Autumn Olive Wine

A fist of autumn olives.

Those autumn olives we collected? Some  got to be delicious jam.  The rest, get crushed, fermented, and bottled.  It’s invasivore wine time.

My own vintage:

I made my first batches of wine while an undergraduate in Bellingham, WA.  One even featured invasive blackberries.  Several things intersected back in 2003 that made this a great idea: 1) A home-brew culture and store down the block, 2) A tree filled with apples and 3) a juicer I got for my birthday.  I made a gallon of apple wine, about five bottles, the last of which was sipped with my soon-to-be in laws the night before the wedding in 2010.  But this is an invasive species story…

Autumn Olive wine making 101

The entire process of making wine is ancient, and the details of which are well beyond what I myself have mastered.  I won’t presume to try to cover everything, many of you out there can probably do it better.  What I do know comes from Jim and George’s Home Winemaking: A Beginners Book.  I’ll just cover some basics steps, and let you experiment.


1) Sterilize everything.  I use a 10% bleach solution, followed by lots of rinsing.

2) Get the juice, make it sweet.  There many ways to do this, depending on what type of wine you are making, ranging from stomping with your feet, presses, juicers, concentrates etc.

I crushed 4.5lbs of autumn olives in a nylon bag inside a food grade plastic bucket, which acted as the primary fermenter in the next step.  I added a 2.5 lbs of raw sugar dissolved in a gallon of boiling water (which was cooled before adding), and about 2 teaspoons of acid blend.  I sulfated the juice overnight to kill off any bad yeast and bacteria, and added wine yeast the next morning.

Mashed Autumn Olives
Autumn Olives mashed inside a nylon bag, inside a 2 gal food-grade bucket, which acts as the primary fermenter. I haven’t yet added the sugar-water mixture in this picture.

3) Primary Fermentation- bubble bubble.    I let the wine ferment covered in this bucket for 3 days, stirring each day.

4) Secondary Fermentation.  Secondary fermentation takes the wine-juice-mash-must mixture into a large carboys to continue fermentation in an anoxic environment.  Exposing wine to air turns it to vinegar, and to prevent this a gas trap is fixed to the carboy which lets CO2 out but keeps air from getting in (confused about fermentation? try this video).  As the wine ferments, for several months, all the solids in the mix settle out, clarifying the wine.  In the next step, we rack the wine to make, nice clear wine.

5) Racking, once, twice, thrice and beyond.  Racking is the process of removing the yummy stuff, from the dregs.  This usually takes several rounds.

Autumn olive secondary fermentation
Here’s a gallon of autumn olive wine, right before I rack for the first time. See how it’s clear on top, and crap on bottom? Siphon the good stuff off the top and keep fermentin’.

5) Bottling.  After 3-6 months, most of the sugar has been turned to alcohol.  Alternatively, there was so much sugar that the alcohol content got very high  high (~15-17%), that the yeast basically suffocated in their own delicious, delicious alcohol waste.  In either case, fermentation is complete, the wine is clear, and it’s time to bottle.  I haven’t gotten there yet.  Stay tuned.

6) Imbibing.  Pretty sure you got this covered.

4 thoughts on “Autumn Olive Wine

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *