Bottling Your Wine
A Busy Day
After a long period of not much activity with your wine during bulk aging, bottling is a busy day. A 6 gallon batch of wine will make about 2 1/2 cases (30 bottles.) If you have purchased new bottles, all you need to do is give them a quick rinse followed by a dip in your sanitizer of choice. A Vinator is the perfect tool for quickly sanitizing the bottles.
Reusing Wine Bottles
If you're reusing wine bottles that friends have saved for you, you have the tiring task of soaking the bottles in warm water with sanitizing liquid, trying to scrub the wine labels off, scrubbing the insides of each bottle with a bottle brush, and finally rinsing. A wine bottle brush is the essential tool for this task.
At this point, you can make any final adjustments needed to the wine. You will want to make a final addition of 1/16th teaspoon of potassium metabisulfite powder per 5 gallons of wine to protect the wine as you bottle it. If you have not done a malolactic fermentation (MLF), you can also choose to make the wine sweeter at this point by adding a sugar syrup to taste and adding an additional chemical preservative, potassium sorbate, which prevents the added sugar from causing fermentation to restart in the bottle. If you have done a MLF, you must not add potassium sorbate as this will cause your wine to take on a distinct aroma and flavor of geraniums. Some winemakers also filter their wine at this time.
Filling Bottles and Corking
Select a cork appropriate for the size of bottle you are using and the length of time you will store your wine.
Estimate the length of time you realistically expect to store your wine before drinking.
This is the tapered edge that some of the less expensive corks have around the top and bottom of the cork. It is to allow easier insertion with hand held corkers. Take into account that the bevel does reduce the amount of surface area in contact with the neck of the bottle and it is this contact that prevents the passage of wine past the cork.
Primarily wine corks are available in two lengths – 38mm (1.5 inches) and 44mm (1.75 inches) – and in three diameters – 21mm, 22mm, 24mm (in USA and Canada they are known as #7, #8 and #9). The length and diameter are related to the sealing ability of the cork. Where you compare corks in the same grade, the cork with the longest length and largest diameter will give the greatest sealing capability. Floor corkers can be used on all corks, but if you are using plunge or hand corkers you may need to opt for the narrower and shorter corks.
Next, you will need to get your corks ready. Count them out. We do not soak our corks. Rather, as we cork the bottle (with clean hands) we briefly dip the cork into our sanitizer solution to remove any surface area bacteria.
Finally, siphon the wine from your carboy into your wine bottles that you have lined up underneath. This is similar to racking, but you need to stop the flow of wine to move the tube from bottle to bottle. If you have a bottling wand, it can help you achieve a consistent level of wine in each bottle. Otherwise, try to fill the bottle to within a cork's height of the top plus a half inch.
Carefully cork your bottles following the directions that came with the corker, and dry off each bottle with a towel if any are wet. Let the bottles stand upright overnight.
The next day, apply some label to your wine that indicates the date, the variety of the grapes, and any other information (such as percentage blends). I usually just label my wines with masking tape for bottle aging. If I want to apply fancy label to give a bottle away as a gift, I print those out as I need them and apply them then. Make sure to move your newly bottled wine to a wine rack where the bottles can lay on their sides so that the wine makes contact with the cork keeping it moist. Dried out corks will let air into the bottle and spoil the wine.
|1||_||Bottles sanitized, rinsed, and drained|
|2||_||Corks soaked in potassium metabisulfite solution|
|3||_||Racking tubes and bottling wand sanitized|
|4||_||Potassium metabisulfite preservative addition made to the wine|
|5||_||Wine conditioners or sugar and potassium sorbate (only for non-MLF wine) added if desired|
|6||_||Bottles filled and corks inserted|
|7||_||Cleanup – carboy, bottling equipment, and work area sanitized|
|8||_||Storage labels applied to each wine bottle|
|9||_||After a day upright, bottles stored in racks on their sides|