My dad has been keeping this big old bottle of wine that none of us knows much about. According to the label it’s a 1978 red table wine from Piedmont, Italy. It also says, “Ribezzo Barbera D’Asti.” It’s a 12-liter bottle, and I was afraid the wine was past its prime. If so, it wasn’t getting any better and the thing to do was re-bottle it. Then we’d know what shape the wine was in and we’d have it in normal bottles to drink as we liked. The first thing I had to do was uncork it.
So how do you uncork a 12-liter wine bottle? A lever action corkscrew is no good because it’s too small for the cork to pass through. I tried a waiters corkscrew. It looked a little small in comparison, but I got it in as far as I could and started pulling. I thought it was working at first, as the cork seemed like it was coming out easily. I soon discovered that the 30-year old cork had split horizontally, so I pulled out the top half of the cork but the bottom half remained stubbornly in place.
I was hoping to get the cork out whole and clean, but prepared to deal with cork or pieces of cork in the wine. I put plan B into action by gently pushing the cork down until it fell into the wine. So far, so good, but now we’re at the embarrassing part of the story. I began to siphon the wine into a bottling bucket, and all was going well. I made sure to keep the end of my racking cane off the bottom so as not to pick up sediment. As the wine level in the bottle went down, I lowered the racking cane until … it wouldn’t go down any more. That’s when I realized that this bottle was taller than my carboys and the racking cane wasn’t big enough to reach all the way to the bottom.
Lesson learned. Next time I have to deal with an unusual size, I’ll double check my equipment and make sure it fits the container. There I was with most of the wine in the bottling bucket, but no way to siphon the rest. I gritted my teeth and poured the remaining wine. From here on, it was pretty familiar. I moved the bottling bucket onto a counter, and filled 14 bottles while the Lady of the House corked them. Now we’ve got some tasting to do!
Update I took a photo of Big Red before re-bottling.
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