Simple homemade lemon wine is like sipping summertime!
This simple recipe only requires a few ingredients, and if you harvest lemons in season during winter the finished lemon wine will be ready just in time for summer.
Citrus, especially lemon, finds its way into all manner of wine recipes. My homemade dandelion wine recipe has quite a bit of citrus added, meaning that it’s really more or less a citrus wine flavored with the floral aromatics of dandelion petals. Why not try skipping all that, and just make a pure, sweet and refreshing lemon wine?
How to Make Lemon Wine
Since this recipe includes whole lemons, both juice, and peel, I’d strongly suggest starting with organic lemons. A full gallon of lemon wine only requires about 8 to 10 lemons, and even at the fancy natural food store that only set me back about $7.
Not bad, given that the other ingredients are pretty inexpensive. In total, this homemade lemon wine will cost around $2.50 per bottle even with purchasing organic lemons. If you’ve got free backyard lemons, even better.
Start by slicing the lemons thin and placing them in a large saucepan with the sugar.
Add in either 1 lb of golden sultana raisins or about a quart of white grape juice. The yeasts need something to nourish them, and lemons aren’t exactly full of the correct nutrients to get the job done.
You need a sweet fruit to provide micronutrients for the little beasties, and raisins or grape juice are perfect. For this recipe, I suggest golden raisins or white grape juice so that it has less of an impact on the color of the finished wine.
Beyond the grape juice or raisins, the yeasts also need a little bit of yeast nutrient to carry them through to complete fermentation. Roughly 1 teaspoon of powdered yeast nutrient does the job nicely. I’ve also included 1 tsp of pectic enzyme to help the wine clear, but that’s optional and merely cosmetic.
I generally use premier blanc wine yeast in my homemade wines, and that’s a good choice for this lemon wine. Please, whatever you do, don’t add bread yeast. Yeast actually imparts quite a bit of flavor to wine, and bread yeast wines taste…well, like bread.
Just don’t do it. It’s only about $1 for a packet of yeast, and it’s well worth the investment. If you’re making more than one batch at a time, a single packet is enough for 5 gallons of wine (dissolved in water and then distributed evenly among the carboys).
I’m using a one-gallon wide-mouth fermenter for this batch because I want to leave the whole lemon slices in for the primary ferment. If you’re using a standard narrow neck carboy, filter them out before putting everything into a carboy or you’ll clog up the neck. In that case, juice and zest the lemons instead of slicing them, and discard the rinds.
You can also divide this recipe in half and make a half-gallon of lemon wine in a half-gallon mason jar with a silicone airlock kit. This recipe works fine with Meyer lemons as well, and the flavor of a Meyer lemon wine is a bit less acidic and slightly warmer to the palate.
Lemon Mead Recipe Variation
Since lemons aren’t exactly high in sugar, this recipe requires about 3 pounds of added sugar to allow the mixture to ferment. If you’d like to try a lemon mead instead, the recipe is the same…simply substitute 3 lbs of honey in place of the white sugar.
Keep in mind, honey is quite a bit less fermentable than white sugar and the wine will take a bit longer to brew. Mead also benefits from more time aging in the bottle, and I’d suggest bottle conditioning a lemon mead for at least 6 months (as opposed to 3 for a lemon wine).
A lemon mead would be pretty similar to this rhubarb mead, and you could actually just substitute lemons for rhubarb in the recipe. This particular recipe is a micro-batch mead recipe, which makes just one quart of mead. That might not be a bad idea if you’re trying something experimental.
Similarly, if you want to make just a single quart to see if lemon wine is really your thing, this recipe can be divided by 4 for a quart batch using this small-batch wine method.
I also came across a recipe for a traditional Finnish drink called Sima. It’s a carbonated lemon soda that’s naturally carbonated by letting it ferment with a tiny pinch of yeast for just a few days. They drink it to celebrate new years, which happens in late April in their traditional calendar.
A sweet refreshing lemon wine is the perfect drink for summer.
- 8-10 lemons, thinly sliced
- 3 lbs sugar
- 1 lb sultana raisins (or 1-quart white grape juice)
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1 tsp pectic enzyme
- 1 packet wine yeast, dissolved in 1/4 cup water
- water to fill
- In a large saucepan, bring water, lemons, sugar and raisins (or grape juice) to a boil. Turn off the heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. (If using a narrow neck fermenter, juice the zest the lemons instead of slicing, discarding the rind).
