Aronia Berries

Black Aronia Berry Red Aronia Berry
A cluster of black aronia berries (left) and a branch of red aronia berries (right)

Aronia (Photinia melanocarpa, also known as Aronia melanocarpa and Aronia nigra), is a native American bush that has been successfully exported to Eastern Europe and is commercially grown in Denmark, Poland, Russia and elsewhere. It produces white to pinkish-white flowers in April through June (depends on location) and fruits in September through November. It has glossy, pea-sized, violet-black berries harvested in late summer. They have a strong, stable, staining natural color. Their flavor is strong and sour, due to a high flavonoid content, and is naturally high in vital vitamins and minerals.

Although native to eastern North America (practically everywhere east if the Mississippi River and on up into eastern Canada), it is been transplanted throughout the country and wherever it matures birds will scatter the seed far and wide. It prefers damp, acid soil and requires about as much rainfall as does elderberry during the growing season. A thick bush, aronia grows to 6 to 8 feet in height and width. The stems of the bushes are reddish-green in color, the leaves somewhat shiney when green and turning into classic fall colors before dropping for the winter.

Known commonly as "chokeberry" or "black chokeberry," (Photinia melanocarpa has at least two cousins worth mentioning. These are Photinia floribunda, also known as Aronia Atropurpurea, the "purple chokeberry," and Photinia pyrifolia, also known as Aronia arbutifolia, the "red chokeberry." The former ranges from Mississippi to Wisconsin, Georgia into Canada, and all areas in between. The latter ranges from Texas-Oklahoma eastward through Tennessee to the Atlantic and from Florida northward into Canada.

The Aronia berry has all of the healthy attributes of the cranberry, but also contains five to ten times the amount of anthocyanins and polyphenols of a cranberry. The high citric acid and tannin content of the berry gives it its "chokeberry" name. Although the berry is strongly fruit-flavored, I have not yet made a strongly flavored wine from aronia berries alone. However, the juice and the wine blends well with other berry juices and wines (e.g. cranberry, blackcurrant, blackberry, black raspberry, black cherry) and should be made with blending in mind if the flavor turns out weak.


Bring 1 qt water to boil and pour over minced raisins, sugar and citric acid in primary. Stir until completely dissolved and cover. After two hours, stir in crushed Campden tablet and recover primary. Allow to sit 12 hours or overnight. Put aronia berries in nylon straining bag and, while wearing clean rubber kitchen gloves, mash berries with hands in primary. Stir in pectic enzyme, yeast nutient and 2-1/2 quarts cold water. Recover primary and set aside additional 12 hours. Add activated yeast and recover primary. Stir and squeeze bag with berries daily while wearing rubber gloves. After seven days, remove bag and squeeze to remove all juice. Recover primary and allow additional three days of fermentation of minced raisins. Strain off raisins while transferring liquid to secondary. Top up and attach airlock. Rack, top up and refit airlock every 30 days for 90 days. Set aside additional 90 days, rack, stabilize, and sweeten to taste. If wine tastes flat, dissolve 1/8 teaspoon tannin (more, if required) in 1/2 cup of wine and stir into secondary. Top up, refit airlock, and after final 30 days rack into bottles or blend with other wines. [Author's own recipe]

Last update was November 18th, 2002.

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