Cranberry Wines, Sherries, and/or Meads

Highbush Cranberry Wine

June 6, 2022

The Highbush Cranberry (Viburnum trilobum), is more widely distributed than either the Common Cranberry (Vaccinium macrocarpon) or the Creeping Cranberry (Vaccinium oxycoccos), also know as the Small Cranberry. The Highbush is found all across Canada and the extreme northern portions of New England (Maine) to Minnesota and through wide portions of Canada. It is a matted shrub with erect branches bearing large, tri-lobed leaves of deep forest green. The fruits appear in bunches on short stems at the tips of branches and are easily picked by humans and bears alike.

Highbush Cranberry
Highbush Cranberries are generally better tasting in the spring than the fall and considered by many to be inedible until cooked. The bears seem to think otherwise and begin eating them when the first signs of ripening are detected in Spetember or October. Despite the argument about their edibility, there is little disagreement that highbush cranberry wine is among the top contestants for the best of the non-grape wines. The recipe below assumes the cranberries will be picked in the spring and the wine marginally ready by Christmas. If begun in the fall instead, it will certainly be ready by Christmas the following year.

  • 3 lbs ripe highbush cranberries
  • 1 lb minced or chopped golden raisins or sultanas
  • 2-1/2 lbs finely granulated sugar
  • 7 pts water
  • 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1 packet Champagne yeast

Wash three pounds of cranberries and sort for soundness. Put the water on to boil. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the cranberries and put in primary with minced or chopped golden raisins or sultanas. Pour sugar over fruit and boiling water over all. When cooled to room temperature, add pectic enzyme and yeast nutrient. Stir, cover with sterile cloth and set aside for 12 hours. Add yeast, recover and stir daily. After 14 days of fermentation, pour through nylon straining bag, squeeze to extract all juices, transfer to secondary, and fit airlock. Rack after 30 days, top up, refit airlock, and ferment to dryness. Rack into bottles and age at least 9 months before sampling. [Author’s own recipe]

Apple & Cranberry Wine

April 5, 2001
  • 7-8 lbs sour or cooking apples
  • 2 1/2 lbs cranberries
  • 1-1/2 lb finely granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1 crushed Campden tablet
  • 1/2 tsp ascorbic acid
  • water to make 1 gallon
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1 pkt Champagne wine yeast

Use only ripe fruit. Wash and core apples, then mince (or chop) both apples and cranberries. Add ascorbic acid immediately and toss to coat, then tie in nylon straining bag and place in primary. Add all remaining ingrdients except yeast. Stir well to dissolve sugar, then cover with sanitized cloth for 18-24 hours at room temperature. Add yeast. When fermentation is vigorous, ferment for about 9 days or until s.g. is 1.020. Press pulp and add juice to liquid, discarding pommace. Transfer to secondary and attach airlock. Rack after 30 days, top up and refit airlock. Therafter, rack every month until wine is clear, still and no new sediment forms. Add crushed Campden tablet and 1/4 teaspoon ascorbic acid at 2nd and 4th racking. Stabilize, sweeten to taste if desired, and set aside 3 weeks. Bottle and age 6 months before tasting. [Author’s own recipe]

Dried Cranberry Wine

April 5, 2001
  • 1 lb dried, unsulfited cranberries
  • 2 lbs granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1/8 tsp tannin
  • 1 crushed Campden tablet
  • water to one gallon
  • 1 pkt Lalvin RC212 (Bourgovin) wine yeast

Chop the cranberries or run them through a mincer. Place in primary and add one quart warm water. Stir in crushed Campden tablet. Cover and set aside 12 hours. Add pectic enzyme, recover primary and set aside another 12 hours. Meanwhile, bring remainder of water to boil and stir in sugar until completely dissolved. Cover sugar and allow to cool to room temperature. When 12-hour pectic enzyme treatment is complete, combine remaining ingredients in primary and add sugar water. Stir well and cover primary. Stir twice daily for 7 days. Strain out cranberries, rack liquid into secondary and fit airlock. Rack every 60 days for 6 months, topping up and refitting airlock each time. Stabilize, sweeten to taste, wait 10-14 days, and rack into bottles. Store in cool, dark place for additional 6 months.
[Author’s own recipe]

