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Prepping corks for bottling

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Vinman

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My first kit (Vinter's Reserve Cab) is due to be bottled tomorrow and I'm wondering how to prepare the corks.
 

Runningwolf

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Are you using a floor corker or hand corker. I have a floor corker and I do not do anything to my corks before bottling. I am going to build a corkadore though here in the near future.
 

Wade E

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The best way is to get a collander and a bucket. Take the collander and put it over the bucket. Pour corks in the collander and pour a sulfite solution consisting of 3 tbls of meta per gallon of water over the corks and then put a lid over all and let sit for around 5 minutes and your good to go. Remember that the gases given off by the solution below are really what does the work, not the solution itself.
 

Vinman

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Corks Prep

I'm using a brand new Portuguese floor corker
 

Runningwolf

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Hey Wade do you use a primary bucket and lid with gasket for your corkadore, or just any clean 5 gal bucket and lid. How much k-meta do you put in a container, 1/2"? I like your idea and want to try it as I never sanitized my corks before.
 

gregmg

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My first kit (Vinter's Reserve Cab) is due to be bottled tomorrow and I'm wondering how to prepare the corks.
Like Wade, I just do a quick rinse with a sulfite solution. I'm not entirely sure it's necessary, but after bottling god-only-knows how much wine, I've only had one instance of a bad cork. So this regime seems to work pretty well. That one bottle was "corked"... that is, it had a slight off-taste caused by TCA.

You shouldn't soak your corks for very long, or they'll get soft and fall apart.
 

Vinman

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Still stumped

So, I'm still confused as to how i should prep the corks. I've read in a couple places that using a floor corker means you don't have to do anything, but I want to do what's right.

Help!!!
 

Wade E

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Pour the solution over and let it sit under the corks for 5 minutes as I stated in my post.
 

rawlus

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my own little list of cork and corking guidelines
  • i use the best Natural corks i can get fresh and locally from a place with high turnover. i usually try to go with Extra First grade 1.75" #9 for less than $0.30 ea. in qty of 250pcs
  • duo-disc or twin-disc or 1+1s can be very good if the end discs are excellent, the cost savings over Natural 1's is about 50%.
  • if they are factory-sealed, i just go ahead an use them without treatment. (usually corks of this grade have been sulfite gassed during processing and have been block parafinned for easy insertion) heat-treating or wetting the corks will ruin the pre-treatment.
  • if i am using my own leftovers or something that's been repackaged from factory, then i will humidify them in sulfite gas for 2-10 hours (overnight or the morning of bottling) using the humidor method others have described except i do not pour the liquid onto the corks directly (for reason described above).
  • i don't soak them, microwave them, boil them or otherwise treat them except for gas.
  • i don't use agglomerated, nomacork or synthetics personally, but many do and seem to have good results...
  • i have used good quality 1+1s on early drinkers and some whites and have been satisfied with their performance.
  • i inspect each cork during bottling and will throw out one that i think has too many fissures in the ends or sides or other signs it will not perform to its expectation (i won't risk a bottle on frugality with regard to the cork) and i will use the best-looking, cleanest and most intact end in the corker for the side which faces the wine.
  • corked bottles get stored upside down in cases or horizontally on racks with no ill effects - i don't leave them upright for 24hrs first, usually only an hour or two max.
  • i use #9 untapered corks exclusively for standard bottles. some small-format bottles require #8s or #7s and some italian bottles have VERY narrow neck openings as well.
  • i use a portugese floor corker for corking duties

i expect my wine to be able to age several years if i choose to let it. this is the driving reason behind me using mostly high-grade natural corks.
 

Hillbilly Bill

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my own little list of cork and corking guidelines
  • i use the best Natural corks i can get fresh and locally from a place with high turnover. i usually try to go with Extra First grade 1.75" #9 for less than $0.30 ea. in qty of 250pcs
  • duo-disc or twin-disc or 1+1s can be very good if the end discs are excellent, the cost savings over Natural 1's is about 50%.
  • if they are factory-sealed, i just go ahead an use them without treatment. (usually corks of this grade have been sulfite gassed during processing and have been block parafinned for easy insertion) heat-treating or wetting the corks will ruin the pre-treatment.
  • if i am using my own leftovers or something that's been repackaged from factory, then i will humidify them in sulfite gas for 2-10 hours (overnight or the morning of bottling) using the humidor method others have described except i do not pour the liquid onto the corks directly (for reason described above).
  • i don't soak them, microwave them, boil them or otherwise treat them except for gas.
  • i don't use agglomerated, nomacork or synthetics personally, but many do and seem to have good results...
  • i have used good quality 1+1s on early drinkers and some whites and have been satisfied with their performance.
  • i inspect each cork during bottling and will throw out one that i think has too many fissures in the ends or sides or other signs it will not perform to its expectation (i won't risk a bottle on frugality with regard to the cork) and i will use the best-looking, cleanest and most intact end in the corker for the side which faces the wine.
  • corked bottles get stored upside down in cases or horizontally on racks with no ill effects - i don't leave them upright for 24hrs first, usually only an hour or two max.
  • i use #9 untapered corks exclusively for standard bottles. some small-format bottles require #8s or #7s and some italian bottles have VERY narrow neck openings as well.
  • i use a portugese floor corker for corking duties
i expect my wine to be able to age several years if i choose to let it. this is the driving reason behind me using mostly high-grade natural corks.
Thanks Rawlus... very informative post... I have been using the corks with the natural ends and am still in limbo as to which style I will settle on. Actually, I thought my corks were solid until I did some reading and inspected my corks more closely. I agree... frugality with the corks may be counterproductive.
What is your opinion of synthetic corks?
Bill
 

