Pear wine is a simple way to preserve the flavor of fresh pears in a delightful homemade wine.
Pears have an absolutely luscious flavor that works exceptionally well in homemade wine, and pear wine is easy to make, even for beginners. It’s even better than apple wine in my opinion, as pears tend to be a lot more aromatic.
Pear wine is different than pear hard cider, or “perry.”
Perry requires specific cider pears to create a balanced drink, and you actually have to work pretty hard to find old-fashioned perry pears with enough acidity and tannin to get the job done. Even still, it usually ends up quite dry since pears just don’t have nearly enough natural sugar to satisfy the yeast, and still leave enough after fermentation.
Pear wine, on the other hand, can be made with any type of pear because you’re going to add acidity, sugar, and tannin to create a perfect balance. Whether it’s sweet or dry depends on your choices because you as the winemaker are controlling all the ingredients.
All you really need to make pear wine is high-quality, flavorful pears to provide a base. (You can also use pear juice, either fresh pressed or commercially bottled.)
Basic Steps for Making Fruit Wine
If you’ve never made fruit wine, I’m going to cover the basic steps, mostly so you understand the terminology.
- Primary Fermentation: Place ingredients in a fermentation vessel (including yeast) and allow the mixture to ferment for about 7 to 10 days. Be sure the mixture is at room temperature when the yeast is added. This is the most active and vigorous fermentation and produces a lot of sediment.
- Rack Into Secondary Fermentation: Use a siphon to move the wine to a clean fermentation vessel. Filter out any fruit chunks and leave the sediment behind.
- Secondary Fermentation: Fermented in a narrow neck fermentation vessel (carboy), this fermentation is slower and less vigorous. The wine finishes fermenting during this period, and the yeast slows down until they die out. Sediment slowly settles out, so the wine clarifies. Secondary lasts 4 weeks to 4 months, depending on your preference. Longer tends to improve flavor.
- Bottling: After secondary fermentation, it’s time to bottle the wine in wine bottles with corks. Taste the wine at this point, and if it’s too dry for your tastes, add a bit of sugar made into simple syrup and move the wine into a carboy for another 1 to 2 weeks, then proceed to bottling. Once in the bottle, the wine should bottle condition for a minimum of 2 weeks, but more like 2 months is better.
Equipment you’ll need includes:
- A single two-gallon fermentation bucket, or two one-gallon wide mouth fermentation vessels (for primary fermentation)
- One narrow neck fermentation vessel (also called a carboy or demijohns) for secondary fermentation
- Airlock and plug (this often comes with the carboy, above)
- Brewing Siphon
- Wine Bottle Corker
- New Wine Bottle Corks
- Clean Empty Wine Bottles
Ingredients for Pear Wine
- 5 lbs pears, seeded and finely chopped
- 3 quarts of water (12 cups)
- 4 cups white sugar (2 lbs)
- 1 cup brown sugar (1/2 lb)
- Juice of 2 lemons (1/2 cup)
- 1/4 tsp tannin powder (optional, you can add 1 cup of strongly brewed black tea instead)
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient (Strongly recommended, but you can add 1/4 cup of raisins instead to feed the yeast)
- 1 tsp pectic enzyme (optional, helps clarify the wine by breaking down fruit pectin)
- 1 packet of wine yeast (I’m using Champagne Yeast for a neutral finish)
If you’re making pear wine with juice, skip the water and the chopped pears, just add enough pear juice to fill the carboy.
When making pear wine with whole fruit, you’ll need to start with a 2-gallon fermentation bucket or divide the primary fermentation across two wide-mouth one-gallon fermentation jugs (as I’ve done). Once the pears are filtered out everything will fit in a standard 1-gallon narrow neck fermentation vessel.
When making pear wine from juice, you can just start in a 1-gallon fermentation vessel since the bulky chopped pears won’t take up extra space.
Choosing Yeast for Pear Wine
Wine yeast, believe it or not, actually contributes a lot of flavor to the finished wine.
Some types of yeast add fruity flavors, others ferment cleaner with minimal added flavors. Some have very high alcohol tolerances, like champagne yeast, and will ferment very dry unless you add a lot of extra sugar.
For pear wine, choose a wine yeast with moderate alcohol tolerance, that either ferments clean or adds light fruit flavors.
