The Best Homemade Apple Wine Recipe
Section 1: Introduction
Before we begin, here are a few things that AREN'T apple wine:
- Apple cider (no, not even the sparkling kind that comes in green wine bottles).
- Hard cider (the brasher, bolder cousin of apple wine).
- Apple wine (despite the name, this German beverage is actually more like a light apple beer or cider).
Apple wine is light, tart and still. It is the sort of wine you drink on a warm summer’s day, or with homemade cake and good friends. But it is not exactly easy to make. Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing complicated about the process or the ingredients involved, it’s just that most recipes for apple wine are actually recipes for apple beer or cider. As delicious as these drinks are, they are no substitute for the subtle fruitiness and smooth consistency of real apple wine – the fuzziness will be instantly off putting to anyone with more than a passing knowledge of wine, and the alcohol content is practically negligible (5-8% on average).
This recipe will teach you how to make traditional, refreshing apple wine from scratch – the sort of wine you will want to make (and drink!) over and over again.
Section 2: What equipment you will need to make apple wine
The list below is not specific to apple wine – you can use this equipment to make any kind of fruit wine, flower wine or herb wine that tickles your fancy. For this reason, I usually recommend investing in good-quality pieces right from the get go – that means glass demijohns instead of plastic ones (although a gallon-sized milk carton is a great budget-friendly substitute in a pinch), and no recycled straining bags if you can help it (there is a chance that a previously used bag may still contain yeast solids from an earlier batch of wine – or worse – washing detergent).It is also absolutely vital that you sterilize every single piece of equipment before using it. You can use hot water or bleach, but I prefer to use campden tablets. Just crumble them up in some water (approx. one tablet per gallon) and leave your equipment to soak for at least ten minutes. Take them out, rinse them and leave them to dry naturally. Voila – good as new!
- A sterilized fermenting 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 3 ft 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 apple wine
- 6lbs (2.7kg) fresh apples. Any variety will do, although you’ll get a more complex flavor if you use a mixture of different types. Whatever you do, DO NOT peel or core these apples – you want them to be whole and fresh, and organic if possible. If you can’t find organic apples, make sure you wash them thoroughly to remove any pesticides or other chemicals off the skin.
- 3lbs (1.35kg) granulated sugar.
- 1lb (450g) raisins .
- Juice of one lemon, or 0.5oz (15g) citric acid.
- White wine yeast . The amount of wine yeast will vary depending on the brand you use – read the instructions on the back before using. Champagne yeast will also work for this wine, but DO NOT under any circumstances use cider yeast or beer yeast – this will end up giving you an overly-sweet and flat apple cider, not a lovely light apple wine.
- Yeast nutrient . Read the instructions on the pack to find out how much to add.
- Campden tablets
Get Your Ingredients Below
White Wine Yeast
Section 4: Quick step by step instructions on making apple wine
STEP ONE – Apple picking 101
By far and away the best method of getting your apples is picking them off a tree! This is a lot easier than it might sound, as apples grow in abundance in all 50 states of America. Whether you know it or not, the chances are you’re just a short walk away from a fruit-bearing apple tree.
Apple production is a big business in the US, and most orchards are used commercially, to produce juices, sauces, desserts, and yes, cider. The ripest, shiniest apples will end up in your local food market, leaving only the misshapen and oddly-colored apples left on the tree by the end of the season. Luckily, these apples are perfect for wine making.
In fact, perfect apples are probably wasted on apple wine – they deserve to sit proudly in a fruit bowl, or on your favorite teacher’s desk. Wine apples are destined to be chopped, cooked, stirred, mashed, strained and fermented, so it really makes no difference if they start out life looking more like an old turnip than a rosy apple.
In my experience, the best way to gather your apples is to wait until the end of the season and either buy up a crate of misshapen apples in bulk from your local market or take part in an apple-picking day at your nearest orchard. Or you could grow your own apples from scratch…
Apple trees are hardy and easy to grow, but this is a long-term project. Even if you start with a sapling (rather than a seed), your tree will not bear fruit in its first year, and it won’t necessarily bear fruit every year after that. However, after ten years of maturation, you will be rewarded with a beautiful-looking tree and an abundance of apples year after year – if you can wait that long.
What’s in a name…?
So when it comes to apple wine, which variety is best? There are more than 7,500 different cultivars of apple, ranging from the extremely bitter (cooking apples, cider apples, Granny Smiths) to the very sweet (Pink Lady, russet, or bramley).
