How to Make Dandelion Wine: An Easy Recipe You Follow At Home
Section 1: Introduction to How to Make Dandelion Wine
Dandelion wine is not just something that’s drunk by cartoon rabbits in your favorite children’s book – it is a very real, very accessible and very, very delicious.
Like elderflower wine, dandelion wine allows you to literally bottle up the essence of the spring time, transforming wild country meadows into glasses of sweet, golden nectar. Fragrant and floral with a subtle bite, it is the sort of wine that conjures up memories of summer picnics, English gardens, and romantic strolls, making it the perfect tonic for those dark winter days when you just need to have a five-minute holiday in another season.
Dandelion wine has been enjoyed for at least 1000 years in Great Britain, where it was hailed for its medical benefits and full flavor. More importantly – it was incredibly easy to make.
Today, dandelion wine is much less common, but those who make it are enthusiastic in their praise for this unexpected wine.
For a start – its (sort of) good for you. Dandelions contain a huge amount of vitamin A, vitamin C and calcium, making them one of the healthiest base ingredients you can use (as long as you ignore all that added sugar). And dandelions are available absolutely everywhere, so all you have to do is wait for a sunny day and scan your garden for little yellow blossoms.
This recipe will tell you everything you need to know about finding, picking and preparing your dandelions and making a stunning wine which you won’t find in any store this side of the 21st century. Also, make sure you check out our list of 17 step-by-step winemaking recipes for more inspiration on how to make your own wine.
Section 2: What equipment you will need to make dandelion wine
In Olde England, peasants would harvest as many dandelions as they possibly could, and adjust all the other ingredients as needed. This would result in massive stocks of wine being brewed all at the same time, in demijohns, jars, barrels, saddlebags and just about any other receptacles they could get their hands on.
While you are welcome to make massive quantities of your own, I would suggest starting off with a gallon and investing in some proper equipment right off the bat.
Once you’ve mastered dandelion wine, you will be able to reuse this equipment again and again for any other wine your heart desires. Just makes sure you get all your measurements right, and always STERILIZE your equipment before and after every use. You can sterilize your equipment with bleach or hot water, but I prefer to use campden tablets, which are safe to consume and easy to use.
- A sterilized fermentation bin (sometimes called a brew bin), or a food grade basin with a capacity of at least one gallon.
- 2 glass demijohns (at least one gallon in size), plus a fitted airlock and bung
- A large straining bag or muslin cloth
- A vinyl siphon tube (at least 3ft in length)
- 6 glass wine bottles, plus fitted corks and a corker.
- A large funnel
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
Vinyl Siphon Tube
Clear Wine Bottles
Section 3: What ingredients you will need to make dandelion wine
- ½ gallon dandelion heads. It can be hard to get this measurement right using guesswork alone, so I suggest you take your fermenting bin out with you when you go dandelion picking, and just fill it right up to the top. By the time you’ve discarded any unusable heads and green bits, you’ll have just over half a gallon, and it’s always best to have too many than not enough!
- 2.2lbs (1kg) granulated sugar
- 1lb (450g) golden raisins.
- 2 fresh oranges (juice and peel). Make sure you choose organic, unwaxed oranges for this, and avoid getting any of the white pith into your wine mixture, as it can have an unpleasantly bitter effect. I you want to be extra careful, use a lemon zester.
- 1 lemon (juice and peel). As above, make sure you choose organic, unwaxed lemons and avoid the white pith and any pips.
- White wine yeast. Every brand of wine yeast is different, so read the instructions on the back to find out how much to use and how to use it.
- Yeast nutrient. Read the instructions on the packet to find out how much you need to use.
- Campden tablets
Get Your Ingredients Below
White Wine Yeast
Section 4: Quick step by step instructions on making dandelion wine
STEP ONE – Finding the perfect dandelions
Nothing could be easier than finding a dandelion in the springtime. But finding the perfect specimens? Well, that’s a different story…
Dandelions come in hundreds of different forms, but most people know them to be either bright yellow or fluffy and white.
To be clear, we’re talking about the bright yellow dandelions in this article.
Although you could always begin your dandelion adventure by picking a fluffy white dandelion, blowing away the delicate seeds and making a wish.
So now you know what you’re looking for, you just have to find them! You are going to need a LOT of dandelion heads to make this wine, so ideally you will find a meadow or a field which is just full of them. Yellow dandelions grow in any grassy areas, as long as they have direct access to sun. They flower all year round, but they are at their best (and most plentiful) between March and May.
