Winemaking 101 Pt. 5 - Final Racking, Finishing and Bottling
I had a bumper crop of Red Currants this year, so last July when they were at optimal ripeness, 31 lbs. of them went into the fermenter. Red Currant is one of my favorite wines to make as it ferments well, colors and clears beautifully, and is something I've rarely seen elsewhere. Since the wine was last racked, about 3 months ago, fermentation has finished, and it has cleared completely. Now it can be stabilized, sweetened, and prepared for bottling.
For information on equipment and terms and Winemaking 101 pts. 1-4, see these previous posts
Red Currant wine clears on its own with no need for a clarifying agent such as Sparkolloid or bentonite. There was just a dusting of sediment in the bottom of the jugs, so I racked the wine one more time to make sure that only perfectly clear wine goes into the bottles. I sweeten this wine slightly, so I added 1/2 teaspoon of potassium sorbate dissolved in a little water per gallon of finished wine to inhibit any remaining live yeast cells and prevent refermentation from starting after the wine is bottled and blowing the corks.
As the wine was fermented completely dry, the specific gravity measured 0.990. I know from experience that I want the finished wine sweetened to s.g. 1.002, or about 1/2 degree Brix. Knowing that 2 oz. of sugar raises the s.g. of 1 gallon of wine by 0.005, I calculated the amount of sugar needed to sweeten the entire batch. The sugar is combined with a minimal amount of water, and heated to boiling to create a sterile sugar syrup. Allow to cool and add to the wine, stirring well to blend.
How much sugar should you add? That depends on the acid level in the wine, and even more, on your personal taste. Draw samples of the wine and put in several glasses. Leave one sample unsweetened and add increasing amounts of sugar to the other samples. Then taste from the driest to the sweetest sample and decide which is most to your liking. Measure the s.g. of that sample and sweeten the wine to that level. Keep in mind that it's better to lean somewhat to the dry side as acids can soften a bit with time and you can always sweeten the wine a bit more when you open a bottle.
After the wine has been stabilized and sweetened I like to let it sit for another day or two before bottling to let everything meld a bit. This also gives you the time to get things ready for bottling, including the most tedious part of the process, cleaning and sterilizing the bottles.
You have been saving your empties, haven't you?
After cleaning and rinsing the bottles thoroughly, they need to be sterilized. You can rinse the bottles with a metabisulfate solution, or just set the bottles in the sink and pour a little boiling water over them. Allow them to drain and cool before filling.
I soak my corks overnight in a little sterilizing solution as an extra precaution, and run some solution through my racking cane and siphon hose. Set your siphon up, and you're ready to start filling bottles. A simple spring clip on the hose controls the flow of wine, or there are automatic fillers you can buy that stop the flow at a set level.
Fill the bottles so the wine level is about 3/4" from the bottom of an inserted cork, which minimizes the amount of air in the bottle. I use an Italian made floor corker for stopping up my bottles. A hand corker works OK for small batches, but if you're making 5 gallons of wine or more per year a floor corker is worth the investment as it's faster, easier and more consistant.
An afternoon in the kitchen resulted in this display of about 5 cases of finished wine.
I'll talk a bit about dressing up your bottles and labeling in a future post. In the meantime, let's have a glass of Currant wine!