Secrets to Bottling Your Wine

So you've patiently waited for your wine to be finished, and now you're ready to bottle your wine. But how do you bottle your wine? It's a simple process, but just like before, you need to be careful not to introduce spoilage factors or too much oxygen in doing so.

First Thing's First, Preparation

Wine: First you want to assure that your wine is fully fermented and stable (completely finished fermenting), fined for heat and cold stability, and racked from lees (dead yeast cells) and sediment.

Bottles: If you are using brand new bottles wash the bottles in a solution of hot water (at least 82 degrees) and sulphur (potassium metabisulphite or similar product) before bottling. Then sanitize the bottles using a sanitizing solution like Star San. Bottles need to be clean, and free of any organic matter prior to sanitizing.

Preparation Secret: Cold crash your wine before bottling. When you cold crash your wine before packaging, you cause tartaric crystals to precipitate out of the wine. They will be left behind in your carboy instead of settling out in the bottle. If you do see crystals in your bottle, they are only a cosmetic defect and won't hurt you to drink the wine.

How to Bottle Your Wine

bottling setup to bottle your wine

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If you cleaned your bottles in the days prior to bottling, it will pay to rinse and sanitize the bottles again to well and truly ensure that the bottles are good to go. If you are using corks soak them in a solution of sulphur and water also for at least an hour. This will kill any bacteria residing in the cork and soften them ready for the bottle. If your wine is well racked (clear without a lot of sediment) you won’t need to transfer the wine into a bottling bucket, the less you move the wine the better as every time you expose the wine to oxygen you are risking oxidization.

Bottling Secret: Add camden tablets at bottling time. Crush half a tablet per gallon and add to your bottling bucket before racking into it. This measurement is an estimate on the safe side to reach around 25ppm of free SO2 for red wine and 35 for whites. If you can measure the current amount of free SO2 in your wine, find that number and adjust accordingly up to 25 or 25ppm. This will prevent the wine form oxidizing while it ages.

For the next step you will need and siphon hose, racking cane and a spring tip bottle filler. Make sure all of your equipment is well sanitized (refer to wine sanitization 101). Use the siphon hose the transfer the wine into the bottle. A hose clamp will help here for the siphoning and fitting of bottle filler. The spring tip bottle filler needs to be pressed to the bottom of the bottle for the wine to fill the bottle. This stops the wine from splashing and oxidizing.

Fill the bottle until approximately 2.5-3cm (~1in) from where the cork will sit. There are a myriad of different corkers available so follow your corkers’ instructions. Your cork should be wet now and slide into the bottle without much manual effort; the corker should do most of the work.

Store the bottle standing up for 24 hours so that the cork can dry and seal the wine and let out the oxygen in the ullage (the space between the wine and cork). If you are sealing with a screw cap seal as per your cappers instructions, then you’re ready to store and move onto the cellaring process.

If bottle your wine under a cork you now have the option of putting on foil capsules. These capsules are purely for aesthetics and not at all necessary. They are placed over the cork and neck then shrunk using heat. There are hand held instruments that are placed over the cap to transfer heat and shrink the cap but if you don’t want to buy one of these you can use a good hair dryer.

Storing Your Bottled Wine

after you bottle your wine cellar your wine

When storing your wine you should seek you a dark, sunlight-free space of approximately 12-18°C ( 53-64F ). The key with temperature is to avoid large changes in temperature especially with cork, if it gets warm the wine and ullage will expand, pushing out the cork slightly then when it cools down the cork will be sucked back into the bottle, bringing with it oxygen. If this happens frequently it will oxidize your wine. If you have bottled your wine under cork it must be stored on its side or upside down as it is imperative that the cork remains wet. This space should also be away from any household appliances that cause constant vibrations such as refrigerators. Constant vibrations can accelerate chemical reactions in the wine's aging process.

Aging Secret: Depending on the style of wine you made (or bought), there is a rough guideline to how long to age your wine before it's peak. Obviously things like your ability to cellar the wine may increase or decrease these peak times. Riesling, moscato, pinot grigio and sauvignon blanc all reach their peak early, within 1-3 years. Pino noir, chardonnay, zinfandel, merlot, and many oaked whites hit their prime between 3-5 years of aging. And the sky is really the limit for styles like malbec, muscat, and ice wines, which you can age for up to 20 years.

It takes a lot of mental toughness to age wine for a long period of time before drinking, but if you brew enough, and keep your cellar fully stocked, aging a few bottles long term can be quite rewarding come tasting time.

About the Author

Jack has 12 years worth of experience in the wine industry and is an avid home brewer.

written by Jack Davis

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2 comments on “Secrets to Bottling Your Wine”

  • This is a nice feature thank you ! I am a new wine maker and beer brewer. I have made some great beer, wine and Mead.
    If you have a product that you want a review on send it over and I will be glad to give it a test drive and give you a honest review

  • Thank you for that article. I normally make a lovely sparkling pear cider (7 % ABV) but mid 2016 decided to stretch myself and ferment some red wines. I may use cork to seal off my bottles. I like the idea of storing them upside down. It will save me from having to build or buy a large rack. Salute. Craig

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