Barrel Maintenance

February 7, 2012




Sometimes it happens that you wind up with empty barrels that need to be stored. If a barrel is new and hasn’t ever been filled, this is not really a problem, you can just leave it inside the winery and wait for next year. However, if the barrel is older and has already been used to store wine, special maintenance is required to keep wine spoilage organisms from taking hold and rendering the barrel useless.

The first step is to set all of the older, empty barrels out and stage them with their bungs facing down. Next you spray their insides with very hot water, followed by ozonated water, which together knock any microbial populations down to negligible levels. The eight barrels that are separated out to the right in this picture are getting sold to another winery.

Once the barrels have been rinsed, we allow them to drain for a few minutes to make sure that most of the water has dripped out. Next, we flip them right-side up and lower a burning a sulfur wick into each of them.

A sulfur wick is a piece of paper that is impregnated with elemental sulfur. When you burn it inside a barrel it releases sulfur dioxide gas, which dissolves into the water clinging to the inside of the barrel and forms sulfurous acid, which has strong antimicrobial effects. This will help keep any microbes from starting to grow in the barrel during storage.

The final step is to insert a paper cup into the bung to keep the sulfur gas from drifting out (it’s pretty irritating to the lungs if you breathe it in). To keep the cups in, we put a strap of packing tape over the bung.

Once the cup is in we flip the barrel back upside down, in case there is any more water to drip out. The cups frequently fall out when the barrels are stored in this position, so we like to use the tape to keep the floors free of litter and to make sure that the inside of the barrel is not exposed to open air.

We repeat this process approximately every month, it’s a lot of work, but that’s what it takes to do it right!

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


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