Can we reuse wine bottles?
We get lots of people wondering if they should bring back their empty wine bottles for us to reuse. We cannot do that because wine bottles need to be sterile when bottling. The bottles arrive to us from the manufacturing plant in a sterile condition, because very high temperatures are used to make glass wine bottles. The amount of time and energy required to sterilize a used wine bottle is prohibitive for us. So what should you do with your empty wine bottles? Give them to your home winemaking buddies. Or if you’re creative, check out the web for all kinds of ideas including wind chimes, candles, pourers and even cutting in half to make drinking glasses. And if you’re not creative or drink a lot of wine like we do, put your empty wine bottles in the recycle bin to get reused elsewhere.
Can wine bottles be green?
That is green in the sense of environmentally-friendly, not the color! In our increasing effort to be sustainable, we are always on the lookout for packaging materials that will help us reach that goal. Saint-Gobain, one of the country’s largest glass manufacturers has come out with its Eco line of wine bottles and we have started to use them. The first wines you’ll see in these eco bottles are the Harvest Red and Chambourcin. These bottles are manufactured using a large percentage of recycled glass and they are thinner and lighter, thereby reducing the amount of raw materials and energy needed to produce them. More and more glass companies are starting to produce environmentally friendly bottles and in a wider variety of styles, so hopefully all of our wine bottles will be “green” in the not too distant future!
How do you use a waiter’s corkscrew?
This may seem like a silly question, but I ran into so many people having trouble at the festival, I thought it was worth a mention. The first thing to do is to use the knife to cut off the capsule just above the lip of the bottle. Then, insert the point of the worm in the center of the cork and start twisting. The trick is to leave about 1 ½ turns of the worm sticking out of the top of the cork – do not screw the worm all the way down into the cork. Then put the hinge down on the top of the bottle and pull straight up with the handle. The picture to the left shows the correct position. Once you do it a few times, the waiters corkscrew might become your favorite because it is so convenient – I have several around my house, one in each of my wine bags, one in each suitcase, one in the car and even one in my golf cart! You never know when you’re going to need one. By the way, the hinge part opens beer bottles too.
What is a Sixtel?
And why would we put wine into one? A sixtel is a beer keg whose volume is 1/6 of a full barrel, 1/3 of a full keg or 5.2 gallons. We had no intentions of ever putting wine into sixtels until approached by the cool people at London Grill restaurant who wanted to do wine on tap. As they tap wine out, nitrogen replaces the wine in the keg and keeps the wine fresh since no oxygen can get in. Beer is served in the same manner except carbon dioxide is used as the gas instead of nitrogen to keep the beer carbonated.
What is the deal with wine in a box?
The technology of bag-in-a-box has its devoted fans. Inside the box is a thick plastic bag with a spigot. The main advantage to using the box is that as the wine is dispensed through the spigot, the bag collapses; so, instead of that wine being displaced with air as happens in a bottle, the wine remains in contact with the bag. Thus, no oxygen can get in contact with the remaining wine and the wine will last a lot longer. Once a bottle of wine is opened, it needs to be consumed in a few days before going bad, whereas a box of wine will last several weeks after opening.
Other advantages include the ease of opening and serving since no corkscrew is needed and the fact that it’s not made of breakable glass. A box can be taken to the beach, pools, picnics or anywhere without worrying about broken glass.
Why are there different shapes and colors of wine bottles?
Some wine bottle shapes and colors are based on tradition such as the use of dark green high-shouldered bottles in the Bordeaux region of France. Therefore, most of the world's wineries use these bottles when bottling "Bordeaux" varieties such as Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. Sloped-shouldered bottles are used throughout the Burgundy and Rhone regions in France to bottle varieties associated with these areas like Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Syrah. Other countries typically follow suit when bottling these varieties with the notable exception of Australia, who bottles their Shiraz (same grape as Syrah) in Bordeaux-style bottles. The tall, slender hock or flute style of bottle is used in Germany and Alsace and is associated with varieties grown there such as Riesling and Gewurztraminer; the hock bottles are brown in the Rhine region of Germany and green in the Mosel region. Some bottles have punts or an indentation at the bottom of the bottle - this doesn't serve much purpose in still wine except for presentation, but is important to reinforce the bottle to withstand pressure in sparkling wine. For hybrid varieties without the tradition history, anything goes! So we put our Vidal Blanc in a bright blue hock bottle just for the fun of it.
Why did we switch back to using natural cork?
Some of you may have noticed that there are natural corks in our new 2010 releases. For years I have been complaining about the problem of cork taint in wines bottled with natural cork. A compound called TCA is produced in cork when it is in the same environment as fungi and chlorinated compounds. The TCA is transferred to the wine which causes musty off-odors. So what has changed? One company has developed a process where cork bark taken off the trees is ground into a flour and then washed with carbon dioxide under high pressure to eliminate the TCA. The cork flour is then molded into nice-looking corks. Gotta love technology!
Why did we switch to synthetic corks at Manatawny Creek Winery?
The main reason is the problem of cork taint with natural cork. People say a bottle of wine is corked when it has this problem. Cork taint occurs when compounds found in natural cork react with molds and chlorine in the environment resulting in development of a compound called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA). TCA causes problems at concentrations as low as a few parts per trillion (a few grains of salt in an Olympic-size swimming pool). In the worst case, TCA causes a wine to have moldy and musty off-aromas and flavors, making the wine undrinkable. A mild TCA contamination may just leave the wine muted with an absence of fruit. Experts estimate that somewhere between 1% and 8% of corks are tainted which is why we have moved away from using natural cork. The two main alternatives are synthetic corks and screw caps and the main hurdle with screw caps is consumer acceptance. So, until people stop associating screw caps with jug wines (and until we can afford a new screw cap machine), we won't be switching to screw caps anytime soon!
Why does wine in an opened Sangria pouch keep longer than wine in an opened bottle?
With the release of our Z-Z-Zangria in pouches, this question becomes very common in the tasting room. The simple answer is exposure to oxygen. When you drink half of a bottle of wine, the remainder of that space in the bottle is filled with air which is about 21% oxygen. Wine exposed to oxygen causes spoilage reactions to occur; using a vacuum pump cannot remove all of the oxygen. Note that spoilage in wine doesn’t mean anything that can harm you, only affecting flavor.
Enter pouch technology. Since the pouch material is flexible, unlike glass, when you tap wine out of the pouch, the container collapses. Thus, no air can enter and contact the wine and no reactions with oxygen can occur. So the wine inside stays fresh. We have tested an opened pouch over the course of a month and the wine has not deteriorated.
You may ask, why then do we not put more wine in pouches? The downside of the plastic is that unopened wine cannot keep as long in a pouch as it can in a glass bottle. We suggest that the Sangria be consumed within a year.