be sure to decrease the sugar accordingly. I also added a pound of craisins (cranberry raisins) to amp up the cranberry flavor even further.
Start by using the cranberry juice to dissolve a bit of sugar in a saucepan. Heat it just until the sugar dissolves and then turn off the heat.
If you’re using fresh cranberries instead of juice, chop 3-4 pounds of cranberries and add them directly to the primary fermenter. These will be screened out after primary fermentation to allow the wine to clear, in the same way that I’ll filter out the craisins after the primary.
I prefer my wines on the dry side, so I’m only using 2 pounds of sugar in this cranberry wine recipe. Most people would a one gallon batch of wine with 3 pounds of sugar, and I’d suggest you stick with that unless you want it to have a healthy dose of tart.
For additives, I’m just using yeast nutrient. The yeast nutrient will help make up for the fact that cranberries don’t have the same micronutrients as grapes, and will help the little beasties thrive. If you don’t have yeast nutrient, about 1/4 cup of raisins will do the trick instead. Pectic enzyme would also be a nice addition, and it helps the wine clear after fermentation. Consider adding 1 teaspoon at the beginning of fermentation.
Cranberries are wicked acidic on their own, so I’m skipping the customary addition of acid in this batch. I never use stabilizers for my mine, since I’m ok with a bit of sediment from residual bottle fermentation. Feel free to add Potassium Sorbate and Camden tablets (potassium metabisulfite) to completely end the fermentation and stabilize the wine before bottling if you want a dependably clear completely still cranberry wine.
I’ve included the recipe I made below, but I’ve recently found another recipe in a winemaking book that is shared at the end as well.
Homemade Cranberry Wine
Making your own cranberry wine is easy, using fresh fruit or cranberry juice. This recipe makes one gallon of cranberry wine, but can be increased or decreased based on your needs.
- Add the sugar and cranberry juice to a small saucepan and heat it just enough to dissolve the sugar. If using fresh cranberries, add water instead of juice and use it to dissolve the sugar.
- Allow the sugar and juice mixture to come to room temperature. While it's cooling, dissolve the yeast packet in a small amount of lukewarm water. Allow it to bloom for at least 5 minutes.
- Add the yeast nutrient and dried cranberries to the juice/sugar mixture and then pour it all into a primary fermentation vessel. Add the dissolved yeast.
- Cap with a water lock and allow the mixture to ferment in primary for 2-3 weeks. Alternately, allow the mixture to ferment without an airlock for about 5 days, then rack into secondary and add an airlock.
- Either way, once the mixture is in secondary, add an airlock. Ferment in secondary for 6-8 weeks before bottling. For a very dry wine, rack the cranberry wine a second time and ferment for another 6-8 weeks.
- Bottle in wine bottles and age for at least 3 months, but preferably a full year from bottling.
Other Cranberry Wine Recipes
Since making the recipe above, I came across another cranberry wine recipe in The Home Winemakers Companion. The recipe is for a 5-gallon batch, and includes the following:
- 15 lbs cranberries
- 5 lbs raisins
- 15 lbs sugar
- 5 tsp yeast nutrient
- 10 drops liquid pectic enzyme
- 1 package Wyeast Sweet Mead Yeast
The procedure has you basically throw everything into a primary for 5 to 7 days, and then rack to a secondary for about 3 months before bottling. They suggest 3 months of bottle aging before drinking.
More Country Wine Recipes
If you’re new to winemaking, check out this guide to making small-batch wines for a bit more information. For more ideas, try any of these homemade wines:
I am looking for the cranberry wine with brandy added with some cookie
Aired in 1/14/19 ?
Please send me the recipe
Aired where? I’m not sure what you’re asking…
I have questions for you.
Go right ahead then…
Please don’t judge me…
I learned to make wine using a much simpler process that is considerably less refined, but it suits my needs. I simply let the fermentation process run it’s full course in one vessel for about a month before racking. Then I refrigerate the wine for a few days to kill off any remaining yeast and rack the wine a second time.
You’re judging me…I can tell…
I enjoy the wine chilled, so this process works for me and I make a small batch every week so there are always 4 or 5 batches fermenting under my sink and at least one in the fridge. This process gives me about a 1/2 gallon of home-made wine to drink every week. I don’t even bother to properly bottle the stuff because it does just fine in a plastic jug for no longer than it lasts.
Now you’re really judging me, aren’t you? LOL!
So, anyway… I’ve started getting a few of requests from family and friends for my homemade cranberry and pineapple wines. This brings me to my question:
Using this process, can I still bottle the wine for long term un-refrigerated storage after it has been chilled and racked the second time? I would hate to try it only to find out a year from now that I’ve made cranberry flavored vinegar.
You got a chuckle out of me, but no judgment! We make quick wines that way too sometimes. They’re much lower alcohol and good for cold sipping in the summertime.
If your sanitation is pretty good, vinegar wouldn’t be your main problem. The main problem with bottling the wine so quickly is that is still has a lot of sugar left, and the refrigeration doesn’t “kill” the yeast, it only slows them down. They’re still alive in there, and if you bottle it and then store that bottle at room temperature for any length of time they’ll start working again…and most likely explode the bottle.
We actually had this happen when we made an elderberry wine and it had pretty much stopped fermenting in our cold basement. We bottled it, but then stored it upstairs in a closet. A few months later in mid-summer when the temps were in the 90’s those yeasts really got working on the remaining sugar and the bottles exploded…all over our winter coats.
If you’re going to store it for any length of time at room temperature, you need to let it ferment to completion and get to a high alcohol concentration so that the yeasts die in their own alcohol and cant continue working on the remaining sugars.
That said, if you have them keep it in the fridge in bottles it should last quite a while, even using the quick method you describe.
