Add Some Honey To Your Wine!

Dripping HoneySomewhere on your website you suggest sweetening wine with honey rather than with cane sugar.  This raised my interest and I was curious if there was a “proper” way for doing this.  Since the honey is quite thick, should it be “thinned down” before adding?  Mixed with wine (or small amount of water) prior to adding to the batch?  Or even heated slightly to make it thinner?  Is there anything in honey that could cause some instability or cloudiness in the wine?  By this point in the process I will already have added potassium sorbate.  Can I bottle the wine immediately following the sweetening?

Thank you for your assistance.
Carl S.
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Hello Carl S.,

Thank you for your curiosity and your questions.

I think adding honey is an excellent way to back-sweeten a wine. It is a powerful weapon in the home winemakers’ arsenal and one that is too often ignored. Many times over the years I’ve used honey to make some remarkable wines. Two that come to mind: a raspberry wine that I sweetened with wild flower honey and a blush Zinfandel that I sweetened with raspberry honey. Both were very memorable wines.

There are a couple of basic guidelines that need to be followed when using honey to sweeten a wine, but all-in-all it is a very simple process.

  1. As is the case with sweetening any wine you need to add potassium sorbate as a wine stabilizer, otherwise the new sugars from the honey will start fermenting again. Not only with this delay bottling the wine, it will remove all the sweetness you’ve just added.
  2. You also need to make sure that the honey has been pasteurized. Adding honey to a wine that is still wild or raw is a no-no. These impurities will have an environment to grow in once added to the wine. The eventual result is a spoiled wine. If you are not sure if the honey is pasteurized. You will need to pasteurize it yourself. This can easily be done by mixing the honey with equal parts of water. Then slowly heat the mix to 145°F and hold at that temperature for 30 minutes.

Shop Wine Bottle CorkersAs far as incorporating the honey into the wine, there are no surprises. Honey blends very easily with wine, even at room temperature. If you wish, you can blend the honey in a gallon of the wine first, then blend that mix in with the entire batch of wine, but it’s not really necessary.

Using honey to sweeten a wine is one of my favorite wine making tricks and one you should explore if you are wanting to learn how to make the best wine you can. The herbal characters of the honey can add greater depth and complexity to a wine.

Happy Wine Making,
Ed Kraus
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Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.

11 thoughts on “Add Some Honey To Your Wine!

  1. I have 2 5-gallon carboys of muscadine (35 lb) and welches concentrated grape juice (4 cans) wine that I need to sweeten before I bottle it in the next few days. I have dickered with honey and my wife approves of the sweeter wine samples. I know I will have to sweeten a gallon to find the right proportion of honey to wine to establish a "recipe" for the entire 10 gallons. I’ve observed that the honey tends to be slow to desolve in my sampling experiments. My question to you is: How can I get consistent and complete disolving of my honey and still restrict the introduction of air to my wine during the honey sweetening process? Do I need to stir the wine and honey or simply let it sit and desolve? I’d appreciate you knowelgable advice. You have a wealth of information on your blog. Thanks!

  2. John, there is no way around this. You will need to stir the wine extensively to dispurse the honey evenly. The trick is to do it without splashing the wine. Splashing is what will introduce air/oxidation into the wine. One item you may want to look at on our website is the Degassing/Mixing Paddle [item: PAD510]. This paddle attaches to a drill and will allow you to stir the wine safely and effeciently.

  3. I added my potassium sorbate, waited a week and now want to back sweeten and bottle. Are you saying I need to add potassium sorbate again when I sweeten with honey (step 1 above)?

  4. how much honey do you add to a 5 gal or 6 gal batch of wine? alos, when you add the honey when you drink the wine will honey stand out on its on in the flavor and is this better than using cane sugar or the wine conditioner

    • Patsy, Unfortunately since everyone perception of a sweet wine is different, we can’t really tell you how much honey to add. When actually sweetening your wine it is best to sweeten a portion of the batch, first. For example, take a measured sample of the wine — say, one gallon — and add measured amounts of honey to it to establish a dosage to your liking. Once the dosage is determined you can then do the same thing to the rest of the wine. This insures that you do not get the entire batch too sweet. If you do accidentally add too much honey to the measured sample, just blend it back into the rest of the batch and start all over with a new gallon sample. The flavor the honey imparts in the wine can depend on what type of honey you use. For more information please see the article link posted below.

      How To Sweeten Wine With Honey
      http://blog.eckraus.com/how-to-sweeten-wine-with-honey

  5. I have seen a number of these pieces of advice for sweetening wine, and of course also for producing mead. But, I don’t remember seeing a question concerning using honey as a substitute for sugar in the making of wine. Can it be done and if so, what would be the substitution ratio?

  6. I’ve been back sweetening my wine for the past 2 – 3 years with honey and what I do is mix the honey with about 6 oz of wine over a low flame just until it mixes in… you can see when it mixes in as the mixture clears up while stirring it, roughly about 90 – 100 degrees ( I can hold the pan in my hand without burning me), then I slowly pour the mixture back into the batch, mix with the degassing paddle for about 30 seconds or so, test with the hydrometer and finally taste to see if it is where I want it (I make notes so the process isn’t as lengthy the next time. Just remember you can always add more so I usually start with 1/2 cup to a 6 gallon batch to see how much it raises the sg and figure from there how much more I need to get to my desired level.

  7. Hi I wish to back sweeten 5 gal of rose. I’d use 750g of sugar to do so could you give me an idea of how much honey I should use.
    Thanks Philip.

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