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tl;dr - Can wine bottles explode?

I've read that when making wine, if fermentation isn't finished, it moght result in a sparkling wine. In the worst case, the cork might get pushed out, due to extra carbonation.

I bottled a mead back in January, and opening it now, it's carbonated. I did not expect that. Past meads didn't do this. This one was aged in a carboy for 5 months, fermented in primary for 1.5 months. Yet it's still fermenting, thus carbonating. Should I be worried about wine-bottle-bombs? Or should I just watch the corks, to see if they are pushing out?

Bottles are being stored on their side, so the corks are kept wet.

If any more info is needed for an answer, let know.

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tl;dr - Yes.

It is definitely possible for wine bottles to break or explode, but I've seen many more stories of homebrewers having the corks pop out. I have, however, personally witnessed a commercial "organic," "no sulfites added" wine blow out the bottom of its bottle sitting on the shelf in a grocery store. Most likely, this depends on how secure the cork (or other closure) is in the first place (PVC shrink wrap/foil or bare, etc.).

If you do a quick search on a forum like GotMead? or HomeBrewTalk for "wine bottle bombs," you can find several similar anecdotes. In fact, a recently posted mead-related incident can be seen here: A Series of Unfortunate Brewing Accidents. In that article, the homebrewer in question had a few unstabilized bottles of mead start refermenting after the temperature increased by a few degrees.

In short, if you plan on making carbonated wine, mead, or cider, make sure that it is in a container built to hold pressure (champagne bottles, beer bottles, kegs) with a closer that is equally secure (crown caps, champagne corks with cages).

If you do not plan on making carbonated wine, mead, or cider, either stabilize or make sure the fermentation is complete before bottling (no residual sugar, stable gravity readings with the ABV outside of the yeast's alcohol tolerance, etc.)

Remember, if there is residual sugar when you bottle and the yeast is still within (or even close to) its tolerance, fermentation can always start back up, even if it is months later. When in doubt, stabilizing with potassium metabisulfite and potassium sorbate should prevent this.

  • If you weren't planning on carbonated wine, and used wine bottles and corks, it depends a lot on the cork. With #7, it's likely to push the cork out and spray all over. With #9 and a floor corker, you are more likely to burst the bottle. – Wyrmwood Apr 14 '15 at 19:10
  • Right, and screw caps would probably burst too. I'm not sure about zorks, but I'm going to assume they'd either shoot off like a bullet or the bottle would shatter. – valverij Apr 14 '15 at 19:17
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In the past I've only gotten bombs when I had put too much sugar into the bottle when conditioning, and it has always happened within a week or 2. I think also with wine bottles being a thick as they are they are a bit tougher. If you haven't added extra sugar for bottle carbonation then there must've been some residual left in there when you bottled the mead, in which case there wouldn't be enough to cause an explosion.

In short, I'd say it would've happened by now.

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    Regular wine bottles are not built to hold pressure. If you are bottle carbing wine, it should be done in champagne bottles, which are made to hold multiple atmospheres of pressure. – valverij Apr 13 '15 at 14:37

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