Bottle aging vs bulk aging

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Billaban

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Greetings,

I have done a few dozen WE kits and just noticed something in the instructions that I hadn't noticed before. The very last sentence "Bottle aging is the preferred method". I'm wondering why that would be. I never do that and usually age in glass carboys for approx 6 months. Comments?

Regards.
 

dmguptill

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Bottle aging gets the wine out of the carboy, so you can buy another to take its place.

I'm sure others will chime in with other reasons to go either way, but aging in the carboy allows you to modify and tweak as it ages.

Besides, if you age in the carboy, but want to start another wine, you just buy more carboys :)
 

pillswoj

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As their directions tell you not to top up (if I remember correctly, haven't read them in a while) They want it into the bottle to minimize O2 exposure. The directions need to be beginner proof and bottling sooner is the safer way - better a bit of bottle sediment then an Oxidized Chardonnay.

All that said, I haven't followed the directions in at least the last 10 years.
 

Handy Turnip

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Yep agree with what's been said - personally I bottle age due to a lack of carboy space, and have never suffered from any bottle sediment (as long as you don't bottle too soon then it shouldn't be an problem).
 

dmw_chef

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Bulk aging will give you more consistency in the batch.

Personally I'm six month minimum pitch to bottle - 1 month for primary, 3 months on oak, do acid/tannin adjustments, then 2 months for powdered tannins to polymerize = 6 months minimum.

I do have a cyser that's been in bulk for about a year because I'm not happy with it yet. About to pull off a couple bottles to do a bench trial of a month or two on the Sur-Lie magic powder from morewine to see if that puts it where I want it.
 

CDrew

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My reasoning to bulk as long as possible is a little less scientific, but once it’s in the bottle, well...we tend to drink them. And by the time the wine is really starting to come around— there’s none left!
That was certainly true in 2017 for me. I kept trying to see where I was, and when the wine was finally good, it was all gone. Learned something though. Now, I bottle in October when it's a year old, then set one case aside to taste on bottle monthly for the next year. Then I'll typically have 5 cases left after 2 years and a year of tasting notes.
 

Venatorscribe

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Bulk aging will give you more consistency in the batch.

Personally I'm six month minimum pitch to bottle - 1 month for primary, 3 months on oak, do acid/tannin adjustments, then 2 months for powdered tannins to polymerize = 6 months minimum.

I do have a cyser that's been in bulk for about a year because I'm not happy with it yet. About to pull off a couple bottles to do a bench trial of a month or two on the Sur-Lie magic powder from morewine to see if that puts it where I want it.
I like the way you roll ... good style
 

Venatorscribe

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My reasoning to bulk as long as possible is a little less scientific, but once it’s in the bottle, well...we tend to drink them. And by the time the wine is really starting to come around— there’s none left!
So true ....!
 

Billaban

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Thanks for the feedback. My hunch has been confirmed. I have more 5g carboys than I will ever need .... unless I get back into brewing.

Got some Diablo Rojo in primary now. That has been one of our favorites. We had been doing double batches in a few monster (13 gallon) carboy like vessels but have started doing single kits and experimenting with new kits. Did two of the WE Lim Ed kits last year. Both are very good. Our all time fav is the WE Old Vine Zinfandel.

Cheers.
 

winemaker81

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There is evidence that wine ages more quickly in smaller containers. There was an article in the Wine Spectator circa 1989 regarding Riesling from the late 1700's that was still good -- all were in large bottles.

If you want wine to age, make more than you drink!

Also, don't drink out of the carboy. An acquaintance had a great Niagara in November, but by early February it was badly oxidized. It turns out she and her husband had been drinking from the carboy and did not understand that head space was bad .....
 

dmw_chef

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There is evidence that wine ages more quickly in smaller containers. There was an article in the Wine Spectator circa 1989 regarding Riesling from the late 1700's that was still good -- all were in large bottles.
IIRC that's because the smaller volume causes micro-oxidation to happen much more quickly than larger formats.
 

dmguptill

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The other reason I bulk age for a while, is that I could never whip or stir all the CO2 out of the wine. I got spoons, whips, drill attachments, the works. Nothing I tried worked to get all the fizz out. Bulk age, and vacuum rack 3-4 times with the AIO pump, no more problems with carbonation.
 

Handy Turnip

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My reasoning to bulk as long as possible is a little less scientific, but once it’s in the bottle, well...we tend to drink them. And by the time the wine is really starting to come around— there’s none left!
So true! But actually it's also another reason why I like bottle aging - I enjoy the journey of tasting over time so see how the wine changes. And I always hold some back to make sure I can work out when it's at it's best. It helps that I only do white wines, and they tend to be really good straight away so I'm not wasting it by drinking it before it's ready. Plus it's much better tasting than the commercial wines I would be buying if I wasn't drinking it - especially once it hits 3mths in the bottle then it's superb.
 

