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40 Bottles & Corks:


This article is from the WineMaking FAQ, by malak@CAM.ORG (Don Buchan) with numerous contributions by others.

40 Bottles & Corks:

Any glass bottle without defect that will hold a cork firmly in its
neck will do. However, bottles that used to contain wine are
recommended. Sources are home use, friends, relatives, restaurants and
recycling bins.

Use one style of bottle for your wine, or at least one style per batch
of wine. That way the "whole experience" is more visually appealling,
and it may help you when storing & handling the bottles (uniformity =

There is a multitude of methods and general procedures for preparing
bottles for bottling; basically, they involve washing the bottle and
sanitizing them. To wash, soak the bottles in soapy hot water (which
incidentally will remove most labels without any labour) for half an
hour, rinse the outside, rinse the interior with a jet-spary bottle
washer, sanitize with a sulphite solution, and bottle your wine.
Dishwashers with HOT water can replace the rinsing of the outside of
the bottle (but NOT the inside) and sanitizing with sulphite.

Using soap to wash and/or chlorine bleach to sterilize the bottles is
not a concern as long as you rinse the bottles thoroughly on the inside
to remove any residue.

Corks should not be reused. When preparing, soak the corks in just
boiled water with sulphite in it for at least half an hour before
bottling. This will soften the corks and the sulphite will avoid
contamination from the corks and their handling. Steaming also works.
Another method is to rinse corks in a sulphite solution, about 500 ppm,
then shake off the excess solution and place them in a bag for a week
before use. This allows the moisture to get absorbed into the corks
which softens them and makes it easier to insert.

Short corks are for short term storage, long corks are for long term
storage. Composite corks are for short term storage. The editor has had
more corked bottles from composite corks than whole ones.

Short corks are easier to pull, and often have fewer defects than
longer ones. End bevelling is only important for hammer corkers. The
narrower corks (and silicone lubricated ones) are easier for hand
corking, and the wide ones are more secure and allow slightly
carbonated wines to be made without too many corks popping. Pure corks
are a little easier to put in and take out, but they have a lot more
defects than composite corks.

Plastic corks appear to be mildly inadequate, although useable for
short term storage. Problems include difficulty in retraction and
leakage. Some people have found that they work well and that they are
less expensive.

{I just bottled last year's wine and I noticed a tea like colour
resulting from soaking the corks in a sulphite solution. If this
discolouration can come off in the sanitizing solution then it can come
off in the wine after corking. Does anybody know if this residue can
have a detrimental effect on the wine?}

The colouring caused by soaking the corks won't harm your wine. Corks
are made of the bast of the cork-oak, and good wine is layed in oak
vessel. The substance that causes this colouring is a tannic acid
which will improve your wine (can be stored for a longer period).

However, you have to remember when you are soaking them, the whole
surface area of the cork is exposed to the solution, while only the
bottom is exposed to the wine. You would have to have very sensitive
taste buds to notice a difference. This should not be confused with
poor quality corks that were not properly handled when made and lead to
"corked" wine, which is the result of a virus in the cork. To minimise
this treat the corks as above


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