Tuesday, September 3, 2013

What is "Bottle Shock"?

With kudos to the folks at Bodega Del Sur winery, in Murphys, Calaveras County, I am re-printing the excellent piece from their latest newsletter, written by winemaker Brett Keller.  It's a great explanation of this phenomenon!

"Recently, Bodega Del Sur bottled some new wines for your enjoyment! During bottling, one of our crew asked, "What is Bottle Shock?" Well, there is a lot more to it than a clever movie showing California's dominance over French wine...!

"Bottle Shock" is the term we use to describe the tumultuous journey of wine from the barrel to the bottle. After staying stationary for up to thirty months in oak barrels the wine is suddenly taken from its slumber, moved to a tank, filtered, and pumped gently to the bottling line where it falls with gravity into the bottle. It's kind of like being rudely awaken from a good sound sleep and being thrown into a lake!

During the process of bottling we are also adding sulfites as a preservative to prevent spoilage and amend sulfur dioxides that naturally occur in wine. As we bottle the wines we treat them as gently as possible with slow movement of the wine, minimal use of sulfites, and almost compete lack of contact with oxygen, which can oxidize the wine too quickly. Despite our best efforts, all the components of the wines that came together over the last couple of years tend to be a bit shaken, and they temporarily become a bit disjointed... When the wines make the bottle we use inert gas and a vacuum sealer to cork the bottle to protect it. Once the bottle is corked it is almost an impermable vessel, other than the slow movement of tiny amounts of oxygen that passes through the cork.
Bottles ready for tasting and buying
at their Murphys tasting room
"Bottle Shock" will generally last for a period of three to six weeks, after which time the wine tends to recompose itself and once again prepare for its long cellar sleep, until you, our valued customers, have a chance to taste our efforts. We release our wines after the period of "Bottle Shock" has run it course, during which time we are frequently checking its progress towards readiness.

Until then, watch the movie 'Bottle Shock' with Alan Rickman. It is an entertaining rendition of what makes a small winery in the early seventies Napa Valley 'shock' the world with its sojourn into the annals of winemaking history...

Until next time, Brett Keller, Winemaker" 

For more info on their fine wines, go to www.bodegadelsur.com

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