Ask Wine Wizard

Bottling Tips and Checklist


Emily Rodgers — Wenatchee, Washington asks,

I think it’s almost time to bottle my wine (a 2021 Chardonnay that has completed malolactic fermentation — although this is my first wine ever, so I’m not totally sure) and I have to admit I’m a little intimidated by the process. I’m planning to rent a hand corker and have my bottles and corks ready to go. I also have a couple of friends who are willing to come over to help. How do I know when it’s time? The day-of bit is also what I’m worried about. Can you give me a checklist of things I should do leading up to my “bottling run” to help me get ready?

I totally get it! There are some great articles about bottling in the WineMaker article archives at www.winemakermag.com. Though it’s a topic my fellow authors have covered before, I certainly can still give you some of my own insights as well as a checklist which is based on what I use when I’m prepping to bottle my own wines at Plata Wine Partners in Napa, California. The first step is to determine when it’s time to bottle. Sometimes the wine just has to “do its thing” and you just have to pay attention. Since you’re dealing with a white wine like Chardonnay and it’s vintage 2021 (as I’m writing this, it’s the end of May 2022), chances are that it’s ready to go. Whites and rosés almost always need less aging time than reds, with unoaked styles (like Pinot Grigio) needing the least time. All fermentations are complete Unless you want bubbles appearing in the bottle later, make sure your wine is dry (I usually go with less than 0.2% residual sugar as the benchmark) and your malolactic fermentation (MLF)
Response by Alison Crowe.