Dandelion Wine, how to save a Wildflower Wine-part 2

I’ve noticed more questions regarding problems with Wildflower Wines are coming in via Google search terms.
Since I’ve had some challenges with my own batch of 2013 dandelion wine, it seems appropriate to address them here and share their solutions in case it is of help to anyone who feels stuck with the same problems.
My first piece of advice to everyone attempting to make a wildflower wine is “Don’t Panic“. And while I could be accused of using that approach far too often in life, I consistently find that a few deep grounding breaths do wonders for putting things back in perspective. There usually are solutions that are hidden by our perspective and panic.

Though we have tried to keep things sterile and control the environment as best we can to avoid obvious mistakes and “wine gone wrong” scenarios, I have found that wild wine making is a robust and forgiving process which allows for much improvisation and room for flexibility. If your intent is not to create a commercial masterpiece for sale to the public, something you can duplicate precisely year to year, but to explore the ancient art of wine making, for your own satisfaction, share a cool homemade wine with friends and family, and to enjoy the process, then you have come to the right place.

Dandelion wine-First "real" racking to 20 liter glass carboy.
Dandelion wine-First “real” racking to 20 liter glass carboy. Note the heavy glass pot lid holding the siphon in place, something improvised or a clamp keep the lees from getting stirred up and following the clear must to the fresh carboy. Racking the must off the lees keeps them from adding their flavour to the wine.

Any creative endeavor we pursue, is as much about our own process and working with ourselves as it is about the materials we are working with and the product we are creating. Our own transformative and Alchemical process.

Looking back I note how I have been affected by all the materials and processes I engaged over the years as an artist, craftsman and Apothecary, I have evolved and grown as an individual through all my creative pursuits, challenged and manipulated, coloured and shaped by them all, and in a way, they have all become parts of me. I have grown particularly through the challenges. Just as our Dandelion flowers are transformed into Dandelion Wine through processes of fermentation, clarification and patience at our hand. From a simple flower into something complex and sublimated, so too are we engaged and affected by the process, touched & transformed through the challenges of our creativity and our willingness to expand and explore outside ourselves. The real Alchemy and transmutation is what goes on within us.

If you don’t mind creating a slightly different version of wine each season, and perhaps a better one as well, if you are not trying to produce a commercial “fine wine” and treat it as an exact science, then it is important to remember to simply do your best with the resources you have, enjoy yourself. Embrace the process and challenges, let them change you for the better. Learn, grow and enjoy. Most importantly, enjoy.

Dandelion Wine 2013 first racking of 14 liters to 20 liter carboy
Dandelion Wine 2013 first racking of 14 liters to 20 liter carboy. 6 liters distilled water needs to be added.
Dandelion Wine-Primary fermentation, second run after racking.
Dandelion Wine- Second Primary fermentation, after adding distilled water.

It’s been close to two weeks since I added extra distilled water and decided to extend my batch of dandelion wine to make 20 liters from the 14 liter recipe, See “How to “Save” a Wildflower Wine) Since putting it back in the plastic bucket for primary fermentation it didn’t seem to be doing too much. I assumed that yesterday, after 2 weeks it must have finished its primary fermentation, so I racked it into the 20 liter glass carboy for secondary fermentation. (I nailed the quantity pretty much perfectly!)
Lo and behold, it started vigorously working!! Hissing, fizzing, bubbling away, working like there was no tomorrow. It had not gone through primary fermentation at all since I returned it to the bucket with the extra distilled water!

I can only assume that because of the cold snap we had for a week or so, (down to 2-4 degrees Celsius some nights!!), and because it was on the floor where it is always cooler, it did not have enough heat for the primary fermentation process to kick in properly. It must have sat close to 2 weeks not really doing much of anything. Funny as it may seem, I just assumed my hearing was at fault after fifty odd years, and that I was the only one that was not hearing the hissing of the process. It must have been the power of suggestion that compelled everyone who checked it for me to state that they definitely heard fizzing. There is a moral there somewhere.