Everyone has their favorite, and winemakers tend to have very strong opinions on which varieties work and definitely don’t work with apple wine. In truth, there is no right or wrong type of apple to use in wine-making: if you like sweet wine, choose a sweet apple; if you like dry wine, choose a bitter one. Personally, I tend to go with a mixture of around 70% bitter apples and 30% sweet, and I never get the same wine twice. The most important thing is that you choose good quality apples, which means:
- Organic, if possible;
- Well cleaned (soak the whole apples in water for 10 minutes or so then rinse well);
- Unbroken skin (if you see even a small hole, discard the apple – you don’t want to risk adding a cheeky little worm into your wine, or worse…maggots);
- Minimal bruising (once an apple is bruised, it starts to rot slightly, softening and sweetening in the process. Too much of this can change the taste of the apple and ultimately, your wine);
- And finally, if you are picking them, never choose apples which you find on the ground below the tree – you don’t know how long they have been there, or how many animals have peed on them…
Otherwise – go nuts! Choose a mixture of different varieties and finesse your quantities year after year. I’ve found that just about any apple will work for this wine, although you should absolutely AVOID using crabapples (they are too small and too bitter so you will end up with a watery, sugary flavor in the end) and hedge apples (which aren’t actually apples at all).
Apple season starts in late spring and runs all the way throughout the winter (depending on the variety of apple you are using), so gather as much as you can and make batch after batch of wine, until you run out of supplies.
STEP TWO – Preparing your apples
Preparing your apples is easy – just don’t do anything to them. As soon as you start cutting or peeling your apples, they will start to ferment and before you know it you’ll be dealing with a basket of brown, rotting apples which are no good to anyone. By all means wash them (in water only – no chemicals), but leave them intact until seconds before you are ready to use them.
STEP THREE – Sweetening the deal
Roughly chop up your raisins so that the skin is broken on almost all of them. Put them into a large stainless steel pot and pour approx. one gallon of boiling hot water over the top. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring constantly, then simmer for around 10 minutes and take off the heat.
This process releases the natural sugars from the raisins, which will help in the fermentation process.
Once the mixture has cooled slightly, add the sugar. DO NOT add the sugar any earlier than this, as it may burn and start to crystalize in the water. If this happens, discard the entire mix and start again with a new batch of raisins.
Now, and only now, can you start chopping up your apples. Work quickly (but safely!), and throw the apple chunks into the sugary water as you go along. Use the entire apple – the peel, the pips, the core – everything.
Then transfer the entire mixture into the fermentation bin and leave it overnight (or for a minimum of 8 hours).
PRO NOTE : If you want to add any extra flavors to your wine, now’s your chance. I find that elderflower goes well with apple wine, although make sure you add the flowers only and not elderflower syrup or cordial, as this can make the wine overly sweet. For more on how to source and prepare elderflowers for wine, see our previous blog.
Other flavors which work well with apple wine’s fruity notes include:
- Pears (prepare these just as you would prepare your apples. Pears are much sweeter, so a few of them will go a long way).
- Grapes (many winemakers like to add a cup or two of unsweetened grape juice to their apple wine – just make sure its white grape juice and not red).
- Gooseberries (hard to find, and addictively tart – you will need to chop these up roughly before adding them to your apple mix, to release the gel-like pulp inside).
- Strawberries (if you’re using these, there’s no point in being shy – substitute 1lb of apples for 1lb of apples and you will end up with a fruity rose wine).
- Ginger (just one teaspoon of grated fresh ginger will add a tangy note to your wine).
STEP FOUR – A little of this, a little of that
When you check on your wine in the morning, you should find that the mixture has started foaming slightly and the apples have floated to the surface. This is exactly what is meant to happen – it means that the fermentation process has already started. Now you just need to give it a helping hand.
You will now have to leave the wine to continue its primary fermentation for at least another 5 days (although it can take up to two weeks – all fermentations will differ slightly). Check on it twice a day and give it a stir with a sterilized spoon.
During the first few days, the mixture will start bubbling and fizzing, but this should calm down at around day 3 or 4. Wait another day or two until the mixture is still again, and then you can move on to step five.
STEP FIVE – The first clearing
Once the first fermentation has calmed down, it’s time to strain off your apple wine liquid, and get rid of the apple solids which are now sitting at the bottom of your fermentation bin.
The most effective way of doing this is by using a straining bag or muslin sheet, stretched across a colander or sieve which is sitting above a sterilized pot or bowl. Carefully pour the liquid into the straining bag (you may find it easier to decant the apple liquid into a smaller bowl one liter at a time, rather than trying to lift a full gallon of apple water into the air), then squeeze the bag well so that you can release as much of the fermented apple juice as possible.Depending on the variety of apples used, you may find that your wine is still very cloudy. If this is the case, strain it one more time through a fresh straining bag or muslin sheet.
