View Full Version : So my dad made an aronia berry wine, and he wants me to "Make it taste good"

08-26-2009, 11:50 AM
Well the title says it all really. My dad made an aronia berry wine, he is under the impression that good tasting grapes make bad wine and bad tasting grapes make good wine, so it must apply to berries too. We have an aronia berry bush outside and he picked enough berries to get a solid gallon of juice after racking into the secondary. The primary looked like black gruel, there were so many berries. Those suckers don't produce a lot of juice. Well anyway I'm not quite sure how many berries he used, but he used RC-212 yeast and he claims he used honey, but he doesn't remember how much or whether he used my orange honey or my blueberry honey. So he e-mailed me and said he wanted me to come by this weekend to try it and offer suggestions to "make it taste good."

I know this isn't really how it's done around here. I haven't given sufficient process or ingredients, but I can't help that much. He just kind of threw stuff together and hoped it worked out. But if anyone here can offer suggestions on making an aronia berry wine taste good I'd welcome them.

08-26-2009, 11:59 AM
I'm sorry, but I find your predicament really funny. :) Schadenfreude, I suppose.

According to Wikipedia: "Juice from these berries is astringent and not sweet..." and "The red chokeberry's fruit is more palatable and can be eaten raw. It has a sweeter flavor than the black species and is used to make jam or pemmican." http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aronia

Based on that, if it's salvagable at all, it might need to be sweetened some. Other than that...? If they're that astringent, I wonder if they've fermented much at all. More info is probably needed, at least in terms of what the stuff tastes like.

Medsen Fey
08-26-2009, 12:01 PM
I'm afraid without some more specific info, I have nothing I can offer. However, when you go taste it let us know what you find. Also measure the current gravity, and test the pH if possible. It would be helpful to get an alcohol measurement as well. This can be done if you take a refractometer reading and a hydrometer reading - there are formulas to use those two measurements to give you an ABV number. As an alternative, you can measure the alcohol by spirit indication as mentioned in this thread (http://www.gotmead.com/forum/showpost.php?p=122978&postcount=18).

If we get those readings along with your organoleptic assessment, perhaps you'll be able to get some ideas on how to adjust it.

08-26-2009, 12:44 PM
I'll be tasting it this weekend or next weekend, so I'll get back with some tasting notes then. I'll also try to get some more detailed information on the ingredients/process he used as well as a current SG reading, although I doubt I will be able to get an OG. I don't know if this can ever really be good, because I tell you what aronia berries are by far the worst fruit I have ever had. It definitely fermented though, there was significant bubbling and my dad claims he can taste the alcohol in it. Lol, nice wiki find Arcanum. What's done is done, this will be a lesson to him I imagine, lol.

08-26-2009, 01:48 PM
I remember at time--not so long ago--when the prospect of tasting a partially fermented must--particularly a poor one--would have made me go "ewwwwww!"

Now, however...I wanna sample your dad's bad wine too. :)

08-26-2009, 02:35 PM
A few suggestions.....(memories of the old days when brews sometimes tasted of witches potions). Pull off a sample, taste (duh?). Next try diluting the sample with water. A lot of wild berries are powerful strong in flavor and if not properly diluted....eeewwwww. If it gets better, but still not right, add sugar. Then add OJ or lemon juice. If you like the origanal (as a kid I loved choke cherries) fruit, one of these three things will make it drinkable. I'm betting the flavor is too strong.
I remember my first elderberry wine I made in college. The juice was at least 50% pure squeezed elderberry juice (probably about 20 pounds of fruit to a one gallon batch. You try squeezing straight juice from wild elderberries!). Needless to say, about undrinkable, but it was quite the hit after mixing 25% "wine" to 75% tonic!

08-26-2009, 06:19 PM
Cap, you made my day!! This is funny. Hopefully it's not as bad as we all fear.

The only bit of advice is that perhaps sweetness can counter some of the bitterness of the berry. I'm sure this went dry. You might try adding some table sugar to a sample. That may (or may not) give you a better idea of if it's worth trying to salvage. I know with some of my mels I wanted to dump them until trying this trick, which I learned here on GOTMEAD?! (Shameless plug.) Oh, one other bit of advice - take a good bottle of your mead with you so you have something good to drink as a nice distraction!

You must post again after your visit.

Medsen Fey
08-27-2009, 09:04 AM
One more thought, since this is a wine, getting a Titratable Acidity measurement may be very helpful, and it is easy to do.

08-27-2009, 10:47 AM
If worse comes to worst, mix it with some Sprite over ice--that covers a lot of egregiously bad wine sins. :)

08-27-2009, 12:30 PM
One more thought, since this is a wine, getting a Titratable Acidity measurement may be very helpful, and it is easy to do.

I don't know how to do this, or what the significance of the result would be. I will, however, be using my hydrometer to get a gravity reading and I will also test for residual sweetness.

I really like the suggestion of trying to mix it with water and trying to mix is with sugar in an attempt to see what it would taste like if it were watered down/sweetend up, I will be sure to try that. Also the OJ and lemon juice idea? great, didn't think of that but I like it, I will try all of these and replace the mising liquid w/ whatever makes it taste the best, lol.

