The smell of fresh lilacs is irresistible in the springtime, and homemade lilac wine captures those brief spring blossoms into a drink you can enjoy year-round.
It’s simple to make, with just a few ingredients and minimal equipment.
Ever walk by a lilac bush and think, I wish I could bottle that and enjoy it all year? When you make lilac wine, you’re bottling both the smell and the taste of lilacs in a deliciously floral wine.
Lilacs are edible flowers, and you can make just about anything with them. I’ve made lilac donuts, which were amazing, and next on my list is lilac cheesecake. For now, lilac wine is bubbling away on the counter and the first few stolen sips have been divine.
How to Make Lilac Wine
The first step to making lilac wine is harvesting lilacs. Obviously choose a clean, unsprayed location and avoid roadside bushes that are exposed to exhaust and road spray. Lilacs, in general, are a low-maintenance perennial, and they often thrive in complete neglect, sprouting up around old foundations generations after the house has collapsed.
If you’re spraying your lilacs with anything EVER, I can’t imagine the reason. But still, stick with your own homegrown lilacs or those of an organic-minded friend.
We have a big lilac bush right by our front door and it only took about 5 minutes to harvest enough blossoms for this lilac wine recipe. There’s still plenty on the bush for other lilac recipes, they’re so prolific.
While harvesting the blossoms is quick, cleaning them takes a good bit longer. While it’s not as time-intensive as cleaning dandelions for dandelion wine, it did take about half an hour to strip off 6 cups of blossoms, removing all the stems and green parts.
I’ve seen recipes that have you make a lilac tea with boiling water, and allow it to steep for 24 to 48 hours. I’m using a different method because I want to preserve more of the volatile compounds in the lilacs, and their beautiful purple color.
Lilac tea is brown you see, and while a brown wine still tastes lovely, I wanted this brew to have a bit more magic to it. We drink with our eyes as much as our tongues.
I packed the lovely purple lilac blossoms into a wide-mouth fermentation jug because they’re going to infuse into the wine during the whole primary fermentation for 7 to 10 days. In a narrow neck fermenter, this can be a messy prospect and it’s hard to clean the blossoms out afterward.
Next, I brought a few quarts of water to a boil on the stove and stirred in the sugar to dissolve it completely. I tossed in a few blueberries for color, literally 3 or 4 of them, and they turned the sugar water a glowing purple as the syrup cooled. The blueberries are optional, but they help give this lilac wine a lovely finished color.
Allow the syrup to cool completely, and then pour it over the lilac blossoms in the fermentation vessel. Next, add lemon juice, which will turn the blueberry water a bit pinker.
It’s interesting to watch, and the same color change happens when you’re making violet jelly. It starts off blue, and then as soon as the lemon juice hits it the whole thing turns a deep pink/magenta color.
Some fun kitchen chemistry, and even better color for the finished wine.
Lastly, it’s time to add a few winemaking chemicals and yeast. This recipe uses a small amount of yeast nutrient, which provides the necessary micro-nutrients to help feed the yeast. Lilac blossoms are tasty, but they’re not exactly grapes, and the yeast needs a bit more nutrition beyond sugar to thrive.
A tiny bit of tannin powder also helps to create a more balanced wine and evens out the flavors across the tongue. While the yeast nutrient is a must, the tannin powder isn’t strictly required. Generally, a small bit of tannin really improves the flavor of floral or fruit wines, and I’d suggest it.
Alternately, you can add a cup of strongly brewed black tea instead, which will add tannin instead of the tannin powder. For even more flavor, try adding a cup of earl grey, as the floral notes in the bergamot will work well in the finished lilac wine.
Allow the wine to ferment in primary, with the flowers in the fermenter, for about 7 to 10 days. During this time, keep an eye on it and make sure the lilac blossoms don’t rise up and clog the water lock. If they do, just open it up and clean it out before sealing the fermenter again.
