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Winemaking 101 Pt. 5 - Final Racking, Finishing and Bottling

FeralLiberal's picture

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!

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bringiton's picture
Submitted by bringiton on

Very impressive. Perhaps I missed it in an earlier post, but how do you handle the currant berries, do you leave them on the strigs or strip them before pressing? Do you remove all the individual stems? How long do you leave the pulp in the primary fermenter, and do you leave it free in the must or hold it in a porous bag? How long do you expect to age the bottled wine for best balance?

Thanks for the information, and the posts. Brilliant.

FeralLiberal's picture
Submitted by FeralLiberal on

I hadn't posted on the currant before, that wine was already in process when I started writing for this blog. I pick the clusters, give them a good rinse, then strip the berries from the stems before crushing. This wine is fairly light bodied so I don't want the tannins from the stems in the wine.I use the same process to crush as I outlined for the red raspberries.

Primary fermentation is on the pulp and takes 5-6 days, until the s.g. is down to about 1.040. I use Red Star Premier Cuvee yeast and punch down the cap twice daily to make sure I'm getting all the color out of the skins. It forms a good solid cap, so on the final day I don't punch down and remove most of the solids with a skimmer, then rack into glass through a kitchen strainer and a funnel with a fine mesh screen to remove the rest of the solids.

This wine is quite good even at this early stage, but I like to give it at least 3-4 months in the bottle to settle down and meld. I bottle a portion of the currant wine dry and I've found it takes a good 6-8 months for the acids to soften a bit. Most of my fruit wines age well for about 3-4 years, then the flavors start to fade. As I've been increasing production over the last few years I've been trying to hold a few bottles back each vintage to see just how long they'll last.

Submitted by lambert on

I wonder if it might make sense to set a few of the stems aside -- maybe add controlled batches to some gallon batches. Could be fun.

Oh, and that bottle rinser you've got pictured, attached to the kitchen sink, is teh awesome. It's not totally effective, and even, dare I say it, makes bottle washing fun, which it normally isn't, quite.

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FeralLiberal's picture
Submitted by FeralLiberal on

With the quantity of currants I'm getting now I should have enough fruit to play around with some small batches.

And that Fermetech Bottle Blaster is well worth the cost, they're only around $8. You'll need a threaded adapter to attach it to most kitchen faucets. I still scrub them good with a bottle brush but the blaster makes for short and thorough rinsing.

Washing and sterilizing 60+ bottles took a chunk of time last Sunday, but at least the Packer game kept me entertained while doing it.

Tinfoil Hat Boy's picture
Submitted by Tinfoil Hat Boy on

I thought I'd be drowning woes right now - this bubbly came just in time to celebrate the Dodd Victory! Huzzah!

Is there a way to make non-alcoholic wine? I suppose that's commonly called "juice."

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