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Black Cherry Wines

"I made some wine last year out of black cherries and it came
out lousy. It turned brown after six months and doesn't taste like
cherry at all. Do you have any idea what I may have done wrong?
I'd like to know because my trees are full of cherries again and
I'd like to do it right this time." Bradford Jackson

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.


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]


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.]


Pick only ripe cherries. Wash, destem 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]

DISCUSSION: Fermenting with bentonite at 2 grams per gallon helps eliminate proteins and settle sediments and is a step that may improve recipes 1 and 3. Additional bentonite fining after fermentation may be necessary, but the pectic enzyme usually aids clearing. As stated in the introduction above, an improved wine can be made by mixing sweet and sour cherries. Use 70% black cherries and 30% chokecherries, Montmorency cherries or morello cherries, but reduce total cherries by 25% and do test for and reduce total acid.

My thanks to Bradford Jackson for the request.

This page was created on July 28th, 1998.

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