Wild Winemaking

Easy & Adventurous Recipes Going Beyond Grapes, Including Apple Champagne, Ginger–Green Tea Sake, Key Lime–Cayenne Wine, and 142 More


By Richard W. Bender

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Making wine at home just got more fun, and easier, with Richard Bender’s experiments. Whether you’re new to winemaking or a seasoned pro, you’ll find this innovative manual accessible, thanks to its focus on small batches that require minimal equipment and use an unexpected range of readily available fruits, vegetables, flowers, and herbs. The ingredient list is irresistibly curious. How about banana wine or dark chocolate peach? Plum champagne or sweet potato saké? Chamomile, sweet basil, blood orange Thai dragon, kumquat cayenne, and even cannabis rhubarb wines have earned a place in Bender’s flavor collection. Go ahead, give it a try.



To all the friends who have tasted and enjoyed my wines through the years, especially those who contributed ingredients or helped me make them, and to all those people willing to step out of the box and dive into Wild Winemaking



Part 1: Getting Started

Chapter 1: Equipment & Supplies

Chapter 2: My Winemaking Process

Part 2: The Recipes

Chapter 3: Fruit & Vegetable Wines


Apple Champagne



Bing Cherry



Blackberry-Rhubarb (Blackbarb)

Black Currant

Black Currant-Peach

Black Currant-Rhubarb



Blueberry-Chocolate-Chocolate Mint



Blueberry-Rhubarb (Bluebarb)

Buddha's Hand

Burgundy Kale

Calamondin Orange

Cape Gooseberry


Cherry-Black Currant



Chinese Sumac



Chokecherry-Rhubarb (Chokebarb)

Chokecherry-Wild Plum

Concord Grape



Fruit & Vegetable Wines: D-P

Damson Plum

Dark Chocolate-Peach




Elderberry-Rhubarb (Rhuderberry)


Ginger-Squash Sake

Golden Raspberry








Ozark Pumpkin Sake



Pear-Black Currant



Plum Champagne

Plum-Rhubarb (Plumbarb)

Plum Sake


Raspberry Champagne

Red Grape



Spiced Peach

Spiced Peach-Apricot



Strawberry Guava



Sweet Potato Sake

Thompson Seedless Grape

Tomato Italiano

White Mulberry

Wild Persimmon

Wild Plum

Chapter 4: Flower & Herb Wines

Black Locust Flower

Blue Spice Basil


Chamomile-Star Anise

Chocolate-Chocolate Mint

Cinnamon Basil


Double Lemon-Lime-Basil


French Tarragon

Ginger-Green Tea Sake

Hibiscus Flower

Jasmine Flower


Lilac Flower



Pink Rosebud

Rose Petal

Rose Hip



Sweet Basil


Triple Basil

Vanilla-Rose Petal

Chapter 5: Hot Pepper Wines

Blood Orange-Thai Dragon

Buddha's Hand-Cherry Bomb

Calamondin Orange-Cherry Bomb

Calamondin Orange-Chocolate-Habanero

Calamondin Orange-Habanero

Calamondin Orange Mole

Calamondin Orange-Peach-Habanero

Chocolate-Peach-Cherry Bomb

Citrus Symphony


Key Lime-Cayenne

Key Lime-Cherry Bomb

Key Lime-Golden Cayenne


Kumquat-Kung Pao


Lemon-Lemon Drop


Limequat-Kung Pao


Mandarin-Chocolate-Chocolate Habanero

Mandarin-Devil's Tongue

Navel Orange-Kung Pao

Orange Ghost

Orange Mole

Peach-Cherry Bomb

Pineapple-Cherry Bomb

Pineapple-Citrus Symphony

Pink Grapefruit-Kung Pao

Pomegranate-Citrus Symphony

Red Jalapeño-Lime

Tangerine-Brain Strain




Ujukitsu (Lemon) -Cherry Bomb

Chapter 6: Cannabis Wines


Cannabis-Rhubarb (Cannabarb)

Christmas Cannabis

Christmas in July

Mary Jane's Grapes

Medical Marijuana

Plum Pot

Chapter 7: Enjoying the Fruits of Your Labor


Metric Conversion Charts


Drink Up with More Books From Storey


Share Your Experience!


Winemaking doesn't need to be complicated and intimidating, the way it is often presented.

I grew up in Missouri hunting, fishing, and ­collecting mushrooms, blackberries, mulberries, persimmons, and anything else we could find in the wild. My family also had a large garden. My mother canned, froze, and used much of the fresh produce in her cooking, and I sold the excess at a roadside stand in front of our house. I continued to garden as an adult and always used as much of our own homegrown produce as possible in my cooking. And I liked to experiment. One summer I made 30 different jams and jellies, including herbal jellies and wild sumac berry jelly. I was always looking for unusual and unique ingredients to use in my kitchen.

