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Bottling Your Homemade Wine


Finally, the wine you made last summer is still. There hasn't been a bubble in the bung for weeks, so fermentation is complete.     

It is time to bottle.           

And then bottle some more. It was a great fruit year at my house, so we turned lots of apples, plums and Asian pears into wine. We will be bottling it all in the next few weeks, which sounds romantic until you do it. Here's an intimate look at what home winemakers really do during the dark days of late winter.

SoakingOffLabelsBP1. We soak off labels.

One gallon of wine fills 5 standard wine bottles, so there never seems to be enough of them.Re-used wine bottles provide cool variations in shape and color, and they're free. To soak off the labels, stand the bottles in a cooler or other deep container, and fill both the bottles and the cooler with hot water. Patience pays: wait at least 3 hours to start peeling.

2. We scrub out bottles.

Only uncompromising cleanliness will do, so no bottle gets by without a stiff swish with the bottle brush. We get cross-eyed from looking down bottle necks for lingering bits of anything.

2. RestingBottlesBPWe cook corks.

Corks go in easily if you soften them in steam for 3 to 4 minutes first, which releases a distinctive aroma. Wood for dinner again? 

4. We try not to make a mess.

Old towels come in handy for wiping up sticky drips, and finished bottles deserve a good wipe-down with a clean cloth before they're labeled. We keep the bottles upright for a few days, to give the corks time to dry into the necks. Then they are set to rest on their sides. 

5. We practice patience.

The little tastes we take each time we rack or bottle remind us of how far the wine still has to go. But all is well, because we can tell the wine is getting better. Three more months and it should taste good. Six more months and it should taste great.          

And then the trees and vines bear their fruit, and the cycle begins again.

11/4/2009 10:41:50 AM

I have been making apple wine and have had some turn out very well-I was surprised at how easy it was and that it tasted better, as young as it is, than some of the wine that I buy. I might go on to making grape wine but so far the apple wine and the apple mead (called cyser) is wonderful. I can't wait until next summer to go and pick all the wild black raspberries that we have in the area, they usually just go to the birds or get dried up on the bushes there are so many. The hardest parts of home wine making are, finding the bottles and Waiting for it go mellow out before drinking!:)

ken berghall
3/16/2009 8:58:54 AM

been looking for help in making wine from scracth.hope you can halp a poor sole

barry scarborough
3/7/2009 10:34:54 AM

I have been making wine for about 25 years. To be consistently successful get a good wine making book and follow it religiously. I have a number of them. The two I like best are From Vines to Wines by Cox and Home Winemaking by Iverson. It is really hard to make good wine with wild grapes but getting the right acid and sugar levels before fermentation starts will help a lot. I have to water concord juice down and add sugar to start. With wild and sour grapes rarely can you use 100% juice and come out well. It is really important to kill all the bacteria and wild yeast before you start fermenting and then use a yeast that is best for the type of wine you want to make. Baking yeast will produce some alcohol but the % will not be high enough to preserve the wine in storage. Use wine yeast. There are many choices so ask the owner at your local wine making supply. That can make a huge difference in the flavor of the finished wine. Make sure the wine is clear before you bottle it because it will not clear in the bottle. Fining agents can be used to clear cloudy wine. Many use sulfites and sorbate to prevent the fermentation from starting in the bottle. The specific gravity should be around .99 which indicates the sugar is gone. Sorbate keeps the yeast from starting up again if you had a stuck fermentation or left sugar to produce a sweeter wine. If fermentation starts again it will push the corks out or blow your bottles up. That has happened to me a couple of times. By far, following the instructions from a good wine making book will enhance your wine making experience as there are a number of steps that must be closely followed. Happy winemaking, Barry

doug france
3/6/2009 9:53:26 AM

The tip about steaming/boiling the wine bottle corks is a great one. It's easy to remember to wash out the wine bottles, but it is even easier to forget that the corks need to be boiled or steamed to sanitize them.

2/27/2009 8:36:28 PM

I made wine from wild grapes one year, and after aging for more than two years, it still made me pucker. It was AWFUL. I bought un-pasteurized red wine vinegar at an organic market (which still had the live "mother" bacteria in it), added a bit to my awful wine, and in a few weeks had a gallon of the best red wine vinegar I ever tasted. If you're not happy with your wine, make vinegar! Oh, FYI, those orange based cleaners really help to remove labels from those recycled bottles without being too "chemically".