Barreling down the Belli Chardonnay

September 29, 2011



Our preffered practice with Chardonnay is to start the fermentation in a tank before putting the juice down to barrels, this is a way of promoting an even fermentation across the lot (having one or two lagging barrels in a lot is a hassle). We inoculated the first lot of Belli Chardonnay (the one from blocks 3 and 5) with Prisse de Mousse yeast back on Monday. Yesterday, we found that the fermentation had started, although it was going very slowly because we were holding the juice at a modest 55 degrees F.

As soon as we saw the juice bubbling in the tank, we turned the thermostat on the tank down to 40 degrees F. We did this so that we could put the Chardonnay juice down to barrel without excessive foaming; the harder the juice is fermenting when you put it to barrel, the more foam it will produce and the harder it will be to tell when the barrel is filled to the level you want.

This is about what the juice in a barrel should look like when the barrel has just been filled. A wine barrel holds about 60 gallons when it is completely full. To ferment juice, we fill them to between 50 and 53 gallons. This leaves plenty of room for the foam that the fermentation will produce, preventing the barrel from overflowing.

The process of filling the barrels with fermenting juice is very simple. We connect a pump to the tank, and from there run a hose to a tool called a ‘wand’. The juice runs through the wand into the barrel, while whomever is doing the filling watches the juice level through the bung with a flashlight.

This wand has a 'sight-glass' on it, that allows you to visually inspect the material as it passes through. The black item sitting next to the wand is the speed control for the pump, it is very useful because it allows you to slow down when the barrel is almost full to the level you want, letting you dial in the fill exactly.

 The eight hundred gallons of Chardonnay ended up going down to fifteen french oak barrels, nine of which were new, and six of which had been used in previous vintages. Later this week, we’ll cover our barrel selections for the Chardonnay in more detail.

To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.


One Response to “Barreling down the Belli Chardonnay”

  1. Ricardo said

    A lot of good info Micah…. keep on telling the story !!! :>)

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