Belli Chardonnay barrel fermentation is taking off

September 30, 2011



Yesterday we filled fifteen oak barrels with Belli Chardonnay juice, which we had started fermenting and then cooled way down. As soon as that was done, we moved the barrels inside our warehouse, which is held at a constant 55 degrees F. We like to keep the barrel fermentations from getting too warm, because the style of Chardonnay we are trying to make benefits from a long, cool fermentation; the longer contact between the juice and the yeast cells will give the finished wine more body, and the slower evolution of carbon dioxide out of the juice leaves more of the volatile aromatics in the final product, which will give the wine a more intense nose.

Once the barrels were inside, we sealed them with a special device called a fermentation bung.

Modern fermentation bungs are generally made out of silicone, but we have these neat old-school ones made from redwood and aluminum tubing. The idea with these is that as carbon dioxide is produced by the fermentation it must travel through the aluminum tube and into the cup of water. By observing how quickly gas is bubbling out into the cup, you can get a quick idea of how fast the fermentation inside is going.

The barrels themselves come from a variety of different coopers. Subtle differences in the way the coopers source, age, and toast the oak gives each one a slightly different character. Over the years we’ve developed a portfolio of coopers whose barrels suit the style of Chardonnay we’re trying to make, primarily St. Jacques, Louis Latour, and Claude Gillet.

It is a little known fact that our winemaster Richard Arrowood was the first to import Claude Gillet barrels to the United States, back in the mid-eighties when he was the head winemaker for Chateau St. Jean.
To visit the Amapola Creek Winery main site, please click here.



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