Black Cherry Wines, Sherries, and/or Meads

Cherry wine, especially black cherry wine, can be a problem because most cherries lack sufficient acid balance to carry them into age and tend to be protein unstable. But acid balance can be treated in any number of ways and proteins eliminated with bentonite treatment. Before I get into that, however, let’s look at Brad’s particular problems. By email exchange I learned that Brad had used C.J.J. Berry’s recipe for black cherry wine and that he is more or less wedded to the black cherry by ownership of six trees. The first recipe listed below is, essentially, Berry’s recipe corrected for excess malic and insufficient citric acids. The second is my own, and the third is adapted from Brian Leverett. An improved cherry wine can be made using a blend of black cherries and sour cherries. This wine ages better than black cherry alone. The black cherry, found almost everywhere in the eastern half of the United States and in the Big Bend country of Texas and the mountains of southern Arizona, New Mexico and northern Old Mexico, is one of the many species of the prunus genus native to the United States. The botanical name is Prunus serotina, but it is commonly called the American black cherry or simply the black cherry. It resides in mixed hardwood forests, woodlands, and Southwestern mountain canyons. It forms round-crowned trees up to 60 feet tall. The cherries form from narrow, elongated clusters of white flowers with 5 rounded petals that grow after the first leaves have developed in the spring. The cherries ripen from August through September, are easily hand-picked and, when fully ripe, can be shaken from the tree. They can run 1.0% acid (as malic) and should be balanced with citric and reduced if necessary. They make a decent wine, but it does not age well. Make plenty and drink at 6-18 months.

Black Cherry Wine (1)

April 5, 2001
  • 6-8 lbs black cherries
  • 1-3/4 lbs granulated sugar (earlier recipe called for 2-1/2 pounds granulated sugar1)
  • 1-1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • 5-1/2 pints water
  • 1 crushed Campden tablet
  • wine yeast and nutrient

Pick only ripe cherries. Wash and destem cherries, discarding any that are not sound and blemish free. Chop the fruit as best you can. It is not necessary to destone the cheries, but discard any stones that crack or break open. Put in crock with water, stir in crushed Campden tablet and, 24 hours later, pectic enzyme. Cover and set aside four days. Pour through nylon sieve or jelly-bag and squeeze well to extract all possible juice. Add sugar, citric acid and nutrient and stir well to dissolve sugar. Transfer to secondary, add yeast starter, fit airlock, and set in warm place (70 degrees F.). Rack after initial fermentation subsides (14-21 days), top up with cold water, refit airlock, and ferment to dryness in cooler place (60 degrees F.). Rack again, top up and bottle. For sweeter wine, stablize and add 1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar-water before bottling. Taste after 6 months or allow to age one year. Drink within 18 months. [Adapted from C.J.J. Berry’s 130 New Winemaking Recipes ]

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20010420174008/http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/blackche.asp Black Cherry Wine (1)

Black Cherry Wine (2)

April 5, 2001
  • 6 lbs black cherries
  • 1-3/4 lbs granulated sugar (earlier recipe shows 2-1/2 pounds of sugar1)
  • 1 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • 2 grams bentonite
  • 6-7 pints water
  • wine yeast and nutrient

Pick only ripe cherries. Wash, destem and remove stones from cherries, discarding any that are unsound and blemished. Chop the fruit, add one pint water and bring to low boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Drain through nylon jelly-bag. Reserve drained juice and seep jelly-bag in 2 pints cold water for 15-20 minutes. Squeeze jelly-bag thoroughly to extract residual juice and color. Discard pulp and combine juices, sugar, pectic enzyme, citric acid, and nutrients in crock or bowl. Add remaining water, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Test total acid and reduce to 0.85% if necessary. Pour into secondary and cover with cloth. After 12 hours, add bentonite and yeast starter and fit airlock. Move to cool (55-60 degrees F.) place. Rack every three weeks until no new deposits form, topping up each time. Bottle and store in dark place to preserve color. May taste after 6 months but improves with age to 18 months. [Author’s recipe.]

  1. https://web.archive.org/web/20010420174008/http://winemaking.jackkeller.net/blackche.asp Black Cherry Wine (3)

Black Cherry Wine (3)

April 5, 2001
  • 4 lbs black cherries
  • 1 lb golden raisins
  • 1-3/4 lbs granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 6-7 pints water
  • wine yeast and nutrient

Pick only ripe cherries. Wash, de-stem and remove stones from cherries, discarding any that are questionable. Chop the cherries and mince the raisins while bringing water to boil. Place fruit and sugar in primary and cover with boiling water, stirring well to dissolve sugar. Allow to stand until temperature drops to 70 degrees F. Add pectic enzyme and nutrient. Wait 12 hours and add yeast starter. Cover well and set in warm place for 14 days. Strain through a nylon sieve, pressing thoroughly, and pour into secondary. Top up and fit airlock. Rack after three weeks and again after additional three weeks. Taste for sweetness (should be medium dry). For sweet wine, stabilize and add up to one cup sugar water (to taste), or simply bottle. Taste after 6 months. [Adapted from Brian Leverett’s Winemaking Month by Month ]

Black Cherry Juice Wine

April 5, 2001

You can buy 100% pure black cherry juice in two ways.  First, you can buy the pure black cherry juice itself.  You need a gallon.  Second, you can buy a concentrate and reconstitute the juice.  You need a gallon of the reconstituted juice.  From there, the directions are easy.  Please note that the amount of sugar specified below is an approximation only.  You must measure the specific gravity with a hydrometer to determine the exact amount.  If you do not have a hydrometer, use the figure below.

  • 1 gallon black cherry juice, pure or reconstituted
  • 1-1/2 lbs granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1/8 tsp tannin
  • 1 tsp pectic enzyme.
  • 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • Lalvin RC212 (Bourgovin) wine yeast

Start with a gallon of juice or juice reconstituted from concentrate. Float your hydrometer in it and record the reading. Compare that to the table at my hydrometer page and calculate how much sugar you will need to attain an initial specific gravity between 1.085 and 1.090. Put that amount of sugar in a primary, along with pectic enzyme, citric acid , yeast nutrient, and tannin. Add black cherry juice and stir very, very well to dissolve sugar. Cover and set aside 12 hours. Add activated yeast and recover primary. Stir daily until s.g. drops to 1.010. Transfer to secondary and fit airlock. Rack after 30 days, top up and refit airlock. Wait 60 days and rack again. When s.g. indicates dryness (0.990), stabilize wine, sweeten to taste, allow to sit for 2 weeks to ensure fermentation does not restart, and rack into bottles. Store in cool, dark place at least 6 months before tasting. Improves with age. [Author’s own recipe]