The last time we bottled in January, we had 12 inches of snow come down, so when the last 2 days are overcast and 36 degrees, bottling can only go well.
And for the most part it did.
Bottling is supposed to be a celebration of sorts, after months of hard work the time finally comes where you feel there is nothing more you can do other than stick it in a bottle. So after a weekend of filtering, triple checking the chemistry and just resigning myself to [Stephen there is nothing more you can do], Blue Moon bottling promptly showed up at our cellar with the intention of bottling 1000 cases of wines.
– Make sure you have done everything correctly and the wines are ready
– Make sure you have all the corks, capsules, labels, bottles and enough help so I can take it easy.
– Make sure that if anything goes wrong, it is not your fault.
This was also a significant bottling in that we have changed our packaging quite dramatically. Lighter bottles for our Verdejo and LVD, the first of our owners signature series Viognier with a vertical label, a brand new Keswick label and a quite fancy Consensus label.
After the obligatory steaming and sterilization, bottling got under way at 180 cases an hour [this is fairly slow but lets warm up a little first]. Soon we were running at 220 cases an hour and man were we making good time. 700 cases of white wine bottled, a further 50 cases labeled and day one done and in the books, a roaring success.
Today we bottled the reds, Consensus and Chambourcin. The Chambourcin will be a wine club only wine, and we had so little we decided to bottle it in 500 ml bottles. Today the labels fought us for some reason and it was so stop start, but hey no snow so no complaints. Kudos to Oley and Brian for getting it done and not throwing anything, they get more frustrated than we do I am sure.
Despite the label issue, bottling was a huge success and the wines are comfortably resting in the cellar. For release dates on all these wines, check out our website for more information.
So lets talk about the bottling process in a bit more detail
We contract our bottling out to a company called Blue Moon Bottling. We schedule in advance what we would like to bottle and if they can accommodate us they do. The bottling machine is housed in a trailer which they drive around the state, servicing many other wineries. We make sure the wines are ready, in that they have been filtered, blended and sulfured pre-hand prior to the bottling day. Since we work with a variety of bottle shapes and sizes, capsules and labels, all this is communicated to our bottler so that they come prepared.
In terms of the steps involved, the process is fairly simple. Firstly the bottles are dumped onto a receiving area after which a conveyor takes the bottles to a washing station.
The bottles are gripped at the neck, rinsed and drained, ensuring that no dust or debry are in the bottle when it gets filled with wine.
This particular machine has 12 fillers, connected to a tank that holds the wine being bottled. The wine by the way is being pumped from the holding tank within the winery. After the bottles are full, the fill height is adjusted before the cork is inserted into the bottle. Every winemaker has his or her own preference as to these fill heights and the height of the cork.
The cork we use by the way is called a Diam cork, it is made of mostly cork, but not entirely. We switched from natural cork 3 years ago after discovering incidents of 2-4-6 trichloroanisole or TCA, which renders wine as corked or flawed. Diam, along with their Diamant process, claims to eradicate this compound from their corks ensuring the integrity of the wine in the bottle. Furthermore, unlike screw caps or rubber corks, these have the look and feel of natural corks and make a pop when taken out of a bottle [important for a lot of consumers].
After the “cork” the wine has a capsule put on it and is shrunk onto the bottle when passed through a spinning system. The capsules we use are made from tin and are sourced from a company called lafite cork and capsule. The size of the capsule has to correspond with the bottle we use, for instance our white wines use 31.8mm diameter caps while our red wines use 29.5mm.
I must say I love these capsule, we experimented with PVC and Polylam capsules a while back and did not like the look of it.
After the capsule comes the all important label, front and back are applied simultaneously, heights from the bottom of the bottle are determined by the winemaker and adjusted accordingly by the bottler.
After this is done the newly bottled and packaged wines gets inserted into the very box they came out, are taped and stacked onto a palette ready for storage.
After bottling, all that was left to do was make sure of the quality of wine and who better to test it on than ourselves. Quite good actually and I hope you enjoy them as much as we enjoyed making them.
P.S as a sneak peak, my next blog will be entitled “Wine Blogger, Friend or Foe”