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, it 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.
- 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.
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