I bet that a lot of our readers will still remember running into the woods and searching for wild blackberries as little kids.
For me, it is one of my fondest childhood memories. Finding those small juicy berries was so exciting and adventurous!
I’m sure that for many of us who have similar memories, blackberries bought in shops can hardly live up to our expectations.
I can remember running home to my family, t-shirt stained in purple berry juice, dirty knees, and stained lips, to hand over today’s catch ready for my parents to make mouth-watering blackberry pie and jam.
Yet, nowadays I turn my catch into an exquisite blackberry wine.
Blackberry wine may not be such a new concept to those that enjoy skiing. It is used as a delicious winter treat to help warm the cockles up in the French Alps – and possibly for some extra courage when tackling the slopes.
If you ever find yourself in one of their chalets, expect to find a couple of local bottles of premium Après ski’ lying around.
Don’t worry! You need not book your flights to France to get a taste of this amazing wine.
By sourcing some tasty local berries and using the correct equipment, you are more than capable of recreating blackberry wine as though you were enjoying it from a french chalet – remember to also check out our 10 different homemade wine recipes!
Below you will find all the information you need to get started with making an impressive blackberry wine to impress your next dinner guests.
Let’s Look at Needed Equipment
For those newcomers to the wine making scene that don’t want to purchase each individual piece of equipment individually, there’s a very convenient solution out there in the form of Homemade Starter Kit.
This starter kit contains everything that you will need and makes your journey in becoming an expert winemaker much more enjoyable. The best winemaker’s equipment will continue to work for many seasons and this one we like the most.
If you’d still like to buy each equipment separately, the specific items you will need to get started are listed below:
- Food grade sterilised fermenting (brewing) bin with at least a gallon capacity. The white bucket on the left side is food grade plastic container with the capacity of 5 gallons. You can use it for almost anything and you can get it for as cheap as $39 on the market today.
- 2 demijohns from glass and more than 1 gallon in capacity.
- Simply fitted airlock and bung.
- Straining bag.
- Vinyl siphon tube with a minimum length of 3 ft.
- Glass wine bottles, corker and fitted corks.
- Plastic funnel.
You can get all needed ingredients below:
Which Ingredients Will You Need?
We highly recommend avoiding standard wine yeast and instead grabbing some red wine yeast to ensure you produce a wine full in taste and rick in colour.
Naturally, different brands of red wine yeast follow different methods of preparation and you should always follow guidelines strictly specific to the amount of wine you want to make…
Ingredients per 1 gallon (6 bottles) of blackberry wine
Where to Pick/Get Blackberries?
Most people are capable of identifying blackberries on our deserts quite easily, but that might not be the case when stood in the wild and in front of a bush.
If you are an experienced berry picker, this section might be like teaching your granny to suck eggs, so feel free to jump to the next section :-).
You can also skip past this section if you will source your blackberries from the supermarket aisles. If you are going to get your blackberries from the wild, please read on..
Blackberries are vastly found in the wild so it important to know which ones to avoid. We recommend that you walk past those that are next to a road, and also to ignore lower berries which dogs may like to ‘water’.
The ideal berries will be found in hedgerows and a good rule of thumb is that the more rural the berries’ location, the fresher and tastier they will be.
Despite that the ripening times of berries in close proximity can vary, they are not very difficult to spot in among the green. They often shine bright like small jewels hanging from branches in small bundles.
Don’t be fooled by small white flowers that also form on brambles. These will turn into small reddish berries – something similar to that of a raspberry. Yet, unlike tasty raspberries, these are extremely tough and may even make you feel sick. Instead, be patient and wait until these little berries grow bigger and change to a darker purple.
If you pick some berries that go mushy in your palms then throw these away as they could pose a risk to the rest of your pick. If the blackberries are shrivelled then this is a sign that the season has come to a close.
Blackberry Picking Tips
Weather dependant, blackberry season can start from July and run through to early November in some instances.
If you see the first berries starting to emerge, wait for a string of warm days prior to picking them.
Picking them on a sunny day will also benefit the berries as well as making it a more pleasant for yourself. This is especially the case when picking larger blackberry varieties such as the Tupi.
Some argue that the berries will taste much better after the year’s first frost but if you have a superstitious streak, it may be better pick before the 11th of October.
