Bottling time...need some advice and general critique of process

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Hannabrew

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I'm working through my first batches of wine and was hoping for a process review as well as some advice on bottling.

For a little background, these 2 reds are Chilean juice (Cab Franc and Carmenere) purchased toward the end of April 2021. Dosed with ~50ppm of sulfites and waited 24 hours. After some goferm to hydrate, I pitched 2 packets of GRE and BDX respectively along with some Tannin FT Rouge and Fermaid O. A few days later I gave it some Fermaid K. Fermentation went fairly normal however my pH and TA were a bit wonky (pH and TA were both lower than the recommended range so was stuck on how to resolve...more acid would lower pH even further) Decided to just leave it.

After primary completed about 8 days later I thoroughly degassed the wines and transferred to secondary with some Xoakers (American Oak, Medium Plus), another 50ppm of sulfites and minimal headspace. I decided to try MLF to see what it could do about my TA/pH issues so I added some Opti Malo Plus, ACTI-ML, and some VP41. I didn't see much to indiciate that the VP41 did much. The package was room temp when I got it so hoping I didn't spend $40 on dead bacteria.

Anyway, that's how it's been sitting since early May with nothing more than an occasional top off of the airlock.

I'm collecting empty wine bottles to bottle these up soon. Here are a few questions that I have:

1) Should I bottle straight from the secondary or do I need to do another round of degassing in a bucket and then bottle?
2) Do I need to add more sulfites prior to bottling? I assume so but I don't have a test kit so I'm pretty much just winging it with sulfite PPM.
3) Regarding reusing commercial wine bottles, are the openings generally around the same size so that I can use the same corks for all or would I be better off just buying bottles to ensure they're all the same?
4) What corks are recommended for a shelf life of <2 years? I will be renting an EC Kraus corker for this process if that helps.
5) Anything else I'm missing?

Any help is much appreciated.
 

distancerunner

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It's good to plan in advance. Your wine will be well served to remain in bulk storage for another six to nine months before bottling.

The pH and TA are wonky? What are they?

Looking for physical evidence of MLF is pretty tough. The only way that I know of to determine the progress of MLF is to purchase and use a test kit.

More than likely your wine is sitting on sediment. It would be a good idea to rack now.

Consider cold stabilizing. If you do this, you will rack the wine another time after the tartrates drop out of solution.

Adding sulfites after racking is a good idea. You may want to add before bottling, too.

Bottle openings are pretty consistant. Except when they're not. It's not a thing to make yourself crazy over. After bottling, leave the bottles upright for a few days to make sure that there aren't any problems with CO2. Then store on them on the side. If there are any leakers they will reveal themselves pretty quickly. When that happens, pull and re-cork. If it happens again you can either rebottle or drink the wine. It will be young and not wonderful, but at least you don't have to mop up.

Good luck!
 

toadie

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Two more points about bottle collecting. Don't use screw top bottles. I also look for bottles with not a huge punt (depression in bottom of bottle) unless you can bottle with some kind of pump. Cheers.
 

Hannabrew

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Your wine will be well served to remain in bulk storage for another six to nine months before bottling.

The pH and TA are wonky? What are they?

Looking for physical evidence of MLF is pretty tough. The only way that I know of to determine the progress of MLF is to purchase and use a test kit.

More than likely your wine is sitting on sediment. It would be a good idea to rack now.

Consider cold stabilizing. If you do this, you will rack the wine another time after the tartrates drop out of solution.

Adding sulfites after racking is a good idea. You may want to add before bottling, too.

Bottle openings are pretty consistant. Except when they're not. It's not a thing to make yourself crazy over. After bottling, leave the bottles upright for a few days to make sure that there aren't any problems with CO2. Then store on them on the side. If there are any leakers they will reveal themselves pretty quickly. When that happens, pull and re-cork. If it happens again you can either rebottle or drink the wine. It will be young and not wonderful, but at least you don't have to mop up.

