Bottling Tips for the Micro-Winery: How to Bottle Wine

Choosing when to bottle a wine is one of the most important, nerve-wracking, and satisfying decisions a winemaker will make for any one vintage. For the large winery, it is a financial obligation to bottle on schedule and to maintain brand consistency. For the micro-winery, knowing when and how to prepare a wine for eventual consumption can be much more intimate and satisfying.

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The pre-conditioning of a wine is essential to how it develops in bottle, and how enjoyable it will be over the long term. What the winemaker should be focused on during the actual making of the wine is creating an extended arc of potability – an amount of time after the wine is bottled during which the wine tastes best.

The better a wine is made, the longer it is likely to be consumable. The best wines are wines that are both enjoyable soon after they have been bottled and when they are aged. Following are a few tips on how to avoid problems when bottling your own wine.

The Big Picture

First, it is important to have a big picture of the wine at hand. A few key items to look at: Know whether there is any residual sugar in the wine; know if the wine has completed malo-lactic conversion (ML); know the pH and free sulfur level.

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

Residual sugar, in particular, can be have a nasty effect on otherwise healthy wine. Because sugar is the primary mechanism of fermentation, it can actually begin to re-ferment under the right kind of situations. Bottles have been known to explode, corks can be pushed out. An entire vintage can be ruined.

A few ways to avoid residual sugar effecting a finished wine are 1) Using a strong cultivated yeast to ferment the grapes/juice/must to dryness (< 0.4%); 2) sterile filter the wine prior to bottling (< 0.8 micron filter); 3) maintain a higher level of free sulfur in the wine as it ages.