In old British folklore this is known as Old Michaelmas Day which suggests on this day the devil will spits on all the berries so they cannot be consumed.
Coincidence or not, there is a little logic to this cut off date; leaving your picking till this late in the season makes them more susceptible to pollution and becoming part of another’s food chain. So do not wait too long or you might find the worms got there first!
Blackberries are an umbrella term for an array of different blackberry species – up to 2000 worldwide in fact! This might make it confusing in determining if the berries you want to pick are good quality.
The proof is in the pudding, or in this case, the berry. Taste them and see if you can sense a sweet flavour.
If you find your pick is a bit on the bitter side, you can always add 100 grams of sugar to sweeten them.
The ideal berry should also have a darker colour, if your berries are looking a bit lighter then you can offset this by mixing in some red grape juice or elderberries; this will increase their tannin levels.
How to Prepare For Blackberry Picking?
When it comes to blackberries, you will be competing with plentiful other pickers all searching for the best stash.If you do find a really good location then it will probably be best to keep it to yourself.
Always check you are not picking on private property before picking and do ask for permission if you see some berries you would like that are on private land.
If the land owners are not pickers themselves you are likely to get permission and may even make a contact for the following seasons. Be nice and bring them a bottle of your amazing blackberry wine in return though!
Always prepare well before any blackberry picking outing:
1. Wear boots
It is highly recommended to get a good pair of durable boots or wellingtons so you can get close to the most difficult-to-reach-berries behind muddy and wet obstacles. It is not uncommon for berries to grow near ditches.
2. Bring gloves
Bring a thick gardening glove to protect one hand against thorns while you pick the juicy blackberries with your other will undoubtedly prevent some unwanted scratches and allow you to pick efficiently.
3. Protect your skin
Unfortunately for pickers, the blackberry season coincides with the nettle season. Even more unfortunate is the fact blackberries and nettles seem to like to hang around with each other.
It is best to wear thick long sleeve tops and long denim pants to avoid these nettles which can grow taller than the average person. Keep a few dock leaves with you to relive the sting if you get stung.
4. Bring secateurs
You don’t want to find yourself a big juicy perfect bunch of blackberries but unable to pick them because the stem is too thick or they are just out of arm’s length. Pack a pair of secateurs to make sure you can don’t lose out on the best of the bunch.
5. Take buckets
The general rule is too many buckets is better than not taking enough. If you don’t get them all in one trip don’t be surprised if another picker steps in, in the meantime.
You will be pleasantly surprised how quickly a good thicket will fill up your bucket.
How to Prepare Your Blackberries?
So you’ve just collected a few buckets and now it comes to their preparation.
Your priority after collecting the berries should be to make sure they are thoroughly clean.
A secondary but not as important thing to consider is to try and clean them as quickly as you’ve collected them.
At this point you will realise that all your efforts to avoid some little blackberry pests during your picking were not 100% proof.
You will likely find a few crawlies in your picked bucket but this is expected.
You could find an array of different bugs in your berries; fortunately these critters mostly enjoy the over ripened and rotten berries more than the ones you want. It is usually caterpillars and the vinegar fly which are the insects to try your best to avoid.
Before cleaning you should discard any berries that have not properly ripened and remain somewhat tough as well as those berries that are starting to turn into mush.
After removing these you should soak your pick in cold water for around 10 minutes. At this point any remaining bugs should float to the top of the water so you can dispose of them easily.
After cleaning them thoroughly, take 2 kg of blackberries and slightly crush them carefully to release their juices. Store the juice in a clean brewing bin.
Blackberries freeze really well so you could save some for later in the year. Alternatively, you could make a delicious blackberry and apple pie or jam to compliment your wine..
Getting Started – Brewing Process
To get started, take your container of berries and add 1.1 litres of boiling water and stir carefully.
This is to help maximise the amount of juice you get from your berries, and also removes any remaining dirt and bugs.
Wait for the water to cool before adding one teaspoon of pectin enzyme. Stir the mix well and leave it to stand for a minimum of 12 hours.
Once this time has elapsed you will need to boil 1.4 litres of water and dissolve sugar into it whilst continuously stirring.
This water will then need to be added to the blackberries and then stirred. Once this mix has then cooled, you will add yeast nutrient and wine yeast, and stir.
