IT is better to use, if you can, true wine bottles (26 2/3 ozs.); they show your wine off to better advantage. Be sure that they have been sterilised, and always use new corks or stoppers (cork, NOT screw, stoppers).
Red wines, of course, should be put into dark bottles (except for exhibition or competitive purposes) or they will lose their glorious colour.
The bottles can be sterilised by means of the sulphite solution already described, and then drained; there is no need to dry them thoroughly internally. Many wine books warn against using "damp bottles," but this is only because people have been foolish enough to use bottles containing traces of moisture which may have been in them for a long time, which is not only unhygienic but asking for the wine to be spoilt by the bacteria which are inevitably present. A few drops of sulphite, on the other hand, can do no harm. The bottle should be filled to within three-quarters of an inch of the bottom of the cork.
Whichever kind of cork you use, soak it for 24 hours in cold boiled water beforehand to soften and swell it, then drive it right home. When using true wine corks, which are cylindrical in shape, a corking machine of some sort is a great help; without one, it is difficult to force the cork in far enough. A cork "flogger" serves the same purpose (see page 8).
"Stopper" corks, with cork or wooden projecting caps, are favoured by many, because they lend themselves to use with an ornamental capsule, but they do not grip quite so tightly, and are apt to be forced out again by the pressure of the compressed air beneath them. To overcome this, put a length of thick string or pliable wire inside the neck of the bottle, leaving sufficient projecting to be able to grasp it firmly. Insert the cork and drive it home. Then, holding down the stopper with the thumb of the left hand, grasp the string or wire with the right, and pull it out. As it comes out it makes a path which the compressed air follows, thus leaving no pressure within the bottle. Whichever kind of cork you prefer, always try to use new ones (and never one which has been pierced by a corkscrew). If you have to use an old one, boil it first.
One of the most popular stoppers of all nowadays are those made in polythene —Messrs. Bryants and others supply them—which can be used over and over again, and sterilised each time by boiling. They are neat, cheap, and ideal for the home winemaker.
Corks can be wired or tied down as shown on page 39, but the job can be done even more neatly with proper wire loops and a hand wiring tool.
Finally, finish your bottle off with an appropriate label and coloured capsule of tinfoil or plastic to cover the cork. (It looks better if label and capsule match, and are of a suitable colour for the wine, red label for red wine, yellow for yellow, and so on.) On as ordinary wine bottle the label should be about a third of the way dawn the body of the bottle, i.e. the top of it should be about 1 V2 in. below the shoulder, so that the main line of printing is in the "optical centre." and looks attractive. The label should be centrally placed between the seams of the bottle and not overlap them, or the appearance is spoilt.
Store your bottles on their sides, in a rack or bin if you can, and preferably in a temperature of about 55 deg. F. in a place which is free of vibration and not brightly lit.
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