Our winery practices
You can have great fruit but if you are not careful in the winery it will lose flavour and turn towards vinegar. Louis Pasteur pointed out that wine is the result of arresting natural processes of degradation at a point short of vinegar production. Vinegar is the work of aceto-bacteria (bacteria producing acetic acid from alcohol). These bacteria are present in wine at all times. They multiply and ferment when air is available. For this reason inert gas is reticulated to the headspace of all tanks and barrels are routinely topped. When a tank is incompletely filled we replace the air on top of the wine with carbon dioxide or nitrogen. We have instruments to measure the oxygen content in the headspace.
Sulphur dioxide is a cheap and useful tool to control some bacteria that interfere with yeast fermentation and leave a wine subject to spoilage. But used in excess or at the wrong time it destroys the wine. It will not control aceto-bacteria. Under the right conditions one can make wine without sulphur dioxide. In fact we make a red and a white wine each year without using sulphur dioxide. This exercise provides an annual reminder of the requirements for safe natural winemaking. These circumstances are described in our 'Preservative Free' articles. A knowledge of these circumstances helps in making all wines.
At every step in winemaking one must be careful. Under what conditions will this wine ferment to dryness most safely and securely? Is this the right tank? Is this the right pump? How can I minimize the number of handlings that puts the wine at risk of oxidation? When is oxygen required? How can I bottle this product without air contact? How can I avoid damaging filtration? Is all fermentation complete or is there substrate remaining that will allow yeast or bacterial growth in the bottle? Is barrel storage appropriate for this wine? How old should the barrel be? Is the barrel clean? How do I store my dry barrels so that they stay fresh? Which are the right bottle and the right closure? Is my equipment in good order?
An experienced winemaker can use finings to modify wine flavours or get out of jail in difficult circumstances, for example when the fruit is mouldy or partly spoiled. But, he cannot retrieve a wine that is spoiled by acetobacter, brettanomyces yeast or oxidation. These are faults that have their origin in poor handling at the earliest stages of winemaking.
A winemaker's best tool is his nose and his palate. It can tell him what is going on at the moment, the stage a wine has reached, something of its history and its possibilities. It tells him whether the product will be palatable and the value that he should put on the wine. Nevertheless, a busy winemaker will maintain close contact with a good analytical laboratory and watch things like a hawk.
Please enjoy the additional articles on our use of barrels and closures linked on the top left menu.