Handling of wine in barrel?
Topping, racking and refilling process and procedures (For Wine in Barrel)
As part of our premium quality goal we are changing our processes for handling wine. The following is a list of processes and procedures that we will follow, although details such as air draining, oxygenation etc may not be included in these description (if you are looking for this information please contact me for details).
Topping is the process of keeping oxygenated air out of the wine barrels by continuously keeping the barrels filled to the brim. Wine evaporates or is removed for testing and tasting, so we need to watch the wine levels in the barrels and refill regularly.
As part of our process for premium wine, topping wine has to be primarily the exact same batch of wine, so fx a pinot noir estate, vintage, block, press etc has to be identical between the topping wine and the content of the barrel to be topped.
To make that work, we will use variable size tanks for the topping wine, in order to keep oxygenated air out of the topping wine. For now we will be using stainless steel tanks for the topping wine. alternative methods of filling a bag inside the barrel with liquid could be considered.
If for some reason we do not have the correct / desired topping wine as described above, the topping wine has to be selected by a committee of our sommelier, winemaker and owner.
As part of the process, the wine is FOSS tested as well as tasted by our sommelier for quality control purposes. The results will be filed on our shared wine folder.
Our red wines are currently not filtered prior to bottling / keg-ing. The racking process combined with the barrel aging will be used as the primary method for separating wine from lees, by clarifying the wines over time. Our goal is to continue to avoid filtration in our wine process. Filtration of small amounts of wine may be needed and accepted in order to avoid waste.
Wine of the exact same kind may only be racked together. Pinot Noir Estate free run, may not be mixed with Pinot Noir Estate pressed as an example.
The refilling will go into cleaned barrels of the same kind of wine.
The end-goal is to be able to blend a reserve wine version from our absolute best tasting, cleanest and best looking wine, that will be bottled unfiltered, clear with great color.
For now this means that in the final racking process the reserve wine must only consist of the top part of the barrel, so as an example only the first half of the barrel will be racked as the reserve wine, and the second half with potentially more lees will be used for estate.
Immediately after a barrel is racked it must be closed in order to protect the wine from oxygenation.
The reserve wine will be racked first. After the final racking for reserve labelled wine is completed and the blend as has been tasted and approved for bottling, the regular estate will be racked and assembled.
Final estate version racking will follow immediately after the completed reserve racking. Estate racking can consist of two steps. First the remaining barrels are racked so they are almost completely empty, leaving wine with high content of lees in the barrels. This process is immediately followed by adding filtration of the very last barrel content in order avoid waste. The need for filtration will be determined at the time of final racking, by measuring the clarity of the wine.
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Los Altos Vineyards, Byington Winery and Tin Cross Vineyards