Now it’s time to move your wine into a demijohn.
Place your funnel on the top of the demijohn and very slowly and carefully, pour the liquid through. Now that all the apple solids have been removed, you may find that you don’t quite have one full gallon anymore. If this is the case, simply top up the demijohn with a splash or two of filtered or bottled water.
Then tap the bung into place and fix your airlock to the top, and store your demijohn in a cool, dark place away from direct sunlight.
During the first couple of days, you will notice a lot of bubbling happening inside the demijohn – this is the second fermentation.
The bubbling should tail off after a few days, and will be replaced by a steady stream of fizz from the bottom to the top of the glass bottle.
This too will tail off after a while, and the airlock will stop gurgling every few minutes. That’s when you know that its nearly time to move on to the next step.
In total, the wine will probably need to ferment for at least 3 weeks, maybe more. Just keep an eye on it, and wait for the wine to tell you when its ready.
STEP SIX – Racking the wine
If you look at the bottom of your demijohn at this point, you will probably see a thin layer of sediment just sitting there. That’s your yeast solids and leftover bits of apple residue.
They’re completely harmless, but they create a cloudy wine, with a musty mouthfeel, and nobody wants that…
So in order to get rid of them without losing any of the flavor of the wine, we rack.
Racking is simply the process of moving the wine from one demijohn to another, leaving the sediment behind. In order to do it properly, you need to assemble your second demijohn (freshly sterilized of course), and your vinyl tube. You may also want to out a towel down for this part – it can get a little messy.
Ready? Let’s go.
First, put your wine-filled demijohn on a raised, flat surface (a table, a chair, a stepladder) – move it veeerrrrry slowly so that you don’t disturb any of the sediment on the bottom. Then position the new demijohn on the ground below it.
Remove the bung and airlock from your wine, and start lowering your vinyl tube all the way down to the bottom of the demijohn, stopping around half an inch above the bottom.
Now take the other end of the tubing, and suck as hard as you can until the wine starts flowing freely through the tube.
Quickly stick the tube into the empty demijohn and watch it slowly fill up with golden wine.
When almost all the wine has been racked, you can start to tentatively move the tube further and further down the original demijohn until you have siphoned off as much liquid as you possibly can without hitting the sediment.
Then top up the newly filled demijohn with a little splash of filtered or bottled water and a teaspoonful of sugar, and secure the bung and airlock to the top.
Place it back into a dark and cool place, and leave it for another 3 weeks. Then repeat this whole process again.
STEP SEVEN – When is it ready?
You can keep on racking your wine indefinitely if you wish, but you probably only need to do it twice. If you find that your wine is still cloudy after three racks, add a little pectic enzyme to the mix – this will help dissolve away any stubborn yeast residue and apple solids. Wait another three weeks, then start bottling.
The bottling process is very similar to the racking process: put your wine-filled demijohn on the counter, and the bottles on the ground below; use your vinyl tube to get things flowing, then fill up each bottle in turn.
When you’re done, all that’s left is to cork up and attach labels to your wine bottles. If you have a hydrometer this will allow you to work out the final Alcohol By Volume (ABV) of your wine, so you can include this on the label along with your ingredients, bottling date and name (I’m not the only one who names my wines, am I?).
Now you just have to leave it to mature for a month or so, and no more than a year. The longer you leave it, the drier it will get, but unlike many other fruit wines, apple wine actually tastes better when its young. If you pick your apples in the fall, you should be drinking your wine by the following spring! This is just one of the many pleasures of apple wine.
Don’t forget to raise a glass to Wine Turtle and let us know how your wine turned out in the comment section below.
Recommended Reading: Find out how to make honey wine next.
Section 5: Conclusion
Once you’ve had your first taste of apple wine, you’ll never be able to enjoy cheap cider again. This wine elevates the humble apple by capturing its essence and allowing it to ferment slowly in its own juices, before clearing it until it becomes a sophisticated golden liquor.
It is best enjoyed chilled and by itself, perhaps with a thin slice of apple garnishing the side of your glass. For a refreshing afternoon beverage, make your own hard lemonade by adding soda water and fresh lemon juice to apple wine, and serving over ice – it’s the perfect drink for a lazy summer’s day.
Get in touch and let us know how your apple wine turned out, and which variety of apples you used in the end. Did you go for a crisp white wine, or a sweet dessert wine? We love to hear how your wine-making is going, so please do share your stories.
If you found this article useful, feel free to share it with your family and friends. And if you enjoyed your apple wine, take a look at our other homemade wine recipes and discover your new favorite.