- Allow the mixture to cool before pouring everything (lemons included) into a primary fermentation vessel.
- Add the yeast nutrient, pectic enzyme and wine yeast. Stir to incorporate, and allow the mixture to ferment for 7 to 10 days.
- After primary fermentation, rack the wine into a secondary fermenter using a sterilized siphon. Ferment for about 6 - 8 weeks in secondary, until fermentation stops and the wine clears.
- Bottle the lemon wine in corked wine bottles, and allow the mixture to age for at least 3 months before drinking.
This recipe can be increased to make a 5 gallon batch, or decreased to make a small one quart batch using a mason jar fermentation kit.
More Homemade Wine Recipes
After the second fermentation, do you add anything to the wine bottle befor you cork it?
Hans van der Heiden
Your recipe calls for the lemons to be boiled with the other ingredients. Why not just ferment the sliced fruit with disolved sugar, skipping the boiling stage, and use campdon tablets to kill foreign wild yeasts and then add your chosen yeast after a 24 hr wait period?
That’s a fine option too.
Thanks for the recipe 🙂 Can I just ask please, are you using American gallons or Imperial gallons? Thank you!
Shows what an American I am, I actually had to look up what an Imperial gallon is…I’m using American gallons =)
Thank you so much and sorry for the stupid question! I am a complete beginner at making my own wine. Thank you so much for the recipe, am going to use it at the weekend 🙂 x
No worries at all! I learned something new today, so it’s I who should thank you =) Enjoy your winemaking weekend!
Hi is lemon wine sparkling
No this is not a sparkling wine recipe.
Hi. So where do I get the gallon starter kit? Tx
You can get everything you need from Amazon. I use this fermenting vessel:
I put to much yeas tin my peach wine wht should I do. DId I ruin it? Glo
Nope, no worries. It may really go crazy in the first few days, so watch for overflows or clogs, but too much yeast won’t ruin it.
Is this a dry wine? I know from previous experiences that the sugar turns to alcohol but would like it to remain somewhat sweet. Thanks!
Ours didn’t come out dry, but either way, you can regulate this a bit based on your choice of yeast. Choose a yeast with lower alcohol tolerance, and then they’ll die out before they use up all the sugar in the wine.
How do you get all of the lemon pulp out before bottling? Mesh strainer? Mine’s been brewing for a week on the counter and I’m realizing that there is loose pulp as the lemon slices steep.
All the lemon pulp should be removed when the wine is racked into secondary (long before bottling). I used a slotted spoon to get out the big pieces from the top, then I siphoned it into a clean container. The small pulp and brewing sediment were left behind. If you end up with any, rack it again through a fine-mesh strainer.
IF i wanted to add like lavender or hibiscus what step would i add it to?
I’d add them as a sachet into secondary, and leave them in there for about a week. Primary fermentation is very active, and delicate volatiles can be lost during the violent fermentation that happens there. Delicate flavors like lavender are a good choice for secondary, but don’t leave them in too long (like, not the whole secondary) because after they release their nice flavors they start to put out bitter/less nice flavors. If I were doing it, I’d put it in for a week in a sachet at the beginning of secondary.
Hi! I started this last week so it’s coming up to racking time but it’s still very active – do I need to wait for the primary fermentation to stop before racking?
Yes, wait until things really slow down before racking. It should be at least a few minutes between bubbles going through the air lock when you rack the wine.
At what temp should I store the carboy at during primary and secondary fermentation?
It should be at room temperature during the fermentation process.
what kind of alcohol content can you get from lemon wine?
Hello, it’s my first time attempting to make wine. about how much water should I use? I’m afraid of going too crazy.
Do you refrigerate the wine as you’re fermenting/aging it? If yes, could you specify at what stages the wine should be placed in the fridge? Thank you!
Nope, no refrigeration. The whole thing takes place at room temperature.
Do you need to stir each day during the primary fermentation?
No, you only stir to incorporate the ingredients after you put them in the vessel.
Great easy recipe, can’t wait for it to ‘ripen’! Just a few things I learned that might be helpful to others. When adding the initial water for boiling I reduced by 2 cups but that was not enough, initial water should be around 3 qts not 4 to allow for the raisins and lemons. Also, there needs to be airspace from top of liquid to lid which I didn’t know…the next morning my wild fermentation was many places I didn’t plan on. All is good and brewing now. My calendar is marked for the big celebration of lemon wine!!