Medsen Fey
08-27-2009, 12:40 PM
I don't know how to do this, or what the significance of the result would be.

Well taste will tell you if there is too much acidity, though if you have a partial fermentation there may be a lot of residual sugar which masks it. In winemaking (and meadmaking) the perception of acidity is more dependent on Titratable Acidity (TA) than it is on pH. Most dry wines run in the range of 0.55-.075% TA (or thereabouts). If you do a measurement (with a test kit available at many home brewing stores or online) and find the TA is way outside that range, you can quantify how much adjustment you need to make and this may help you.

We don't use this in meadmaking much because the gluconolactone in honey causes inaccurate readings.

08-31-2009, 10:54 AM
OK so I have an update. First we took a hydrometer reading, it came out to ~1.009. I asked my dad what the OG was and he put it at ~1.090. I have no idea if that was influenced by a berry-filled must though. Also I still don't know how many berries, how much honey, or how much water was in there originally. The yeast used was RC-212, there are very very few lees resting on the bottom now.

So then we tried a taste test. It was bad. It was real bad. I don't even know how to describe the flavor or what made it bad, but it didn't taste good and then it had an aftertaste which made it undrinkable. So we tried using some of the suggested techniques by trying it mixed with water, then trying it mixed with honey, then trying it mixed with lemon juice. Mixing it with water made it drinkable, but not good because we added so much water to it (roughly 50%). Mixing it with honey VASTLY improved it, although we did add a crapload of honey, a light spoonful of honey to about 2 inches of the wine in a 1.5 inch diameter glass. The lemon juice addition didn't get rid of the terrible flavor but it did add a noticeable lemon flavor which I enjoyed with only a few drops. My dad didn't enjoy the lemon flavor though.

So, he decided he would sweeten it up and then add water to top it off after he racked it. So we sulfited and sorbated. He is going to add enough cranberry honey to raise the wine to the neck of the 1 gal container. Then when he racks the wine he will top it off with water.

08-31-2009, 12:26 PM
Proof that honey covereth a multitude of sins. :)

11-10-2009, 02:12 PM
The taste isn't nearly as offensive as it used to be. There is still a very unpleasant 'dry' aspect to it which I suppose will never go away because it is the same feeling I get when I eat aronia berries. It is still really dark with some bright purple lees on the bottom now.

11-10-2009, 03:10 PM
Cap, you have the best threats!

What are the plans now? Will he try to bulk age it?

11-10-2009, 03:48 PM
Well we only made a gallon of it because we made it from berries in our yard (we have 2 blueberry bushes and 2 aronia bushes that bloom every year, plus 2 apple trees and 2 pears trees and 3 grape vines which have yet to bloom with fruit, also a few blackberry bushes coming in the mail) so there isn't much bulk to bulk age. We will probably end up leaving it in the carboy to age though. I think my dad had forgotten about it actually until I brought up that we should taste it. We will probably rack it in a bit to get it off the less, there are quite a few built up.

11-10-2009, 06:40 PM
Send me a beer bottle sized sample and I'll tell you how to make it better if you are still interested. If you want to PM me feel free.



11-10-2009, 08:34 PM
Sounds great! I'll run it by him since it's his batch and not mine and see what he wants to do.

11-29-2009, 01:41 AM
He said he is content to just let it stay where it is for now. I went to taste it a few days ago and when I opened up the gallon jug it is (it is covered with a screwtop) it started foaming like crazy. It hadn't been moved around at all, the screwtop had just been opened up and about 2 inches of the wine leaked out as foam. I tasted some of it and now it is muuuch better and muuuch more bearable.

12-01-2009, 11:46 PM
also proof that time coverth a multitude of sins.

12-25-2009, 12:22 PM
-Recently, my dad topped this off with some Trader Joe's Blueberry-Pomegranate juice. We tasted the aronia berry wine today to see how it is progressing. Wow! It has come a long way. I credit a lot of the new flavor profile to the pomegranate. It added just enough tartness that the drink was actually pretty good. I must say, had this been made with blueberries and not aronia berries, this would be a great drink.

09-05-2016, 01:03 PM
Not sure how valuable it is to resurrect this dead thread, but I was recently searching for an aronia wine recipe, and thought I'd chip in in case anyone else stumbles in here looking for the same. After doing a bunch of research, my recommendation for anyone looking to use these things in a brew is to steam distill or otherwise cook the berries first.

I recently bought three clamshell quarts of black aronia in a burst of unwarranted enthusiasm, only to find that they were, indeed, as dry and bitter as I'd been told. I felt silly until it struck me that I'd always found vegetables more palatable while cooked (and why not berries?); so I mortar-and-pestled a handful of berries with a tsp. or so of five-spice powder, and ran it through my coffee maker. The result was this lovely blackfruit-tasting tea with just a hint of earthy cinnamon and cloves: to be honest, I'm kind of addicted now.


I say this because it lends more credence to the above aronia wine recipe, which recommends steam-juicing the fruits. I can't find the link anymore, but I read online somewhere about a guy in Quebec doing similarly; my intent is to try this out myself as soon as the store selling 'em opens back up after Labor Day.


Anyone looking to try an aronia mead might be interested here, though it calls for aronia concentrate as well as fresh berries.