I got super busy this past week and didn’t have the chance to get it bottled as I’d hoped. I finally had several hours at home on Sunday afternoon and decided to give it a shot. However, I wanted to make sure I liked how the wine tasted before I committed to bottling.
I cleaned and sanitized my thief and pulled a half glass. The color was a lovely bright yellow and it was crystal clear. The nose, as with my past kits, is pretty sweet and fruity smelling and I anticipated it would taste similarly (the other 2 kits were pretty true to their smell.) However, this one was much drier and more tart than the Sauvignon Blanc I did last year. It is almost too tart for drinking on its own- but I have a hunch it’ll mellow in the bottle and will be very good with food. However, definitely no acid additions are necessary!
I also realized that because I had let the kit go much longer than the instructions recommend (stupid busy schedule,) I needed to add a little bit more SO2. This will prevent oxidation in the bottle as well as keep any yeasties or bacteria at bay.
I checked the recommendation for the campden tablets I have on hand and added just one to get the right level. (I prefer using powdered potassium metabisulfite, but this is what the local store had, so I went with it. I'll get powdered again next time...)
Anyhow, on to bottling!
Getting the wine into bottles took me a little longer this time than anticipated because I wound up sloshing my carboy around a lot getting it onto the table. (My hands were slippery and I was terrified of dropping it, so it took a few tries, darn it. Plus, I’ve been neglecting the gym and am turning into a weakling.)
This meant that I stirred up a lot of the bentonite clay in the bottom and the previously crystal clear wine got cloudy. I then had to wait for it to settle out overnight… Bummer.
I had a towel under the carboy, and always put 2 cookie sheets side by side on the floor where I plan to do my filling. You’re bound to have some dripping (at least!) and this will catch the liquid before it gets to the lovely hardwood floor.
Get your bottles all lined up on the cookie sheets, put your filling wand down into the first bottle (the bottom of the bottle pushes up on the pin in the bottom which lets the liquid flow in,) sit with it and watch the level till it is about where you want it- this should be about ½ inch from where the bottom of your cork will be- you can check a commercial bottle for a visual guide. Then just move it into the next bottle. The cool thing is that gravity pulls the pin down, which stops the wine from flowing out while you move it to the next bottle. Then, the bottom of the empty bottle pushes it up and lets the wine start flowing again- nifty! You do have to sit and watch it or else it will overflow and keep overflowing. If the wand isn't filling your bottle isn't quite to the level you'd like (this has been my experience,) lift the wand out, tip it at an angle in the neck of the bottle, and press the pin against the inside. It'll release just enough liquid to fill to where you want it. Then move on to the next bottle.
Watch to make sure you aren’t drawing out murky wine from the bottom of the carboy (there’s still plenty of clay and sediment nestled in among the marbles.) Just keep an eye on it.
Fill all of your bottles (if you have a helper, they can start corking while you fill the rest, but if not- I recommend filling all of the bottles and then corking all of the bottles. It’ll prevent those overflow accidents…)
Once they’re full, get your corks ready, pull a chair up to the corker, and get going.
Place a bottle on the spring loaded platform of the corker. It’ll be secured up against the top. Drop a cork in the hole in top, pull the arm down, and voila! It forces the cork in and you’re done! Aces! I did a tester on an empty bottle to start with, just to make sure it was adjusted to the right height and got the cork down to the right place in the neck (the very first batch I ever did, the cork didn't go in quite enough...) I like to wipe my bottles down with a damp cloth before putting them back in the box (neck up!) just for good measure.
Now, it is up to you- if you’d like to use a capsule (a “foil” really, but they’re plastic,) I recommend the ease of the heat seal kind. You boil a pot of water, place a capsule on the top of the bottle, flip it up, submerge the neck just up to the end of the capsule and it’ll shrink right on! Nifty again!
Now here, I’m lazy. I’ve never labeled my bottles, and I don’t usually do a capsule unless I’m giving it as a gift. But you may want to pick up some labels. Staples sells some specifically for wine bottles (I’ve got some, I’ve just never designed anything to go on them!)
I did, however, get some cool markers specifically for wine bottles (on sale at Nordstrom Rack of all places) and I like to write the month and initials of the wine I’ve made on the bottle. Then, if I’m giving one as a gift, it’s fun to write a little personal note.
Well… I think that’s it! That’s the last of the wine kit posts!
If you decide to tackle one yourself and something in my posts is confusing (no doubt there are some things) or you have questions, please feel free to shoot me an email!
If I decide to tackle some home winemaking with fresh fruit, I’ll definitely keep you updated- otherwise, that’s that!
UPDATE: So, I cut a corner that I didn't mention above, but DtA noticed (he was very nice about it,) and I thought I should probably mention it in fairness to y'all. Last week after testing my pH and determining it was indeed ready for bottling, I really should've racked (transfered) the juice into my second carboy, thus taking it off of all of that sediment. Then, when I moved it in for bottling, there would've been a lot less to stir up, and I would've been able to use more of the wine from the second, clearer carboy... So there. I don't cut corners on cleaning, but hypocritically cut them elsewhere and made things harder for myself! Laziness=problems in winemaking, right?
Did you know?
Many wine shops are now using a nifty Argon spray in opened bottles to keep them fresh longer? You can get some for your home use too! A good (though pricier) substitute for the trusty VacuVin!