Maple Wines, Sherries, and/or Meads

Maple Syrup Mead (6 Gallons)

April 5, 2001
  • 8 qts maple syrup (bulk grade B dark)
  • 5 tsp yeast nutrient
  • Champagne yeast

Hydrate the yeast in a separate container of lukewarm water into which you have
dissolved a pinch of yeast nutrient and a teaspoon of syrup. Mix the maple syrup with
two gallons hot water in a 7-1/2 gallon primary and stir well to dissolve the syrup.
Then add three gallons minus two cups of cool water and stir some more to mix and
oxygenate the water. Check the specific gravity to ensure it is at least 1.105 (15%
potential alcohol). Add more syrup if the desired S.G. was not reached. Add the yeast
and remaining yeast nutrient. Cover and ferment 7 days. Transfer to a 6-1/2 gallon
glass carboy and fit an airlock; retain any extra in a wine bottle using a #3 bung and
airlock (for topping off). Allow to ferment out (about 30 days) and then bulk age until
it clears (60-90 days). Volume will decrease as the syrup is fermented. Rack into a
6-gallon carboy, top up, and reattach airlock. Wait 30 days and taste. If too dry,
stabilize and add another cup of syrup, stir, and taste again. Wait 10 days. If no
sediments form, rack into bottles. If sediments form, wait another 30 days and rack
again. If sediment-free for 30 days, rack into bottles. Age 1-2 years. [Adapted from
a traditional recipe]

Maple Sap Wine

April 5, 2001

When the days shorten in the fall, all deciduous trees begin storing sugar in their roots as food for the coming winter and to provide their initial growth of leaves the following spring. As the days begin to warm in late winter, the trees send that sugar upwards in their sap. Two trees tend to produces sweeter and more plentiful sap than all others — the birch and the maple.

The best known by-products of the sugar maple (Acer saccharum), aside from it’s wood, are maple syrup and maple sugar. Both are made by collecting the sweet sap and cooking it down to a syrup or even further into sugar. But the sap also makes a very fine wine.

Sugar maples are found throughout the mid-west and northeastern United States and much of southeastern Canada. But other maples can also yield a sweet sap from which you cam make wine. These include the black sugar maple (Acer nigrum), the silver maple (Acer saccharinum), and the red maple (Acer rubrum). The black sugar maple has three-lobed leaves instead of the five lobes of the sugar maple, but its sap is every bit as sweet and plentiful as the sugar maple’s sap. The silver maple looks similar to the sugar but ranges a bit farther south and sports red flowers in the spring. Its sap is also very sweet but not as plentiful as the sap of the sugar maple. The red maple ranges from Canada to Texas, prefers wet lowlands and swamps, and produces a sap less sweet and less plentiful than the sugar maple but still suitable for winemaking.

Tapping the trees to harvest the sap is beyond the scope of this recipe, but there are many how-to articles posted on the web if you do not know how to do it. As an alternative, you can buy fresh maple sap from a commercial sugarbush. If you collect the sap yourself, in the interest of preserving the health of these great trees, I encourage you to tap no tree under a foot in diameter, to gather no more than a gallon of sap from any one tree, and to be sure to seal the hole with a piece of cork or tapered stick after removing the spile-tap. If you follow these three simple rules the tree will available for decades of future tapping.

  • 1 gallon maple sap
  • up to 2-1/2 lbs granulated sugar
  • 1 large or 2 small lemons
  • 12-15 cloves
  • 1/8 tsp tannin
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • 1 pkt Reisling wine yeast

First measure the specific gravity of the sap with a hydrometer to determine how much sugar to add to achieve a starting specific gravity of 1.085-1.090. Different saps will contain different amounts of natural sugar, and even the sap from the same tree will differ from year to year. In an enamel- or teflon-coated pot, stir the required amount of sugar into the maple sap and bring to a low boil for 15 minutes, stirring until the sugar is dissolved. In a separate pan, combine a cup of the sap with the cloves and zest of the lemon(s) and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the latter into a primary and add the boiled sap, juice from the lemon(s) and yeast nutrient. When cooled to 75° F., add the activated yeast. Cover the primary and stir daily for 8-10 days. Transfer to a secondary and fit airlock. Ferment to dryness (6-8 weeks), rack into a sanitized secondary, refit the airlock and bulk age 12 months, checking airlock from time to time to make sure it doesn’t dry out. Rack, sweeten if desired and bottle. [Adapted recipe from Steven A. Krause’s Wines from the Wilds ]