Mead is a staple in our homebrew routine, and we’ve been making honey wines for over a decade. When it was time to brew another batch with rhubarb, I of course reached for the honey and started a bubbly honey-based batch of homemade rhubarb mead.
But wait…what if I want to taste the rhubarb, just the subtle delicious tangy notes of rhubarb, without the distraction and complexity of honey? Thus, why not. It’s time to make a rhubarb wine.
For my rhubarb mead, I left the whole chunks of rhubarb in the fermentation vessel for the duration and filtered just before bottling. Rhubarb wine called for a different technique, where I actually juiced the rhubarb by immersing it in sugar for several days. The sugar drew out the rhubarb juice, along with much of the beautiful red color.
The result was a lovely pink brew, with plenty of sweetness to balance out the tang.
I started with a full gallon of rhubarb chunks, and at the end, I had about half a gallon of rhubarb juice. More accurately, I had about half a gallon of raw rhubarb syrup, since there was so much sugar in there you could almost stand a spoon in it.
I strained out the solid rhubarb pieces, and they still had quite a bit of flavor. The juice that had been removed was replaced by sugars, and they’d lost much of their bulk. They made a passable rhubarb candy, and my rhubarb harvesting assistant loved that there was a child-friendly byproduct of the whole rhubarb winemaking endeavor.
Instead of traditional narrow neck demijohns, I used my new favorite brewing vessel, a wide mouth one-gallon jar equipped with a waterlock.
I used the same setup for brewing dandelion wine earlier, and I was amazed at how easy it was to clean the whole thing. No tiny flower petal particles stuck in the fermenter after racking. Brilliant!
In the case of rhubarb wine, it means that I can toss all the rhubarb and sugar into the jar and cap it for juicing. The rhubarb is then strained out, and the juice is put back into the jar. The main benefit is that I only covered one thing with rhubarb and sugar, and I had a lid to keep the ants out of it while the sugar extracted the juice.
Feel free, of course, to extract the juice in whatever container you have, and then pour it into a traditional narrow-necked fermentation vessel. If you don’t have quite enough rhubarb, you can always make a small batch, using the same basic technique that’s used for one-quart batches of mead. Just divide all the ingredients in this recipe by 4 to make a super tiny 1-quart sampling batch.
Beyond the pile of rhubarb, which you should be able to harvest from a few healthy plants, you’ll also need some equipment for this recipe:
- One Gallon Fermentation Vessel with Airlock and Stopper (either Traditional or Wide Mouth Jar Version)
- Brewing Siphon and tubing – For moving the wine from one container to another without disturbing the sediment. This will allow for a much clearer finished rhubarb wine.
- Yeast Nutrient – Yeast cannot live on sugar alone, they need a number of micronutrients to do their important work. Grapes naturally have these nutrients, but other fruits don’t. If you’re making fruit wine, it’s always a good idea to add 1 tsp of yeast nutrient per gallon.
- Winemaking Tannin – While grapes have plenty of tannins to give a wine body and pleasant mouthfeel, rhubarb doesn’t. Adding a bit of tannin will create a much more pleasant, balanced wine. It doesn’t take much, usually around 1/4 to 1/2 tsp per gallon.
- Wine Yeast – Believe it or not, much of the flavor in a finished wine comes from the choice of yeast. Some produce volatile compounds that bring out fruity notes. Others like the champagne yeast I’ve chosen, produce a more neutral wine that ferments well in all conditions.
The end result is a light and bubbly sweet summer wine with a good bit of natural carbonation. (This Premier Classique yeast is also a good choice for rhubarb wine.)
If you’re new to winemaking, I’d suggest reading this primer on making small-batch wines to help get you started.
This simple summer wine is sweet and bubbly, bursting with rhubarb flavor.
- 1-gallon rhubarb, chopped
- 3 lbs sugar
- 2-3 quarts water (to fill)
- 1/4 tsp winemaking tannin
- 1 tsp yeast nutrient
- 1 packet yeast
- Chop the rhubarb into 1/4 inch slices. Place the chopped rhubarb in a large bowl, glass jar or bucket.
- Cover with sugar and stir to coat. Allow the sugar to extract the rhubarb juice for 2-3 days.
- After 2-3 days, there will be about 1/2 gallon of rhubarb juice or rhubarb syrup. Strain the juice/syrup through a fine mesh strainer and measure the juice.
- Wash the remaining rhubarb chunks in enough water to make just under a full gallon of liquid. Strain again and add the rhubarb water to the fermentation vessel almost fill it up, leaving a bit of space for the remaining ingredients.
- Add the winemaking tannin and yeast nutrient and stir to dissolve.
