horizontal divider





Bilberries


Bilberries are cousins of cranberries, blueberries, deerberries, farkleberries, and a few other erect shrubs of the Vaccinium genus. Of these, only the cranberry produce red fruit, the deerberry's fruit are greenish-purple, but all others are bluish-black. Bilberries are one of the most popular field berries in Europe for making wine, and the wine is quite good. In the United States and Canada, bilberries are far less plentiful than in Europe but still available. They are a decidedly northern shrub ranging from the Alaskan and Canadian Artic down through the American Pacific northwest to northern California, the Rockies down into Colorado, the great lake states, and eastward to Newfoundland and down into New England. Most noteworthy among them are the tundra bilberry (Vaccinium uliginosum), the ovalleaf bilberry (Vaccinium ovalifolium), the square-twig bilberry (Vaccinium membranaceum), the Newfoundland bilberry (Vaccinium nubigenum), and the dwarf bilberry (Vaccinium cespitosum). Minor varieties also exist.

Although thornless, bilberry shrubs are many-twigged and do not make their fruit easy for humans to gather. Still, the wine they yield is well worth the challenge of gathering enough fruit to make it. However, if you can order dried fruit, do so. The wine is well worth making.

The recipes below are, in my opinion, the more interesting ones for bilberry wine. You will notice that all but the first, which is more traditional, use a body-enhancing or a bouquet-enhancing ingredient -- such as raisins, banana chips, grape concentrate, or elderflowers. If you want to experiment with other ingredients, feel free to do so and tell me later what you did and how it turned out.


BILLBERRY WINE (1)

Put water on to boil. Meanwhile, carefully inspect and wash the berries, discarding any that are neither sound nor fully ripe. Put berries in nylon straining bag and tie the top. In primary, crush the berries thoroughly. Pour half the sugar and all the tannin, yeast nutrient and acid blend in primary. Pour boiling water onto berries and stir well to dissolve sugar. Cover and set aside to cool. When lukewarm, add crushed Campden tablet and recover. After 12 hours, add pectic enzyme and recover. After additional 12 hours, add yeast. Ferment 5 days, stirring and gently squeezing bag to extract flavor, then add half the remaining sugar and stir well to dissolve. Ferment 2 additional days and drain (but do not squeeze) bag. Add remaining sugar, stir well to dissolve, and recover. After 24 hours, siphon juice off sediment into secondary, top up and fit airlock. Allow 3 weeks, rack, top up and refit airlock. After additional 60 days rack again. If wine is clear, bottle it. If not, wait until it clarifies and rack into bottles. Age one year. [Author's own recipe]

BILLBERRY WINE (2)

Boil water and pour into primary over all ingredients except yeast, and pectic enzyme. Stir well to dissolve sugar, cover with cloth, and set aside to cool. When lukewarm, add pectic enzyme and recover. After additional 12 hours, add yeast and recover. Stir twice daily for 7 days, then strain through nylon staining bag and press gently. After additional 12 hours, siphon off sediments into secondary and fit airlock. Rack, top up and refit airlock after 30 days and again after 60 days. Age wine under airlock additional 4-6 months. Stabilize, wait 10 days, rack, sweeten to taste, and bottle. Allow 9-12 months to mature. [Adapted recipe from W.H.T. Tayleur's The Penguin Book of Home Brewing and Wine-Making]

BILBERRY WINE (3)

Boil water and pour into primary over all ingredients except grape concentrate, pectic enzyme and yeast. Stir well to dissolve sugar, cover with cloth, and set aside to cool. When lukewarm, add grape concentrate and pectic enzyme and recover the primary. After additional 12 hours, add yeast and again recover the primary. Stir twice daily for 7 days, then strain through nylon staining bag and press gently. After additional 12 hours, siphon off sediments into secondary and fit airlock. Rack, top up and refit airlock after 30 days and again after 60 days. Age wine under airlock additional 4-6 months. Stabilize, wait 10 days, rack, sweeten to taste, and bottle. Allow 9-12 months to mature. [Adapted recipe from W.H.T. Tayleur's The Penguin Book of Home Brewing and Wine-Making]

