How to Make Cranberry Wine
Cranberry is one of the very first wines we tackled, way back when we started making wine about a decade ago.
If I recall correctly, it was September or October when we started - our first attempt at brewing was our Homemade Hard Apple Cider - and we were putting a batch of Cranberry Wine on in late October or Early November, when cranberries went on sale for the holidays.
See, when you are like us, and take on home brewing, grocery trips change. “Can we make wine from that?” is a frequent question we would ask each other, and a lot of the time.. Yes, we would ferment it.
... and when cranberries would go on sale dirt cheap, of COURSE we made wine from it!
Not only are cranberries cheap and- at certain times of the year - very easy to come by, they make a DELICIOUS wine. Cranberry Wine - whether this basic version, or our Homemade Cranberry Clementine Christmas Wine Recipe - is a favourite around here.
It makes a pretty red wine, very fruit-forward with none of the aspects of traditional red wines that I DON’T like (bitterness, tannins, that cigarette taste, etc). Just a really bright, fun, pleasant drinking wine.
Of course, like most/all wines, you’ll need to plan ahead. If you buy your cranberries this holiday season and put a batch on, you can be drinking your homemade wine NEXT holiday season.
Which, you know, is great timing, as this goes particularly well with the kind of roast dinners that get served for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or the holiday season in general!
As my husband says “It’s an adult way to drink cranberry juice!”
How to Make Cranberry Wine
If you haven't attempted making wine before, don't be intimidated, it’s not as complicated as you might think.
Basically, you get some fruit, water, and sugar, toss some yeast in it, and let it go!
Ok, it’s a bit more involved than that, but not by much! Be sure to check out our primer to home brewing, Check out our primer to home brewing:
Just a small handful of entries, and you'll be good to go!
Cranberry Wine Ingredients
While using tap water can be an option, we tend to use jugs of spring water. This is for a couple of reasons..
First of all, tap water doesn’t always taste good - a hard (LOL) lesson we learned while living in Minneapolis.
While our water here in Hamilton doesn’t even require a filter to taste fresh and clean at all times, we know that’s not the case for everyone. Bottled spring water won’t bring any weird, undesirable flavours to your wine.
Additionally, nice and convenient: pre-measured, sterile, and handy.
However, if your tap water is consistently tasty and safe, feel free to use that instead of bottled.
We prefer to use granulated sugar for this - rather than brown sugar, etc - as the flavour is neutral enough to not cover up or weigh down the bright fruit flavour from the cranberries.
Those bags of fresh cranberries that are sold in the produce section in the fall and winter are what you’ll want to use to make this wine.
Depending on what brand you have, you may end up a little over or short on the amount of cranberries you need, depending on the weights they’re sold in where you are.
Not a huge deal - you can make this with plus or minus a bit of the cranberries - though I prefer to aim for “plus” when possible.
Just be sure to pick through your cranberries when you open the bags up, and get rid of any bits that don’t belong, or cranberries that have gone bad.
If you have a food processor, just run the cranberries though for a few seconds to break them up a bit. You don’t want them to be a puree, just chopped enough that their juices and flavours will leech out into the water/sugar mixture easily.
A puree will make racking it a bit more difficult. Not impossible or anything, just more effort and more of a mess than is necessary!
This recipe will make about a gallon of finished wine - but it's easy to scale the recipe up for bigger batches, as we normally do. Just multiply everything by the number of batches you'd like to make - aside from the yeast.
We'll use a single packet of yeast for anything up to 5 gallons, then add a second one for anything up to 10 gallons, and so on.
Back Sweetening Your Cranberry Wine
Sometimes, you’ll find that the yeast went a bit too far with their smorgasbord, and you end up with a wine that’s drier than you’d like it to be.
... and that’s when you back sweeten it! You can read my How to Stabilize and Back Sweeten Wine post for information on how to back sweeten it.
More Home Brewing Recipes!
While you've got your current homebrew fermenting away, why not consider putting a batch of something else on, to occupy your wait time? Here are a few of my other wine, cider, and mead recipes:
Banana Wine Recipe
Blackberry Wine Recipe
Blackcurrant Wine Recipe
Blueberry Wine Recipe
Cherry Wine Recipe
Cranberry Clementine Christmas Wine Recipe
Faux Lingonberry Wine
Lychee Wine Recipe
Mango Strawberry Wine Recipe
Mango Wine Recipe
Mint Wine Recipe
Lychee Wine Recipe
Partridgeberry Wine Recipe
Passionfruit Wine Recipe
Peach Wine Recipe
Stone Fruit Wine Recipe
Strawberry Wine Recipe
Ube Wine Recipe
Watermelon Wine Recipe
Cider & Miscellaneous Homebrew Recipes
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- Chop cranberries, set aside
- In large stock pot – we used a 7.5 gallon turkey fryer – combine water and sugar. Heat to boiling, stirring until sugar is dissolved.
- Add chopped cranberries, stir and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
- Add acid blend, pectic enzyme, and yeast nutrient. Stir well, turn off heat. Cover with a lid, allow to cool to room temperature – overnight.
- Place raisins and yeast in a freshly sanitized 2 gallon fermenting bucket.
- Carefully pour the cranberries and water into the fermenting bucket.
- Using sanitized equipment – take a gravity reading. Keep track of the number! (This is an optional step, but will allow you to calculate your final ABV %)
- Cover with sanitized lid and air lock. Within 48 hours, you should notice fermentation activity – bubbles in the airlock, carbonation and /or swirling in the wine must. This means you’re good to go!
- Let sit for about a week, stirring (sanitized paddle!) every couple of days or so.
- After a week or so, use your sanitized siphon setup to rack the must into a freshly sanitized 1 gallon carboy.
- Put the carboy somewhere cool (not cold!), and leave it alone for 2 months or so.
- Using sanitized equipment, rack the wine off the sediment, into a clean, freshly sanitized 6.5 gallon carboy. Cap with sanitized airlock, leave it alone for another 2-3 months.
- Rack one more time, leave it for another 3 months or so.
- When your wine has been racked a few times and shows NO more fermenting activity for a month or so (no bubbles in the airlock, no more sediment being produced, you can move on to bottling, and back sweetening, if needed.
- Follow the instructions on your selected type of wine stabilizer to stop fermentation. For potassium sorbate, this needs to be done 2-3 days before bottling.
- Using sanitized equipment, take a final gravity reading, then rack the wine into clean, sanitized bottles. Cork.Age for at least a few months before drinking.