Ajmassa

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So true! But actually it's also another reason why I like bottle aging - I enjoy the journey of tasting over time so see how the wine changes. And I always hold some back to make sure I can work out when it's at it's best. It helps that I only do white wines, and they tend to be really good straight away so I'm not wasting it by drinking it before it's ready. Plus it's much better tasting than the commercial wines I would be buying if I wasn't drinking it - especially once it hits 3mths in the bottle then it's superb.
on occasion I’ve bottled a portion of a batch into 375mL bottles. Used as em ‘tasters’ to see how wine was progressing without committing to a full bottle. A tip I picked up from the forum.
 

Handy Turnip

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on occasion I’ve bottled a portion of a batch into 375mL bottles. Used as em ‘tasters’ to see how wine was progressing without committing to a full bottle. A tip I picked up from the forum.
Yes that sounds like a great tip! I'll have to give that a go next time.
 

kiphorn

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My reasoning to bulk as long as possible is a little less scientific, but once it’s in the bottle, well...we tend to drink them. And by the time the wine is really starting to come around— there’s none left!
This the exact reason I started bulk aging. Is there a suggested time for bulk aging reds and whites?

I'm just getting back into wine making and as I recall I'd end the aging when my supply of wine started running low. I'm looking at buying a few 3 gallon carboys so I can bottle half and keep aging the other half. I've got two whites going now. One in the fermenter (RJS En Premier Pinot Grigio) and another 5 weeks along in a carboy (WE Synergy). I going to start a red and follow this same process of bottling half and aging half until I get my stock built back up. Since we're approaching summer I'll throw in an Skeeter Pee or Dragon Blood so I have a good drinking summer wine which will also add to my drinking stock.

Thanks.
 

winemaker81

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This the exact reason I started bulk aging. Is there a suggested time for bulk aging reds and whites?
If you're doing natural clearing (no degassing or fining agents), 3 months of bulk aging is an absolute minimum, and it's not guaranteed the wine will be clear. Some will, some won't.

Anyone who can't let the bottles age, ya got 2 main choices:

1) Bulk age longer.

2) Make more than you can drink, so some of the wine will age. Initially making quick drinkers (Skeeterpee, Dragon's Blood, whites, and light reds) is a great idea. I make 2nd run wines for this reason.

I recently wrote a post on bulk aging, which includes background material and the time frames I use.

Me? 3 to 6 months for whites, light reds, and light fruits. These wines are drinkable sooner and have a shorter lifespan, so I get 'em in the bottle sooner.

Heavy reds and dark fruits? 6 to 12 months, depending on use of oak adjuncts. Some folks bulk age up to 2 years, but I do not have the barrels or space for that. I bottle barrels when the next year's wine is ready to go into the barrel. Wine in carboys around 9 months. To some extent, I bottle some wines a bit early to avoid bottling an entire year's production at once.
 

Bmd2k1

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If you're doing natural clearing (no degassing or fining agents), 3 months of bulk aging is an absolute minimum, and it's not guaranteed the wine will be clear. Some will, some won't.

Anyone who can't let the bottles age, ya got 2 main choices:

1) Bulk age longer.

2) Make more than you can drink, so some of the wine will age. Initially making quick drinkers (Skeeterpee, Dragon's Blood, whites, and light reds) is a great idea. I make 2nd run wines for this reason.

I recently wrote a post on bulk aging, which includes background material and the time frames I use.

Me? 3 to 6 months for whites, light reds, and light fruits. These wines are drinkable sooner and have a shorter lifespan, so I get 'em in the bottle sooner.

Heavy reds and dark fruits? 6 to 12 months, depending on use of oak adjuncts. Some folks bulk age up to 2 years, but I do not have the barrels or space for that. I bottle barrels when the next year's wine is ready to go into the barrel. Wine in carboys around 9 months. To some extent, I bottle some wines a bit early to avoid bottling an entire year's production at once.
Curious...how many times do you rack b4 bottling?

Cheers!
 

winemaker81

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Curious...how many times do you rack b4 bottling?
As few as possible. Looking at my Meritage blend, so far I've done 3 and expect 2 more:
  1. Oct - pressing (if it was juice this would be a racking)
  2. Nov - 4 weeks later off the gross lees, wine into barrel
  3. Feb - 3 months later off fine lees.
  4. Aug - pre-bottling, getting wine of any sediment and removing oak cubes (barrel is neutral)
  5. Nov - bottle when when the 2021 blend is ready for barrel
If making kits and/or using fining agents, there may be an additional racking. In other circumstances I've done more rackings, but everything I've read in the last few years says to rack as seldom as feasible.

One thing I did in Feb was to rack all topup containers, checked that all were good, then homogenized the entire batch. This way each topup is identical to what's in the barrel, keeps the wine consistent for quality control (e.g., tasting) purposes. At bottling time I'll add all topup containers to the main batch, although that will be at most 2 additional gallons.

I do this for blends, which is the 2020 wine, the planned 2021 wine, and all 2nd run wines.

Note: I'm gently stirring the barrel at topup time, as that provides an accurate picture of what the cubes are doing. I add SO2 at 3 month intervals.
 
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