Barreling Syrah

Caucase Oak from a French cooperage house.
Caucase Oak from a French cooperage house.

The highlight of my day came about 3:30 PM; it was my pleasure to be told to put the pump together and move the Syrah from the poly tank into the puncheons!  I had finished painting the barrels with mildewcide this morning, so they were ready to go.  Pressing grapes for rose’ and corralling the inoculation process for the remaining red grapes processed yesterday didn’t deter Tim from encouraging me to do this by myself, which I take as a compliment.

Pump and hoses clamped together, cleaned and ready to rack wine.
Pump and hoses clamped together, cleaned and ready to rack wine.

I began by gathering the clamps to connect the hoses and stainless steel wands to the pump – only to come up short two one-inch clamps and gaskets.  After some pilfering from various tanks, I assembled and cleaned the whole machine.  It took two extra arms to help move the pump and all that hose to the poly tank.  The puncheons were moved into place and I was left to my own devises to move the wine.

The far puncheon is the Russian oak, the closer is the French oak.
The far puncheon is the Russian oak, the closer is the French oak.

The smell of the Russian oak was lovely before the wine, as the Syrah filled it the aromas were even more complex and heavenly.  I was joined by one of my Group 5 peers, Maria.  No flashlight to see where the liquid was inside and my first time filling an oak barrel, I was a little shy of full.  The second barrel is a neutral French oak which had Cabernet Sauvignon in it last and still carries the intense nose of this bold grape’s wine.  I had more confidence filling this barrel and turned the pump higher, pumping much faster than the first one – even filling it closer to the top of the barrel before stopping the pump.

It is important to hydrate your older barrels so they don't leak wine until the wood swells again.
It is important to hydrate your older barrels so they don’t leak wine until the wood swells again.

Unprepared for the amount of wine left in the poly tank, Tim graciously left his press and found me a third, neutral French oak barrel (yup, a smaller one).  He stayed to help with that one since the poly tank had the lees at the bottom and he didn’t want to take all of them into the barrel.  Unprepared barrels tend to leak as the wood shrinks a bit – this one was no exception.  Had we time to hydrate the barrel, it would’ve been good.

High on the successful rack from poly tank to barrels, Maria and I moved the pump back inside to clean it all and put it away.  We were late for our Entwine volunteer meeting, but I was ready to clean the poly tank next.  When we went back outside it was pretty clear that the situation with the press wasn’t what it should have been and cleaning the poly tank would have to wait since moving the full barrels to get to the tank wasn’t happening right then.  It was getting late, Friday night, and very few students were around, but the grapes still needed to be pressed and the press cleaned.  Crush is unpredictable at best, but when something goes awry it is truly ‘crushing’.

Thank you Tim for giving me the opportunity and supporting my efforts through racking the Syrah, it is very much appreciated.

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