Homemade fruit wines, also known as hedgerow wines or country wines, are strongly flavored, vibrantly colored wines that tend to be sweeter than most grape wines. Lemon wine can be made with fresh lemons from the grocery store, and any kind of lemon will work. As is not the case with berry wines, lemon wines do not need added acid, and extra sugar may be required to temper the wine’s natural sourness.
Preparing the Mix
Soak the grated rind and raisins in boiling water for 5 minutes, then strain and add to the fresh lemon juice. This sterilizes the rind and fruit, while also removing some of the bitterness from the rind.
Add the boiling water to the juice, raisin and rind mixture. Add the Campden tablet at the same time to kill any bacteria and wild yeasts that may form. Boiling water kills most bacteria and yeasts, but it can affect the flavor of the wine.
Stir in the sugar until it is completely dissolved, cover the pot with the tight-fitting lid and allow the mix to sit for 18 to 24 hours at room temperature.
Check that the water is 122 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, and then add the pectic enzyme. Stir until dissolved, cover the pot again and let rest for another 12 hours.
Fermentation and Storage
Add in the yeast. The amount of yeast you use will, along with the sugar content, decide the gravity — the density of the wine and thus the amount of alcohol — in your finished wine.
Stir the mixture thoroughly, cover and let sit in a warm location, between 64 and 75 F, for 5 to 7 days. Stir the mix each day, and watch for bubbles to form.
Strain your mix by pouring it through a cheesecloth-covered funnel into the glass demijohn. This liquid is called the must.
Pour in enough fresh, filtered water, if needed, to fill the demijohn up to the base of the neck. While in the demijohn, the yeast in the must will be deprived of oxygen, forcing it to produce alcohol.
Store your demijohn in a cool, dark location, such as in a cold cellar or a garage. As the yeast ferments, your must will transform from cloudy to clear. The air lock will make a hiccuping sound on occasion, letting you know that the yeast is fermenting properly.
Rack your lemon wine by transferring the liquid to a new, clean demijohn every few months. Racking is necessary to remove the lees — the sediment from spent yeast — that forms during fermentation. If left too long, the sediment will create a bitter and unpleasant taste. Fill your demijohns up to the base of the neck with fresh water during each racking. Rack your wine only when there are 1 to 2 inches of lees on the bottom of the demijohn.
Siphon the wine into clean, sterilized bottles once the bubbling has stopped. This may take up to 9 months or more. Your wine will also be perfectly clear, another indication that it is ready to be bottled. Do not transfer any sediment over when siphoning into bottles.
Cap or cork your bottles and store in a cool, dark location until ready to drink. The longer the wine is left in the bottle, the more complex the flavor becomes, as it has time to age.
The amount of sugar and yeast you use will affect how much alcohol content your wine has.
Instead of raisins, you can use strong black tea instead, as they each add tannins to the wine.
Using the Campden tablet also helps prevent your wine from turning into vinegar after bottling.
Rachel has worked professionally as a chef and writer on food since 2010. In addition to a Bachelor of Arts degree, she holds a diploma in classic culinary arts from the French Culinary Institute. She has an active interest in wine, fine dining and sustainable agriculture.