Absolutely fantastic!. Thank you for sharing this Dave. Good judgement here. I will try this recipe, it sounds so interesting!
Its is possible using filtered water a can of cranberry sauce and sugar along with bread yeast to make cranberry wine
I fell into several pounds of dried cranberries…can I make wine from them?
I have a setup to make 6 gallons can I just multiply this recipe by 6 can it be good? Not sure if the chemicals will need to be different or if it will work just fine as I’m new to this.
Yes, multiplying the recipe by 6 will work just fine.
Did ypu use a Cote des Blancs yeast in this recipe? Trying to work up an adjustment for a semi-sweet/sweet wine.
Here is a link to the yeast used in this recipe. https://www.amazon.com/Red-Star-Premier-Blanc-Yeast/dp/B07CJ3T9YX/ref=as_li_ss_tl?ie=UTF8&qid=1547744629&sr=8-5&keywords=wine+yeast&linkCode=sl1&tag=selfrelianc0e-20&linkId=27844f184f249b1cd6bbd3101e7e98bb&language=en_US
How much yeast and its nutrition do I have to add for 6 gallon setup?
Some packets come with 100 grams. More or less.
A single yeast packet is the same for 1 to 6 gallons. They multiply quickly, so you only need one packet up to 6 gallons. For yeast nutrient, it’s 1 teaspoon per gallon.
Thank you!! I absolutely love this recipe! I made 2 batches of wine last December and opened a bottle for Thanksgiving this year and was pleasantly surprised. I’m doing it again this year.
That’s great! So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
If I’m making this recipe with fresh fruit instead of juice, do I still use 96 oz of water to dissolve the sugar?
If you’re using juice, you dissolve the sugar in the juice. If you’re using fresh fruit then you use water to dissolve the sugar instead of the juice.
So I just reread the directions and realized I didn’t rack it after the secondary rack (6-8 weeks). I have it in the secondary about 4 months. Do I rack it or just bottle it? What does the second racking do? Thank you!!!
That is completely optional. Repeated racking helps clarify the wine (as the sediment is left behind) and kicks off further fermentation to more completely digest sugars and exhaust the yeast. All you really need to do is a primary (for the vigorous initial fermentation), then rack it into a single secondary to complete fermenting. The reason to rack it is to get it off the lees (dead yeast and sediment) from the primary fermentation so it can mature and finish fermenting without developing any off-flavors from the initial lees.
If yours has been in secondary for about 4 months it’s probably doing great and ready to bottle. Good luck!
I’ve had your recipe in a bucket for the first ferment for almost 3 weeks now, but t never appeared to be bubbling much. I want to now put it into 2 or 3 gallon jars with the airlock.. How much water should I add?
I personally would not add any water for the secondary.
I started this wine about a week about using fresh cranberries. I’m surprised there aren’t more air bubbles in my air lock since it’s still fermenting. Am I doing something wrong? I have it still in my primary fermentor.
If you aren’t seeing a lot of action you might try some warmer temperatures.
Just started this with fresh cranberries. Used close to 4 lbs. Had to get bigger container because would fit in a gallon container (because of all the fresh fruit) It’s in a 2 gallon container but with plenty of head space. Noticed the ingredients also call for “water to fill”. Am I supposed to add more water beyond what is needed for despising the sugar? Just making sure I did it right 😀
How much water do you think you had to add. My only concern is that if you added too much water the cranberry flavor may not be as strong.
Started with 8 pounds of cranberries, added box of raisins, yeast, 3 lbs. of sugar and other additives. Left it in primary for three weeks and racked it to 3 gallon jars with airlocks. I tasted it and it slits your throat it is so bitter. Beautiful but bitter. When do you add sugar to keep that bitterness at bay? Will leave in gallon jars at least six weeks.
You really want that sugar to go in at the beginning. Most people use 3 lbs of sugar for 3 to 4 pounds of cranberries for a one-gallon batch. If you used 8 pounds of cranberries and only 3 pounds of sugar then you only used half the recommended amount. I have seen some talk in a few forums about back sweetening with cranberry juice and sugar. You could possibly try that route and test it out.
Had bottle of Jw.Kundsen cranberry juice. Put three pounds of sugar in that bottle of juice and heated it to get the sugar to melt. Gonna try to put three gallons back in primary and sweeten it with the juice and sugar and just leave it for six weeks. Then I will rack all and put in gallon jars for six weeks. Hoping that will work. I do have airlock on the primary to see if it is working. Don’t want to loose it all . Thanks for your suggestion. I may have to start all over. Ummmm.
Hi – I am going to make this recipe. I understand why you skipped the acid blend, but don’t we still need tannin and potassium metabisulfite? Thank you!!!
Cranberry is actually naturally high in tannin so it is not necessary to add more. The potassium metabisulfite can be added if you wish but some prefer to use as little additives as possible.
Thank you for the tips! I have a couple questions.. what is the alcohol content? With the crasins did u see oil in the wine? And which brand crasins did u use? Ty!
We don’t typically test the alcohol content for our wines. There shouldn’t be any oil in the wine. You can use any brand as long as you choose one that is sweetened naturally without any other additives.
Anyone have a recipe like David crisp was talking about in the comments? I’m looking for a quick easy wine I can bottle for gifts. I’m a beginner and the simpler the better.
Thank you for the article. How much alcohol is this cranberry wine recipe?
We don’t typically test the wine for alcohol content. It is made by taste and experience.
Hi! What size container did you initially use for this?
You will want a one gallon fermentation vessel.
Just wondeing if there is anything we can do with the fermented cranberries that are left over. I’m about to throw them in the compost, but before I do, do you have any suggestions?
I’ve cooked them with a bit of sugar to make a boozy cranberry sauce for on top of ice cream, and that tasted pretty decent. Not amazing, but not bad either.