Homemade Elderflower Wine Recipe and How to Make It
Every wine lover dreams of seeing their name splashed across the label of a beautifully crisp yet sweet white wine. Well, this homemade elderflower wine recipe will help you to make this dream a reality. Only instead of grapes, your wine will be made from elderflowers. And instead of a French chateau, this wine will be brewed in your own home (for other homemade wine recipes, make sure you check out our extensive list of 17 homemade wine recipes here).
Elderflower wine was the first wine I ever made, and I have made a new batch every single year since. Along the way, I have had my fair share of spills, botched experiments and improvised brewing bins (so many buckets…), but the recipe below is tried, tested and (relatively) foolproof.
If you’ve never made your own wine before, this is the perfect place to start. Once you have all your equipment, elderflower wine is cheap and easy to make and the finished product has a floral bouquet which will rival a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc.
Better yet - long after summer has ended, one perfumed glass of this lovingly-crafted nectar will transport you straight back to the sunny day you spent gathering elderflower blossoms to start the wine-making process.
Read on for the only guide you’ll ever need for the perfect homemade elderflower wine.
Section 1: What equipment you will need to make elderflower wine?
It’s worth investing in a good set of wine-making equipment right from the start, as you will be able to reuse it again and again as you start to experiment with different wine recipes. Here are the essential items you should stock up on before you go foraging for ingredients…
Thrift stores and auction houses are great places to pick up vintage demijohns in different colors and sizes, but make sure they have a one gallon capacity, and that the size of the bottle’s mouth matches the size of your bung.
Quick Tip: If you're new to making wine at home, and don't want to purchase all of the equipment separately, make sure you check out our Homemade Wine Starter kit. This contains all the equipment needed to get started right away!
Get Your Equipment Below
Food Grade Bucket
Demijohn / Carboy
Clear Wine Bottles
Section 2: What ingredients you will need to make elderflower wine
Get Your Ingredients Below
Some Tips on Alternative Ingredients
You can use 0.8oz (25g) of dried elderflowers instead but the taste won’t be as good – and you’ll be missing out on the fun of picking your elderflowers yourself!
If you can’t find citric acid, you can substitute one teaspoon of citric acid with the juice of one lemon. There won’t be any difference in the flavor, but gram for gram the citric acid will last a lot longer.
And if you really can’t find wine yeast, you can use dried active yeast instead (the stuff you find at the bread-making aisle in your supermarket), but wine-making enthusiasts argue that it will affect the final taste.
Section 3: Quick step by step instructions on making elderflower wine
STEP ONE – Identifying your elderflowers
This is an elderflower. This is an obvious point, but it’s a point worth making. Elderflowers are a beautiful, abundant creamy white spray of petals with a distinctive scent. If you can correctly identify them once, you will recognize them forever.
BUT – and this is a big but – in the countryside there are a few ‘false friends’ which must be avoided at all costs.
These above are Cow’s parsley.
You can eat cow’s parsley, but it tastes absolutely disgusting. Like a cross between a carrot top and old grass. You can ‘technically’ eat fool’s parsley as well, but ideally you will already be in a hospital at the time, so you can have your stomach pumped pretty much straight away. It’s poisonous.
Annoyingly, both cow’s parsley and fool’s parsley tend to grow near elderflower bushes, but they are very easily identifiable.
- Cow’s parsley and fool’s parsley both grow as flowers straight out of the ground
- Both cow’s parsley and fool’s parsley smell really bad once they’ve been picked.
Cowbane or Water Hemlock
Cowbane is extremely poisonous and should NEVER be ingested, in any shape or form. Its stem and flowers look a lot like elderflowers, and both plants tend to grow in damp, well watered areas.
- Grow straight out of the ground on stems
- Cowbane flowers grow in little umbrella-shaped clusters, while elderflowers are fuller and less uniform in shape.
- Smell damp and bitter
STEP TWO – Collecting the elderflowers
If you’re using dried elderflowers, you can ignore this step. But trust me, if you’re using dried elderflowers, you’re missing out…
For me, collecting elderflowers signifies the start of the summer, and even helps me feel excited about the coming autumn, when I get to sit in front of an open fire with a generous glass of freshly-bottled elderflower wine.
Elderflower season starts any time between early May and late June, depending on the weather. The wetter the weather; the later the elderflowers. They typically prefer sunny places with a reliable source of water (either a nearby river or lake, or regular rainfall), and often grow in hedgerows, wooded areas and clusters of other bushes and shrubs.
Keep an eye on your local elder bushes and wait for the flowers to really bloom. By early April you should notice a few pearly buds appearing on the branches – once they appear, all you need is a few weeks of sun and your flowers will arrive.
Ideally, you want to pick your elderflowers on a sunny, dry day when the flowers are fully opened and the fragrance is so strong that you can practically smell the flowers before you see them. If you pick them on a wet or dull day, the flowers won’t be at their best, and the rain may even wash away some of the riper and more fragrant petals.