Hi! Me again….so I had too much liquid from step one so I poured off into a mason jar and refrigerated. Now that I’m racking the big jar and removing the raisins and lemons, can I add this excess back in ? do I let it get to room temperature? Thanks for the help!
Yup, add it back in. You can let it come to room temperature (or not), it’s up to you.
Thank you! I’m so excited to have lemon wine someday soon!!!!
You’re welcome! I hope you enjoy it!
Loved it! Just finished rackibg a second batch!! Thank-you!!
Is it ok if I take a testing sip before I embark on secondary fermentation?
Yes, so long as you sanitize everything your using really well. Awesome tools like this, were made for that reason.
Hi. Does the pith not matter. I thought it gave bitter flavour so must be excluded
Hi, Chris! I used whole lemons for this recipe and it did not give it a bitter flavor.
I am making a 1/2 gallon batch. Should I still use one packet of yeast or just pitch 1/2 a packet?
Either way is fine. A packet is good for “up to 5 gallons” and you can use half of it, or all of it, either way the yeast will rapidly multiply and this is just a starter to get them going.
As in many instances, there can be or are alternatives to many things that we do or wish to do…that we may not be aware of! Such is the stabilization of wines…any wine. I like you do not appreciate the chemicals that are frequently used in such stabilization, such as the sulfur or any other unnatural preservative. Here is one such alternative that I have been using for years that I learned from my wonderful yet alcoholic uncle (who annually made barrels of wine for himself and his friends). He told me once to use 1 vitamin C tablet (crushed and dissolved in the wine) for any stabilization need…any need. It works perfectly and one should not be afraid of this simple, yet complete resolution for stabilization. Another simple and chemical-free method is simply to refrigerate the wine, as that will greatly slow or stop any further fermentation. Just a side note: my uncle, while an alcoholic, was a wonderful person and family man…never drunk or near it…but he liked his beer and wine!
Oh, about using vitamin C for wine stabilization in my first comment…I failed to provide the usage of the vitamin C. Use 1 vitamin C tablet, crushed and dissolved in each gallon of wine and stabilization will be complete. Simple!!!
Yeasting alternative…. Once one has the desired yeast for the desired wine, one does not have to buy this yeast again (more or less). After the first fermentation, save about a pint of the bottom liquid and sediment in a capped jar in the refrigerator. This will keep for 2 weeks or longer under refrigeration. Simply use it all or part of it in the next winemaking project. I really don’t know how long this refrigerated yeast will stay alive. Experiment with this. Even freeze some of it.
As per the type of yeast one should use for any wine, I started out using only bakers yeast (not the fast rise yeast) and I always had wonderful results with it. My wines never tasted yeasty or ‘bready’ and the yeast was/is readily available almost everywhere. The only difference that I did experience was that wine yeasts do tend to provide a higher alcohol content than bakers yeast.
As far as using yeast nutrients I can’t say too much on this except that for most of my wines, I never used anything but fruit, sugar, yeast, sometimes raisins, sometimes strong black tea for the tannin and sometimes I use fresh lemon juice (to include the rinds). Mostly, I don’t peel any of the fruit that I use (but it all gets washed as well as possible) and I always include the seeds, as I a lazy and simply don’t remove them. Most recently I have these very young wines that are moving along wonderfully well, using the parameters aforementioned: mango wine, banana wine, cherry wine, cherry-grape wine, mixed fruit wine with leftover wines that I just could not toss out that includes leftover ginger beer, concord grape wine, coffee wine, cherry-berry wine, strawberry wine, and other combinations. I am going to start an apple-ginger wine really soon. I like fresh ginger. I can’t say which is my favorite because as they mellow out, they keep getting better. I give most of my wines away and don’t personally drink much of any alcohol product. One thing for sure…the wine yeast will knock you on your but if you’re not careful in its use.
I generally don’t like following cooking, baking or winemaking directions, but I always study any recipe and then do it my way.
I do use that yeast saving trick as well, and we’ll often chain the little beasties from batch to batch. Good tip!
Hi. Does the pith from the lemon not make the wine bitter? I only ask as I once….being lazy….made cordial with whole Lemons rather than zest and juice as the recipe said and the result was a disaster. It’s made me wary of lemons since but I’d love to try this!
