Of barrels and inoculating grape juice

Brand new barrel with the plastic just removed.
Brand new barrel with the plastic just removed.

Besides keeping the birds out of the vineyards and cleaning, I think there were enough of us first year students looking to glean lots of information before we officially began our studies that the faculty decided to keep us busy: there were several new barrels that came into the winery and we painted them with O’Sullivan’s

Now called O'Sullivan's Barrel Guard rather than Mildewcide Coating
Now called O’Sullivan’s Barrel Guard rather than Mildewcide Coating

Mildewcide Coating (now called Barrel Guard).  This porous coating maintains the integrity of the wood (no staining, easier exterior cleaning).    Of course, if there is staining on your older barrels, it is preserved.  Know what I did for two days?  Granted, I wasn’t alone, so there were people to talk to and get to know better while we smeared this clear coat on all of the empty barrels in the winery.

Riesling juice and yeast, a bit of time and we will be enjoying a sparkling wine.
Riesling juice and yeast, a bit of time and we will be enjoying a sparkling wine.

Riesling grapes came into the winery before we were active participants in the current harvest; a few of us were present to rack and inoculate the juice.  It isn’t a large quantity of juice, but it will be a sparkling wine for our fund-raiser in October: Entwine 2013.  Racking is the process of extracting the clear juice/wine from the sediment that settles to the bottom of the tank.  Inoculating is the addition of specific strains of yeast, or the exposure to native (naturally occurring) yeast cultures to encourage the transition of the grape juice to wine.  Between barrels, I spent a few minutes gathered to observe/document the inoculation of the Riesling juice to genuinely begin the 2013 crush season at WWCC’s College Cellars.

Pretty barrels all lined up and ready to go.
Pretty barrels all lined up and ready to go.
Clear and cool, Muscat grape juice was a nice refreshment after painting in the hot sun all morning.
Clear and cool, Muscat grape juice was a nice refreshment after painting in the hot sun all morning.

By the time we were finished painting barrels the sun was high and hot about noon on Thursday.  But the cellar room will be sharp-looking with the glam barrels.  It was time to rack the Muscat and Chardonnay juices into their respective containers and inoculate them.  Inside the cool of the tank room, with a taste of the Muscat juice as a quick electrolyte boost, we got to work.

View from the top of the tank, I was on the catwalk, before we racked the juice off.
View from the top of the tank, I was on the catwalk, before we racked the juice off.
Again from the top, after the clear juice was removed.  Lees left behind to be cleaned out of the tank.
Again from the top, after the clear juice was removed. Lees left behind to be cleaned out of the tank.

Setting up the pump and the cleaned hoses so that they pull the juice from one tank to another, I was able to take some pictures before, during and as we finished up.  We were actually a large group, but more hands make light work and we each lent a hand at some point or another.  The hoses, especially when full of liquid, are very heavy.  It took all my strength, while standing on a ladder, to keep the hose at the right level to leave the lees behind and not stir them up.

Inoculating the barrels of Chardonnay  juice.  Looking forward to working with these people for the next two years!
‘Fermaid’ added to the barrels of Chardonnay juice. Looking forward to working with these people for the next two years!

When we finished with the racking lunch was declared; the juices needed some time to warm up so the yeast addition would actively being when inoculation took place.  Knowing how much clean up there was, a classmate and I determined we would clean the tanks and the tank room before being done for the day.  He had experience in a brewery, so felt very comfortable while I took advantage of all he knew and followed his lead.  No pictures of clean up because we were more concerned with the hoses and clean-up (this means we were soaking wet and couldn’t take the camera out).  Besides, there wasn’t anything exciting to take pictures of at this point.

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