Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Secondary Fermentation of Chardonnay

There is a room here just for Chardonnay. To access it from inside the winery, you have to sideways-walk between tall stainless steel tanks and then bend over to reach through the little door, watching your step in. When the white grapes come in and we pick out all the wildlife bits, the juice is racked (aka pumped) into these wooden barrels. With patience and precision, the winemaker can time exactly how long it takes to fill a barrel to the right level without overflowing.

The little science experiment turning this juice into wine causes airlock gauges to gurgle, filling the whole wooden room with a curiously calming and soothing sound - it's almost like quietly walking into a room with a baby monitor where you can hear the infant happily burble, babble, and drool in its dreams.
The fermentation lock on top is needed so that oxygen doesn't enter, but the carbon dioxide can escape; the pressure inside is pushing the gas up and out causing the bubbles in the airlock. When the bubbles stop, it is a clear sign to the wine maker that the (here, wild) yeast has eaten all the sugar. 
When you run out of such contraptions however, you can brilliantly use a bag of sand that is still malleable enough to yield to the carbon dioxide pushing it's way out. I'm pretty sure the spilled minor-explosion of juice on the barrel in the picture above is not a very good sign, but the soon-to-be-wine can easily be transferred to less-full barrels and the sticky juice wiped off. 

It's most likely the worst 25 second video you've ever seen. And the noise in the background is probably less of the fascinating fermentation and more of the bird-scarer outside (yes, there is such a noise and unfortunately is not silent to humans like a dog whistle. #birdpeckfree #goodwinesacrifices). But walking into the room full of bubbling barrels turning the grape juice into wine in front of you is really quite impressive. dramatic. miraculous.wonderful.
At least adjective-worthy enough for me to try to capture it with a dinky video. 

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