- Dissolve the yeast packet in a small amount of lukewarm water and allow it to bloom for 5 minutes before adding it to the fermentation vessel.
- Allow the rhubarb wine to ferment at room temperature for about 6 weeks. If you choose, rack the wine into another fermentation vessel after about 2 weeks, leaving the sediment behind. This will result in a less cloudy finished wine.
- Once fermentation is complete, use a siphon to bottle the wine leaving behind any sediment. While you can drink it immediately, it's better if you can bring yourself to wait at least a month.
In a pinch, if you don't have the ability to get winemaking additives, you can substitute 1 cup of strongly brewed black tea for the tannin powder and 1/4 cup of raisins for the yeast nutrient.
More Winemaking Recipes
Looking for more easy winemaking recipes? Try any of these:
What kind of yeast did you use in your rhubarb wine .? Thank you.
I’m using premier blanc wine yeast.
HI-DO YOU THINK THE SUGAR IDEA WOULD WORK FOR THE MAGOE WINE IF USING FRESH MANGOES TO GET THE JUICE?
Though I haven’t tried it, I’d guess mangoes might be too fiberous for the sugar thing to work with them. I just made pineapple wine and they fruit didn’t break down hardly at all in the sugar, and ended up creating a big mess clogging up the water lock. I’d say, maybe put the mango flesh through the food processor first to make a puree, then make it into wine following the same process as in this rhubarb wine recipe. If you try it, let me know how it goes.
Thank you! I will try that instead.
(Sorry about the all caps in the first comment, I didn’t realize it had done that)
Hi, I used this recipe to make rhubarb wine. It’s been just over a week and the wine has turned a very light pale pink color. Is this normal?
This is exactly the color that you should expect.
Would this work if you pureed the rhubarb to start?
Is it ok to leave tannin out?
Yes, that’s optional for balancing the flavor, but not necessary for the fermentation or for the wine to keep. It’s a matter of personal preference, and you can totally skip it.
I read somewhere that you could use strong black tea instead of wine tannin. how would that work?
Make a cup of strongly brewed black tea (like 2 Lipton bags in a single mug). Brew the tea, take out the tea leaves or tea bags, then let it cool completely and add the brewed tea in, substituting it for a cup of the water in the carboy.
Good day Ashley, thanks for the recipe I’m making my 1st batch ever, of any wine, tomorrow, I just bought my starter kit.., Once I cut the rhubarb as indicated, can I put them in a blender before adding the sugar? Thank you, Guy
While you can put them in a blender before adding the sugar, I actually think that might cause them to matt at the top of the fermenter and clog. If you do choose to blend them, I’d suggest leaving them to open ferment in a bowl with a towel over it (or the wide mouth fermenter I use in the recipe but without the lid, just a towel over it). Allow it to ferment like that for a week or so before filtering out the rhubarb and putting it into standard fermentation vessel with a water lock. I’m just worried it might clog up on you and create a big mess (or pop the lid). Let me know how it goes though, good luck!
Many years ago my dad made hard cider and wine. A neighbor gave him a trash can full of buckwheat honey. We had a lot of rhubarb so he decided to make it. I don’t remember how he made it but I believe he ground it up in a grape grinder and put it through his press than put it in the barrel with some of the honey.
It was very tasty but as I remember it left a burn in the stomach like a strong whisky.
A a fellow Vermonter (NEK) i have had a rhubarb patch for 37 years. This is my first foray into wine making. I see a lot pictures with demijohns in windows in full sun. Does the first fermentation require light to ferment. I racked my wine into the demijohn the other day and put it in the closet. and the airlock doesn’t show signs of fermentation. No bubbles.
Just the opposite actually, you really want to keep it out of direct light for the fermentation. A closet is the perfect place. The thing is, it’s really hard to take a picture in a closet so that’s why you always see them on sunny windowsills.
Thank you Ashley, It makes sense since my son and I brew beer and it needs to be in the dark as well to ferment.
I would like to brew a 5 gallon batch of rhubarb wine. However, my recipe calls for 12 lbs. of rhubarb, but I only have just over 6 pounds. Can I go ahead with what I have?
I would just make a smaller batch. If you try to make the 5 gallons with that amount of rhubarb, you probably won’t have a very strong rhubarb flavor.
Can you freeze the rhubarb until you have a gallon or until the rest of the items arrive. No more then 2 weeks?
Don’t want the rhubarb to go by.
Yes, that’s a fine method. Freezing actually helps release the juices, so it’ll actually help to have it frozen for a short time before making this recipe. Make sure you keep all the liquid in the bag when you defrost it out though, that’s the good stuff. Good luck!
How would you feel about heating the rhubarb and sugar with extra water to melt the sugar more and extract more flavor from the rhubab?
