Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Racking is a procedure used to remove sediment from wine. It's as simple as removing the "clear" wine (free of sediment) from each barrel, cleaning the barrels, and refilling them once the barrels dry. Here's a shot of my brother Alan with the "bulldog" racking device pulling out the wine. He uses a flashlight on the hose to ensure he's not taking up any solids or sediment with the wine. Our 2009 wines have finished malo-lactic (secondary) fermentation, and so this is the first time they will be racked.
Everyone's philosophy is different when it comes to racking. We usually "rack to tank," meaning we move the wine from several barrels into a tank, clean a whole slew of barrels before refilling from wine stored safely in the tank. The wine is more homogeneous and it is more efficient since we don't have a huge staff on hand (my brother has two helpers and about 200 barrels per vintage). The wine may undergo some more movement with this method, depending on how close the barrels are to the tank, so we reduce the number of times we rack to about 3 times in the two year winemaking process.
Another way to rack is "barrel to barrel" - cleaning one barrel at a time and refilling it with the next barrel's wine. This minimizes the agitation of the wine and exposure to oxygen, keeping more of the trapped C02 which serves as a preservative, but also allows for barrel variation, possible reduction smells, and sometimes you get a slight "spritz" in the finished product which usually blows off with decanting as do any notes of reduction. There's also the copper in the cellar trick, but that's another story...
Great wines are created using either racking method, so it is really up to the winemaker to choose his or her winemaking style and priorities.
Cheers from Alan and Delia, mother-son winemaking team! Here they are putting together a mock 2009 VIADER blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
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