I just finished a wine class from Vinquiry that focused on bottling and the keys to good wine preservation. It was stressed over and over that oxygen is great for humans to breath, but for wine after fermentation is complete, you have to limit the oxygen.
What does that me to a small winery. After primary and malolactic fermentation is complete and you have racked your wine, give it a good dose of sulfur to stop any further fermentation, say 75-100ppm, depending on the pH of the wine. Then resist the temptation to taste every week. If you are using a flex tank, you can let it sit for several months since you won’t have any evaporation. Sulfur as necessary and when you deem the wine is ready, rack one last time. If you process >50 cases I would recommend a small vacuum filler like the Enolmatic. It pulls a vacuum in the bottle and fills wine from your tank to the bottle. Again…very little oxygen. Then cork right away with a good quality cork.
They claim that the Enolmatic will fill a bottle every 10 seconds. When we did the Sauvignon Blanc we added a 1u filter. This slowed the process down but resulted in a very clean/clear wine. When we do the Pinot in the fall, we will not use a filter to preserve the flavors in the wine. The one draw back we have seen so far is that the level in the bottle was a little hard to control. I’m guessing it was due to our inexperience and the filter…hopefully we will improve when we bottle in September.
Oh…it runs about $400, so with the corker, labeler and renting or borrowing a spinner you will spend about $1000 getting you wine from a tank to a bottle.
I purchased an Italian Wine Corker over the internet for $130 as this was supposed to be a big upgrade, per my friend John, over the $50 model. Ended up I had a defective one and the corks did not go in straight. In addition, I learned that if you don’t have fresh corks, they will always go in poorly with dimples on top. After wasting about 20 corks, I sent this one back and rented a corker from the Beverage People in Santa Rosa. It worked like a charm! and for only $10/day.
Now onto the labeler. Again, most items in the “small winery” seem to be at least $1,000. I looked around the web and found a bottle labeler from the website www.easylabeler.com and it was only $399.
We tried it out last week while bottling our 2013 Turtle Vines Sauvignon Blanc. It took me a little while to set it up the way I wanted it, but once it was set up it worked like a champ. I think if you had a partner handing you the bottles, you could do at least 10 cases/hr.
After you fill, cork and label you need to add foil to the top of the bottle. Many folks use heat shrink plastic…not good in my taste. You can either wax them or put metal foils on top. That is the route we chose. Historically the foils were made of lead, but now they have switched to tin for obvious reasons. You would think that a foil spinner would be inexpensive, but it is over $1100. So…I borrowed one for this run and in the future will probably rent one for $50/day. Even I have a limit on spending money on wine equipment!
One last word on foils. Make sure the foil size and the bottle size match. If not, then when you “spin” them the foil will have lots of wrinkles or won’t fit on the bottle. We know from experience. Another thing…you have to purchase 1800 at a time…so make sure you carefully select you bottle size or you will be stuck with a lot of extra foils.
A few months ago we deemed our 2012 Turtle Vines Pinot Noir “finished”, but we needed to make it look as good as it tastes in a bottle. What else did I need?… you ask. Well, I had the label, corks, foil and the wine…but I didn’t have any equipment to put the package together. So I needed a wine filler, a labeler, a corker and a foil spinner. For runs under 100 cases you can get by with smaller equipment that will still make your finished bottle stand out. What does this cost? Under $1,000 and then some rental fee’s…but you can read about each of my purchases and issues over the next few posts.
This fall will be my third harvest of Pinot Noir grapes. One vineyard test I forgot to perform last year was a petiole analysis. Basically, you take the leaf opposite the lowest bunch at bloom and test its composition. From that you can see if you need to make adjustments in your sprays or fertilization program.
As you can see from above, I’m in pretty good shape…just have to add a little boron to my foliar sprays. My analytical goal this year is to harvest amazing fruit with a pH of 3.5X…wait and see in 3.5 months if I got it right!
As vintner Merry Edwards puts it: “There is no other place in the world where all the right conditions converge to create the kaleidoscopic aroma profile and the rich, full texture so recognizable in pinots produced in our appellation.”
The vineyard, as always, has been a lot of work in May. On the 27th we got all the vines in the wires, a second pass of shoot thinning, twins removal and sucker removal. This year it was only myself and Bernadino, so a lot of work.
If you notice in the picture above, the Pommard Pinot clone has gone crazy this year! Some of the shoots are 2′ above the top wire already and I’ll have to hedge very soon before they get out of control. I talked to a few other growers and they all say the same thing…lots of growth. Hopefully it will translate to fantastic fruit later in the year.