Friday, December 11, 2009
OK, so the grapes are picked, the crush gear is clean and stored for the season, and the fermentations are finished (mostly), so what's going on in the winery now? Is everybody just sitting around staring at the barrels and biding their time until the holiday break?
Not a chance.
We're still very busy here in the winery getting the red wines through malolactic fermentation (the conversion of malic acid to lactic acid carried out by the bacterium Oenococcus oeni), waiting for a few Chardonnay and Riesling ferments to finish, and performing lots of rackings. Racking is the term we use for decanting (pumping) the clear wine off of any solids (lees) that have settled to the bottom of the tanks. These lees are largely comprised of dead yeast and bacterial cells along with some grape solids. Each of the red wines we make is normally racked 3-4 times before it goes to barrel for ageing, and each time we save those lees, so what happens to all the purple glop? Well, there is still wine mixed in with the lees, so we call in a filtration company and we have them use a Rotary Drum Vacuum filter to filter (see above pictures) out the solids and recover the wine from the lees. This recovered wine isn't of sufficient quality to be included in our products, so we sell it to other wineries or negociants that will blend it with other bulk lots to create other brands. Waste not want not, right?
Chateau Montelena Winery