Others have used the whole lemon in this recipe without issue. It probably depends on the recipe.
Hey this is my first time making this mead and I’m really excited! I’m substituting the sugar for honey, would I have to boil the honey with the lemons in the saucepan?
Mmmm! Lemon mead! Some people like to leave honey raw in ferments, and that’s personal preference. It needs to be dissolved in luke warm water to get it to incorporate, but it doesn’t strictly need to be boiled. That said, honey has natural yeast in it, and unless it’s heated you’ll have some wild yeast in there (in addition to the yeast packet). That’s totally fine, and should just add character to the finished drink.
Rex kartial deo
So interesting am soon making mine thnx
Hi Rex! So glad you enjoyed the article.
Hi I made that wine Nd comes out little bitter but taste really good, so little bitterness is normal?
This wine should not be bitter. Sometimes bitterness is caused by too much tannins.
Bit of a long story but I prepared the wine for primary fermentation and sat it aside but there was no bubbling in my airlock so I assumed that the first packet of yeast didn’t take off. So after two days of monitoring I finally added a second packet of yeast that did start fermentation but now a day later I can only get any bubbling in the airlock if I shake the carboy (narrow neck). Idk what I should do anymore. Is the wine salvageable?
btw there is a layer of sediment or other at the bottom and the wine level is already up to the neck.
Possibly. Try reading this to troubleshoot: https://www.midwestsupplies.com/blogs/bottled-knowledge/how-do-i-fix-a-stuck-fermentation
so I prepared the wine for primary fermentation but there was no bubbles in the airlock even after letting it sit and waiting two days. I added another packet of yeast which seemed to work but the next day there was no more movement and I could only get bubbling in the airlock for a few minutes if I shake the carboy( narrow neck). There seems to be a layer of sediment or other that has settled in the bottom idk if that has anything to do with it. What can I do? Can the qine still be salvaged?
Hi, I have the same problem, no bubbles at all… Did you find a solution ?
What temperature is it in the room where you have your wine?
Hi, thank you for your reply!
It has finally started to make bubbles. We had to take out a certain amount of the mixture and add some more water and more yeast. We were afraid it was too sour for the yeast to work correctly 🙂
Hello, can I use a big pot covered with cheesecloth for primary fermentation? Thanks.
Yup! Many people choose to have an open container for the primary, and that works great. Just make sure you get it into something with a water lock for the secondary so the alcohol doesn’t convert to vinegar. Enjoy!
Hello! My container for the primary only has about 1” headroom to the top. Will this bubble over? If so can I separate the batch into two containers? Thanks.
I’d pull a bit off and put it in the refrigerator, cause that’s likely going to overflow. After the violent primary fermentation you can add that extra bit back in to top off the secondary fermentation after you rack it over.
I want to make just dry wines with higher alcohol . I have tried using fruits and bottled juices but they still are sweet. Is there a recipe? Also how long should primary and secondary fermentation last?
You can find a little bit of information on that in this post. https://practicalselfreliance.com/apple-wine/ Let us know if you have any other questions.
Does it matter what brand or what kind of white grape juice I use?
You can use any kind of white grape juice you wish. I would just look for one that is 100% juice.
Can you give a rough estimate of the weight of the 8 or 9 lemons you used? At the supermarket, I have the choice of lemons that range from 1/5 to 4/5 of a pound, and that’s a huge range. Thanks!
I’m not sure of the weight but I would just pick your lemons somewhere in the middle range.
This recipe looks so easy, but I would like to ask why do you put the lemon rind in? can I just juice the lemons, which always has a little pulp in it too, and use that? Thanks in advance, Patricia.
The rind of the lemon is where a majority of the essential oils are at which means more flavor.
Hi, I started this lemon wine on June 20th. Racked to secondary about 7 days later. I didn’t use grape juice I used the golden raisins instead. Its very, very yellow. Is that normal color for this wine in secondary? Also after racking to secondary it doesn’t seem to have any fermentation going on at all. Maybe a bubble through the air lock every 5 minutes. Is that normal also after moving it into secondary with this wine? I’ve made other wines with fruit in a primary vessel and moved to secondary in a carboy and usually after I do that it still has at least a week or so of fermentation. Since this is my first time making the Lemon wine, I really wasn’t sure.
