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Dear Simoncelli family : Mariselda (Madame) & Giuseppe (Monsieur Peppe) & their 3 children : Antonella (Toto) & Stefano (Steve) & Emanula (Manny) . . .  THANK-YOU .

Thank-you to Mr. & Mrs. Simoncelli for this recipe. Thank-you to Mr. Peppe for showing me the process and equipment and the end result in person (with tasting) and thank-you to Mrs. Mariselda for re-explaining everything to me again (over the phone) because I sometimes forget stuff too.

Thank-you for your advice concerning other italian preparations.

Thank-you for the warm welcome everytime I popped in.

Thank-you for all the great meals & snacks I’ve had in your home when I was an older teenager and a younger adult and which unfortunately almost never happens anymore (it’s my fault of course) because I live so far away and when I do travel to Montreal, I don’t visit often, UNGRATEFUL ME ! I regret it.

I think I can sincerely say that after my own family home, your home (along with maybe one other) was probably the warmest hearth and household, where I devoured the most food and in which I spent the most time before moving further away and then far, far, far away overseas.

G R A Z I E   M I L L E  !

The original Simoncelli recipe uses 1 part red wine, 1/3 part sugar and 1 part sour cherries (only the flesh). I modified it one year ago for the first batch and waited one whole year before sharing it with you because I needed to test it and taste it and wait for sour cherry season to come back again this summer. I guess the only modifications I made were using the pits and stems and adding in some MAHLEP seed kernels (that taste like cherry combined with bitter almond) and just a splash of fruit alcohol towards the end, before bottling, to give it an extra kick.

BUT YOU DO HAVE TO START NOW because it’s the season for sour cherries again. Otherwise it’ll be too late. And you will need large glass jugs (one with a large opening and one with a smaller bottle-neck, a stopper and an airlock and some cheese cloth. Anyways, do whatever you want, I already started making this year’s summer  batches.

I call it « the summer blues » because that is what it will remind you of and which is also why I enjoy the first small bottle in mid-September (yeah I know, BLASPHEMOUS right ?!), then the second bottle around the end of October and the finally the largest and biggest and best bottle around the end of December during the winter festivities and holidays. Maybe i’ll be more patient next year, but probably not !

As I’m writing this recipe, I’m actually experimenting with 3 versions this week, one using only the sour cherries, then another with half sour cherries and half sweet cherries and one with only sweet cherries (sweet cherries cost 3-4 times less than sour cherries and are easier to find in the city). I’m varying the amount of sugar added so we’ll see how that turns out ! I’ll make any necessary adjustments along the way and I’ll keep you posted my dear & faithful & perhaps slightlly and pleasantly alcoholic friends … :)

p.s.: after having attempted this recipe with sweet cherries, the end result is a wonderful vinegar, but not a wine !

*ADDENDUM : It is with a heavy heart that I inform you that Mr. Giuseppe SIMONCELLI, the original creator (at least for me) of this recipe, unfortunately passed away in the night of September 10, 2019. He was always welcoming and kind to me and showed me how to make his sour cherry red wine, several years ago. 

Up until the end, he was surrounded by his loving family, with a last prayer to Padre Pio (his favorite priest who died in 1968 and was later canonized as Saint Pio of Pietrelcina). 

My sincerest condolences to his caring wife Mrs. Mariselda, and to his three loving children : Antonella, Stefano & Emanuela and their spouses, as well as to his grandchildren and to his many family members and friends. 

Rest in PEACE, dear Mr. PEPPE. I will drink to your kindness, your humor and to your memory, every mid-September, with a glass of your delicious sour cherry red wine, that you generously shared with me and which I humbly hope to continue to pass on … GT 

«peppe's» sour cherry red wine


2 litres


  • 1,5 kg whole sour cherries or 1,30 kg pitted fruits + 175 grams pits + 25 grams stems (+ some cherry leaves too, if you’re lucky)
  • 1,5 litres (6 ¼ cups) good quality dry red wine (2 x 750ml bottles)
  • 500 grams (2 ½ cups + 1 tbsp) golden granulated cane sugar
  • 5 grams (1 tbsp) whole mahlep seeds (dried Saint-Lucie cherry seed kernels)
  • optional : 50 ml - 100 ml (3 1/3 tbsp - 6 2/3 tbsp) kirsch cherry brandy (or neutral fruit alcohol 40%) 


  • rinse and dry the fruits, then remove the stems (and leaves if there are any) and reserve, pit the cherries and reserve the fruit flesh and the pits too
  • weigh the total amount, of pitted cherries, pits, stems and leaves place everything in a large and sterilized wide-mouthed demijohn or glass jug or 2 very large (1,5-2 litre each) mason jars, add approximately one-third of that weight in sugar, mix together with a wooden spoon, add an equal weight of red wine to the total the weight of fruits (including pits, stems, leaves), add the whole mahlepi seeds, stir, cover the opening(s) with a cheese cloth using an elastic band and store in a dark and room-temperature space (or slightly cooler space like a 21°C cellar)
  • for the next 3 weeks, stir the mixture once a day and re-cover with the cheese cloth, (do not seal shut, it must breathe) while it ferments and bubbles (which will begin after the 1st week)

note : I also use a straw to blow air bubbles into the bottom and to aerate/oxygenate the mixture every day …

  • after 3 weeks, verify it every day and simply poke down the floating cherries for the next 1½ - 2 weeks (total fermentation/maceration time for this volume is about 5 weeks)
  • once the fermentig and bubbling has almost completely stopped, filter the mixture carefully, press the solids using the cheese cloth to extract all the juices, taste, add some cherry brandy or fruit alcohol to halt any extra fermentation, transfer to a large 3 litre sterilized glass jug or bottle and add a stopper and an airlock on top to allow some air circulation (and to avoid bacterial growth) and wait another 3 weeks minimum without disturbing nor stirring
  • after 3 weeks of waiting, re-filter and re-taste (adjust with a few tablespoons more sugar and/or cherry brandy/neutral fruit alcohol if necessary) and hermetically seal in several bottles
  • ideally, let the sour chery wine mature for an additional 4 months before enjoying

note : I usually make several bottles, 3 smaller 333 ml or 2 medium 500 ml bottles (for the the end of September and for mid-November) and the best one for last, one large 1 litre bottle for the end of the year winter holidays because a 6-month minimum preparation and resting period (frm start to finish) provides the best result for this sour cherry wine, but I must admit that I get thirsty before that …