I discovered that I liked wine during college, when a friend introduced me to a cheap wine that was popular on campus those days: Boone's Farm Strawberry Hill. I eventually graduated to higher-quality sweet German white wines, such as Spätlese and Eiswein (ice wine), but I never thought about making my own wines until about a dozen years after I graduated from college, when I found myself back in my college town with 13 cherry trees in my yard and an abundance of cherries to pick. I could have made enough cherry jam to last a decade from that one harvest. Not wanting that much jam, but also not wanting the fresh cherries to go to waste, I asked my friends if they wanted some of the fruits. One friend said that he wanted to make cherry wine, so I picked him a 5-gallon bucket of cherries.

That Christmas my friend gave me a bottle of the wine he had made. It tasted pretty good, and I knew right then that I wanted to learn how to make it. I bought a home winemaking book and devoured it, eager to start making my own wine.

The next summer I made my first batch of wine using a bucket of my cherries. I learned a lot from that process (one lesson being that you need to use fermentation locks, not balloons, to seal your jugs if you don't want broken jugs and a wine-splattered room), but I was proud of that first cherry wine. It was good and had a nice cherry flavor. After that, I started looking around, wondering what other fruits I could use to make wine. They weren't hard to find. Friends who were growing apples and plums offered me fruit in exchange for some of the wine I could make from it, so apple and plum wines came next. I also made a very large batch of Bing cherry wine after a friend who was the produce manager at a local store gave me a pallet of slightly bruised cherries that were not suitable to sell because of their appearance but still made good wine. It filled most of my carboys and gallon jugs. I made a delicious lavender wine from fresh French lavender blossoms. Soon I was expanding my winemaking horizons beyond fruits and flowers to include vegetables and herbs.

The wines in this book are unique, and the special winemaking techniques I have developed are not found in more traditional winemaking books. For instance, I use whole fruits, not juice, and add sugar in stages if making larger batches.

Sugar is essential to the winemaking process, serving as food for the yeast that drives the fermentation. Grapes usually have enough natural sugar that you don't need to add any sugar to the ferment to convert them to wine. But most nongrape wines need some added sugar, and flower and herb wines need plenty of extra sugar. When making all cannabis wines and 5-gallon batches of wine, I add sugar at several intervals during the primary fermentation so as not to overwhelm the yeast, which could stop the fermentation or even kill the yeast. By adding a lot of sugar, and not bothering to measure specific gravity, I create wines with a high alcohol content (roughly 14 to 18 percent, compared to 10 to 11 percent for typical commercial grape wine), which, by happy accident, turns out to have many benefits.

Like most people, I had learned early on that drinking wine could lead to hangovers and headaches the next day. When I found out that sulfites might be the culprit (though more recent research has questioned this), I resolved to stop adding them or any other chemicals to my wines. Because my wines have a high alcohol content, they are still able to be preserved without sulfites, aging more like hard liquors than typical wines. And because I make my wines from whole fruits, instead of just the juice, they contain important antioxidants and other nutrients.

Perhaps my greatest pleasure in making wine is sharing it with friends. I invite friends for dinner and pair my wine with the food, and I use wine in my cooking. It wasn't long after I first began making wine that my friends started commenting on how much they liked my wines, and how amazed they were by the unique qualities of the more unusual varieties. Over the years, many people have suggested that I write a book about my uncommon wines. After writing two gardening books, I decided that this book's time had come.

Winemaking doesn't need to be complicated and intimidating, the way it is often presented. You don't need to plant a vineyard to make wines. Many ingredients can be gathered for free or can be easily grown in a summer garden. If you are a wine lover, I encourage you to make your own wines. Perhaps we can meet and share our wines with each other someday.

— Richard W. Bender

Part 1

Getting Started

Chapter 1

Equipment & Supplies

It may seem daunting to look at the online catalog of any large winemaking supply company. There are a lot of tools and equipment, and picking out what you need could seem like a complicated process. But in truth, you really just need a few basic things. People, after all, were making wine long before things like electronic filters, pH meters, and temperature-control equipment were available.


Fermentation is a natural process. With a minimum of equipment and a little experience, it is possible to make wine as good as or even better than anything you can purchase.

