My first attempt as a garagiste winemaker:Bottling Day!

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– Part Six –

Bottling day
It’s finally here – bottling day. Time to get the wine into bottles and one step closer to my glass. With my repurposed clean wine bottles ready, I set up a small assembly line to fill the bottles and cork ‘em.

If you can’t find any volunteers to help you on bottling day, you can easily manage to do the bottling yourself, but you may need some help to move your wine-filled carboy to an elevated location. This height difference allows for proper siphoning and gravity flow of the wine through the tube into the bottles.

My man provided some brute muscle strength to lift my carboy and place it on the counter for me and I filled my wine bottles below on the floor.

Using a siphon assembly is a great help since you don’t have to suck the air out of the tube to get the flow of wine going. The device is a rod that actually pumps the air out of the tubing and draws the wine through. This was included in my winemaking kit and it was worth the convenience.

However, I did not find the Ferrare bottle-filling wand very useful at all. It was supposed to have a self shut-off valve to automatically stop the flow of wine into each bottle once it was full. This did not work at all although I really hoped this tool would help my bottling. I ditched the fancy Italian wine gadget and did it the old fashioned way by moving the tube from bottle to bottle, controlling the flow by pinching the tube until I filled each bottle.

When bottling, once you get the flow of wine going into those bottles, it’s kind of hard to slow down. There will be spills and splash back when bottling your wine. A helpful tip is to place the bottles you are filling in a catch bin so if there are any spills, they can be contained. I used my empty fermenter bucket as my catch bin. I could fill up six bottles at a time.

With 30 bottles ready for corking, I pulled out the bag of synthetic corks that came with the kit. They seemed rather large in diameter and while they fit the bottles just fine, the nifty hand corker I used seemed better suited for natural corks. Each cork had a little dimple in them. They aren’t perfect-looking but they kept the wine in the bottle and besides, dimples can be cute.

Resting, Aging & Tasting
As I corked the last bottle, I was proud of my nice little collection of filled wine bottles. For the next day or so, I would leave them standing upright in the cellar. This would allow the air pressure in the bottle to balance after corking and help the corks to expand and form a seal.

During this time it is possible that a cork could pop out. Fortunately, all corks remained snug in their bottles and I was able to lay them on their sides with no spills. While wines bottled with natural corks need to be laid on their sides keeping the cork moist and expanded, this is not absolutely necessary for synthetic corks. However, they were safely rested on their sides in my garage cellar wine rack.

Now my wine would age in the bottle for at least a year. This will give the wine a chance to mellow and develop flavor. But being a garagiste, I will be checking in on a bottle of my wine in a few months to see how it tastes first as a young wine.

I will make tasting notes about aromas and flavors to compare later when it has aged a bit longer. The true pleasure of wine is to see how it evolves and what flavors, aromas and textures change as a result of aging. It will be hard, but a garagiste cannot be impatient. The wine will come along in its own time.

There are several online services that create custom wine labels for your bottle. You can upload special photos, images or design your own look. There are also plenty of personalized templates that you can select from. I especially like Bottle Your or you can use standard shipping labels and run them through your color printer.

Another great thing to do with your labels is to include a commemorative date for a special event or even personalize the bottles with recipient names.

While my little experiment is not quite like producing wine in a full-scale winery, I gained a glimpse into the world of winemaking and appreciate the hard work that goes into the entire process. I had a fantastic experience as a first-time garagiste and I look forward to sharing my wine with friends and family.

I hope that you were able to get some tips for making your own wine. Or you found inspiration to become a garagiste yourself. Drop us line and let us know how it goes!

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