Like most flowers, dandelions close up overnight, so the best time to pick them is late morning, when they have opened fully and are drinking in the sun. Choose only those flowers which have opened up all the way, showing off a bright mane of petals which are full of flavor and color.
Dandelions grow quite close to the ground, so there is a very high risk that they may be exposed to fertilizers, chemical runoff, or animal waste. There isn’t a huge amount you can do about this, other than wash them thoroughly (we will discuss this in the next step), but you can still be smart about where you pick them from:
- Don’t pick dandelions from public parks where dogs can run off the leash.
- Don’t pick dandelions from the side of the road or alongside any paths.
- Don’t pick dandelions from areas which have recently been treated with weedkillers or chemical fertilizers.
- Don’t pick dandelions from industrial areas, or rural areas which are close by large farms or factories.
Once picked, you should aim to start your dandelion wine within an hour, as the flowers will start losing their hydration and flavor as soon as they are picked. Yes, you can pop them in water to keep them going for another few hours, but we’re talking about more than a hundred dandelion heads here, so that in itself would be a bit of a project.
For any foodies out there, it’s worth mentioning that the leaves of the dandelion flower make a beautiful salad – unlike the petals themselves, the leaves are bitter and sharp, and can be used sparingly to pep up a salad of fennel, arugala, or butternut squash. The youngest leaves have the most flavor, and they are also packed with vitamins and nutrients.
STEP TWO – Preparing your dandelions
For dandelion wine, you ONLY use the yellow petals of the flower. Discard any green sepals, and the leaves, stems and buds of the dandelion – you can include these if you like, but they will add a tangy flavor to the wine which is not to everyone’s taste.
When you have a gallon bucket of dandelion heads to get through, this can take a while, so stick on a podcast or an album and enjoy the relaxing process of stripping petals off flower heads.
Check each head briefly as you are removing the petals – if you spot any visible dirt or insects, shake them off or simply discard the flower completely.
To clean the petals without washing off any of their flavor, simply place them in a large saucepan and pour boiling hot water over the top until the petals are just covered.
Then leave them to soak for one or two days, stirring every few hours, and skimming away any dirt or tiny bugs which float to the surface.
STEP THREE – The recipe…
After a day or two of soaking, you should be left with a faintly yellow water covering a bed of damp petals. Now you can add the lemon zest and the orange zest, and pour in the sugar. Bring the mixture back up to a simmer and keep stirring until the sugar has completely dissolved.
Meanwhile, weigh out your raisins and roughly chop them up so that the skins are broken and the sugary fruit inside is released.
Allow the dandelion mixture to cool, then add the raisins and stir. After another 30 minutes, add the lemon juice and the orange juice, then transfer the mix into your fermenting bin.
Top up the mixture with water until you reach the gallon mark, then add your yeast and yeast nutrient and stir. Cover the fermentation bin (either with the lid provided or with a few strong layers of cling film) and leave it in a dark place at room temperature to ferment.
STEP FOUR – The fermentation process
A few hours after you’ve sealed your fermentation bin, take a peek…the first signs of fermentation should have already begun.
This is the most ‘active’ stage of the wine-making process, as the yeast reacts with the sugars to start creating alcohol. If you’ve never made wine before, don’t be alarmed at the way the mixture changes day after day – every fermentation is a little different, but they will all include some frothing, fizzing, swirling and/or bubbling, on and off for at least a few days.
Keep an eye on it and stir the mixture once a day. After around 5-7 days, the bubbling should have started to calm down – that means that the primary fermentation is almost over. Keep checking it and stirring it for another 3 days, until you are certain that the fermentation has stopped. Then you can start to move on to the next step…
STEP FIVE – Making things clear
Now it’s time to ‘clear up’ your liquid.
Start by straining your liquid so that you remove all the soaked petals, raisins and everything else which has been fermenting away in the brew bin.
To do this, arrange your straining bag or muslin cloth over a sterilized bowl or saucepan, and carefully pour the wine mixture over the top. Squeeze the straining bag well in order to remove every last drop of flavor from it.
If you can still see a lot of visible sediment in the wine after straining it for the first time, strain it once more.
Now you should have a reasonably clear, pale yellow liquid which is starting to resemble wine. Time to transfer it into your demijohn!
I find that the easiest way to do this is to place a funnel over the top of the demijohn and start spooning the liquid in using a (sterilized) soup ladle. When you’ve spooned around two thirds of the mixture in, pour the rest through the funnel as carefully as possible (it’s always a good idea to put down a towel just in case of a spillage).
You will probably find that the mixture does not quite reach the one-gallon mark by the time its arrived in the demijohn – that’s ok! Just top it up with a little filtered or bottled water, and a couple of teaspoons of sugar syrup.
