Amateurs Winemakers and Water

December 21, 2010

I was talking to a licensed county wine maker the other day, and she told me that the federal government TTB really does not like the use of water in wines. She gave an example of people asking her why she did not make dandelion wine, which is mostly just fermented sugar water flavored with dandelions. The TTB does not consider this to be wine, so she cannot make it.

Thing is, so many country wine recipes call for water. In fact, I have developed my 3-2-1 ratio based on it, where I have 3 lbs of fruit, 2 lbs of sugar, and one gallon of water. To become licensed, I would have to abandon the water apparently. Granted, that would make for a better product, yet it also makes it expensive to produce.

Yet, this explains why apple juice is sometimes detected in a country wine that we buy. Rather than have x amount of fruit, like say a blackberry, they ferment a blackberry/apple juice mixture, as the apple juice won’t really change the flavor that much, and it does add a little sugar. It reduces the amount of blackberries needed, yet keeps the volume up.

As far as the dandelion wine goes, the other alternative I see, which also strikes me as odd, would be to produce a dandelion mead, which is fermented honey and water. A little odd admittedly, and I could be wrong about the TTB even allowing that.

This fall, I started a strawberry wine and a blackberry wine in which I put the fruit into sacks in buckets, hand crushed the fruit, and then let it ferment for a week before removing the fruit. There is no water added, and I have to say that there seems to be more body to the wine and better flavor. I’m impressed. However, being an amateur, I’ll use water now and then if I deem the source material to difficult to get juice out of alone.

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4 Responses to “Amateurs Winemakers and Water”


  1. hmmm… The TTB can be interesting in it’s federal government ways. We use water in all but one of our recipes. Our issue with the feds is that they consider mead to only be honey, water, and yeast. add fruit and they call it “other than standard wine” or something equally annoying. So, we label most things honeywine rather then mead to avoid the “other than standard wine” on the label. They’ve never really given us trouble on water, so not sure if it might be something to actually call the TTB about? We’ve found that sometimes just calling and talking with them will clear something up. Other times, writing or providing historical documentation will help. Mostly we’ve found them to be reasonable, if sometimes inconsistent. Good luck!


    • Thanks for the feedback! I’ve been pondering how to go waterless with some of my herbal wines, but like I said about the strawberry, it is better without water. Trying to convenience somebody to pay more because they aren’t getting water might be another issue…


  2. […] cider apples. Of course, there is a little bit of a worry that adding powdered wine tannin would not be legal if I was licensed, but I’m not, and hopefully by time I am, a newly planted cider orchard will be mature enough to […]


  3. […] It has been a year now. I had issues with one gallon getting stuck at 1.010 SG, so I haven’t decided on how I’m going to deal with that and bottling since doing something like bottling might just cause the yeast to finally eat the rest of the sugar up. How does it taste? Honestly, kind of bland. I kind of wonder if the ratio of water is too much. […]


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