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Monday, November 28, 2005

Bottling


The boy was inspired to make his own wine on a serious level about 2 years ago. He began with 1 ton of Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that he and friends picked themselves, I think Smooth was there, then hired on helpers later that same morning. Over the past 2 years it has been a pleasure to watch and learn from him, experiencing the ups and down of winemaking. There are set backs, arguments with financial backers. Incredible moments when you discover that this isn't just a hobby, but that you might actually be talented at this too. The pride he feels to have come full circle with his own wine is one that we will never forget.
Wine competitions are next. One in April actually. We plan to submit the wine and the label into the contest.

Family and friends alike have been curious about the wine these past few years. Always inquiring how its going, when will it be bottled, what does it taste like, etc. Every major Holiday The Boy will use a wine thief and collect some of each varietal, pour them into half bottles with screw caps and bring them to dinner. (The intention here that they will be sampled immediately.) Thanksgiving, Christmas dinner and Easter, he has delighted guests with a tasting of each of his wines, all in various stages.

There is a crucial point in judging when your wine needs to be off oak so that the flavors will be well balanced. Its a terrible thing to judge becuase wine is constantly changing, even once its in the bottle it needs to sit very still and go through "bottle Shock". When you bottle, oxygen is introduced to your wine. Wine will not oxidize because you bottled - instead it will help in maturing it - but time is needed for the wine to get over being transferred from one veslle to another. It basically needs to find its equilibrium. There is no set time period for bottle shock, but during this time wine will taste somewhat flat and listless. Its actually terribly frightening. Imagine spending 2 years and who knows how much money to produce a wine, then taste it 2 weeks later to find it listless, dull and dingy. Many variables affect the equilibrium process, but it is accepted that after 8-12 weeks the bottle shock will subside. If wine is heavy with tannins, the bottle shock recovery time will be even longer.

There is a great risk of bottle shock even if your wine is a few years in bottle. For example, shipping it, or moving it a good deal can also effect the wines equilibrium. Resulting in flat tasting wine. I am almsot embarrased to say that I bought a wine suitcase. It has rolly wheels and insulated walls. I travel with half a case of wine whenever I go anywhere for a length of time. This is usually visiting friends and staying in their homes.

Being the snob that I am, I seriously spend time worrying; how much my wine suitcase as a carry on item is gettign bounced around on the plane. Fretting that it won't taste well once I reach my destination. Usually my wine is fine when I go short distances, but traveling to Tokyo a few years back I instructed all my friends to sit on the wine a bit, give it 3 months to calm down in the bottle.

Soon we will get labels on the wine and by April, for the competition, and give them as gifts to friends. The Boy refuses to gift them now for Christmas until they are drinkable. So April it is.

Here is a run down of equipment that he used. Excuse the photos for not being my own, these illustrate the equipment better then my own.


Use to seal corked wine bottles for protection of the elements. Bottles can be dipped in melted wax, or melted wax can be applied in small amounts to the top of the bottle. One pound per bag. The Boy consulted me and we have chosen Black wax to match my labels.


Altec Corks:
Partly agglomorated (natural cork ground into tiny particles) and partly synthetic, Altec corks are very durable and ideal for wines that will be aged a long time.


Table Top Fill Jet:
Automated cascading flow bottle filler makes bottling your wine incredibly easy. It contains a self-priming electric pump that pulls your wine out of a fermenter and into your bottles. It takes just 17 seconds to fill a 750 ml bottle, and it stops when the bottle is full. You can adjust the fill level to your preference. The fill jet works with 375 ml, 750 ml, and 1 liter bottles.
The Boy was able to rent this from a local supplier store for roughly 50 dollars. The device its self is about $325.00


Portuguese Floor Corker:
The floor corker is the only way to go if you make a lot of wine—it's practically indestructible, extremely efficient, and will save you a ton of time. Sturdy metal body with a plastic hand grip. Self-adjusting bottle platform locks in place when the corking arm is brought down. Easy-to-adjust plunger depth and iris cork compressor make it easy to cork bottles efficiently. The boy purchased this, at what cost, I don't want to know.

1 Comments:

Blogger Kate Hill said...

Sara, this birthday, today, reminds me of the year when my 'Boy' and I moved on to the Julia Hoyt-- 1987, with all our wordly belongings from SF plus two bottles of 1947!!!California Wine from old man Sebastiani's private collection. It was one month later that we opened the vintage birth year for the Boy's birthday to discover a muddy, flat, seriously sick old wine. Totally uninteresting and a huge disappointment. Six months later as my own B-day rolled around, and although nowhere as old as the wine, we allowed ourselves to open the second bottle. Money was tight. And although we were cruising down the Rhone River in the middle of the Tain-Hermitage wine area, our budget didn't allow for a bottle of local wine. I was miffed that I was to get the second hand version of the off old wine. Some celebration; I pouted; I cooked something. I don't even remember what because this magnificent wine, now well-rested and cradled gently for 6 months in the cool cellar of the barge's bilge, was so memorable. It had needed six months of down time to recover from the six hours of air travel. Eh Voila! My first experience with bottle shock. Thanks for the memory!

November 29, 2005 12:23 AM  

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