Then tap the bung in place and attach the airlock, and you’re all set!
Leave the demijohn to sit in a cool dark place or 4 weeks, checking its progress every few days.
For the first week or so, you will notice a rush of bubbles from the bottom to the top of the demijohn (a bit like champagne), and the airlock will be bubbling away busily the whole time. This is the secondary fermentation process.
After two or three weeks, the bubbling will start to tail off, and you will know that you are ready to move on to the next step once you can count at least one minute between each bubble.
STEP SIX – Racking your wine
This is my favorite bit of the wine-making process.
Racking wine basically means that you are moving your wine from one demijohn to another, leaving any sediment behind. It helps make your wine clearer and less cloudy, and results in a cleaner, crisper taste.
To rack your wine, you need to assemble almost all of your wine making equipment: your sterilized siphon tube, the airlock, bung and both demijohns.
First take your wine-filled demijohn and place it on a table, chair or other raised and flat surface. Put the second (empty) demijohn on the ground below it.
Remove the bung, and lower your siphon tube down into the wine-filled demijohn until it is just sitting above the thin layer of sediment at the bottom of the bottle – you may need to get a friend in to help hold it in place, as it is extremely important that you don’t accidently transfer any of this sediment into the new demijohn.If you do, don’t worry too much about it but make sure you rack your wine an extra time to get rid of all the sediment. However, each racking process takes at least three weeks, so it will mean that you have to wait even longer before finally sampling your dandelion wine.
Take the other end of the siphon tube and suck it as hard as you can, until wine starts flowing into your mouth, then quick as you can stick the tube into the empty demijohn and watch it fill up.Place the bung and airlock onto the new demijohn, put it back into its storage space, and leave it to sit for another three or four weeks.
Then repeat the racking process all over again.
STEP SEVEN – Bottling it
After the second racking process, you should check on your wine after another three or four weeks, and see if it’s clear. You don’t want a cloudy wine which looks almost like apple cider – you want a see-through, golden liquid with no sediment sitting at the bottom.
Once you’re happy with the wine’s clarity, you can start bottling it up!
The bottling process is pretty similar to the racking process, only this time instead of moving the wine from demijohn to demijohn, you are moving it from demijohn to bottle.
Line the bottles up, put down a towel or ten (this bit is always messy) and use your siphon tube to fill up each bottle with wine, one by one.
You can drink your dandelion wine straight away, but it will taste much better if you let it sit for at least three months. Personally, I think it’s at its best after six months, but that’s because I like the young, fresh, sharp taste with its citrusy high notes. If you want a sweeter wine, open it after three months. If you like your wine dry, leave it for 12 months (or more – if you can wait!).
Drink it chilled before meals as a light and refreshing aperitif, or serve it with an al fresco lunch of goat’s cheese, salads, and crusty bread.
Dandelion wine also pairs brilliantly with white fish – you could even enhance the flavors by adding few fresh dandelion leaves and petals into the fish as it cooks. Your dinner guests will be amazed at the complementary flavors of the wine and the dish, and your adventures in dandelion wine making will be a conversation starter for the whole evening.
Let us know how you plan to drink your dandelion wine, and what sort of feedback you get from family and friends! Get in touch and tell us how you’re drinking your rhubarb wine, and what flavor combinations you went for in your recipes.
Section 5: Conclusion
Dandelion wine is one of nature’s great pleasures. It is light, fresh, flavorful, and fragrant and literally available in your back garden. It’s no surprise that this wine was in such high demand for such a long time, inspiring a multitude of home brewing tips and recipes, and even a bestselling book (Ray Bradbury’s Dandelion Wine).
It may have fallen out of fashion in recent years, but dandelion wine deserves a comeback. So when the springtime sun starts to turn the fields yellow, get out there and start gathering your own personal harvest. Following the simple steps above, you should be drinking your first glass of dandelion wine by the late autumn time, and the light, floral flavors will sustain you all throughout the winter until the blossoms start appearing en masse once again.
In the meantime, you might enjoy trying out one of our other fruit or flower wine recipes elsewhere on this site. Home wine-making is so versatile and so rewarding that it is worth trying out as many flavors as possible until you hit upon your new favorite tipple.
Get in touch in the comments below and tell us about the wines that you are making in the comfort of your own home, and let us know how you got on with your dandelion wine. Also, don't forget to check out our list of homemade wine recipes you can try out at home for yourself (a total of 17 of them)
And finally, if you enjoyed this article, share it with your friends and let them in on the secrets of this oft-forgotten wine.