Once the initial violent fermentation is complete, and things settle down a bit, rack the wine into a clean fermentation vessel. If you only have one, you can move it into a very clean bowl or a couple of half-gallon mason jars while you clean out your fermenter. Make sure you leave any sediment behind and filter out the lilac blossoms at this point.
A brewing siphon really helps with this process and helps ensure everything stays clean and the sediment is left at the bottom for a clearer wine. Lacking that, careful pouring gets the job done, although much less elegantly.
All you really need equipment-wise is a fermentation vessel and water lock, and then bottles, wine corks, and a bottle corker. Everything else is just nice to have, but not a must.
Now the wine needs more time to clarify and for the yeast to finish their work. Allow the wine to ferment for at 2-3 months in secondary. Longer works too, and up to 6 months is great if you’re patient.
Just make sure you keep an eye on the water lock and don’t allow all the water to evaporate. If you rack the wine again at some point, it’ll improve the clarity of the finished wine.
When you’re ready to bottle, siphon the wine into sterilized wine bottles and cork it up. Allow the lilac wine to bottle condition for at least 6 months before drinking. All in all, you’re looking at 9 to 12 months start to finish, so you’ll be drinking this lilac wine when next year’s blossoms arrive…
Lilac wine captures the sweet floral flavor of lilacs into delicious wine.
- 6 cups lilac blossoms, stems and green parts removed
- 5 1/2 to 6 cups sugar
- A few blueberries (optional, for color)
- Juice of 3-4 lemons
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1/8 tsp tannin powder (optional)
- Wine Yeast
- Clean lilac blossoms, removing everything but the actual flower. Place them in a fermentation vessel.
- Bring 2-3 quarts of water to a boil on the stove, add sugar and a few blueberries (optional). Stir to dissolve the sugar. Allow the syrup to cool completely before proceeding. It can help to do this part first, then start cleaning the blossoms.
- Pour the cooled syrup over the lilac blossoms, add lemon juice, yeast nutrient and tannin powder (if using).
- Fill a small cup with water and add the wine yeast. Allow the yeast to rehydrate for at least 5 minutes before adding it to the wine (adding it directly can shock the dormant yeast).
- Cap the fermenter with a water lock and allow the mixture to ferment in primary for 7 to 10 days, cleaning out the water lock if necessary.
- After primary, use a siphon to rack the wine into a clean fermenter, leaving the flowers and sediment behind.
- Ferment in secondary for 2-3 months (or up to 6 months) before bottling. Racking again during this time will result in a less cloudy finished wine.
- Bottle in wine bottles and store in a cool, dark place. Allow the wine to bottle condition for at least 2 months, but preferably 6 months before drinking.
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You mention using Earl Grey for the tannin and the flavor. Are you speaking of made tea, or the tea leaves? What is the ratio in the recipe you suggest?
Prepared tea (not the tea bag). Prepare 1 cup of strongly brewed tea (let it cool) and add it to the fermenter. This roughly approximates/replaces the tannin powder.
Greetings from over in Oregon, I found your blog looking at Turkey tail preserving techniques and enjoy lots more from it.
I’ve been wining a lot lately, using a steam juicer the last 7 months or so, it is such an easy technique!
Have you much experience with them? Have you made any flower wines that way?
I love my steam juicer! I just made a blackcurrant and tart cherry wine with it recently. I haven’t used it for flower wines, but I’d guess that all that heat would really drive off most of the delicate flavor of the flowers, which is why I cold extract for floral wines. That said, I haven’t tried it, so this is just my best guess.
Do you need to add that much sugar? I just made a gallon of dandilion wine with 3 cups sugar and its really way to sweet for my liking. Ive always made lilac mead and it always ended up dry so I’m not sure if the sweetness will go away with time or it will remain super sweet. Thanks
If you let it ferment to completion, it actually comes out much less sweet. That said, it depends on the alcohol tolerance of the yeast you use. I generally use champagne yeast, which has a very high alcohol tolerance and it comes out pretty alcoholic but not crazy sweet. Yes, of course, you can use less, but I’d suggest using a yeast with a lower alcohol tolerance (which maybe you did?) so that there’s still some residual sweetness left and it’s not undrinkable dry.
