Highbush Cranberry Wine – 2010

KevinForaging, From the Cellar, From The Wild, Highbush Cranberry Wine, Wild Fruits, Wine11 Comments

Last Wednesday evening, upon light prompting [read: suggestion] from friend Valerie, I headed back into the bush to pick another round of the abundant crop of highbush cranberries. I’d picked 20 lbs already. I really didn’t need more. But only a few days prior, I’d been out to En Sante Organic Winery and Meadery [who are going to be undergoing a full-on name change and rebranding btw – that’s right, you heard it here first] to shoot their From Local Farms episode that’s in editing at the moment. Xina [their winemaker] let me try their lineup, including their Kalyna wine [ukrainian for highbush cranberry], which for some reason is not listed on their website. I will fully admit, I was a bit shocked. It was impressive. It was akin to a rosé with loads of structure for an orchard wine. I find orchard wines tend to, okay nearly always,  lack in the structure department, so this opportunity is key in my homewinmaking/blending adventures. I had to try to make some.

So 20-some lbs of fruit later, I was in. Picked up a couple tips worth sharing from Xina. 1. No need to wash/rinse/sort the fruit. Into the press they go as-is. This saves loads of time. 2. The fruit is not fragile. It must be the acid. Or the stink. These things sat in a bucket in my heated basement for almost a week, and it was hard to tell when I finally got to them today. I think grapes would have rotted. Tip 3, this one from me: 3. make a cheese with berries as you see in the picture, press, then re-form and press again. They don’t let up their juice as easily as crushed apples, say, so be patient. My 20 lbs or so turned into roughly 5L of juice. I topped up the 11L carboy with water, took the SG, then chaptilized to get to 12.5%abv. Even diluted, the pH was very low: 2.96. Suggests searing acidity in the straight juice, and means this is a good candidate for low-sulphite [or no-sulphite if you roll like that] wine.

I like rosé. I like high-bush cranberries. I like structure. If all goes well, I’m going to have one mean local wine in the cellar.

Below: the resulting pommace post-press. Valerie had suggested trying to dry the berries – a great idea. I’m going to try de-seeding the skins and drying them for a dried-cran-esque element to game dishes. Other shot: the straight juice.

11 Comments on “Highbush Cranberry Wine – 2010”

  1. A Canadian Foodie

    I had no idea they were going to do a full on renaming – can’t wait to read why – but love that I heard it here, first. I wondered how you got so much juice! My post will be out today or tomorrow. I got 12 pounds of cleaned (spotless) berries and 12 cups of them. That make 3 batches of jelly. But I made one batch and then syrup and then juice and tried to dry some, but they took WAY too long to deseed so I scrapped that idea. I did dry some with the seeds, too – and then tried pushing them out. Too labour intensive. There must be another way. Fruit Leather, maybe. I wished I would have thought of that. Pushing all the flesh through a thicker seive to hold the seeds and then on to the drying process.
    Anyway – the jelly is THE BOMB. So is the SYRUP. Incredible. I cannot wait for you to try it! (And I cannot wait to try this wine!)

  2. HankShaw

    I assume you’re going to get the air out of that carboy, yes? The juice in that shot will oxidize in a hurry, PH of 2.96 or no. Speaking of that, holy shit! That will take paint off the wall. Wonder if pitching malolactic bacteria in there would soften the acidity any? Would only work if there is malic acid in this particular viburnum, and I don’t know it there is any…

    Do you get that funky highbush cranberry aroma with this wine? It’s one of the reasons I love this fruit, but it seems it might be a little weird in a wine.

    All in all, fascinating stuff.

  3. Kevin Kossowan

    Greg – nice!
    Valerie – Really glad your jelly turned out. I too failed in the dried highbush cranberry effort.
    Hank – It was topped up. No oxidization yet. These things are pretty invincible so far it seems. The pH actually doesn’t translate to too ridiculously high acid on the palate. Yet. And yes, the wine I’ve had from it has the distinctive smell you refer to, and is only as weird in the wine as you feel it is in other applications, I figure. So if you dig the berry, I think you’d dig the wine.

  4. Karlynn

    It’s unfortunate they are so finicky to de-seed, I felt so wasteful not doing something with them as well, but alas, there was no way I was pitting pounds of them. The wine sounds intriguing!

    I am really happy with my jelly and well, I guess “thick syrup” that is my last batch, I lowered the sugar on my original recipe to get a more liquidy result, but I think what I got was a jelly and a sauce, to be exact. Jelly for our toast and a sauce for meat dishes. What a wonderful year for cranberries and I love that people are making use of them!


    I’m in the process in making a wine of highbush cranberry and elderberry, kind of half and half. Hope it will turn out as good as my other blended fruit wines.Excellent choices I recomend if you use the elderberrys (a very vercitile fruit) is strawberries or blueberries. Mine turned out superb. Good luck and don’t stop trying different combonations of your favorite fruit.

  6. Tom

    Has anyone tried running the highbush cranberries through a squeezo press like you would tomatoes? I think it would press and remove the pits as well. I would like to give it a try and was wondering if anyone had had any success with this method.

  7. Heather

    I have about 3 gallons of straight pure high bush cranberry juice in my freezer. The berries were boiled with a small amount of water to soften and then run through the food mill to remove the flat seeds. I want to make wine and this will be my first attempt. Can I use the berry juice that has been frozen. Also I need a recipe that uses the juice of the berries. There is a local gourmet store where I live where I can get the supplies. Any all suggestions will be appreciated.

    thank yoy

  8. Murph

    Heather – yes indeed you can use that juice as long as it has no preservatives in it! Those of us who don’t have food mills freeze the berries first, to break down the cell structures & release the juice when the berries thaw.
    Go to Jack Keller’s web site (http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/highbush.asp) for a good recipe. His recipe is for one gallon of wine using 3 pounds of berries. I use 4 pounds to increase the cranberry flavor. Since you already have juice, estimate how many pounds of berrries the juice came from & just scale up the rest of the ingredients to make your wine. This includes diluting with water, otherwise the pure juice will be too acidic and astringent, & you won’t be happy with the results.
    Elsewhere on Jack’s very extensive website you will find general winemaking instructions and very specific guidance on a broad range of winemaking topics, for example the various strains of yeasts. His cranberry recipe calls for champagne yeast, which is a very aggressive fermenter. You will find it sold under the Lalvin brand as EC-1118. Others may work fine, but since you are new to winemaking and the cranberry juice is not be as balanced as grape juice for fermentation, this is a wise choice to minimze the risk of a failed fermentation.
    Good luck & enjoy!

  9. Tom

    I enjoyed the post, but how did the wine turn out? I am about to make my first batch of High Bush and would like to learn from your success or mistakes. I will be using Jack Keller’s recipe and make about 3 gallons. I do have some dried elderberries I could use to try a combination wine, but would problably only do 1 gallon with elderberries and the rest straight. Any other combinations anyone likes?

  10. Kevin

    Tom – Mine is 100% straight juice, no additives of any kind. The fruit has an awkward flavor profile to begin with, so that carries over to the wine, but what I can say is that it sure is representative of the fruit. There’s lots of structure and flavor going on. Worth doing, in my opinion, if you’re into the purist side of enjoying the fruit. I wouldn’t call it a hedonistic wine, and it’s certainly not for everybody. It’s a cerebral terroir play.

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