I am going to say I was lucky no other organism got the jump on fermenting the must while the wine yeast was contemplating navels, (or the juice of the Navel oranges I added), as could have happened.
Racking it into the carboy on the second day of a heatwave really got it going! Perhaps the agitation of racking helped stir it to action, so I’m going to leave it loosely covered and wait till it stops hissing and bubbling and then rack it again and put the CO2 lock on it for a real secondary fermentation.

Dandelion Wine working at Primary Fermentation. Fizzing, hissing and in general purring contently like a cat.
Dandelion Wine “working” at Primary Fermentation. Fizzing, hissing and in general purring contentedly like a cat.

Gauging by some of the questions I’ve seen on the search stats I believe that others have experienced a similar problem so if you’ve had your wine not doing much of anything in primary fermentation, staying sweet, and wondered what you were doing wrong, this may have been the reason, and may provide you with a happy ending. Proper temperature is definitely necessary for primary fermentation. As far as I know, once the primary fermentation has kicked in, it creates its own heat which will keep the must warm and working till the sugar content has been completely consumed. Wikipedia has some of the basic information, and always is a great starting place for questions. This is also a good time to mention that besides sugar, wine yeasts need other nutrients to thrive. Adding some “Yeast nutrient” to your not fermenting wine is also something that should be tried if you are stuck, before you give up.

Before this last most recent racking, the wine was still tasting rather sweet though it was tolerable. Considering that the secondary fermentation would reduce the sugar a little further, it still would’ve made a nice wine with adequate alcohol. If after this current primary fermentation or during second fermentation, I find that it is too dry for my taste, I can add sugar or glucose to sweeten it without initiating the primary fermentation again. I will cross that bridge and share it here, if and when I get to it.

I will keep you posted.

Till then, remember to keep legible notes. Your future self will thank you.


    1. Thank you!!!
      Have been caught up in new website/ blog/store FTPs, SQLs, a whole new language and all the complications that seems to involve. Lost track of time!
      Hope you two are doing well and enjoying your winter. Making a batch of candied wild ginger from fresh so have been thinking about you guys and maybe will just pop some dry Rhizomes in the post for you. Wouldn’t that be a cheery and fragrant winter project?.

      1. I wonder if it would make it through customs! I doubt it ;). Anything that smells like food gets rootled out by the beagles 😉

  1. Oh Dan, what an authentic Alchemical process! I love this post. Did you ever read The Secret of the Golden Flower? After purring like a cat, she will surely settle to sleep like a lion, until the first tasting season. And re temperature for fermentation: all the old alchemists wrote of warming the Great Work like an egg under the hen. Then the surprises come! Golden chicks.

    1. No, have not read the “Secret of the golden flower” unless it was a really old Alchemical text and I missed the title in my enthusiasm. I already love the way it is written. You always find the profound. Thanks.
      Well you see it and can’t help but point it out!! Thank you for paying such good attention Jane.
      Yes. Temperature is such a critical factor, since in the old days they had no thermometers they had so many names and ways of achieving a reliable and duplicatable temperature. Decomposing Horse dung is always my favourite! They were so innovative, inspired and creative!! Waterbath, sand bath, oilbath, then names for each strength of the flame on the work. I had not thought about the process of the Dandelion wine in that context! Fermentation and the heat it apparently generates. Ruled by the Sun too.
      Good hearing from you Jane!

      1. Ah-haa – just sent you an email. The Secret of the Golden Flower is an old Taoist meditation/small book. It is translated by Richard Wilhelm, and has an introduction by Jung, who was very interested in it. You can find it easily online – there might even be a download. Time I took another look at it – I haven’t, for many years! It was my wayside book for a while, very slim, with a black cloth cover.

        Yes, the old alchemists, their horse dung and good bed of rotting compost – slow cooker, my parents used to cook porridge overnight in the grass cuttings pile outside – wonderful images of the earth of leaves, humous, nitrates in the 17th century literature. The miraculous decomposing release of warmth in all its picturesque degrees, life and death, the sun inside, bubbles, sugar transformation as in our own bodies. Process of Leo … back to lions again! They talk of hearing the unforgettable roar of your own Hermetic lion.

        Lions and serpents and Melusinas in their Flasks … well I could go on and on. Also, grain, yeast, grape. Have a Bacchanalian day!

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