This sounds like a fabulous recipe and to think I never knew that lilacs were edible! Do you have a small batch recipe for a sweet wine preferably a moscato? Also have you experimented with sparkling wines? Love to hear of your experiences with those
Thanks again for sharing your recipes. Your small batch recipes have prompted me to enter the world of micro brewing
Some of my wines end up sparkling because I don’t add chemicals to kill the yeast at the end, and any residual sugars will cause them to be slightly sparkling. If you bottle a touch early there’s still sugar and active yeast so they’ll carbonate that way. If you give them a good long secondary fermentation then they’ll come out still.
I haven’t done grape wine believe it or not! We have a lot of grapes on the vines this year, and the ones we can grow here are all wine grapes. The kids usually eat them all up anyway, but this year we have a bumper crop so I may get a grape wine yet.
just wondering, i read your recipe and thought what would the ingredient measurments be if i was to make a full 5gal carboy?
The recipe could be multiplied by 5 for everything except the yeast. A single yeast packet is good for up to 5 gallons, so you’d still only need one of those.
Just wanted to double check on the yeast quantity – I have a half pack of the same premier blanc from red star that I used to make a juniper berry tonic. I noticed that your recipe does not specify how much wine yeast to use. The package itself says it has enough yeast in it to make “5 gallons” of wine, but I’m not sure exactly how much that is. Do you recall how much you used to make a gallon of lilac wine? Just got some big bunches from a friend and have been wanting to make for years. Very excited! Thanks!
Since the yeast multiply rapidly, the quantity of yeast isn’t actually that crucial. Anywhere from 1/4 packet to a full packet works fine for a one-gallon batch, and a single packet is good for up to a 5-gallon batch. When I’m making wine I’ll use the whole packet if I don’t have any other winemaking planned in the next few weeks, but If I do plan to make more I use part of a packet and then store it in the fridge sealed in a bag for a week or two until I make my next batches.
Why does the dandelion wine ferment for 3 weeks with the flowers in the ferment, but the lilac recipe calls for the flowers to be removed after 7-10 days? I’m curious about the recipe differences…also the tannin recommendation for the lilac but not the dandelion.
The difference in the recipes is the amount of time that it takes for the primary ferment to be completed. The primary ferment on the lilac is 7 to 10 days and the primary ferment on the dandelion is about 3 weeks. Both recipes leave the petals in for the length of the primary ferment.
I live in the sticks and cant find anything but bakers yeast except online and shipping is a gamble right now. I hoped you could offer some advice on spontaneous fermentation, ive done my research and im aware of the process and pros and cons vs innoculated yeast but i can’t seem to get it right. I tried with dandelions but no dice. Ive got lilacs everywhere! Not in bloom yet probably a few more wks, id love to try your recipe. I read that flowers were easy to wild ferment, lol. Perhaps i could try making a wild starter from the blueberries? Also can i freeze or dry the flowers and still use them for this recipe later?
I just did the first ferment of this (I added blackberries instead of blueberries) and had a sneaky taste whilst transferring to the second fermentation. It already tastes lovely and fairly sweet. Wondering If I should ferment the whole 2-3 months as it seems already quite alcoholic.
Fermentation slows down dramatically over time, so the added alcohol between now and 2-3 months from now isn’t much. That time helps the flavors improve and mellows out the rough edges on the alcohol taste, so it’ll be smoother. It also helps exhaust the yeast so they don’t keep going in the bottle (potentially over carbonating and bursting a bottle). I’d suggest giving it the whole time personally, and likely it’ll actually have just ever so slightly more alcohol in the end (but taste like it has less alcohol and be altogether more pleasant).
