Friday, August 6, 2010

Racking and bottling Wine 101

Racking 101:

Racking wine is a simple process of moving wine from one vessel (usually a carboy) to another without disturbing the solid particles that have settled at the bottom.  Racking is usually done at least once before getting to the bottling stage and ensures clarity in your final product...

Once your wine is racked into the new carboy, you can monitor it for another couple of months to see if any further settling occurs.  Racking is sometimes done a second or third time so that by the time you bottle, there is less chance of disturbing the lees and clouding up your wine.

When racking or bottling wine, be sure to buy a simple hand pump like the one above that utilizes gravity to fill your bottles.  For the picture, you see the carboy and pump  that I use.  When racking or bottling, be careful not to move the carboy so as not to disturb any sediment that might be on the bottom.  Rack your wine out of your carboy into another sterilized carboy or back into your fermentation bucket.  The remaining lees or sediment can be disposed at this point or you can use them for other purposes...(maybe I will post on this at a later date)  Once the wine settles and it is no longer fermenting you may bottle it.  I use a hydrometer as well to tell how much sugar remains in my wine before bottling.

Bottling 101:
Your wine is ready to bottle when it is completely clear and no longer releasing air bubbles through the fermentation lock.  But to be sure, check your wine to be sure there is minimal to zero sugar left using your hydrometer and hydrometer jar.

You can get used bottles from a restaurant or ones you've saved.  Soak them to remove the labels clean them well using a bottle brush and sterilize them with a sanitizing solution.  I use a bottling rack to dry bottles before I fill them.

Then place your pump into the carboy and place your bottles on the floor with the vinyl tube in one of them. If you have done adequate racking, you should not have any lees or sediment, therefore, this type of pump can sit right on the bottom of the carboy without sucking up sediment.  In addition, you should have a pipe clamp   to stop the flow of wine once each bottle is filled or I find this bottle filler to be even better and it is easier to use one handed.  The same method of pumping the wine is used when you are ready to bottle.  Before bottling, most people add one crushed camden tablet per gallon of wine and allow it to dissolve for an hour or so.  Camden tablets help kill any remaining living yeast so that your wine becomes stable once bottled.  You can also sweeten the wine at this point before bottling but you must be careful to be sure no yeast remains alive or your bottles could go back into fermentation and potentially explode.  One way of doing this is to add a stabilizer such as postassium sorbate.

As you're filling your bottles, be sure to leave 1 inch of head space.  You can use mushroom corks or reusable plastic wine stoppers for your wine.  Remember to save some wine to sample.  I usually find most fruit wines taste okay at one year and great at 2 years (if you can wait that long)  Lastly, I love the EC Kraus website which I have used for examples of everything you need but I like shopping locally even better at the Oak Barrel wine shop in Berkeley.  Enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the comprehensive guide! I liked that you've mentioned most of the equipment you used and the brands. It's especially helpful in gauging the list of things to accommodate in the budget for wine making. And bottling wines is actually one of the hardest things to work on in wine making. There's a lot of trial and error here.

    Dabrico, Inc.