rawlus

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bill. i don't really have any strong opinions on synthetic corks. i suspect they are often used for pricepoint reasons - many inexpensive commercial wines meant to be drank right away use billions of them.
i rarely see them used once you get above $20/bottle or so in commercial wines.
i have heard purists argue that synthetics don't act the same way as natural cork for micro-oxygenation and others have argued that they don't insert as reliably with various types of corkers.
the pros are that the chances for TCA are zero, if that is a concern.
they are inexpensive and they should hold a seal very well for good amounts of time.
i would consider synthetic closures on something like an island mist/orchard breezin type of wine. but otherwise i would use natural cork as my first option, 1+1 as my second. synthetic as my third. and agglomerated as my last.
 

Hillbilly Bill

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bill. i don't really have any strong opinions on synthetic corks. i suspect they are often used for pricepoint reasons - many inexpensive commercial wines meant to be drank right away use billions of them.
i rarely see them used once you get above $20/bottle or so in commercial wines.
i have heard purists argue that synthetics don't act the same way as natural cork for micro-oxygenation and others have argued that they don't insert as reliably with various types of corkers.
the pros are that the chances for TCA are zero, if that is a concern.
they are inexpensive and they should hold a seal very well for good amounts of time.
i would consider synthetic closures on something like an island mist/orchard breezin type of wine. but otherwise i would use natural cork as my first option, 1+1 as my second. synthetic as my third. and agglomerated as my last.
Rawlus... most of my knowledge in this area is what I have read... I really appreciate your thoughtful answers... it means a lot to me that your answers are so comprehensive and the fact that they reinforce my research tells me that you are a great source of information.
Thanks again...
Happy New Year!
Bill
 

rawlus

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thanks for the kind words bill. happy new year to you too.
 

Green Mountains

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Wade is right. The sulfite will do two things....sanitize the corks as well as give them a little lubrication.

We bottled our first few batches without doing this and really had to force the hand corker to work....then we tried the sulfate and mannnnnn those corks went in easy.

Since then, we've purchased a floor corker and we're in Heaven.

Follow Wades advice.

Vinman.....it'll all be good.
 

Wade E

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Rawlus, what do you mean by 1+1. The agglomerated I use are a mixture of syn and natural. They let the wine breathe a little but dont get fragile and dry out like a all natural cork does. They are lightly coated with Paraffin ax so they go in and come out easy and are bought packaged in either 30, 100 or 1000 packs bagged and sealed with S02 gasses in their. Dont cut open and take a wiff!:s Im not looking to switch as Im very happy with these corks and everyone that tries them falls in love with them also. I would just like to know your theory on why you choose au natural.
 

rawlus

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wade, 1+1 are a common name for the corks that are two natural discs on each end with some sort of filler in-between, usually agglomerated cork and resin material. the theory is that because of the discs on the end, the wine itself is in contact with all natural cork and the agglomerated material in the middle maintains the seal along the glass neck.

i use all natural corks for a number of reasons, not all of which are scientific.
i want the same aesthetic as fine commercial wines (personal preference)
i want a closure that is of high quality and can stand up to long term aging
i want to minimize the potential contact of synth resins with finished wine
i seek a closure that provides the indeterminate micro-oxygenation and other fancy stuff
i am a traditionalist
all natural corks are not really that expensive. 30-50 cents a bottle isnt a hardship for something i may put away for 3+ years. so i dont even consider the 15 cent options.
 
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I have never seen a commercial winery do any preparation to their corks. They dump them in the hopper and the machine inserts them. The only reason I can see that they may need to be wetted is to help lubricate prior to insertion. Maybe with a double lever hand corker that might be necessary but not with a floor/bench corker.
 

rawlus

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calamity, i think this is largely because commercial wineries can go straight from the sulfite gassed factory bag to the hopper because of the quantities they are dealing with whereas many home winemakers are buying their corks in lots of 100 or less which usually means the corks have been taken from their sterile factory packaging and repackaged into retail packaging with who knows what attention to sanitation, they are usually not regassed during this step and because it can be difficult to determine the timeframe when this was done, the corks can also go stale from age and air exposure.
so in the end, the home winemaker may have to pay a bit more attention to the cork than the commercial winery simply because their corks have gone through potentially more hands and more abuse before they got to them.
ive had very good results buying corks in factory packaging from st. pats.

interestingly, on a commercial scale i rarely see much bottle prep other than an air blast to remove dust.. often the new empty bottles come out of the case and go right onto the bottling line. :)
 

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