We have become members of a local winery. One of the benefits of membership is that we can go to their tasting room, a convenient mile from our home, and have a free glass of wine. Many evenings we ride bikes to "Rigger's Loft" to enjoy our free glass, then head home for dinner. Members received an email inquiry asking for help bottling. We both decided it sounded like it would be interesting. So, Wednesday morning found us at the loft, ready to learn what we were to do.
There were seven stations in the bottling process.
Station 1. Bottles are dropped onto a table by the case. If you hold the carton by the corners, and place it open side down, you can lift the carton off the bottles and most of the time the cardboard grids stay in the carton. The cartons are piled on the floor and will be taken to the other end of the line to be filled with full bottles of wine. The bottles have to be "sparged". A quick jet of nitrogen is blown into each bottle using a hand-held tool similar to a tire inflater. The jet of nitrogen blows any dust in the bottle out, and stays at the bottom of the bottle keeping any contaminated air out of the bottle.
|Sparging going on in the background. Bottles waiting for corks in the foreground|
If the bottle is a bit too full, a tablespoon or so is poured into the pitcher.
Station 5: The foil shrinker grabs a bottle with the right hand and places it on the platform of the machine in a V made by two pieces of wood. Then the operator must use both hands to push two buttons. The machine lowers over the neck of the bottle and emits heat and pressure which shrinks the foil. When the machine lifts, that bottle is placed on the table to the left and the next bottle on the right is placed on the bed of the machine.
|A few rejects have been set aside. The labels will be scraped off before new ones are applied.|