Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Bottled Up

Bottling cider wine
Today I bottled up half of last fall's harvest of cider wine. It had been in the 5 gallon oak barrel since early August, when I noticed that it had stopped fermenting in the carboy. Bottling is relatively simple. I wash out a couple of dozen used wine bottles and let them dry, and then about a half hour before bottling I submerge a couple of dozen #9 corks in a cooking pot, bring the pot to a boil and then let it cool to lukewarm by bringing it out the porch. I then bring the barrel up from the cellar and set it on the edge of the porch, take out the bung cap and insert a piece of plastic hose that serves as a siphon into the bottles which I place in containers on the ground below. After the barrel empties into the bottles--it's important to stop filling each bottle at about the place where the neck just begins to widen, so there's enough air for the cork to displace when it's inserted--I bring the bottles up to the porch. I have a hand-operated corking device that compresses each cork and inserts it into a bottle placed on a platform for the purpose. Cork about a couple of dozen and it's all over for now. I did taste it--last year's batch was flavorful and more alcoholic than usual, which means that among other things it will keep longer in the bottle. 

Bottled up
Bottles are back down in the cellar now, awaiting hand-made labels, while I took the fermented cider out of the second carboy and re-filled the oak barrel, again using the plastic tube siphon, capped the barrel, set it on its crade in the cellar, and will wait a couple more months for it to age in the oak and then bottle another couple of dozen, getting altogether about four cases. The bottled wine can be drunk now, but it's tastier if you wait about six months to start in on it. I can't wait to share it with those who helped pick and press the apples in the fall of 2011. Luckily there are two cases instead of one, because this year there were so few apples on my trees at harvest time that there was no point in trying to make wine.


  1. Oh how wonderful!!! What a treat to make your own wine with your own apples! I live on an island also but we are connected to the mainland by a 2 mile causeway. I am in MA on the north shore of Boston. Not so very far away from you.

  2. Replies
    1. A cool cellar works fine. It's best to have the wine at about 55 degrees fahrenheit for fermentation. Below 50 degrees it will not fermet. Above 60 it ferments too quickly and the wine won't taste as good.

  3. If you make a lot of apples you should invest in a bottle washer system
    in order to have always clean bottles ;)

    marc, QC

    1. My operation is not that large. Usually I make only ten gallons. In those occasional years when the harvest is large and I have a lot of help, I fill a 55 gallon oak cask. But only occasionally.

      My bottle washer system consists of high heated well water, detergent, and sodium bisulfite. The bottles get twice soaked inside, soaped, brushed with a bottle brush, and then washed, folowed by a final wash with sodium bisulfite and hot water to sterilize. All done by hand. Yes, it takes time and hand labor, as does the picking and pressing; but I would rather keep the operation low tech. One could invest in a modern, electric machine to crush the apples as well, and I know some people who have done so even with a small operation. It's a matter of what one thinks is appropriate technology and energy use.