Ask Wine Wizard

When Life Gives You Limes Make Wine


Faith Chadwick — Marcellus, Michigan asks,

I am making a lime wine and I used honey instead of sugar to bring up the brix. I’m doing a 3-gallon (11 L) batch. The recipe that I found said to zest the limes so I zested 21 limes. When I racked it, I tasted and it has a very strong lime peel taste. Is there any way that I can tame that?


Very, very interesting. I have to say that the zest of 21 limes for three gallons (11 L) of liquid seems like a lot of lime-y-ness to me! I can only imagine that indeed, it did have a very strong lime peel taste. My suggestion for “taming” this would be a dilution strategy.

The aroma and “lime peel taste” you are getting is largely coming from two sources in the lime zest: The aromatic oils and the bitter components in the pith. Both are difficult to “treat” out of a liquid solution with common wine additives and fining agents as they are such small particles, chemically. Likewise, they aren’t coming from a protein or a tannin either, so they will have a harder time being removed and “pulled out” of solution with bentonite (in the case of the former) and a protein (in the case of the latter). Additionally, you have such a small volume that it might not be worth your while to first do bench trials (where you would measure out and try increasing amounts of a fining agent in a small, measured volume of wine).

If fining doesn’t help, what should you do with your three gallons (11 L) of lime wine? I would first try to make another three gallons (11 L) of your honey-based wine (just don’t add the lime peel to this one) and mix the two together, to see if you like it.

As opposed to grapes, honey is shelf-stable and can be purchased anytime of the year, so you don’t have to wait until harvest season to make another batch and experiment to see if dilution helps. You could also try to take your lime wine and see what other kind of fun beverages you could make with it as a mixer — here’s your opportunity to wow your friends and family with creative cocktails and coolers. Seriously, try it! I’m thinking mixing one part of your lime wine with three parts seltzer, sweeten with honey to taste and serve in a pitcher with a few sprigs of lime and lots of ice. Or how about shake 2 oz. (57 g) of your lime wine with a jigger of gin and an ounce (28 g) of simple syrup (again, with lots of ice) and serve in a martini glass with a pretty twist of lemon peel? I always encourage readers to view “mistakes” as opportunities. Yes, opportunities to learn and to say, “Well, let’s not do that again,” but also opportunities to try making and tasting something new. Let your imagination be your guide and have fun.

Response by Alison Crowe.