Tutorial on Wine Making - Lesson 6 of 6


Wine Making Tutorial – Lesson 6 Bottling Wine

Wine Making Instructions – How to Bottle Wine and when to Bottle Your Wine
Plus instructions on sweetening your wine, blending your wine, types of wine corks, types of wine corkers and wine bottle storage.

When to Bottle Your Wine

  • Bottle your wine when it is clear, and you have obtained the oak, acid, sulfite, and residual sugar levels you are pleased with, and of course when it tastes right.
  • Some people will bottle immediately after fermentation and without any racking, or just the racking/sediment left behind by the bottling process. Although I highly discourage this we have plenty of customers that are happy with the taste of their wine bottled this quickly.
  • Most home wine makers are bottling their wine six to eleven months after fermentation, but of course wine made from wine kits when properly de-gassed can be bottled in four to 10 weeks as directed by the wine kit instructions, but like I always say, it will taste better faster the longer you let your wine age in the carboy. This applies to wine kits also. Most commercial wineries bulk age their wines for approximately 18 months, but this is impractical for most home wine makers as they need their carboys and bulk storage containers for the next year’s crush, hence the 11 month maximum bulk aging by most home winemakers.


Residual Sugar in Wine – Adding Sugar or Sweetening Wine

  • If you are going to sweeten your wine and have not already added any sugar during the bulk aging process, a couple of weeks before bottling is when to do it.
  • There are no rules for sweetening wine; it is truly done by taste. Most people would be unable to tell the difference between a wine that has between .1% to .4% residual sugar, and in most cases wines with these levels of residual sugar would taste dry to most people. As a bench mark, if you want a noticeably sweet wine you might want .75 to 1.00% residual sugar, or possibly even higher, which would be appropriate for a Riesling or Gewurztraminer.
  • How to test for Residual Sugar? – A hydrometer is not sensitive enough to accurately test sugar levels in this range. The alternatives are the Residual Sugar Test Kit by Accuvin or Clinitest Tablets purchased in a drug store. However, most winemakers simply adjust their sugar levels based upon how the wine tastes. For the record, 0 Brix is approximately 2% Residual Sugar.
  • Additionally, the amount of sugar to be added is affected by the acid level of your finished wine. A more acidic wine will require more sugar. Keep in mind, a fruity wine before bottling will taste sweeter than it actually is. It will loose its fruitiness during bottle aging and become more astringent. So be sure to take this into account as you may want to add a bit more sugar to compensate for the expected loss of fruitiness.
  • How much sugar do I add to my wine? Here is an example… If you have decided you want a wine with 0.6% Residual Sugar and your test results indicate your wine has 0.1%, you need to raise it 0.5%. If you have 6 gallons of wine, which is 768 ounces you need to add 3.84 (0.005 x 768 = 3.84) ounces of sugar to reach 0.6%. There is nothing wrong with using table sugar. Often time’s people will use honey or Wine Conditioner.
  • Adding sugar to sweeten wine is illegal in most countries, but accepted in some, and certainly accepted as the principal method for sweetening wine by home wine makers. However, commercial wineries will use one of two alternative methods. One, keep a portion of unfermented must frozen to add back to the wine to add sweetness. Second, to stop the primary fermentation at the desired point by adding 100 to 120ppm of Sulfite.
  • Potassium Sorbate is often added prior to sweetening wine. Potassium Sorbate will prevent the fermentation of any new sugars added post primary fermentation. Some winemakers do not like the taste that can sometimes accompany Potassium Sorbate. Many winemakers will skip the addition of Potassium Sorbate given the fact that that additional treatments of sulfite during the multiple previous rackings have killed off the yeast cells and or any remaining yeast cells have been removed during the fining and clarification process. Whether to use Potassium Sorbate or not has to be a personal choice of preference and assumed risk.

Blending Your Wine

  • Blending wine is the art of bringing two or more wines together to create a new or better wine by finding wines that compliment each other when blended at bench tested ratios. Caution, blending a good wine to improve a bad wine only makes more bad wine. However, if a wine is deficient in color, body, acidity, etc., it can be improved by blending it with a wine strong in a characteristic it is lacking.
  • Make several samples of different ratios and blends before you bottle. Don’t assume an 85% 10% 5% blend you heard or read was good will work for your wine. I've tried copying a published commercial blend but made multiple samples and the blend by the commercial winery was not the best for my wine.
  • Have friends over and sample your wines and various ratios before you bottle. Add cheese, crackers and make it an evening!

