Chapter 13

Bottling Wine

Wine Bottle Storage

Bottle aging can be desirable on top of bulk maturation because of the development of an aged bouquet, subtle flavor, and smooth texture which more than compensates for the fading varietal and fruity character of the wine. For instance, prolonged bottle storage can allow continuation of reactions not completed during bulk maturation and new effects that do not occur during bulk maturation. Ethyl bitartrate increase is an example of a slow reaction unlikely to be completed before bottling. Accumulation of highly volatile products such as dimethyl sulfide and reductive reactions or others opposed by periodic exposure to air would not occur during bulk maturation but would in bottle. Because the factors affecting aging are poorly understood, a mystique has built up around vineyards and varieties associated with wines that age well.

Storing Wines - Neck Up or Neck Down?

Cork recovery after bottling is rapid but not instantaneous. It takes a compressed cork about 5 minutes to achieve 90 percent of its expansion in the bottle. The balance of natural expansion takes place in a matter of hours. This is the reason why cork companies strongly suggest that freshly bottled wines remain neck up for 5 to 10 minutes after bottling.

Bottle Shock

Wines are often retained at the winery because of a phenomenon referred to as bottle shock or bottle sickness, which occurs in some wines in the first month directly after bottling. Bottle shock is usually a temporary condition resulting in a decrease in flavor. Many producers believe the primary cause of bottle shock is oxygen. The more oxygen picked up by the wine during any wine processing, particularly during filtration and bottling, the more likely that wine will show signs of bottle shock (Cutler, 2012).

Aging Period

The aging plan or regime followed by a winery is governed by the style of wine desired. There is a widespread misconception that wine always improves with age, or that wine improves with extended aging, or that aging potential is an indicator of good wine. Some wines require only a short period to develop and generally do not benefit from prolonged aging.

Cellar Environment

The condition that the wine is kept in after bottling can influence how well a wine ages and may require significant time and financial investment. The most important factor in controlling wine quality during bottle aging is temperature. The ideal temperature to keep bottled wine for aging is 13 degrees C (55°F) and at a low humidity. Wine develops very slowly at 13 degrees C, but much faster at 18 degrees C (64°F).

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