Good yeast choices include:
- Red Star Premier Cuvee, Red Star Premier Blanc, or Lavin EC-1118 ~ Generally known as champagne yeasts, these are strong fermenters with a neutral taste. This yeast has a high alcohol tolerance (around 18%), and I’ve designed this recipe with enough sugar to feed this vigorous yeast and still leave some leftover residual sugars.
- Lavin D47 ~ Adds a strong fruity, floral character to wines with spicy aromas that would add complexity to apple wine. Only a moderately vigorous fermenter and may start slowly. Alcohol tolerance to 15%.
- Lalvin QA23 ~ Usually chosen for white wines because it adds a clean, fruity taste to the finished wine. Ferments quickly and settles out relatively fast to help clarify the wine. Alcohol tolerance to 16%.
I’m using champagne yeast (Red Star Premier Blanc) for this batch, and if you choose a yeast with lower alcohol tolerance, reduce the sugar by about 1/4 pound (or 1/2 cup) or expect a sweeter wine at the end.
A single packet of wine yeast is enough for 5 gallons, so you don’t need the whole thing. The amount added isn’t critical, since the yeast will multiply quickly anyway, but add roughly 1/5 to 1/2 of the packet for a gallon of juice.
Start by dissolving the yeast in a bit of water and allow it to re-hydrate and wake up. If it’s added directly to the apple wine, the sugar in the juice can shock the yeast before they’re fully re-hydrated.
Generally, yeast packets come with thorough instructions printed on them, and some work a bit differently (such as liquid yeast). Just follow the instructions on the packet.
(I do not recommend using bread yeast! It will literally make your wine taste like a loaf of bread. Since it’s not made for extended ferments or winemaking, it’ll also add off-flavors as the yeast struggle to adapt to the high sugar liquid wine environment.)
How to Make Pear Wine
To make pear wine, start by chopping and coring the fruit. There’s no need to peel the fruit, unless you specifically want to. A lot of pear flavor and aromatics are in the peel.
I would suggest using organic fruit though and washing the fruit thoroughly. (Or, you can choose to play it safe and peel them, as pears are generally a high spray crop.)
When you start with about 5 lbs of fresh pears, it’ll end up being about 4 quarts of fruit, chopped, seeds removed but not peeled.
Four quarts is a full gallon, so that’s not going to fit into a simple one-gallon carboy with the other ingredients. Generally, primary fermentation of fruit wines with chunky fruit pieces is done in a 2-gallon fermentation bucket, which gives plenty of space for all the ingredients plus extra headspace.
Primary fermentation is vigorous, and you don’t have to use an airlock during that stage. You can just cover the bucket and allow it to open ferment, just keeping a cloth over the top to keep out flies/debris.
After primary fermentation, you use a siphon to move the pear wine to a closed fermenter that has a one-way valve (air lock) that will allow the CO2 from the yeast out, but not allow any contaminants in (namely, acetic acid bacteria that can turn your wine to vinegar).
I happen to have two wide-mouth one-gallon fermentation vessels, so I just split the batch across two of those instead. Having a water lock on for this first week is optional, but it does keep things neat and clean (and I don’t have to worry at all about contamination).
If you’re using two containers, as I am, split all the ingredients in half evenly across both. Otherwise, just put everything in a single larger container.
Bring 12 cups of water to a simmer on the stove and add the sugar, stirring to dissolve. Allow the sugar to cool to room temperature.
Add the sugar water, chopped pears, lemon juice, yeast nutrient, and tannin powder to the fermentation vessel (or vessels). Double-check that the mixture is at about room temperature (70 to 90 degrees F). If it’s too hot, the yeast will die.
Dissolve the packet of yeast in a small amount of water, and allow it to “bloom” for about 5 to 10 minutes. This gives the yeast time to wake up before they’re added so they don’t shock.
Add the dissolved yeast to the mixture.
Cover with a towel to keep flies/debris out of the mixture. Do not cap tightly, the fermentation will put off CO2 as the yeast work, and that needs to escape.
Allow the mixture to ferment for 7 to 10 days until things settle down a bit. Once the fermentation isn’t quite so vigorous, use a sciphon to move the mixture to a narrow neck carboy for secondary fermentation.
At this point, the fruit is removed. Some people opt to use brewing bags to hold the fruit, which makes straining it out much easier. That’s optional, but really nice and makes things a lot cleaner.
