Vanilla Wine

Such a full and productive day today!  I’ve been waiting for weeks to finish my raised, square foot garden beds and I finally found the break in the weather I was waiting for.  I spent a good part of the day outdoors soaking up the sun and burning some calories!  I can’t wait to show you around my edible garden.  But that’s a blog for another day.  Today it’s all about vanilla wine.

When I saw this recipe on Jack Keller’s site I knew I had to make it… soon!  I just adore vanilla.  I love it so much that when I go to the ice cream shop with a kajillion flavors to choose from I almost always choose vanilla.  I know, I know.  Most of you are thinking, “B.O.R.I.N.G!”.  Not me.  I think vanilla is one of the most incredible and delicious flavors on earth.  So it was only natural that, when I finally kicked into gear and started making scratch wines again, vanilla would be at the top of my list.

Although the recipe is super simple, I did run to a problem right out of the starting gate.  My local grocery store doesn’t carry white grape juice concentrate.  I called around to a couple local grocers and, although I had to travel a bit further, I finally found some.  So if at first you don’t succeed, don’t give up.  My usual grocery store rep also said they would place a special order for me if I couldn’t find it, so that’s also an option if your store doesn’t carry it.

Fortunately I had the rest of the ingredients on hand so after dinner and a few errands I was able to knock out the first step in making this wine.  I poured myself a glass of Chardonnay (stay tuned to see how I monogrammed the glass myself) and got busy making some vanilla wine.

First, I put the water on to boil and measured out the sugar using an old postal scale.  (Now a note to all of you detail oriented geeks, ahem, I mean people: I did not put 30.9 oz of sugar into the mix.  I just took the photo of the sugar on the postal scale to show how I measure my sugar.  I removed about 8 oz of sugar from the bag before adding it to the boiling water.)It was all down hill after this step.  Once the sugar was dissolved I added the rest of the ingredients.  I cut the vanilla beans in half before adding them to the must thinking they might impart a stronger vanilla flavor if they were cut vs. whole.  I added the grape juice concentrate, pectic enzyme, acid blend, and yeast nutrient.  I put all this into the secondary fermenter, added enough water to fill the gallon sized jug and, this time,  I remembered to take a gravity reading!   

It measured about 1.094 which I believe means the potential alcohol for the finished wine will be around 12%.  You can go here for more information about all the gravity readings, potential alcohol, brix and other mumbo jumbo.  (They lost me at “Advanced Wine Making Basics”.  For now, I am happy to just stick with the Don’t-Make-Me-Do-Any-Math or Think-Too-Hard Wine Making Basics”

The only thing left to do at this point was to cover the jug with a coffee filter secured with a rubber band.  (That adorable creature in the background is my son, Tyler.)

So now the mix will chill out until tomorrow when I will add the yeast and then… let the fermenting begin!  I’ll rack and attach an airlock in about a week and rack a couple more time before bottling.  The recipe does not indicate how long before this wine is drinkable, but it will be all that I can do to wait at least 6 months before giving it a try.  I have a feeling this recipe with be one that will soon take it’s rightful spot in my 6 gallon fermenter!


  • 2 cans (11.5 oz) Welch’s 100% white grape juice frozen concentrate
  • 4 vanilla beans (6-9 inches long)
  • 1-1/4 lbs granulated sugar
  • 2 tsp acid blend
  • 1 tsp pectic enzyme
  • 1 tsp yeast nutrient
  • water to make 1 gallon
  • wine yeast

Bring 1 quart water to boil and dissolve the sugar in the water. Remove from heat and add frozen concentrate. Add additional water to make one gallon and pour into secondary. Add remaining ingredients except yeast. Cover with napkin fastened with rubber band and set aside 12 hours. Add activated wine yeast and recover with napkin. When active fermentation slows down (about 5 days), fit airlock. After 30 days, rack into sanitized secondary. Taste wine. If vanilla flavor is sufficient to your taste, discard the vanilla beans. If not, transfer beans to new secondary by remove after additional 30 days and rack, top up and refit airlock. Wait additional 30 days and rack again, top up and refit airlock. After additional 30 days, stabilize, sweeten if desired and rack into bottles. [Author’s own recipe]

Batch Update May 7:  Today I racked, sampled and took a reading.  The sample had a delightful vanilla flavor so I decided to remove the vanilla beans.  The gravity was down to 1.042.  Moving right along!  I am, without a doubt, planning for a much larger batch of this wine the next go-round.  It’s going to be fabulous!

Peach and white grape, mint wine, Skeeter Pee (in the bucket), Chardonnay (in the large carboy in the back), and vanilla wine on the far right.


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