It’s possibly one of the most rewarding feelings when I finally have the wine in barrel. This is the culmination of a year’s sweat, stress and sleepless nights and visually I find it very rewarding to stand back and actually see the wine sitting there.
The process from grape to the barrel has involved picking, cooling, de-stemming, fermenting, pressing, settling and racking the settled wines from tank to barrel. “Racking” is a term to describe the process of transferring the clear wine off the settled sediment. This sediment is known as “the lees”, which is comprised of grape and yeast residue.
Further settling will continue to occur in the barrels in the following months and further rackings will be required to ensure desired clarity prior to bottling.
A further process to occur in barrel is malolactic fermentation. This secondary fermentation is performed by wine bacteria which convert harsh malolactic acid (think green apples) into soft lactic acid (think milk, cream). This will improve the over-all balance and “mouth feel” of the wine. Furthermore, it is necessary that the process occurs before bottling to avoid further fermentation occurring in the bottle which would result in major impairment of the quality of wine.
We’re not quite there yet but seeing the wine in barrel always gives me a second wind as I know that the lion’s share of the year’s work is over. There is little to do but watch, wait and follow the maturation of the wine as it sits in barrel.
Who said there’s ever little to do; in a winery the cycle never stops – just the way I like it.