BILBERRY PORT WINE (1)

Bring water to boil. Meanwhile, put dried bilberries in nylon straining bag and tie closed. Put chopped dried banana chips (unsulfited) and dried elderflowers in second nylon straining bag and tie closed. Place both bags in primary with sugar, acid blend, yeast nutrient, and grape concentrate. Pour boiling water into primary, stir well to dissolve sugar, cover with cloth, and allow to cool to lukewarm. Add pectic enzyme and recover. After 12 hours add yeast and recover. Ferment 48 hours after fermentation is obvious, gently squeezing both bags to extract flavors twice a day. Drip drain both bags, returning drained liquid to primary. Save both bags of pulp to make BILBERRY CLARET WINE (below), or dehydrate bilberries for later reuse. Wait 12 hours and siphon wine off sediment into secondar. Fit airlock and set aside. Rack, top up and refit airlock after 3 weeks and again after additional 2 months. Bulk age under airlock 4 months, stabilize, wait 10 days, and rack. Bottle dry or sweeten to taste and then bottle. Age 18-24 months in bottles. [Adapted recipe from W.H.T. Tayleur's The Penguin Book of Home Brewing and Wine-Making]

BILBERRY PORT WINE (2)

Bring water to boil. Meanwhile, put dried bilberries in nylon straining bag and tie closed. Put chopped dried banana chips (unsulfited), dried elderflowers and raisins in second nylon straining bag and tie closed. Place both bags in primary with sugar, acid blend and yeast nutrient. Pour boiling water into primary, stir well to dissolve sugar, cover with cloth, and allow to cool to lukewarm. Add pectic enzyme and recover. After 12 hours add yeast and recover. Ferment 48 hours after fermentation is obvious, gently squeezing both bags to extract flavors twice a day. Drip drain both bags, returning drained liquid to primary. Wait 12 hours and siphon wine off sediment into secondar. Fit airlock and set aside. Rack, top up and refit airlock after 3 weeks and again after additional 2 months. Bulk age under airlock 4 months, stabilize, wait 10 days, and rack. Bottle dry or sweeten to taste and then bottle. Age 18-24 months in bottles. [Adapted recipe from W.H.T. Tayleur's The Penguin Book of Home Brewing and Wine-Making]

BILBERRY CLARET WINE

This is a second wine made from the drained (but not pressed) pulp from a batch of BILBERRY PORT WINE (1). The pulp will come in two nylon bags, one containing the formerly-dried bilberries and the other containing the chopped formerly-dried banana chips and the formerly-dried elderflowers. The bag containing the dried bilberries can be used over and over again on this recipe--possibly as many as 6 times, but the banana chips and elderflowers can only be used this one additional time. Place both bags of drained pulp in primary with all other ingredients, including water. Yeast in pulp will restart fermentation quickly if this batch is begun immediately after removing pulp from previous batch. Ferment 48 hours after full refermentation is obvious. Remove bag of bilberries and allow to drip-drain without squeezing 4-6 hours. After additional 24 hours, remove bag of banana chips and elderflowers, pressing gently to extract juice. Wait 12 hours and siphon liquid off sediment into secondary, top up and fit airlock. Rack, top up and refit airlock after 3 weeks and again after 2 additional months. Allow to bulk age under airlock 4 months, then rack into bottles. Age in bottles 9 months before tasting, longer if you can stand it. Claret is a dry wine, so do not sweeten when bottling. [Adapted recipe from W.H.T. Tayleur's The Penguin Book of Home Brewing and Wine-Making]




Last update was November 8th, 2001.


If our website has helped you in your wine or mead making endeavors
and you feel moved to contribute to help offset our expenses, you may...


Home Page Prelude My Approach Getting Started Glossary of Terms Search This Site
The Basic Steps Advanced Winemaking All About Yeast Using Your Hydrometer Winemaker's Library Winemaking Links
Winemaking Recipes Requested Recipes Winemaking in Texas Wines From Edible Plants Native North American Grapes Visitor-Submitted Recipes
Wine Labels Conversions and Equivalents Measuring Additives Winemaking Problems Jack's WineBlog The Author