It’s also important to pick your elderflowers on the same day that you plan to use them. From the moment that you cut the flowers from their stems, they start to slowly wither and lose their flavor and scent. You can stave off dehydration by popping the stems in some water, but ideally you will start making your wine within an hour of picking the flowers.
For the very best flavor, pick only the elderflower heads which are full of creamy white blossoms and still have a few unopened buds sprinkled around the flowers. Once the petals start wilting on the branch or going brown around the edges, they are on their way out.
STEP THREE – Preparing your elderflowers
Now you need to work quickly – you want to be moving on to step four within minutes, and you have a lot to do!
To prepare your elderflowers, all you have to do is trim the stems as close to the buds as possible, and clean the flowers.
DO NOT clean the flower heads in water - you will end up losing so much of the flavor and scent by washing it off. Instead, shake the flower heads over your sink so that any older petals, dirt or bugs simply fall out. Check each head thoroughly to make sure you haven’t missed anything, and then give it another quick shake for luck.
Once clean, place the flowers into your (sterilized) brew bin or food grade basin.
STEP FOUR – Extracting the sugar
Chop up your sultanas and add them to your bin/bowl of elderflowers. Don’t worry about cutting them up to small, all you really need is to cut through the skin of the fruit so that the sugary pulp inside is released.
Next, boil up four pints (2.25 liters) of water in a thick-bottomed pot. Once boiled, turn the heat down and add all of the sugar and the citric acid. Stir until the sugar has completely dissolved and then pour it over the elderflower and sultana mixture. Stir everything together, then put the lid on (if you’re using a brew bin) or seal well with cling film (if you’re using a bowl) and leave it to infuse overnight.
While you sleep, the sugary water will help to extract all the natural sugars out of the sultanas and elderflower heads, while the citric acid keeps the ingredients fresh.
STEP FIVE – Time for tea
The following day, add another two pints (1.125 liters) of cold water to your mixture, as well as the black tea and the wine yeast.
Once everything has been added, stir the mixture well then reseal it and let it ferment for the next four or five days.
You will probably have noticed that I haven’t recommended a particular measure of yeast in the ingredients list above – that’s because every wine yeast mix differs depending on the compounds being used, and whether or not it is a dry or wet mix. Most of these mixes are divided into packets with one packet to be used per one gallon of wine, but always read the label and follow the packet instructions just in case.
STEP SIX – Watching your brew
As the elderflower mix brews, there will be a rush of bubbles and foam onto the surface for the first day or two. When the mixture starts to stabilize, the bubbling will calm down a bit but you may still spot a few bits of yeasty froth lining the sides of your container. This is all good!
Take a peek at your mixture every day to make sure it’s doing what it’s supposed to do, and give it a quick stir with a sterilized ladle while you’re at it.
STEP SEVEN – Feel the strain!
After five days of brewing, your elderflowers will have well and truly infused with the other ingredients, so it’s time to strain out the liquid.
Place your straining bag or muslin bag over a large saucepan or sterilized basin. I tend to have butterfingers when it comes to important tasks like making wine, so to avoid any devastating spillages, I like to pop my straining bag over a colander, which is then set on top of a saucepan.
Next, pour the elderflower mix into the straining bag nice and slowly, and squeeze the bag tightly to remove as much precious liquid as possible.You are always going to end up with a bit of sediment at the bottom of your home-made wine (just as you would find traces of sediment at the bottom of a good quality bottle of ‘bought’ wine), but to minimize this, I like to strain the mixture a second or even a third time, until I’m left with a clear gold liquid. Use a new muslin bag for each strain, so you end up with the cleanest liquid possible.
When the straining is done, carefully pour the liquid into a demijohn (I use a funnel and a second pair of hands). If the liquid doesn’t quite reach the one gallon mark, top it up with a splash or two of bottled or filtered water, then fit the airlock.
To get the tightest possible fit, I tap the rubber bung a couple of times with a hammer, then push the airlock in.Now all you have to do is place your demijohn in a cool and dark place and wait….for six weeks.
STEP EIGHT – The waiting game
The six weeks that you have to wait can really drag… Try to resist the temptation to open the airlock and ‘taste’ the wine until the fermentation is complete.
For the first few days, your wine will look more like champagne, as it will be full of bubbles shooting to the top of the demijohn. As long as you can see bubbles, the fermentation process is ongoing.
After around six weeks, you will notice that the bubbling has started to tail off, and you might only spot two or three bubbles an hour. This means that the fermentation process is complete, and it’s time to ‘rack’ your wine.
PRO TIP: If you are really serious about your wine-making, invest in a hydrometer. This will give you an accurate rating of your wine’s ABV (Alcohol by Volume), so you can choose the perfect moment at which to stop fermentation. Generally speaking, you want a Finish Gravity reading of 0.990 for dry wine, and 1.005 for sweet wine.
