Accidentally Cooking

Documenting my mistakes in the garden, kitchen and pantry

Tart Cherry Wine

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Cherries are the first pickable fruit of the season at our local orchard, so when they come in season I rush down there to grab myself a bucket. The wife and kid came too, because it was a beautiful morning and everybody needed a little bit of time out in the sun.

Picking cherries, as I’ve noted before, is quite the hassle. They’re so little that getting an appreciable quantity of them takes a long time of narrow-minded focus on the work. It also involves a lot of standing, picking with arms raised up, and carefully dropping them into a bucket. Physically, it’s more demanding than you might expect. For those reasons and more, our first trip out wasn’t extremely productive. Xander’s fleeting attention span was drained very quickly and Dana’s happiness decreased in inverse proportion to the rising temperature of the midday sun.

With about 8 pounds of cherries picked, we decided to wrap up and call it a day. My plan was to come back to the orchard myself some morning and pick a whole bunch more. I didn’t make it back before the supply was picked out and the season was over.

About half of the cherries we did pick went into some cherry pie filling which I wasn’t completely happy with. We still had several jars of cherry jam left over from last year, so I decided to turn the remainder into cherry wine.

Cherry Wine

  • 4lbs cherries, stemmed and rinsed [1]
  • Sugar
  • Water [2]
  • 1 Campden Tablet
  • Yeast Nutrient
  • Yeast [3]

Put the cherries into your fermenting bucket and mash them up. They were so soft, I was able to smoosh them up with my (clean) bare hands. Add the sugar to about half a quart of water in a pot over medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves, then allow the mixture to come to a boil. Remove from heat.

Add the warm syrup to the cherries, along with enough water to bring the total quantity of must to 1.25 gallons. Crush the campden tablet and add to the mixture, to kill off any wild yeast or baddies from the cherries. Allow the mixture to sit, covered by a towel, for 24 hours.

After 24 hours pitch the yeast and the yeast nutrient into the mixture [4]. Give it a good swirl to incorporate, then put on the lid and the airlock. Allow to ferment for 2 weeks, or until fermentation has decreased to a crawl.

After primary is complete, rack the mixture into a sanitized carboy[5], attach airlock, and allow to age until ready [6]



I stole a small taste while racking it to secondary. Ignoring the harsh punch of the fresh alcohol, the wine has a decent but subtle cherry flavor and floral notes. I suspect more cherries would be better. Next year I may try again with 5 or 6 lbs, if the wine this year doesn’t have enough cherry flavor when it’s done.

The color of the wine is a beautiful rose color.


  1. The total quantity of cherries might have been closer to 3 lbs. “They” say that the pits will add bitter flavors to the wine, but I wasn’t prepared to pit all those cherries just to mash them all up with my fingers and toss them in a bucket. I probably could have strained some of them out once the cherries were mushed, but I didn’t.
  2. My tap water has problems with calcium and iron. For all my cooking projects, I always use bottled spring water. Since you can buy gallons of spring water at the store for less than the price of a 24oz bottle of Dasani bottled tap water, I don’t think it’s too bad an expenditure.
  3. The yeast I used this time, following some online recommendations from other brewers of cherry wines, was Lalvin 71B-1122. It supposedly is a decent yeast for fruit wines.
  4. I like to split up the yeast nutrient. The bottle recommends 1Tsp per gallon. I put in half at the beginning when I pitch the yeast and the other half a week later.
  5. I had about a quart of liquid left over. I put that into the fridge and will use it to replenish whatever I lose during racking. I’ve kicked around the idea of boiling this liquid down to concentrate the flavors a little bit. I’ll consider that option as well.
  6. I’ll probably rack this wine off the leas in about 1 month, and may have to rack again if more sediment accumulates. I expect to bulk age this wine for at least 6 months before I try to stabilize and bottle.

Author: Andrew Whitworth

I'm a software engineer from Philadelphia PA. Sometimes I like to go out to my garden, or step into my kitchen and make a really big mess of things.

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