Brilliant, thank you 🙂
Question.. is lilac wine dry?
It came out pretty reasonably sweet, but not dessert wine syrup sweet. So no, it’s not dry.
Wondering if you keep the lilac petals submerged during the ferment to reduce the decomposing caused by air? Will it affect the taste? I only have a small bucket with a lid to ferment in.
You can use a weight to keep them submerged, but it’s not necessary, they’re in there a short time and mine were still in great shape when I removed them.
I am so determined to make this!! Would you recommend dried leaves or fresh? I have a lilac tree outside my house and was thinking of picking the flowers while my supplies ship. Thoughts?
You can pick the flowers while your supplies ship (assuming they’re only a few days from arrival). Strip the flowers from their stems and put them into a jar in the fridge with water to infuse. They’ll keep that way for a few days, and get your infusion started while the supplies are in route.
If I were to keep the petals in water in the fridge for a few days ahead of starting fermentation, would I just subtract the amount of water I submerge them in from the water I use to make the simple syrup? In other words say I use 6 cups of water, do I take that out of the 2-3 quarts? Thanks so much, looking forward to trying this!
Yes, that’s what I would do.
Thank you for the recipe to try! Curious- What is the purpose of the lemon in the recipe? Is it a crucial part? What exactly does that do? Thanks!
The lemon in the recipe adds acidity, which helps adjust the pH to a more optimal range for the yeast to work. Acidity is also important to the finished taste of the wine (not just this one, any wine). You can make it without lemon, but in that case, I’d suggest using acid blend powder (it’s a brewing ingredient, available at homebrew stores, or online). It has a more neutral flavor (not lemon-y) and you can use 1 teaspoon of the powder in place of one tablespoon of lemon juice in winemaking recipes.
Question my fellow earthy crunchy Vermonter. Have you ever made a Blueberry Mead? I have made many batches of wine and recently whenever I am looking for ideas your site constantly pops up. After seeing the Lilac wine I am also curious to experiment with a Lilac Mead. Any tips would be welcomed!
Yes, we’ve made a blueberry mead. I was actually pretty disappointed with it to tell you the truth. I think maybe blueberries have too bland a flavor, without enough acid/tannin for a good balance. I imagine you’d need to add tannin powder and acid powder for a good batch. Oddly, our blackberry mead and elderberry mead were exceptional, even without additives, but the blueberry just didn’t impress me. So in short, I don’t have a great recipe to share for blueberry mead sadly, but I hope your attempts go better than mine!
Do you add campden tablets at any point? I made 2 batches of the lilac wine yesterday with friends, and someone asked if we needed those during racking and bottling? Thanks!
I don’t add camden tablets to my wines and I generally don’t have issues. If a small amount of wild yeast are present, they’re quickly overwhelmed by the pitched yeast packet.
Ashley, new to this wine making. After the initial 1=7-10 days……….when I syphon it into a clean fermentor. I still keep a water lock on it correct……..and after the 2-3 months I can bottle and cork? Thanks for your help! My grandmother was great at wine but she passed away back in 1995 long before this has peeked by interest!
Yes, that’s correct. Secondary is actually when it really needs the water lock. Many people open ferment (without a water lock) in primary for the first week. Once there’s alcohol in there though, you need to get a water lock on it to prevent that alcohol from turning to vinegar.
Hi Ashley, do you have a rough guide on fruit/sugar and flower/sugar per gallon you usually use? I’ve read around other sites and they’ve always warned about too much sugar causing fermentation to not take place. I noticed you don’t use a hydrometer and was hence wondering if there’s a way to gauge such that I can an use it for any other fruits/flowers without worrying about watering down my initial ferment or not preventing the fermentation!
For floral wines, or something without sugar in the flower (unlike fruit), I start with 3 lbs sugar per gallon (6 cups). At 3 1/2 to 4 pounds you’ll start to hinder fermentation with a sugar concentration that’s too high. With fruit wines, I reduce the sugar, but how much depends on the sweetness of the fruit. Often around 2 lbs or 2 1/2 lbs.