Cranberry-Currant Wine

April 5, 2001
  • 2 lbs fresh cranberries
  • 1 lb fresh currants
  • 2 lbs invert sugar
  • 6-2/3 pts water
  • 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1/8 tsp tannin
  • Montrachet wine yeast

Prepare invert sugar (see button below) . Put water on to boil while washing and culling through your cranberries and currants. Chop the cranberries roughly (with chopping knife or electric food chopper) and add with currants in nylon straining bag. Tie bad, put in primary, and crush currants with hands or piece of hardwood. When water boild vigorously, pour over nylon bag. Add invert sugar, tannin, pectic enzyme, and yeast nutrient. Cover primary and set aside for 12 hours. Add activated yeast. Punch down the bag twice daily (do not squeeze). After 7 days, drip drain the bag (do not squeeze) and discard pulp. Recover and let specific gravity drop to 1.015. Rack into secondary, fit airlock and put in a dark place. Rack every 2 months for six months. Stabilize, refit airlock and return to dark place for 4 months. Rack, sweeten if desired and bottle. Age additional 6 months in dark place. Serve chilled and enjoy the color, bouquet and exquisite taste. [Author’s own recipe, inspired by Terry Garey]

Cranberry-Raspberry Juice Wine

April 5, 2001
  • 1 12-oz can frozen “cranraspberry” concentrate
  • 1 lb granulated sugar
  • 1/2 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1/8 tsp tannin
  • 1 crushed Campden tablet
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • water to one gallon
  • Champagne or Montrachet wine yeast

Thaw the cranraspberry concentrate and pour in gallon jug. Add sugar, crushed Campden, tannin, and yeast nutrient. Add water, leaving 3-4 inches of air above liquid. Stir thoroughly with wooden dowel until all sugar is dissolved (or just screw cap on jug, pick it up and shake it until sugar dissolves, being sure you remove the cap afterwards). Cover mouth of jug with paper towel held by rubber band and set aside 12 hours. Add pectic enzyme, stir, recover, and set aside another 12 hours. Add activated wine yeast, recover, and set in warm place. Stir daily until specific gravity drops to 1.020 (about 2 weeks), then top up, fit airlock and set in warm place again. Rack when s.g. reaches 1.000 (30-45 days), top up, refit airlock, and set in cooler place. Rack again in 60 days and again 60 days after that, topping up and refitting airlock each time. Wine should now be dry, clear and ready to bottle. This wine tends to be tart so taste first. If too dry, dissolve one crushed Campden tablet and 1/2 tsp potassium sorbate in one cup of the wine and add to main body of wine. Sweeten to taste, refit airlock and set aside 10 days. Rack into bottles and age 6 months before tasting. [Adapted from Terry Garey’s The Joy of Home Winemaking ]

Cranberry-Raspberry Social Wine

April 5, 2001
  • 7 pts 100% Cranberry Juice from Concentrate
  • 1 cup Southern or Savannah (brand) Raspberry Mix (syrup)
  • Sugar to 1.078 (I used about 14 oz on one batch, 1 lb 1 oz on the other using different cranberry juice)
  • 1/2 tsp tartaric acid (or 3/4 tsp acid blend)
  • 1 finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • wine yeast

Read the label before selecting the cranberry juice and avoid any containing preservatives other than ascorbic
acid. Combine juice, syrup and finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet in primary and measure specific gravity.
You can use more syrup, but reduce the cranberry by that amount and calculate the sugar as required. Use a
hydrometer table to calculate the amount of sugar to add to obtain an original specific gravity (usually
abbreviated incorrectly as o.g.) of 1.078. The amount of sugar required will depend on the cranberry juice you use,
so calculate, measure the sugar, dissolve it thoroughly into a simple syrup (or a sample of the must), add, stir,
and measure the s.g. again. Do not exceed 1.078; indeed, if one is to err, do so on the low side (but not below
1.073, or 10% a.b.v.). Stir in acid and nutrient and cover primary. Wait 10-12 hours and add activated yeast in a
starter solution. On fifth day transfer to a 4-liter secondary and affix airlock, leaving at least 1 inch of ullage
(airspace). Ferment to dryness and rack into a 1-gallon secondary. Top up if required and wait for wine to clear.
Wait additional 2 weeks and rack again, adding another finely crushed and dissolved Campden tablet and 1/2 tsp
dissolved potassium sorbate. Wait 45 days, rack again, sweeten to taste, and bottle. [Author’s own recipe]