Good luck!
ph was ~3.2 for both and TA was ~5g/l. I made a topic for this a while back Low pH and low TA

As for racking, I only have 2 carboys that are small enough to reduce the headspace to a minimum. Is it acceptable to rack to a temp vessel (like a bucket), clean out the carboy and re-rack it back into the original vessel?

How cold is cold-stabalizing? Would low 60s be enough or are we talking 40s?

Lastly without being able to measure sulfite content, what would you recommend as far as racking/bottling additions? 50ppm?
 

mainshipfred

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The majority of your first 50 ppm got bound during fermentation. The second 50 was probably the reason the MLF didn't take off even though you use the powerhouse VP 41.

There are 2 reasons to rack before bottling. One being removing as much sediment as possible. The second being to make sure the wine is well integrated. Sitting still in a carboy for a length of time will cause some separation.

You have many choices with corks but make sure you use #9s.

We are talking 40 or below for cold stabilization. I normally go to 32 for a couple weeks.

With a pH of 3.2 all you need is 15-20 ppm to protect it and if you plan on drinking it within 2 years probably less than that. I bet with your second 50 ppm addition you have at least that.
 

Hannabrew

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The majority of your first 50 ppm got bound during fermentation. The second 50 was probably the reason the MLF didn't take off even though you use the powerhouse VP 41.

There are 2 reasons to rack before bottling. One being removing as much sediment as possible. The second being to make sure the wine is well integrated. Sitting still in a carboy for a length of time will cause some separation.

You have many choices with corks but make sure you use #9s.

We are talking 40 or below for cold stabilization. I normally go to 32 for a couple weeks.

With a pH of 3.2 all you need is 15-20 ppm to protect it and if you plan on drinking it within 2 years probably less than that. I bet with your second 50 ppm addition you have at least that.
Thanks for the answers. When you say my second 50Ppm addition you're referring to what is already in the secondary right? So you think I could potentially rack again and bottle a couple months later without adding any more sulfites?
 

mainshipfred

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Thanks for the answers. When you say my second 50Ppm addition you're referring to what is already in the secondary right? So you think I could potentially rack again and bottle a couple months later without adding any more sulfites?
Yes, the second sulfite is what I was referring to. Since you have no way to measure maybe 20 ppm at bottling.
 

cenk57

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As stated above, letting the wine bulk age for 6-9 months would greatly help your wine. For one, it would naturally degas. I always bulk age my wines, usually at least 6 months for fruit, 6-9 for white and 9-12 for red. I rack into a bottling bucket, add sulfites (and sorbate/sugar if back sweeting) and then bottle. Everyone has their own ways and there is no right or wrong way of doing it. If you bottle now, you're prob good with the sulfites. If you bulk age longer, you may want to add a little at bottling. I would rack now add a light does of sulfites and let it sit 6-9 more months. I use used bottles all the time. Just clean and sanitize them before filling. Some of the screw top bottle openings can be a little off. I only use those for fruit wines that don't sit in the bottle for a long period of time. That being said, I've never had any leak. Good Luck!
 

Steve Wargo

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There might be some disagreement as to what I'm going to say and to each their own. If I'm for sure that I will consume/pour the wine I bottled within two years or less, I use #8 quality corks. If I plan to keep/age the wine longer than 2+ years I use #9 corks. Now that said, I tend to use both #8 and #9. The number #9 corks will be used for the same wine that I plan to drink 3+ years or later. I like to age a few bottles from every batch.
 
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Jovimaple

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I use used bottles all the time. Just clean and sanitize them before filling. Some of the screw top bottle openings can be a little off. I only use those for fruit wines that don't sit in the bottle for a long period of time. That being said, I've never had any leak. Good Luck!
Just in case you mean you are corking screw top bottles, you should know that this is dangerous - the necks are thinner and can break either during bottling or, as happened to my fermenter mentor friend, when removing the cork.

I bought replacement screw tops that I use (and reuse as long as they don't leak). Another fermenter friend just sanitizes and reuses the original caps. I tried that at first, but most leaked.

Here is a link to the caps I use:
 
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