HOW LONG DO HOMEMADE FRUIT WINES KEEP? AND FLORALS LIKE LILAC? I’VE GOT BLUEBERRY AND PARSNIP GOING FOR LAST 5 MONTHS AND LOOKING FORWARD TO BOTTLING SOON.
They can keep for years once you bottle them! Good luck!
First time on your site. Love it!! I have been looking for Lilac wine. Do you know of anyone that sells Lilac wine? I’m an extremely interested buyer. I appreciate any information you could provide. Best regards, John
I get that question all the time, but sadly I don’t know anyone who makes it commercially. Sorry I’m not more help!
Just tapped our first bottle for Easter; I made it from last May’s blossoms. This is a terrific wine. Tastes a bit like a late-harvest wine, sweet and floral, but the body is light and not cloying. The florals are intense, and the unique qualities of lilac are wonderful. This was actually my first wine making project, and I ended up using brewed Earl Gray and raisins instead of the pre-packaged augments as I didn’t have those on hand yet (I do now – look out!) I did not get a vivid pink, but a pale pinkish blush a bit like a “white” zinfandel. Didn’t matter – the flavor is the highlight.
This was a lot of fun to do, and the end product well worth it. I highly recommend giving it a go!
Wonderful, so glad you enjoyed it!
Hi Ashley, is it 6 cups on the stem or 6 cups of stripped flowers?
6 cups stripped.
I’m going to attempt this in the 5 gallon carboy so I’ll be multiplying the recipe. Usually when I’ve done fruit wine I do the primary fermentation in a 10 Gallon poly fermentor (basically just a bucket) with a towel over it, no airlock. I’m guessing it would be okay to do the same for this, what do you think? Thanks!
If that’s what works for you, I don’t see any reason why not.
Do u you white sugar or unprocessed raw sugar ?
Just regular granulated sugar.
My first fermentation has been working for 4 days and there seems to be only a small amount of bubbles coming through the water lock. It had a very violent fermentation in the beginning so wondering if I still need to wait the 7-10 days to siphon it. Some of the lilacs are turning brownish and don’t want it to ruin the wine. This is my first time so not sure what to do. Thanks for your help. I’m so excited to try the end product!!!
I am just now seeing this. What did you decide to do? How did it work out for you?
So I just racked for first time for lilac wine but when I leave sediment behind I have Quite a gap between airlock and wine. Should I be adding water and or finished wine?
Topping up is not necessary during an active secondary fermentation when the wine is under an airlock.
Do I need to add anything with first rack? There is a space between beverage and airlock
There is no need to add anything. The wine yeast actually needs air during the primary fermentation.
Have you ever tried a 1 quartsize batch? I hve with rhubarb wine and it turned out great. Not being an alcohol drinker, I find the small batches work great.
Yes, we actually have a post specifically written for small batches here. https://practicalselfreliance.com/small-batch-wine/
For those of us who have never made wine, ever, it would be nice if you had a glossary to help us know what you are talking about: Racking? Bottle condition? Ferment in secondary? After primary? Fermentation vessel: I assume this is the gallon jars with the funny thing on top?
See….no idea what you are talking about…..but I do have lovely lilac bushes and would LOVE to try making this. I even got the wine yeast all ready to go!
This post on small batch wine making has a pretty good run down of the equipment needed and is a great starting point for a beginner. https://practicalselfreliance.com/small-batch-wine/ Let us know if you have any specific questions after reading this. We are in the process of creating beginner guides for most of the topics. We will definitely have to try and include one for wine making.
I’m wondering if you only started out with 2-3 quarts of water, how did you yield a whole gallon of wine? Wondering so can multiply the recipe to make a 5-gallon batch.
