bulk aging v. bottle aging

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Dufresne11

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Hi Everyone,

As I am still a noob (I have done about 4 batches of juice) I am always asking questions of the guy who owns my local Wine Store. He is great. Today he told me that I should bottle after two months and let my wine bottle age instead of bulk age.

What is the difference, in your opinion, of bulk v. bottle aging?
 

Wade E

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It really depends on your cellaring conditions! If you have an area where the temp is pretty stable then 2-3 months og ulk aging is finebutn only if you have used a fining agent as most wines will not have dropped all their lees if not using a fining agent. If you dont have nice stable temps then bulk aging is much better as its much harder to raise or lower the temp of 6 gallons of wine then it is to do so with 750ml of it and those temp swings can age wine very fast and doiung it that way isnt good. You can cook a pig in the ground for 12 hours or you ca get a huge microwave and do it in 20 minutesm which would you prefer? Those temp swings with a wine in a bottle make the wine breathe and it expells out you sulfites that are protecting your wine and when it cools back off it sucks air back in causing oxidation. All that being said we get into another area and that is corks and wax sealing. Synthetic corks are supposed to prvent this breathing but all tasts thus far and showing much different results and that those wines arent lasting as long as naturally corked wines. It is said that your wine will not breathe with these corks thus your wine will not age so bulk aging is needed for longer periods.
 

Green Mountains

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Yeah that's what I was gonna say :)

Seriously Wade, you are a boatload of knowledge.
 

Dugger

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Dufresne - here is a copy of some info I put together a while ago on this, listing pros and cons of each as I understand them - there may be others that I haven't thought as well:

Bulk Aging vs Bottle Aging
This is another much debated question and there is no general consensus as to which is best. One line of thinking is that bulk aging in a carboy results in faster aging and perhaps better aging and this may or may not be true. For many it is simply a question of how many wines they make, how many carboys they have and how much space they have. Again, I will offer some observations:
- as already mentioned, wine in the carboy is harder to drink than wine in bottles so that is an advantage for aging
- carboys run the risk of the bung coming out or the airlock going dry, whereas once it’s in the bottle under a cork, it can be considered safe
- a carboy full of wine is less susceptible to temperature swings because of its bulk than wine in a bottle;
- longer term oaking or other tweaks are possible with wine in the carboy;
- bulk aging in the carboy will allow any sediment to fall out there rather than in the bottle;
- boxes of bottles can usually be more easily stored than carboys as well as being easier to move;
- bottling allows for easier sampling to monitor the progress of the wine (if you sample from a carboy, you have to keep topping it up);
As can seen, there are advantages and disadvantages to each method. If you have the equipment and space, bulk aging may be the preferred way of doing it; if you prefer to make it and forget about it for awhile, bottling is probably better.
A third option would be to bulk age part of your 23 liters of wine in a 19 liter carboy, or even an 11.5 liter carboy and bottle the remaining to allow sampling and earlier drinking.
 
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Wade E

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There is another train of thought that gets pretty deep here. This is and I am pulling this from memory froma very affluent wine maker that is a cunsultant of many high end wineries. In his words it goes as follows, during the process of aging wine there are chains of tannins that need to all line up and form one big chain as this is how a wine improves with tannins blending in with the wine and becoming smooth.
 

Wade E

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Green Mountains, Im just helping others as this is how I learned by asking questions like this and we still all learn from one another almost every day.
 

Dugger

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Wade - that is pretty deep, but what does it mean for bottle vs bulk - that these chains line up more easily during bulk aging in a larger container?
 

Dufresne11

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I would be interested in following up as well on the tannins item you mentioned. My cellar is consistent within about 2 - 3 degrees all year (63 - 66 degrees) so stability is not a huge issue. I am interested in making the best wine that I can so I want to be sure I am not short changing the aging process for convenience.

As for bulk aging v. bottling... with respect to convenience bulk aging is acutally easier for me. In the next year I will be adding some serious bottle storage but I want to do right by the wine....
 

Wade E

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That these molecules may be separated before they can form the bigger chains.
 

Dufresne11

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Okay then that makes sense. Wade, may I ask when do you bottle?
 

Wade E

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You may not ask me such a question ever!!!!!!!!!!!! Just kidding, I usually bottle after about 6-8 months myself mainly for two reasons, one being laziness and the other being to make sure I have let the wine drop as much sediment as possible as I dont usually use fining agents unless the wine just wonr clear after that amount of time.
 

Runningwolf

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So Wade when you bottle after 6-6 months is that from two different calendars LOL
 

ffemt128

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All that being said we get into another area and that is corks and wax sealing. Synthetic corks are supposed to prvent this breathing but all tasts thus far and showing much different results and that those wines arent lasting as long as naturally corked wines. It is said that your wine will not breathe with these corks thus your wine will not age so bulk aging is needed for longer periods.

This is the interesting part of the thread for me. SO which is better, a natural cork that will allow the wine to breath, or the synthetic corks. I generally get the Nomacorks (sp) but when I purchased my equipment kit last October (the begining of a great hobby) , it came with regular corks and I used those also. I generally have been letting my wines go about 3-4 months before bottleing, mainly because I have a limited supply of carboys.
 

Wade E

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Natural corks are the best but finding one that is of very good quality is the key! With that said I use the Perfect agglomerate from Fine Vine Wines which are a blend of natural and synthetic which gives you the best of both worlds. Another good option is whats called the 2+2 corks which have discs on both ends. I dont really like the full synthetic and reading many studies they arent doing very good at all as far as protecting the wines they have been used on. 3-4 months is an ok bulk aging time especially for fruit and white wines, bigger reds could benefit from a little more bulk aging.
 

ffemt128

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Natural corks are the best but finding one that is of very good quality is the key! With that said I use the Perfect agglomerate from Fine Vine Wines which are a blend of natural and synthetic which gives you the best of both worlds. Another good option is whats called the 2+2 corks which have discs on both ends. I dont really like the full synthetic and reading many studies they arent doing very good at all as far as protecting the wines they have been used on. 3-4 months is an ok bulk aging time especially for fruit and white wines, bigger reds could benefit from a little more bulk aging.
Thanks Wade.
 

Dugger

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I may be totally wrong on this but doesn't micro oxygenation of bottles take place around the outside of the cork and not through the cork - in other words the seal between the closure, be it cork or synthetic, and the glass is what dictates the rate of oxygen transfer.
Or maybe I'm mixing up two distinctly different things here - micro oxygenation through the cork and air leakage around the closure.
Please set me straight on this while I pour myself another glass!!
 

Wade E

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I dont know what to believe anymore myself, Ive read both theories which leads me to beloeve these scientists conducting these studies dont know **** either! All we realy know is that 02 makes it into the wine some way or another and with some corks more then others.
 

Dugger

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I hear you, Wade. There was a time, not long ago when I was in my own small world making wine in ignorant bliss and then I discovered this forum. Since then I've learned a ton of stuff & learned to question things but I also discovered that there are still many issues with no definitive answers.
But I wouldn't go back to my ignorant bliss!
 

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