Wine & Wine Equipment Expert / Founder at Kosmonaut
Daniel has always been a wine enthusiast, ever since being a student at Cornell. Following his BBA in Business, he attended The Culinary Institute of America, to study a Masters in Wine and Beverage Management, where he further expanded his expertise in all things relating to wine and wine equipment.
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Though not an overly complex procedure, making wine still has many intricacies and requires a fair amount of patience and skill. Stomping, crushing, adjusting, fermenting, and storing are all necessary steps. Despite all of this work, you can look forward to the reward of delicious wine.
For example, while bottling is essential to making wine, it requires a lot of time and effort. However, if you do it properly, it can be a very gratifying experience. On the other hand, it can also be annoyingly painful and waste a lot of energy and resources if done incorrectly. With this step-by-step guide, you will learn how easy it can be to bottle wine.
Preparation for Bottling
There are several things you must consider, plan for, and do before you start bottling. An important step is checking the stability and clarity of the wine. This means that you want to verify that fermentation has stopped and is free from particles or sediments that might end up in the bottle. If you miss this step, you may find yourself unbottling a cloudy wine just a few weeks later. This is definitely an experience you don’t want to have!
What You Need for Bottling
Bottling can affect the taste of your wine, and if done correctly, it can help maintain the ideal flavor profile of your wine for longer. Because of this, not only do you need to get the right equipment, but you also need to sterilize it to prevent your wine from getting contaminated and going bad. You should be sure to have:
Some bottle shapes are better suited for particular types of wine. While there are rules of thumb to follow, you are not required and should not feel compelled to adhere to them. The specific wine bottle you use depends on your preference.
However, no matter which bottle you choose, remember to keep it away from too much warmth, sunlight, or air exposure. The color of the wine typically dictates how to store the wine.
Traditionally, red wine is known to be stored in brown or green bottles, while white wine or rosé goes in green or transparent bottles. If you cannot store white wine in a dark space, put it in brown bottles. Darker-colored bottles prevent light from getting through to the wine, which stops the color from fading.
Additionally, the shape and color of the bottle can affect how wine ages. How long you intend to store it can help you decide which bottle to use. If you intend to keep the wine for more than a decade, you should strongly consider the bottle shape you choose. If you only intend to keep it around for a short time, less than a year or two, then there is no need to worry about it.
For homemade wines, you can also use non-traditional wine bottles, such as beer bottles, swing-top bottles, or even mason jars. However, if you plan on gifting the wine, a classic wine bottle may be the most suitable option.
Auto Siphon 5/16″ Racking Cane
A racking cane helps you transfer wine from a carboy container to a bottle. It’s an essential tool for home brewers as it allows you to quickly and easily siphon wine from the fermenter to the bottlewhile reducing the transfer of sediments.
While most people recommend a cork, other options are available to seal the opening of your wine bottle. Besides traditional and synthetic wine corks, poly seal screw caps and plastic top wine-tasting corks are excellent choices.
The type of closure you use may affect how the wine ages, so this should be a top consideration when choosing one.
For example, a #7 cork is decent for short-term wine aging (3-6 months). A #8 cork will work well for a wine that you will store for up to 9 months (medium-term wine aging), and a #9 cork is best for wines that will age for 9 months or more. Note that the latter kind requires the use of a compression corker.
T-corks, such as plastic stoppers, can be used for jug wines. While they are more expensive than traditional corks, they can prevent the risk of cork contamination, so they are beginning to gain more widespread acceptance in commercial refineries.
You can also use crown caps if the wine does not require transportation from one place to another, but they don’t allow the wine to age as well as corks.
This tool allows you to insert the cork into the wine bottle. If you’re using an alternative closure, a corker isn’t necessary. Hand-held corkers work well for wine corks with smaller diameters, such as the #7 and #8 corks.
However, #9 wine corks require a compression or floor corker. You can choose between a variety of corkers such as the adjustable double lever corker, an Italian floor corker, a champagne floor corker, and a mini floor corker, to mention a few.
This solution sanitizes the wine bottles and corks before use. Simply rinse the bottles and soak the corks in water mixed with metabisulfite for about an hour to kill any bacteria.
Before making any attempt to sanitize the wine bottles, it is extremely important to ensure the bottles are very clean, mold-free, and do not have any stuck-on residue. Also, check the bottles for broken edges or chips. Only use the bottles if they are cleaned out thoroughly and damage-free.
The Bottling Process
After gathering your bottling materials, follow these steps:
Choose a bottling vessel and get your bottles ready by sanitizing them. Also, make sure you choose a compatible cork. They should be dry so ensure that there is no water or sanitizing liquid left in the bottles or jars.
Fill each wine bottle with a little amount of wine to rinse it out. You can save time by transferring the wine from one bottle to the next instead of putting new wine in each one.
With the aid of an Auto Siphon – 5/16″ Racking and bottle filler, transfer your wine from the carboy (demijohn or lady Jeanne) to the wine bottles. An auto-siphon and bottle filler can help you maintain the required space of about one inch between the wine and the bottom of the cork after filling the bottle.
Seal the wine bottles with a cork or cap as soon as you fill them to avoid oxidation. However, be sure the closure is new and not damaged to guarantee the proper hermetic pressure.
Once your bottles are filled, label them, and they are ready for storage till maturation. You can also give them out as a gift!
When Should the Wine Be Bottled?
Different factors influence when to bottle your wine. First up is the clarity of the wine. Is the wine clear? Have all the microscopic particles fallen out of suspension?
The second factor is its stability. Has fermentation (the activity of yeast and malolactic bacteria) stopped? Is the wine cold stabilized? If so, you are ready to bottle. You should ideally bottle white wines at around six months and red wines between 9-12 months.
For sparkling wine or any wine that you want to retain its fruity flavors, aim to bottle it in spring if you plan on drinking it in less than a year. However, if your desired maturation period is longer, it may be better to bottle in late summer.
Diligently going through this process step-by-step should leave you feeling grateful and satisfied with the accomplishment of making and bottling your own wine.
The wine bottling process has a huge effect on how your wine turns out. How the wine turns out truly depends on the skill and knowledge you apply during bottling. However, try not to put too much pressure on yourself in the beginning; you may not make perfect wine on your first attempt.
Another helpful tip is to examine the bottles of your favorite drinks to get some insight or ideas. Expertise comes with practice and experience, so as you make wine over the years, you will understand the bottling process better. After all, they say that wine gets better with time.