As long as you are still seeing some activity you should be fine. It seems that all fruits produce different degrees of activity.
Can I use a champagne yeast to this lemon wine recipe instead of the basic wine yeast…. Would I still require the yeast nutrient too? Thanks
You could use a champagne yeast if you wish. Just be aware that the type of yeast that you use will affect the flavor of the finished wine. Champagne yeast has a very high alcohol tolerance and will ferment very dry unless you have a lot of the added sugar. This would most likely be increased by the fact that the lemons themselves already do not have a lot of sugar.
Hi there! I am writing to you from Argentina.
I made your lemon wine recipe!
With only 2 months it is delicious, (super alcoholic, 22%) I had to re-sweeten, and let it rest 1 month after the first fermentation with lemon zest, before bottling.
It never completely clarified so it’s a bit cloudy.
It’s great, thanks for the recipe and the idea!
You’re welcome. So glad you enjoyed the recipe.
I am wondering if I need to use secondary fermentation. What is the reason? Can I just go straight from primary to drink. Also I don’t have an airlock. Is it true a rubber glove works ok. I want to not invest the money until I know its tasty
The secondary is not absolutely necessary but will result in a clearer wine that is a higher quality. People have used a two-liter bottle and a balloon before so it’s not absolutely necessary to purchase an airlock.
Ok thanks for that. I have just covered it with a cloth for primary 7 days then I’ll attemp to do the secondary with a rubber glove. Do you think that will work?
It will work but your wine may possibly be contaminated during the primary ferment with just a cloth.
I am curious if this recipe can be used with limes instead of lemons?
Yup! That should work just fine.
I used 7 large Meyer Lemons today along with the 1lb of Golden Raisins and my beginning specific gravity was 1.130. I added a qt of distilled water to drop it to that. What are your thoughts about reducing the sugar 1/2 a pound using these large Meyers?
The Meyer lemons would be less acidic but wouldn’t necessarily have more sugar. Because of the low sugar in lemons, I recommend using the full amount of sugar to get a good fermentation. If you decide to try it with less, be sure to let us know how it goes.
I was able to measure the specific gravity of both batches of Meyer Lemon wine yesterday.
The batch with 3#’s of sugar finished at SG 1.002 final ABV 16.8%.
The batch with 2.5#’s of sugar had a SG starting of 1.100 and a final SG of 1.000 ABV 13.3%. I will follow up in August when we taste. Neither fermented totally dry. Champagne Yeast was used for both.
Thanks for posting your recipe.
You’re very welcome.
Hi! Can I use flip top bottles to store the wine in? Does it have to be cork? This is the first wine I’ll be making.
You can definitely use flip-top bottles.
Hello from Finland!
I’m definitely going to try this super easy lemon wine recipe.
And a small correction; Finnish New Year is also 1st of January, like you do. 1st of May we have Labour Day, and then we usually make Sima and some traditional foods and sweets.
Sorry about that. I’m not sure where that information came from but we’ll try to get it corrected.
Could you replace the lemons with lemon juice? It’s a little hard to get fresh lemons where I’m at.
Yes, you can use lemon juice.
You may also consider making Blackberry Mead or Meads in general. I have two UK gallons of Blackberry Mead, one gallon Strawberry Mead, one gallon Blueberry Mead and one gallon spiced Mead.
We actually have several mead recipes on the blog.
Do you sell your lemon wine?
No we don’t.
Hi, I’m getting to make this wine and was wondering if I am gonna make more than 1 gallon, will I need to multiply my amount of lemons times the gallons? So if I make 5 gallons I will need 40 lemons? Thank you, looking forward to making this..
Yes, that’s correct.
I was wondering, If I am going to make 5 gallons of this, will I really need to use around 48 lemons?
For 5 gallons you would want 40 to 50 lemons.
Finnish new year is 1st of January as in the rest of the western world. Sima is made for Vappu, the first of May.
This is a big celebration in the student world and also for the graduated people regardless of their age.
Is there a particular vessel that you have to do the second ferment in or can I use another gallon jar type?
You can use another gallon jar type for the second ferment as well.
Do I need to use a syphon to transfer to the second container? Can I pour it through a strainer into another large mouth fermenter?
A strainer usually isn’t sufficient to remove all of the sediment. You can use a syphon or if you are able to pour it, just pour it off the top leaving the sediment in the bottom of the container.