Well, it’s been a while since I started the whole process of turning concentrated grape juice into wine…. but it’s finally done. I called up a friend, a fellow oenophile, to help out with the process. She was more than happy to help out, especially since I offered her a bottle of wine as payment.

The steps leading up to bottling, of course involve cleaning and sanitizing all the equipment that will come into contact with the wine. For this, I used

  • Primary fermenter (only to hold the awkwardly shaped siphon and hose)
  • Auto siphon
  • Bottle filling wand
  • Avvinator (also called a sulphiter)
  • Bottle tree
  • Floor corker
  • Bottles and corks

First I prepped the bottles by giving them a quick soak in hot water and peeling the labels off. Using a scraper I was able to get all the labels off really easily. I also removed any remnants of the foil capsule that originally covered the cork. I mixed up some cleaning solution and cleaned the siphon, hose, and bottle filling wand. I took some of the leftover cleaning solution and filled the reservoir of the avvinator.

Avvinator

You turn a bottle upside down and place it over the sprayer in the centre. When you press down on the bottle it pumps the cleaner up into the bottle, then pours back down into the reservoir cup. Each bottle was placed on the bottle tree.

Bottle tree

I also took the extra precaution of cleaning and sanitizing the red stem of the tree, and all the spikes the bottles sit on. Can’t be too careful when it comes to cleaning. I’d hate to waste $100+ and 4 or more weeks making a wine kit, only to take a shortcut on cleaning and ruin the batch.

After cleaning and letting the bottles drip, I sanitized the equipment, rinsed out the avvinator, added the sanitizing solution to the reservoir, and sanitized all the bottles. I used a different sanitizer this time. The name on the label calls it Aseptox. It’s a little different than the sodium metabiusulphite I used previously. The Aseptox is a no-rinse solution. It also doesn’t have the strong sulfur smell the sodium metabisulphite does. The downside of Aseptox is that you can’t save it to use again, like you can with sodium metabisulphite.

We boxed up the 30 bottles and headed down to the basement. With the extra set of hands, we were able to easily start the siphon. One big benefit to the bottle filling wand is it has an automatic shut-off valve. It will only allow a liquid to pass through if the valve is depressed on the bottom of the bottle. It really allows for really fine control, less drips and mess, and the wine is aerated less during bottling, since there’s no splashing around as the wine falls into the bottle. The wand allows for filling gently from the bottom of the bottle.

Since the wine is supposed to sit undisturbed in the carboy to allow any sediment to fall to the bottom, the first 29 bottles had no problem taking only the nicely cleared and polished wine. The final bottle did get a bit of sediment in it. I do plan on giving some bottles away to family and friends, but I’m going to keep that bottle for myself. I don’t want to force anyone to decant their wine, or to have any cloudiness to deal with.

I don’t have a corker, so I rented one from my friendly neighbourhood wine store. Since my equipment starter kit came from Wine Sense, they included a free rental voucher for a floor corker. This is definitely a must have tool. It makes corking EXTREMELY easy.

Floor corker

The only thing you really have to adjust on the corker is how deep the corker sets the cork in the bottle. There’s a small nut you adjust on the handle to control the depth. Ideally the cork will be set slightly below the mouth of the bottle. Don’t ask my why… that’s just what the literature I was reading said 🙂

Adjustment nut near the left end of the cork pushing rod thingy… yes, very technical terms.

I didn’t know exactly how much force would be needed to compress and insert the cork, so I wanted to take it easy. Glad I did too. I ended up with one bottle that suffered a break. The expanding force of the cork was more than the neck of the bottle could withstand, and it blew a chunk of glass off the bottle. I was lucky that the break occurred higher than the level of the wine in the bottle, and no glass fragments made it into the wine. With my friend’s help (she fashioned a filter out of paper towels… a skill learned years ago in chemistry labs) I was able to save the whole bottle, save for an ounce or so that was absorbed by the paper towel. Damned super absorbent name brand towels!!

Destroyed bottle

Now all I have to do is let the bottles sit upright for a few days. This will allow any compressed air to seep out from the bottle. After a few days, you can lay the bottles on their side. If you don’t follow that last step, you might end up with a popped out cork, and a wet floor. Not my idea of fun. After a few days pass, I’ll label the bottles and apply the foil capsules to give the bottle a nice clean and professional finish.

I’m about to head off and pour myself a glass from the bottle I was able to salvage. I’ll report back with a review soon.

Feel free to share your experiences, good and bad, with homemade wine. I’d love to hear your thoughts.

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