Bottling Day

by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

jeff-smThursday was bottling day. We use a winery facility along with a number of other wineries, and on Thursday quite a few of them lined up at the bottling line. Us among them.

Bottling tends to make me nervous, since there’s so much that needs to go right, and so little that needs to go wrong, for the day to be a real nail-biter. We were bottling two wines, a 2007 Seven Artisans Meritage, and a 2009 Seven Artisans Montepulciano.

Since we silk-screen our Seven Artisans bottles, many of the potential problems encountered at the bottling line disappeared, since so much of the problems you encounter are with the labels. Are they too high or too low, are they wrinkled a bit, that kind of thing. With imprinted bottles, the label issue disappears, and with it much of the hassle of bottling.

So Thursday actually was pretty anti-climatic. We encountered one small problem, namely that the boxes were a little small for the size of our bottles. This meant that as we unloaded the boxes on the bottling line, the box inserts tended to come out along with the bottles. We ended up having one person doing nothing but putting the inserts back in the boxes. A pain, but hardly a catastrophe.

Unlike some other bottlings, the stress of this one occurred before and will occur after. As bottling day approaches, there are a multitude of things that need to happen to make sure that everything is set up right. Probably most of concern is that the label approval be in place well before bottling day, so there is time to get the silk-screening done and the bottles to the bottling line. We’d originally planned on bottling in April, but had to cancel it when the label approval was delayed. But having already gotten the label approval earlier, that wasn’t an issue with this bottling date.

The other pre-bottling tasks went pretty well, at least this time. Doing the final blends, filtering the wines (something we don’t always do but did for this bottling), so that the wine was ready when the bottler was, went like clockwork. We did spend some time on the Meritage doing our final blend, and ended up adding some Malbec right at the end which seemed to beef up the mid-palate a bit, and made for a fruitier and more forward wine as well.

The Montepulciano we had decided a while back to bottle as 100%–no blending. We liked the wine an awfully lot standing alone, and wanted the consumer to experience Montepulciano on its own to see what the grape could do. This is the wine that really gives me the most sleepless nights, as I’m concerned about how something that’s largely unknown will fare in the marketplace, irrespective of how good it is.

At any rate, bottling is done for now. Heading into harvest, the bottling process is put on hold so that there’s no conflict between having to crush fruit while bottling. But they’ll be another bottling fairly soon after harvest, I suspect, and we’ll go through the drill yet again.

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