Primary Fermentation Vessel

The first stage of winemaking is called primary fermentation. Fermentation is a process whereby bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms break down an energy-rich organic compound, usually giving off heat and gases, and sometimes creating other simpler compounds, like alcohol. In the case of wine, yeast converts the sugar in the must (the crushed fruit or juice), plus any sugar you might add, into alcohol and carbon dioxide. During this stage, the fruit pulp will rise to the top and form a solid mat, called a cap, that should be broken up and stirred back into the wine twice a day. As the sugar is converted into alcohol and carbon dioxide, the cap will become less firm, which indicates that, depending on the recipe and the volume of wine you're making, more sugar should be added or the primary fermentation is done. Because the must needs oxygen and you will be stirring it frequently, it's best to use a container with a wide mouth.

For the 1-gallon recipes in this book, you'll need a 2-gallon fermentation bucket or crock, or a 1.4-gallon "bubbler," which is a clear wide­mouthed jar that comes with a lid and a fermentation lock. If using a crock or a bucket that does not come with a cover fitted with a fermentation lock, cover the crock or bucket with a kitchen-size trash bag. Pull the bag over the bucket, loosely tucking it in around the bottom of the bucket. The bag is loose enough that carbon dioxide can flow out of it, but it provides enough covering to protect the must from any airborne microorganisms. Fermentation buckets come in many different sizes, and if you are making larger batches of wine, be sure your bucket is about half a gallon larger than the finished wine, to leave room for the chopped fruits, vegetables, or herbs. My 612-gallon bucket holds enough must to make 6 gallons of wine, which, in the secondary fermentation stage, I split between a 5-gallon glass carboy (a narrow-necked bottle larger than 1 gallon in size) and a 1-gallon glass jug.

Food-grade buckets work well as primary fermentation vessels, and you can sometimes get them free, but you must be careful of your source. Any buckets from industrial sources that originally held chemicals are not safe to use. Instead, look for buckets from restaurants, bakeries, and other food vendors and establishments. I have a couple of 5-gallon buckets that originally held food-grade coconut oil. If you know someone who works at or owns a food establishment, you may be able to build a collection of buckets for free. Give anyone who offers you a bucket a bottle of one of your best vintages, and you may receive all the buckets you need. You will need two 5-gallon buckets to make one 5-gallon batch of wine because you need room for stirring in the buckets and some volume will be lost after you strain out the pulp.

Secondary fermenter (carboy); bottling bucket; primary fermenter (bubbler); funnel; corks; glass bottles

Bag It?

I prefer to let the fruit, flowers, or herbs float freely in the primary fermentation vessel because I believe you get more of the flavor and full essence of your main ingredient this way, but some people prefer to enclose them in a fermentation bag (a large mesh bag) because it is easier and less messy. I use a fermentation bag for pressing: before I transfer the wine into the secondary fermentation vessel, I scoop the pulp into the mesh bag and squeeze the wine into the vessel. Supply shops will carry both fermentation bags and smaller mesh bags. You can also start with juice and not need a bag. I will discuss these options in more detail in chapter 2.

Secondary Fermentation Vessel

After 1 or 2 weeks of primary fermentation, it is time to press out the pulp and put the liquid into secondary fermentation. Secondary fermentation is slower and can last a long time if you don't add sulfites or other additives that kill yeast.

For the recipes in this book, you'll need a small-necked 1-gallon glass jug. Glass is preferable to plastic because plastic can degrade over time and the alcohol in your wine can leach undesirable chemicals out of the plastic, especially if you age your wine in these jugs after secondary fermentation, as I will recommend in the next chapter. You may also consider purchasing a 12-gallon glass jug, in case you have some wine that won't fit in your 1-gallon jug after pressing out the must.

If making larger batches, you'll need to purchase a glass carboy (a small-necked vessel larger than 1 gallon); sizes range from 3 to 612 gallons. Even larger fermentation containers called demijohns are also available. I have two 9-gallon demijohns and a 17-gallon demijohn in my collection. You may be able to scavenge some secondary fermentation jugs. I collected more than two dozen 1-gallon glass jugs back when apple juice and cider were still sold in glass, and more than a dozen 5-gallon glass carboys when water was still sold in glass.

Wine- and beer-making supply stores sell carboy covers to protect the wine from light. In addition, I've known people to use old T-shirts to cover their carboys. Some people worry that prolonged exposure to light can be detrimental to wine, but I've never used a cover and have kept wine in jugs and carboys for up to 2 years before bottling without any problems.

The Vessel Makes and Stores the Wine

Some of the earliest evidence of winemaking comes from wine residues found on pottery shards dating back to around 6,000 bce near the Caucasus Mountains regions of Iran and Georgia. The development of pottery was a crucial factor in the development of a wine culture because pottery is nonporous and (one hopes) does not leak, it does not transmit disagreeable flavors to its contents, and it produces containers that can be sealed against oxidation.

