Saturday, November 17, 2012

Bottling the alcohol fermented from harvesting the fruits of my labor

As you may remember, I also dabble in the world of making wine.
To that end, last weekend I was able to borrow a corker- probably should get one of my own- and bottle up 3 gallons (3 varieties) of this summer’s harvest. Surely there are a few tips I can share about my bottling experience right? Well, probably. The one big question I see over and over again is how do you know when it’s time? Well, honestly I’m never 100% sure. There’s no sure fire method to my madness. Others will tell you to look at the specific gravity and wait until it’s reached its final desired reading. I almost always forget to measure original gravity because I’m trying to get the brewing process done either while doing 2 or 3 other things or on a time crunch heading out of the house for an event. So, I usually wait until the wine is clear enough to see through (like the picture at the right) and has been racked a couple of times. (Racking is the process of moving from one fermenter to another with the idea being that you leave behind sediment each time and get a clearer, less chewy end product).

How many times should I rack, you might ask. The simple answer is as many as it takes. The idea is to get all of the solids out of the wine, not to rush the process so you can drink faster. If you’re into fast drinking, wine making is probably not for you. Typically, I’ve never been in a hurry to get my wine into a bottle- with the exception of the little bit of watermelon that I made. I’ve heard that watermelon juice goes bad quickly so I rushed the process a bit. Either because I was rushing, using bad melons, or it’s just a bad idea in the first place, the watermelon wine I made turned out to taste awful, for what that’s worth. Anyway, my current schedule doesn’t allow me to do things when I’d like or plan to do them, so I get it in when I can. That means when I got a couple of hours last weekend, I took the chance to get the growlers of wine out of my wife’s kitchen- it’s a win for both of us.

The actual bottling process is much like that of bottling beer. You transfer the wine into a bottling vessel- this serves as the final racking, and fill bottles using a bottling wand (trust me, this makes a huge difference and saves a big mess), and then cork using a specialized Portuguese Double Lever Corker (I borrowed one from my friends over at redsneck). After that, label what you’ve got; find a nice place in the wine cellar (in my case, a set of tall shelves in my garage that no one else can reach) and wait. Depending on your patience level and the type of wine you’re looking at 3-6 months. So I’ll be reporting back on the 2012 versions of my apple, dandelion, and strawberry wines sometime in the spring. Stay tuned.

At the end of the day, here's what I wound up with. Not bad, eh?

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