Posted on July 8th 2018
If you’ve ever toured a winery, most likely you’ve gotten a glimpse of the barrel room. Those rows and racks of barrels are an integral part of the wine making process. And, with the ability to affect the finished product, barrels are one of the most important components in the production process. But, did you know that empty wine barrels need attention? Barrel management, although not often in the spotlight, is an essential part of the wine making business. Some barrels are full, some are waiting to be filled, and others are empty and waiting to be sold. It’s the empty barrel that is the focus of this story. Empty barrels need to be properly stored and require regular maintenance.
Just last week Nevada City Winery’s Cellar Master, Bill Jennings, was taking the necessary steps to hydrate and sterilize empty barrels. Pictured above is the end of a lengthy hydration process. Empty barrels dry out losing their watertight (or should we say wine-tight) seal. Approximately every ninety days, Nevada City Winery’s empty barrels get some love. Each is filled with water in order to re-hydrate. Water will sit in the barrel for a minimum of twenty-four hours, and up to several days, until a water tight seal is achieved. Once they are fully hydrated, they are put on a barrel rotator and spun until the bung hole is down and then left to drain. Empty but hydrated barrels are then flushed with an ozone solution to provide a sanitizing final rinse. The barrels that aren’t about to be filled with wine are then gassed with sulfur dioxide before they are again stored for use at a later date.