Reminder: The Wine Label Contest is still open! Make a good suggestion, win a bottle!
Today I bottled my first batch of wine, the Rio Negro Cabernet blend that I've been working on since April. It's still not yet really drinkable, but I expect it to be so in about two weeks. The drips from the siphoning process today went into a glass, which I drank, and I can tell you that the first sip was pretty good, the second sip merely OK, and the last swallow pretty nasty. This is an effect of the settling of the heavier components, which seems to include some rather sour and unpleasant bits. I managed to avoid getting the sludge on the bottom of the carboy into any of the bottles except a little into the last bottle. The kit was supposed to make 30 bottles, but I filled 31 bottles, so only the bonus 31st bottle contains significant amounts of sludge or sediment. After I put the corks in (Fig. 1; Fig. 2), I put the bottles into my GORM rack (Fig. 3) to age. I am well pleased.
Fig. 3. The top four rows are almost filled completely with my just-bottled wine. Huzzah!
About half way through the bottling process my sister arrived, and took a couple of pictures on my crappy camera phone (Fig. 4; Fig. 5).
I have two types of bottles for my wine, I call one form "elegans" and the other "robustus" (Fig. 6). I think the elegans form is more appropriate for white wines, the robustus for reds - that's basically just my personal opinion, but in general, commercial wines follow that rule, with many exceptions, of course. I didn't have enough robustus bottles for my Rio Negro batch, so about 1/3 of the bottles are the elegans type. Both shapes hold 750 mL of wine, and I don't think the shape of the container will have any measureable effect on the taste of the wine, so this 1/3 represents only an aesthetic issue to me. I'm not actually particularly concerned, it's just something I thought about while washing my bottles.
I set up my next batch of wine as soon as I finished cleaning up the equipment after bottling. Since my first batch was a red wine, I thought it appropriate to choose a white wine for the second. It's another four-week kit, though of course that duration is only a suggestion. It's a gewuertztraminer* from CellarCraft, the same producer as my first; their "International" series of wine kits blended from grapes grown all over the world (Fig. 7). This "Global Cuvee Gewuertraminer" contains grape juice concentrate from California and from Washington state's Yakima Valley; oddly, the gewuertztraminer doesn't show up on the website. Perhaps it has been discontinued. The owner of the store where I bought this batch (he's worthy of his own post) is a big fan of gewuertztraminers, and told me I should let this kit sit in the carboy for at least two weeks after clearing, and lengthen the other intervals as well, pushing the total time required to make this wine to six weeks. Since I'll be going away for almost all of July, I think I'll just clear this batch near the end of June and bottle it in August when I return. I have been assured by several people that this will in no way harm the wine.
* The name "Gewuertztraminer" is German, and is usually spelled without the second 'e' and with an umlaut over the u. Blogger does not make it easy to insert that symbol, so I use the mostly-accepted practice of spelling umlauts in this way, which is approximately how they're pronounced, anyway.