STEP NINE – Rack and roll!
This is the part that will make you feel like a mad scientist.
You will need to dig out your siphon and your second demijohn for this, and make sure they are both fully sterilized.
‘Racking’ your wine simply removes any sediment and yeast solids which have dropped to the bottom of your demijohn during the fermentation process, leaving you with the fragrant liquid on top. Below is how you do it:
- Place your wine-filled demijohn onto a flat table surface, moving it as slowly and carefully as possible so that you don’t disturb the sediment at the bottom. If you notice the sediment starting to rise, leave the demijohn sitting on the table for a few hours before you continue, to allow it to settle again.
- Place the second (empty) demijohn on the ground below.
- Remove the bung and airlock from the wine-filled demijohn, and slowly lower the siphon tube into the liquid, until it is around 5cm (2 inches) above the bottom.
- Then take the other end of the tube and start sucking. You probably don’t need me to tell you this, but you should stop sucking once you get your first mouthful of wine (don’t worry if it tastes a little bitter at this point). As quickly as possible, dunk this end of the tube into the empty demijohn and watch it fill up with wine.
- When you get towards the bottom of the original demijohn, gently push the tube down a bit so that you get as much of the liquid as possible before hitting the sediment. If you notice any sediment whatsoever entering the tube, stop the siphon immediately.
- When there is no more clean liquid to siphon, remove the tube and discard the sediment in the original demijohn.
- Stop any further fermentation by adding the campden tablets and stabilizing tablets (as per the instructions on the packet) to your newly racked wine.
Depending on how much sediment was in your wine, you may find that the second demijohn is not quite full. This happened to me the first time I made elderflower wine, and it’s the reason why I tend to strain my wine mix two or three times before it goes in the first demijohn.
However, you can make up the shortfall by adding a splash of bottled water, mixed with a tablespoonful or two of sugar syrup just after the racking stage.Then pop the bung and airlock onto the top of your demijohn, and leave the wine in a dark, cool place for at least two more weeks.
STEP TEN – Bottling up!
The longer your wine sits, the drier it will get. If you like a sweet wine, start bottling it after two weeks. If you like your wine dry, leave it for six weeks. If you aren’t sure how you like your wine, dip a straw into the demijohn every few days until you like the way it tastes – then get to work.Before you bottle up your wine, you have to rack it one more time. You know what you’re doing now, so it should be a breeze – just take your newly-sterilized siphon tube and demijohn out of storage and repeat step nine.
Once racked, you can use the same siphon tube to start filling your bottles (as long as you didn’t get any sediment in it during the second rack).
Just as before, place the demijohn on a flat table top and the bottles on the ground below. Suck on the siphon tube until the wine starts flowing, then fill up each wine bottle, one by one.
Using the corker, seal each bottle with your corks, and you’re done!
Don’t forget to label each bottle with the bottling date and contents. If you’re particularly proud of your elderflower batch (and why wouldn’t you be?!), why don’t you make up your own labels, with the name of your ‘chateau’ and some original artwork – or a photo of you with a siphon tube in your mouth!
Try to leave your wine for a few more weeks before you start drinking it. As a general rule, the longer you leave it, the better your flavor will be. I’m still enjoying the last bottle from my 2014 batch, and maybe this is the booze talking, but it’s the nicest white wine I’ve ever tasted.
During the summer, I drink it with a slice of lemon and a few big ice cubes, and in the autumn I like to heat it up a bit with a slice of orange and a cinnamon stick, served in my fanciest tea cup.
Share your recipes and serving suggestions in the comments below, and let us know how you got on with your first batch of elderflower wine.
Section 4: A note on sterilizing
It is so important to use properly sterilized wine-making equipment. Even the tiniest spec of dirt or detritus can have a huge effect on the flavor and fermentation of your wine.There are countless different methods of sterilization, but I tend to stick with boiling water and campden tablets.
Here’s what I do:
- Boil up one gallon of water, and dissolve 14 crushed campden tablets into it.
- Pour ¾ of the liquid into a demijohn and shake it as hard as you can, for as long as you can.
- Pour out the liquid, and leave the demijohn upside down on a draining board until it dries out completely.
- Use the remaining water to soak the siphon tube, airlock and bung for at least 10 minutes.
- Discard the water and leave the equipment on a draining board until they are completely dry.
Section 5: Conclusion
I hope that this tutorial has made the idea of making wine out of flowers seem much more appealing – and achievable! Until recently, I never would have dreamed that I’d be running my own micro-winery, but all it takes is a few pieces of equipment, a kick-ass recipe, and a helping hand from Mother Nature.
Once you’ve started, you will have all the tools you need to expand your wine empire season after season, using a massive selection of fruits, herbs, flowers and even vegetables. Have a look at our other recipes for wine inspiration, and get in touch with your own recipes and tips for DIY-wine.Leave any feedback in the comments below, and if you like this article, please feel free to share it with all your drinking buddies!