Misadventures in Bottling Wine


I have already written about the joys and art of bottling your own wine in Italy.  While it is undoubtedly a fulfilling and economically-sustainable practice (read: cheap), it is not without its pitfalls.  Another one happened toady, inspiring me to give you a list of my most famous misadventures.  In reverse order:

4.  Today, June 21 2012.  This is the least personally painful because it doesn’t involve my own wine nor my own error.  I arrived in Parma today for a visit with the in-laws only to discover my father-in-law, dripping with red wine and blood, exiting his cellar.  My worst fears were confirmed: the Bonarda was exploding, glass and wine everywhere.  If you’ve never drunk Bonarda, it is a slightly sweet sparkling wine from the region.  And the batch that he got was clearly too effervescent.  To paraphrase Yeats, “The bottle cannot hold.”  So far, of 70 bottles, 20 have blown their tops.  We wait nervously for the others, and meanwhile step lively in the cellar.

3.  Summer, 2003.  My first bottling experience.  70 bottles of Lambrusco Montiglio sitting on the shelves of my own cellar, the darkest dankest spot in all of Parma.   Dantes would have felt right at home.  When the time came to open them, the first bottle gave a limp nothing, not encouraging since Lambrusco should give a healthy and manly pop.  No worries, they said, just wait another week.  Then another, then another.  Of 70 bottles, 70 were shooting blanks.

2.  March, 2012.  Our first bottling experience in Levanto.  We have no cellar, just a covered space that will keep the sun off but not the heat.  An early heat wave blows though.  We check on our stash.  One cork has been forced out.  Then another, then another.  We’re at our wits’ end.  But in our darkest hour, inspiration strikes.  I sink them into the well, where the water temperature is cool and constant.  Result?  No more lost corks, and perfect Prosecco.  Salute!

1.  February, 2004.  This mishap is legendary, spoken of in hushed tones by all who know us.  We’ve just returned in my father-in-law’s car from the vintner with three demijohns of Lambrusco.  My father-in-law, my grandfather-in-law, and me.  Two demijohns make their exit without incident.  My wife’s grandfather and I confidently heft the third, bumping it with the slightest of bumps against the inside edge of the hatchback.  It was enough.  A crack and a crash, and the three of us all watched in disbelief and despair as the deep red wine emptied into the trunk, then back seat, then front seat of the car.  A disaster.  When we finally had the presence of mind to lift the demijohn out, it was empty.  12 gallons of Lambrusco lay in the bottom of the car like some kind of tub from Macbeth.  It was over a year before the smell left the vehicle.

But life is wonderful when it is unpredictable.  And wine is good so long as it is wet.  Just be careful of the glass shards.

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