Wines made before the advent of pottery might have been stored in open or unsealed containers and would have soured quickly, turning into vinegar, which has its uses but is not enjoyable to drink. They may also have been stored in animal-skin containers, which could have been sealed against oxidation but would have imparted other, perhaps disagreeble, flavors to the wine. So, in general, it's fair to say that pottery making and winemaking were natural partners.

Once a winemaking culture was able to produce jars with a tapered small opening, like the Greek amphorae, it became easier to properly seal the vessels. This allowed wines to be stored for longer periods and to be more easily transported, allowing the ­creation of a commercial market for wines.

Bungs and Fermentation Locks

Bungs are rubber stoppers that are sold in a variety of sizes to fit jugs, carboys, and demijohns. You'll need both solid bungs, to use when fermentation has stopped and the wine is continuing to age, and bungs with a hole in the middle. The hole fits a fermentation lock, which is used during secondary fermentation and can also be used during primary fermentation.

There are dry fermentation locks that use a ball to seal the opening, but most fermentation locks use a barrier of water to keep air and potential contaminants out of the ferment while allowing the carbon dioxide generated during fermentation to escape (so the ­bottle won't explode!). They come in two main styles: S-shaped locks and simple vertical locks. S-shaped locks are popular because they can be left unattended for long periods of time without worrying that the water barrier inside them will evaporate, but their disadvantage is they are difficult to clean. This is especially troublesome if you get an overactive fermentation that bubbles over, filling the fermentation lock with fermenting fruit juices. This type of overactive fermentation can also keep dry locks from sealing properly. I prefer a simple vertical, also called T-shaped, fermentation lock that is easy to clean, though its water will evaporate over time and must be refilled occasionally.

Siphon Hose

A siphon hose is a plastic tube used to rack wine (transfer it from one container to another) between carboys and jugs, leaving behind the sediment at the bottom. The full vessel is placed on a table or counter, and suction is used to transfer the liquid to the empty vessel below. I use plastic tubing that has an inside diameter of 38 inch and is 4 to 6 feet long, but you can use any size you like. Tubing with a larger inside diameter will siphon the wine faster, and longer is better if you are working with large carboys or have a tall table. You can purchase food-grade plastic tubing at your local winemaking supply shop. The inside of the hose will eventually build up residue that is impossible to clean, but the tubing is inexpensive and easily replaced.

You can suck on one end of the tubing to create suction to rack your wine (see Step 7: Rack the Wine and Filter the Lees), or you can use a tool called an auto-siphon. They even sell mini auto-siphons for use on 1-gallon jugs. You can also purchase expensive electronic pumps, some with filtering attachments, if you are moving large quantities of wine or just like having fancy, high-tech equipment.


A hydrometer is perhaps the most talked-about piece of equipment used in home winemaking. A glass cylinder with a weighted bottom and a scale printed along its length, it is floated in a narrow cylinder of your must or wine to determine the wine's specific gravity (the ratio of the density of the wine to the density of water). Some wine hydrometers show both specific gravity and estimated alcohol content on scales along the cylinder of the hydrometer. A hydrometer can help you decide how much sugar you need to add to the must to reach a certain alcohol percentage.


  • “Finally! Easy-to-follow home winemaking recipes that combine common sense and fun.” — Laurie Neverman, of Common Sense Homesteading

    “A beautiful ode to the magical meeting of the harvest and friendly microbes. If you have tried your hand at fermentation and love fruit and flowers, you must try the wines in this book!” — Hannah Crum Alex LaGory, best-selling authors of The Big Book of Kombucha and founders of KombuchaKamp.com
  • “Finally! Easy-to-follow home winemaking recipes that combine common sense and fun.” — Laurie Neverman, of Common Sense Homesteading

    “A beautiful ode to the magical meeting of the harvest and friendly microbes. If you have tried your hand at fermentation and love fruit and flowers, you must try the wines in this book!” — Hannah Crum Alex LaGory, best-selling authors of The Big Book of Kombucha and founders of KombuchaKamp.com

On Sale
Feb 20, 2018
Page Count
272 pages

Richard W. Bender

Richard W. Bender

About the Author

Richard W. Bender has been making wine for more than 30 years with homegrown, foraged, and store-bought fruits and vegetables. A former nurseryman, he is the author of Wild Winemaking and Bountiful Bonsai and has written for Horticulture, Field & Stream, and The Herbal Companion. He lives in Fort Collins, Colorado.

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