Bottling your wine is the moment we all wait for. When all the hard work of making the wine is finished and we put our creation into the bottle to age. Maybe the only better moment is actually drinking our creation!
When to bottle your wine
Bottling your wine comes after you have racked the wine several times and you no longer see lees (sediment, see the post about it here) in the bottom of your carboy. This can take a few weeks to a few months depending on the wine. Wine kits will typically use a very aggressive racking and bottling schedule in the instructions that come with your kit. Don’t be afraid to deviate from the instructions during this phase and add extra aging time. The extra time will make sure all the lees have fallen out of your wine.
How to bottle your wine
For a 6-gallon batch of wine, you will need approximately 30 empty bottles (for 1-gallon, approximately 5). Make sure that the bottles have been sanitized with Star San (see this article for details about cleanliness and sanitizing).
One extra wine making item that makes bottle rinsing a snap is this bottle rinser. Fill the bowl with warm water mixed with sanitizer, then place the bottle on the nozzle. Press the bottle down a couple of times and the bottle rinser squirts sanitizer into every inch of the empty wine bottle. Finally, place the clean bottles on a bottle drying tree to dry. I can’t recommend both of these items enough. They will not only make sanitizing and drying easier but bottling day will go faster as well.
Now that your bottles are sanitized and dry, place your carboy with wine in it on a high surface. I like to use my kitchen counter. Then, I place a towel on the floor with an empty wine bottle on top of the towel. Bottle filling can be messy so I like to make sure I don’t stain the floor with wine. Red wine is especially bad.
Pro Tip: Connecting the tubing to the bottle filler will probably be a very tight fit. A good way to make it easier is to run the end of the plastic tubing under hot water for a minute. The plastic will loosen up and will be easier to place onto the bottle filler.
Now, you’re ready to start bottling. Place the auto-siphon into the wine and pump the racking cane a few times. You should see wine start to move through the tubing. Place the spring tipped bottle filler into the bottom of the empty wine bottle. When you press the tip against the bottom of the bottle, wine starts to flow out.
Pro Tip: When using the spring tipped bottle filler, fill the bottle with wine to the very top. Then, when you remove the spring tipped bottle filler, the wine level will go down in the bottle and be exactly the right level to allow room for the cork. Pretty handy, right?
Corking your bottles
Corks should be sanitized like any other equipment that comes into contact with your wine. Grab a bowl and fill it with warm water and Star San. Add all the corks and make sure to submerge them so every cork is completely in contact with the sanitizer.
I like to cork my bottles one at a time after filling them. Using your double lever hand corker, or better your Portuguese floor corker, place a cork in each bottle. Leave your bottles standing upright for a few days before laying them down on their sides for long term storage. This allows the cork to seal properly before coming into contact with your wine. Laying them on their sides right away can cause leaks.
Pro Tip: If you are using a floor corker, the cork depth is adjustable. I recommend adjusting the depth and trying it on a few empty wine bottles prior to bottling day. You will want the top of the cork to be flush with the top of the bottle.
After bottling your wine, your wine will need time to adjust before it’s ready to drink so it can taste its best. The proper term for what happens is bottle shock.
Bottle shock can happen in two ways. First, is right after bottling and corking. The other, is when wine is shaken during travel or shipping. This one occurs more often in old, more fragile wine. Allowing your wine to rest for a few days is the best cure for bottle shock.