Sunday, March 08, 2009

Bottling Wine

Ken and I have talked about this before on our blogs, but since it's a pretty routine thing around here, I thought I'd mention it again. We live in a wine producing region and we buy the vast majority of our wine locally. Most of our local producers (who are also our neighbors) sell wine en vrac (in bulk) in addition to the bottled product.

Bottling a case of Valençay vin de pays.

Needless to say, the bulk wine is more economical because we don't have to pay for bottles, corks, labels, or the labor to put it all together. And mostly it's the same wine that's in the bottles. The exceptions, of course, are any special vintages or blends and certain "signature" wines that are only sold in bottles.

We have four ten-liter jugs that the winemakers fill up directly from the barrel or tank. They use a hose that looks similar to a gas pump nozzle to fill each jug. Then we take the wine home and fill up our own bottles (that are cleaned and re-used every time, of course) and we cork 'em up and put 'em away.

Each ten-liter jug holds just over a standard case of wine; thirteen bottles and a little more. We've saved bottles from wine we bought during our first year here and use them over and over again. They get rinsed with hot water once they're empty, then they dry on a special bottle rack in the cellar until it's time to fill them again.

For a while we were buying corks at our local wine producers' supply cooperative. Corks for short-duration storage are not expensive when bought by the thousand, and we have a hand-operated corking machine that they sold us for twenty-five euros about five years ago. That all works pretty well, considering that we buy wine for current consumption and not to put away to age for many years.

Recently, however, a friend gave us a little package of re-usable plastic closures and a special corkscrew for them. It turns out that they work very well for our short-term storage needs and will nearly eliminate our need to buy corks.

I'll drink to that!


  1. we've seen the bulk sales in a couple of areas in France - looks quite inexpensive like 2-3E per bottle??? maybe less if you get 13 bottles - never tasted these vin de pays but good enough I would suppose!

    went to a nice Bordeaux tasting of 2000 and 2005 vintages - high buck wines - the store host suggested that these should be drunk with a bit of cheese and bread rather than with a full meal to really savor the full flavors of the wine alone - drink cheaper wines with the meal like a vin de pays I would quess.

    any comments on this - Dale

  2. I worry more and more about the cork forests...

    BTW, is vrac a real word, or is is an acronym or abbreviation?

  3. Vrac seems to derive from a Dutch word wrac or Old French waracq.

    Dale, there are wines that one enjoys for the wine itself. They stand alone. Then there are wines made to accompany food. They are lighter and more drinkable. Loire wines are in that style. "Thirst wines," they call them.

    Some of our wines, sold en vrac, cost less than a euro per bottle. Others go up at high as two or even three euros per bottle.

  4. Walt

    We follow the same process here- because imported wines are so expensive in Quebec ( we buy/store them for special occasions or sunday diners) - we make wine from fresh imported juices from Italy or California ( sometimes Alsace), bought from an intermediary here and after the whole fermentation process, racking, stabilization, clarification and aging etc , we bottle them the way you described. We decided to invest in some equipment so that we can enjoy a glass whenever we feel like it during the week. From a 23 litre carboy or demijohn- we get between 32-34 bottles.

  5. "re-usable plastic closures and a special corkscrew for them"

    Walt, could you post a photo of these, please?

    And thanks for all the recent photos of your great baking and cooking.


  6. how fortunate to have such lovely wine near by.
    I've said it before - i love to study wine but have never really had French wine, as it is too expensive here.
    Someday I hope to try some I've learned inmy studies.

  7. "re-usable plastic closures and a special corkscrew for them"

    curious to see what they look like and if there available here in the States.



  8. I think Ken answered most of the questions in his comment.

    I will do a post about the plastic closures.

    ur-spo: or, you could come visit France and taste them first hand!

  9. I'm getting such an education here!

  10. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.


  11. I have bought a cubitainer of Bordeaux red & would like to know how long it can stay in the cubi before bottling?

    1. june, if it's a bag-in-box, I think you can keep it for months. If it's just a container with no sealed bag, the wine should be bottled as soon as possible, especially once you start taking it out (and letting air in).

    2. Thanks for that. It is a bag in a box that holds about 20L. I wanted to wait another couple of weeks so my husband can help me but my neighbour has put the tap on it so I'm not sure if that changes the situation!


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