Sounds like a fine plan!
Ok, are you ready?? I’m about to blow your mind………….
I made grape jelly last year. I have some left over. We don’t really eat jelly much.
Can I add this to be part of my must???? Good idea right?? 😉 hit me back girrrrlll.
I have actually added jelly to my wine batches in the past (chokecherry jelly to top off a batch of chokecherry wine that wasn’t quite full). The flavor was good, but it came out super cloudy. If you do try it, you may need to add a good bit of pectic enzyme to clarify the wine, if a cloudy glass bothers you at all. (It’s cosmetic though). Enjoy!
I’m making this wine now, following these directions but subbed a cup of black tea for the tannins. I racked it after the first two weeks and it has now been an additional 3 weeks. I noticed a thin, white, film on the top of the wine. I opened it up to take a look/smell to see what’s going on. It smells strongly of rubbing alcohol. Has the wine “gone bad”? Is there anything I can do for it?
Thank you for any insights!
Gently scoop off anything that’s floating and rack it again into a clean container. The smell (intensely of alcohol) is normal, so long as it doesn’t smell of vinegar. That will fade as it ages/matures and the other flavors come into balance.
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your response!
I am so excited to be trying this for the first time! There’s a lot of rhubarb in the Yukon (Canada). I’ll post if it’s a success.
Yay! Keep me updated!
I racked from one demijon to another after 3 weeks, it’s now been 48 hours since I did this and there’s no sign of any bubbling in the airlock anymore should I add fresh yeast and nutrient? Before racking it was bubbling every 15-25 seconds. Thanks!
I am just now seeing this comment. What did you end up doing? How did the wine turn out?
Thank you for the recipe! I am in step one and ended up taking a lot of rhubarb out of the freezer so am doubling the batch. I have a lot of liquid like half of a 5 gallon bucket (with the rhubarb still in) I might end up with more than a gallon of the juice, do I just top that off with the water after rinsing the rhubarb so I have just under the 2 gallons since I doubled the batch and what can I do with all the leftover rhubarb chunks?
Yes it should be fine to do that. You could try making rhubarb candy with the leftover rhubarb chunks.
I started a batch of rhubarb mead and the rhubarb started to mold on top!! I threw the whole batch out! Suggestions??
You may want to try a fermenting weight to keep the rhubarb under the liquid.
If you use a lid with an airlock the gases given off by the fermentation should push the oxygen out and keep things from molding. Also, remember to be as sanitary as possible.
I would like to try to add some blueberries to my rhubarb wine. I haven’t made rhubarb wine before so why not jump right in with altering the recipe, right? lol I see that many recipes call for campton tablets. What are these and are these necessary?
Of course. LOL. Camden tablets are used to completely end the fermentation and stabilize the wine before bottling. They are not necessary and many people choose to avoid them to avoid unnecessary additives in their homemade products.
Would it work to juice the rhubarb first in a slow juicer, and then add the 3 pounds of sugar, stirring to dissolve? I always have the worst time with fruit flies, so I’d like to avoid having sweet nectar encouraging them to swarm.
I can definitely understand the fruit flies. You could definitely juice the rhubarb and then add the sugar.
I have 3 huge rhubarb plants I never know what to do with. Every year I make a crumble or 2 and post on local groups for people to come get some. This year one of my takers said she was going to try making rhubarb wine, and I was delighted to have a new idea! I am totally new to this however, and you don’t mention anything about needing to sterilize equipment. I have made jam before, and usually boil everything, but some of the equipment I bought is plastic. I found one article about using bleach in water, but it didn’t say at what ratios. Can you share a bit about what method you use? Or have you written a post about it?
Here is an article that walks you through the process of making small batches of wine which will be great if you are just starting out. It goes through all of the equipment and supplies that you will need. https://practicalselfreliance.com/small-batch-wine/ Then once you get a little more experience and find out what flavors you like, you can move on to bigger batches. You can get a brewers no-rinse cleanser to clean all of your equipment here. https://www.amazon.com/Strange-Brew-1Step-8oz-One-Step/dp/B0064O7VYY/ref=as_li_ss_tl?keywords=no+rinse+cleanser+for+brewing&qid=1566996594&s=gateway&sr=8-6&linkCode=sl1&tag=selfrelianc0e-20&linkId=52ef7d061ebb82597fee134db07c2eb6&language=en_US
Thanks! The only issue is I have our rhubarb harvested and ready to go, and we are leaving for over a week on Saturday. Do you have any advice about using bleach if you are in a pinch? The earliest that product would come from Amazon is June 14. I could boil the glass but am worried the plastic lids and plastic waterlocks would not hold up.
Do you have room in the freezer for your rhubarb until you return?
