The wine on has been sitting in a carboy for about a month now and is finally ready to bottle.
One of the fun things about making wine, and something to stay busy while waiting for it to ferment and finish, is playing around with Photoshop a bit and making a great label for it. After doing a bit of research online trying to find a label making program or some wine label templates from Avery or an office supply store nothing seemed to work right. It turns out that the best option is to just find a generic graphic program such as paint, and print them on plain old paper. Then cut them out and use a glue stick to stick them on. Sometimes the simplest solutions work the best. It turns out that this is also good for recycling the bottles in order to use them again. Labels with adhesive backs stick very well and tend to stay that way. As a result they are difficult to get back off. Plain paper with a glue stick comes off well so that the bottles can be used again.
Most of the supplies you will need to bottle the first time are available at the local brew store. There are several in the Denver metro area such as The Brew Hut in Aurora or Stomp Them Grapes in Denver. You will need about 30 empty bottles and a bag of corks. Both locations stores will also rent a bottle corker to you for the day. It is very useful to get everything together in one place and within arms reach to avoid making a big mess. Create an assembly line with lots of counter or floor space.
One of the last steps in bottling is to add some sodium metabisulfite to the wine. Home wine has very low sulfite levels and this will act as a preservative and does not change the flavor profile in low levels. It is necessary if the plan is to keep the wine more than about six months and also kills any remaining yeast to prevent further fermentation and the possibility of exploding bottles. 1/4 teaspoon dissolved in a 1/2 cup of water will do the trick.
Rack the wine one last time into another container. A brew bucket with a spout on the bottom that connects to the bottle filler is useful here and also available from the local brew supply store. This will get the last of the sediment off of the wine, and allow you to use gravity to fill your bottles.
To prepare the bottles, a great solution is to put them into the dishwasher and run them on the glass cycle to clean and sterilize them. The dishwasher also works very well as a shelf once they are clean to contain any mess from bottling. Position the brew bucket above the dishwasher on the counter and use the open door to fill the bottles on. That way any overflow stays within the door.
The bottle filler adapter is a piece of glass tubing with a spring loaded valve on one end. When it is pushed down on the inside bottom of the bottle it releases the gravity fed wine into the bottle. Fill until the wine gets to the top lip of the bottle then lift the filler and the flow will stop. The filler displaces just enough volume so that when you remove it from the bottle, the wine is at the correct level within the bottle, so that your cork will fit and have about 1 inch of open space in the neck.
Once all the bottles are full – use the corker to seal them. It is usually a good idea to sterilize the corks before use as they tend to be purchased in bulk and who knows where they have been. Remember, clean, clean clean! The best way to do this is to put them in a vegetable steamer and steam them for about 5 minutes over boiling water. This will also serve to soften them up a bit and makes corking a little easier.
If desired the bottles can be topped with foil wrappers also available from the brew store. They give the bottle a nice finished look. Just slip them over the top and use a hair drier to shrink-wrap the foil around the neck of the bottle.
Walla! That’s really it. Don’t forget to enjoy a glass of the new vino while you are bottling. You will find it does taste young and the longer it is allowed to continue to age in the bottle, the better it gets.