Now your liquid is ready for the fermentation process. To complete this you will need to store your mix in a darkness for 5 days, and stir it every day.
You should keep the brew bin at room temperature (around 21 °C), but it is more important to ensure your future win does not get too cold.
The fermentation process is done to break the berries down into a strong liquid. If you find that your mixture is still a bit jam-like after the 5 day period, then leave it for a couple more days. You are aiming for fluidity which will give the best tasting wine.
When you have gotten the consistency just right it is time to start straining the mixture to remove as many seeds or sediment as possible. To do this, stretch a straining bag over a sterilised pot and simply pour the liquid inside.
Get a reliable friend to hold secure the demijohn in place as you do this, because to spill your wine now, would throw all your hard work away. If your mixture comes up short on the demijohn’s capacity, add a little bit of filtered water.
Once filled, place the rubber bung in the demijohn and secure it in place with a couple gentle taps of a hammer. Press the airlock in, and your job is complete, for a couple more weeks…
This fermentation period should last for six weeks by leaving the wine in a dark room at 21 °C.
Racking Your Wine
When you return in six weeks you will find your wine is almost complete.
It is quite normal to find the top section of wine has a lighter colour in comparison to the bottom half.
There is also nothing to worry about if you notice dark sediment at the bottom of the demijohn.
To prepare for the next stage you will need to grab your second demijohn, a sterilised siphon, and a level surface such as a table.
In this task you will ‘rack’ the wine to efficiently remove yeast solids or sediment that has accumulated during fermentation.
Racking blackberry wine follows the same step by step process that is used in racking other wines.
After racking, all you need to do is reseal the new demijohn with a bung, apply the airlock and leave it to ferment in the same conditions for another two weeks.
Finally, Bottling Up
The more time wine is left sitting the drier it becomes. If you want to emulate the sweeter preferences of the Swiss and french then you can begin bottling between 2-4 weeks post racking.
The best way to tell if you are happy with the taste is to take a drink. If you wish it to be sweeter then do not hesitate in adding sugar syrup, or red concentrated grape juice.
If you re aiming for a really dry wine then leave it until you find the sweet spot, but it is advised not to leave your wine for longer than 8 weeks. If left for longer there is a chance your wine could start to get an acidic taste to it.
Before bottling your wine you will need to complete the racking stage for a final time. Repeat the the same sterilisation and step by step process as per previously.
Takeaways from the bottling process:
- The more time wine is left sitting the drier it becomes.
- Do not leave your wine sitting for more than 8 weeks.
- Add sugar to sweeten the drink.
- Organise your bottles next to the demijohn.
- Use siphon tube to transfer wine from demijohn to bottles.
- Spin the taste of your wine with a piece of apple or cinnamon.
- Seal bottles with corks.
- Label wine with date, type and other important information.
- Wait a few weeks before opening the first bottle.
After completing this second rack it is time to start bottling. Position your demijohn on a level table and organise your bottles along the ground. Using the siphon tube you can transfer the wine from the demijohn into each bottle separately.
The continuing fermentation means even the most experienced winemakers get a bit messy here so try and lay out a few old towels to catch the spillages. Take your time so you do not lose too much liquid.
Seal each bottle using the corker and label it with a contents code and a date.
To optimise the flavouring further, we recommend waiting a couple extra weeks before cracking the first bottle. It might be hard but it will totally be worth it! If you to pick your berries in August, this will be perfect timing for a cosy winter night!
Why not add a blackberry spin onto your mulled wine by warming your blackberry wine with a stick of hot cinnamon, a piece of apple, and a dashing of berries… perfect for a Christmas treat 🙂
In the comments section below, let us know how you found making your wine, and if you have any inventive tips to rival the blackberry mulled wine.
We really hope our blackberry wine tutorial has you reaching for your wellies and gagging for a try of this fabulous wine. Unfortunately, if you want some you will have to get busy because you cannot find this unique flavoured wine in the supermarket.
Not to worry, all you need is this guide, dedication, the correct equipment, and some help from nature to get you going.
This tutorial is aimed for first-timers and by following our steps you will be more than capable of making a tasty wine to enjoy and impress your friends and dinner guests for years to come.
If you enjoyed this article then do not hesitate to share it with your fellow wine appreciators.