We already went ahead and did the first step last night. So for better or for worse we need to get it fermenting Friday night. 🙂 Turns out our dishwasher has a sanitizing setting, so we did that with no other actual dirty dishes mixed with what we needed. Hopefully that is good enough! We will get the other stuff or when it is time to bottle. If you have any other better advise for the fermentation step, let me know!
Here is an article on making small-batch wines which is great for a beginner. https://practicalselfreliance.com/small-batch-wine/ Then once you get a little bit of experience and know which flavors you really like, then you can move on to bigger batches. For sanitizing equipment you can use a brewers no-rinse cleanser for all of your equipment like this one here. https://amzn.to/2W8HtUO
Got through the setup phase last night, and this morning it is bubbling away. It seems like it is so vigorous that sediment is coming up. It has turned the water in the waterlock brown and I have brown sediment on the cap. Is this OK?
You definitely want to be sure that the sediment does not clog up your waterlock.
I have a big #5 crock. My dad used to put his fruit (usually grapes) in that, cover with cheesecloth and then a plate to weigh it down. Can I ferment the chopped up rhubarb and sugar, etc. In this way?
You sure can.
Thank you so much for the reply!!! I’m so excited to start making my own wine; wish my dad were here to give me tips and tricks and to ultimately share a glass with me!!
I sure enjoy your wonderful and helpful information!!!
I am so glad that you are getting started. What a great way to connect with your dad even after he is gone.
Is there a reason why you added yeast nutrient for the wine but not for the mead?
With the honey and the fruit in the mead, the yeast has enough micronutrients to feed on.
When I have the rhubarb and sugar together to draw out the juice, does that have to be refrigerated? Or can it just sit on the counter?
It can sit on the counter given that it’s not a terribly long time there. There’s so much sugar that it should inhibit fermentation for a while (until you add the water in the recipe, which reduces the sugar and allows it to start fermenting), so it should be totally fine to leave it out while you’re macerating the fruit. Or at least, that’s my opinion. That may not be true if you asked a food safety scientist.
Made this and the 6th month test bottle was a big hit. Pale pink, no strong alcohol bit, sharp but pleasant after taste. Mine finished at 10.5 avb. Waiting patiently for 1 year test. Definitely on my make again list.
That’s good to hear. I’m so glad you enjoyed it.
Hello! I just started my batch and I used raisins for it! How long should the raisins be in for? Should I rack them out after a certain amount of time?
You can rack it into a new fermentation vessel after about 2 weeks leaving the raisins and any sediment behind in the first vessel.
Do you stir everything after you add the yeast to the jar, or just pour it in and leave it?
Yes, you should stir it after adding the tannin and yeast.
After adding the sugar, do I stir the rhubarb every day or let it sit for a few weeks? Making rhubarb wine, not exactly sure when to strain the rhubarb and put in a fermenter with airlock container!
You add the sugar to the rhubarb and let it sit for 2 to 3 days with no stirring to extract the juice. After 2 to 3 days you will strain the juice and add it to your fermentation vessel with the other ingredients. If you scroll to the very bottom of the post, you will see a recipe card along with step by step instructions. Let me know if you have any other questions.
I love this site and all your recipes! I especially appreciate how patient and gracious you are to all your commenters! Thank you!
I’m making this rhubarb wine as my first batch ever. Everything has gone as planned, but when I racked it into a 1 gallon carboy, it only filled to the shoulder of the vessel. Should I top it off with another wine to cut down on the surface exposed to air? TIA!
You’re very welcome. So glad you’re enjoying the content. There is no need to top it off.
Can I use a sugar substitute like monk fruit or stevia to add to the rhubarb?
You can use these to sweeten the finished wine if you wish but you really should use sugar for the fermentation process.
Thank you so much for your reply. Every year I find myself with so much rhubarb and running out of ideas to use it ,,:) Usually share it with friends and neighbors.
You’re very welcome. It’s always great to share with friends and neighbors.
Greetings from Whitestar, Michigan. Thanks so much, Ashley for the great wine and mead recipes….I enjoy them every summer. The best to you and your family.
You’re very welcome. So glad you’re enjoying the recipes.
Hi! I’m making this wine for the first time I’m so excited to try it! We have way too much rhubarb in our patch and this looks like a great way to use it up. I was wondering, for the juicing step where the rhubarb is sitting in the sugar, should I leave that at room temperature or keep it in the refrigerator? Thanks!
It’s totally fine to keep this at room temperature.
I just started my first batch…I am interested in the rhubarb candy…do tell!!!
We had a recipe linked on the post for dehydrator recipes but it looks like the post is no longer there. You should be able to do a quick internet search and find a ton of recipes.