Types of Wine Bottle Corkers

  • Handheld Wine Bottle Corkers – Affordable, will get the job done, hard on the corks because it pushes the cork through a hole that gradually shrinks in size to compress the cork small enough to enter the top of the wine bottle. Works best with a smaller #8 size wine cork, especially the synthetic Nomacorc.
  • Bench Wine Bottle Corkers – Excellent corker that compresses the wine cork before pushing it into the wine bottle. Much more friendly to your wine cork than a hand held corker. Sets on top of your table or counter so it is very easy on the back.
  • Floor Wine Bottle Corkers - Excellent corker that compresses the wine cork before pushing it into the wine bottle. Much more friendly to your wine cork than a hand held corker. Sets on the ground.

Which Type of Wine Corks to Use?

  • Synthetic Wine Corks versus Natural Wine Corks compared to Agglomerate Wine Corks
  • A topic of much debate and a bit long for the sake of this tutorial. Bottom line is there are pros and cons to both and much debate about the chemical exchange that takes place or does not take place between the cork and the wine to help with the aging process of a bottled wine. As of yet there has been no scientific conclusion drawn regarding the benefits to aging with a natural cork or if those benefits are lost when a synthetic cork is used, just speculation.
  • There are excellent corks made from both synthetic materials and natural cork, likewise there are inferior corks made from same materials. It is dependent on the quality of the materials and the process. With a cork as with much else in life, you get what you pay for. But do not get me wrong, the mid-range priced corks will serve almost all winemakers quite well for their needs of aging a bottle of wine for 5 to 10 years.
  • A huge benefit to using synthetic wine corks is that these bottles can be stored upright, unlike a natural wine cork that needs to be kept moist from the wine to maintain its sealing properties

Should you Sanitize Your Wine Corks?

  • Commercial wineries do not sanitize their corks. Corks used by commercial wineries are kept in their sanitized, sealed bags until they are used for bottling.
  • At a home wine making supply shop sealed and sanitized bags are broken open to create smaller quantities to be sold. What these corks have been exposed to after the sealed bag has been broken is the only real concern there should be. At Winemakers Depot our corks are kept in their bags free from dirt and dust until they are packaged for shipping. 
  • If you trust the source of your wine supplies to be clean, your wine is properly sulfited, and your wine has an alcohol level in the 10% to 14% range for preservative values, no sanitization should be necessary. I do not sanitize my wine corks and I have never had a spoiled bottle of wine.
  • Many wine making experts believe that introducing water to natural corks by boiling or by soaking in a sulfite solution can actually introduce water to dormant molds or fungi inherent in a natural corks, resulting in problems you would not have otherwise have had.
  • As for synthetic corks, if you are concerned about their cleanliness you can boil them in water to sterilize. However, you will want to make sure the corks are dry before inserting them into the wine bottle, as the back pressure created by the corking process can force the wet slippery corks partially back out of the wine bottle.

Wine Bottle Capsules and Wine Bottle Wax

  • A very attractive way to finish your bottle of wine adding a touch of class. The newer plastic heat shrink capsules are so unbelievably easy to put on a bottle of wine with a pan of boiling water and using the Fast Seal tool to hold the capsule on while dunking it in the water for just a couple of seconds.
  • Many winemakers believe sealing the bottle with bottle wax or a heat shrink capsule, also known as a hood, can keep a natural cork from drying out. I just think they just look great!


Wine Bottling Process

  • Well it is really quite an easy process so there is not much to say about it other than fill your bottles with the bottle filler of your choice, cork, and corker of your choice. Leave room in your bottles for the corks with is accomplished by even the simplest bottle filler, and lastly avoid excessive foaming and splashing to minimize oxidation.

Wine Cork Recovery Time

  • After bottling your wine and before inverting/turning your wine bottles upside down for storage you should leave your bottles in the upright position for a period of time prior to turning upside down or on their side for storage and aging. The argument for how long to wait is widely debated with opinions ranging from five minutes to 24 hours. We have read nothing that said you will hurt your wine by waiting 24 hours and there are plenty that are concerned that 5 minutes is not long enough. So bottom line, waiting before inverting is a must, and the longer you can wait, up to 24 hours, is the safest bet.

Bottle shock

  • When a wine is bottled, it goes through a temporary phase called bottle shock, also known as wine sickness. The aromatics may be muted, the flavor components disjuncted and the alcohol and tannins can taste sharper and overwhelming. This is thought to be due to the agitation of the wine and it's exposure to excess levels of oxygen during the bottling process. And if a wine is filtered, it needs even more time to come back together. It can take a wine anywhere from a few weeks to several months to recover from bottle shock.

Wine Bottle Storage

  • Most of us do not have the ability to store our wines at 55 degrees in a dark, slightly humid environment like a wine cellar. Not often discussed is temperature stability. Having a stable temperature that does not swing up and down constantly and drastically is probably more important than a cool temperature, and by storing in a closet or cabinet on an interior wall of the house most of us can accomplish a fairly stable temperature in a dark place and be very pleased with our wines.

Subsequent and Previous Wine Making Lessons: 

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