You have to have room in the jar for your sugar and blossoms. Once the blossoms are strained out, you will have a little less than a gallon. If you want to make 5 gallons you can simply multiply everything by 5 except for the yeast. 1 Yeast packet is good for 1 to 5 gallons.
How do you or what do you use to sanitize the equipment like the siphon and fermenting vessels?
There is a post here about brewing beer, including a section about sanitizing equipment. https://practicalselfreliance.com/how-to-make-beer/ You will also find a link in that section for a one-step, no-rinse sanitizer.
You’re very welcome.
Kayoko Wakamatsu＆Yuki Wakamatsu＆Reika Wakamatsu ＆Koki Wakamatsu
I named my grandchildren Jasmine, Lilac and Margaret. I would love to have a glass of lilac wine.
Beautiful names. If you decide to try the lilac wine, let us know.
Thank you so much for this!
Long story ahead. I made this in spring of 2021. When it came time to bottle the wine I used my brand new wine corker. I was very excited! I put the bottles in my cellar in the wine rack and walked away. Not long after I came downstairs to find the corks had came out of 5/6 if my bottles. Only one bottle remained.
An extremely rare vintage.
I opened said bottle last night and shared it with some family friends- one of whom used to brew wine commercially.
IT WAS DELICIOUS! Thank you so much!
I am now devastated about my wasted bottles instead of merely annoyed. Oh well… only like 2 years to wait until I can drink another brew!
I’m so glad that your one bottle turned out so delicious but I’m sorry about the other five. That’s so sad.
FIrst time making wine and was wondering if I really need to buy wine bottles and corks or if I could put the wine in canning jars? I will buy the wine jars if I need to!
You don’t have to buy wine bottles and corks. You can use grolsch bottles or mason jars. Here is a post on wine making equipment that might be helpful for you. https://practicalselfreliance.com/winemaking-equipment/
I’m doing this recipe for the first time but my wine color is more blueish/yellow tint, I’m wondering if I did something wrong. Does it come out the pinkish color every time? Also are all types of lilacs ok? I was a little late on my big lilac bush but my bloombang lilac (that blooms twice in a year) are blooming and the flowers is a little smaller but smell like a lilac.
Any type of lilac should be fine as far as I know. The different varieties may result in different coloring though.
Can I harvest my lilac petals and freeze them to use later or do they need to be fresh?
I haven’t tried this, but I think it should work. Just be sure to clean them before hand so they don’t have any leaves or sepals (green parts) as that’s hard to clean after freezing. When they come out of the freezer, make the infusion and then give it a taste to make sure it’s flavorful and fragrant before going on with the rest of the recipe just in case.
Thanks for the response! I’m hoping my lilacs on the bush will still be good when my supplies get here, but I have frozen some just in case.
This is my first time making any type of wine. If I am starting with just the infusion first, how should I split the water? Maybe use 1 quart to infuse the petals and then once that is ready, use 2 quarts to make the syrup and add all other ingredients?
Also, how long would you suggest to infuse the petals on their own?
Sorry, just thought of another question- if I make the infusion first, should I still leave all the petals in during the primary fermentation? Or remove them before adding the other ingredients?
I would still leave the petals in during the primary fermentation.
I wouldn’t want the petals to be infusing for more than 24 hours by themselves because as they are sitting they will start deteriorating. If I was infusing them for that long, I would probably also put them in the fridge. If you’re just starting out though it might be best to follow the directions exactly as they are written before you start experimenting. Then, once you have a good handle of the process, you can start tweaking it or making adjustments as needed.
First time making wine, I apologize if these are dumb questions- If the water lock gets blocked is it okay to open the lid to clear the blockage?? And do you have a recommended temperature for leaving to ferment? I’m finding mixed answers when I google. Thanks!!
If the water lock gets blocked or dirty, yes, take it off and clean it out ASAP. For temperature, ideal is a cool room temperature, around 65 to 70 F. Really, anything in the 60 to 85 F range works though for most types of yeast.