Either way, get all the solids out when you move it to secondary, and leave the yeasty sediment behind. The sediment at the bottom is dead yeast that wore itself out during primary, and in winemaking, it’s referred to as “lees.” Wine left on the “lees” too long can develop off-flavors, that’s one reason moving to a clean container for secondary is important.
Cap the secondary fermenter with an air lock (sometimes also called a water lock). It’s a one-way valve that lets CO2 escape from the fermentation but doesn’t let contaminants into your pear wine.
Allow the wine to ferment in the secondary fermentation vessel with an airlock for about 4 weeks. That’s a minimum, and longer is fine, provided you keep water in the airlock to keep things sealed up. Leaving it 4 to 6 months will improve the clarity and quality of the finished wine.
Once secondary is complete, bottle the wine in wine bottles with corks. Taste it at bottling time, and it should taste a bit rough, but you’re evaluating sweetness here.
If the wine is too dry, make up a bit of simple syrup and add it to the mixture, then allow the wine to ferment for another week or two before trying again and bottling.
Allow the pear wine to bottle condition for a minimum of 2 weeks before drinking, preferably 2 months or more. Longer will increase quality and mellow the flavors so it tastes more “finished.” Young wines tend to taste a bit “rough around the edges.”
Pear Wine Recipe Variations
Other Pear Wine Recipes
This is my pear wine recipe, and I think it works out wonderfully, but I’m going to walk you through some of the other options found in all the winemaking books on my shelf.
Ways to Preserve Pears
Looking for more ways to preserve pears?
Pear wine is a sweet, refreshing homemade wine that's perfect for sipping by the fireside on cool autumn evenings.
- Start by sanitizing all equipment.
- Bring 12 cups of water to a gentle simmer on the stove and dissolve the sugar and brown sugar in the hot water, stirring until it's completely dissolved. Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature.
- Chop and seed the pears, leaving the skins on. Place them in your wide mouth fermentation vessel, either a single 2 gallon bucket or divided evenly across two one gallon wide mouth fermentation jars.
- Add the remaining ingredients (except yeast), including sugar water, lemon juice, yeast nutrient and tannin powder. Stir to incorporate.
- Dissolve the yeast packet in a small amount of room temperature water. Allow the yeast to rehydrate for 5 to 10 minutes, then add them into the pear/sugar/water mixture. Be sure to leave 2-3 inches of headspace to allow the mixture to bubble.
- Cover the mixture with a towel to keep out flies/debris, or seal with a water lock if you're using wide-mouth fermenters that can accommodate that. Be sure to leave plenty of headspace at this stage, the pears can bubble up into the waterlock and make a big mess.
- Allow the mixture to ferment in "primary fermentation" with the fruit in the mixture for 7 to 10 days.
- Once fermentation starts to slow, use a sciphon to transfer just the liquid portion to a narrow neck fermenter for secondary. Leave the yeast sediment and fruit pulp behind.
- Allow the mixture to ferment in secondary for at least 4 weeks, but up to 4 to 6 months.
- Once fermentation is complete, taste the wine to test for sweetness (it'll taste rough at this point, but you're evaluating residual sugar). If you want a sweeter wine, make a simple syrup by dissolving a small amount of sugar in water. Add the simple syrup and allow the mixture to ferment for another 1 to 2 weeks before bottling.
- To bottle, siphon the wine into wine bottles and seal with corks.
- Allow the pear wine to bottle age for at least 2 weeks before drinking, but preferably 2 months or longer. The longer you wait, the better the wine will taste. Fruit wines taste a bit "rough" when young, but they'll mellow with time.
The alcohol tolerance of the wine yeast will determine the residual sugar in the wine (or sweetness when finished). Wine yeast can also contribute flavor to the finished wine. I'm using champagne yeast because it's a dependable fermenter with a neutral taste, but it has a high alcohol tolerance (around 18%).
If you choose a yeast with lower alcohol tolerance, reduce the sugar by about 1/4 pound (or 1/2 cup), or expect a sweeter wine at the end. If you specifically want a sweeter wine, opt for yeast with a lower alcohol tolerance (13 to 15%). Lavin D47 is a good choice, as is Lavin QA43. See the article for a more in-depth discussion of wine yeasts.
Pears aren’t the only fruit you can make into wine at home!
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