Hi everyone! Now that we've finished pressing, and we're putting the wines to bed for the season, it seemed like a great opportunity to talk a bit about the tools that are most helpful to us when working with barrels.
First up is the stirring wand, pictured below. It's a curved metal rod with a rotating metal oval at one end and a handle at the other. It's a great tool for doing ingredient additions to barrel, and lees stirring. You simply pull the bung out of the barrel, and slip the oval end in. You use the handle to rotate the wand around in the barrel and you can pretty effectively mix up all the contents.
What do you do if you're fermenting in a barrel, or if a wine is still going through malolactic conversion, and you want to keep the outside world out? Use a fermentation bung! We have two types on hand here-- one with a flexible silicone cap that fits down the middle of a 5-holed bung (on the left below), and one that has just one hole with a smaller silicone plug that fits through the hole and has a foot holding it in place (on the right below). These move just enough to allow the gas produced during fermentation to escape, and come back into place to prevent anything from getting in the barrel. I tend to prefer the option on the left because it's a little bit more flexible and in my experience has less chance of blowing out.
Lastly, the workhorse of the barrel room, we've got the barrel rinser. Are we prepping a barrel that's been empty for a few months to receive wine? Are we cleaning out a barrel after a racking? Are we doing just about anything with a barrel? Yes? Then we're going to rinse it! This nifty little number easily slides into the downward facing bunghole of a barrel, and allows us to give the barrel a thorough spraying of water or ozonated water. In the photo below, you can see on the left where the rinser connects to the water supply, a valve to open or close the water supply, a small foot below to hold the rinser in place, and on the right the spinning head. It works by pressure, so it uses the pressure of the water itself to turn. Simple, elegant, and effective.
These are just a few of the tools that we use when working with barrels, but they're some of my favorites. Check back in periodically, and I'll show off some more of the tools of the trade.
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