Thursday, April 19, 2012

Barrels with drains

Recent visitors to the domaine have been amused by our new approach to racking barrels so I thought I would share our system publicly.

I’ve written before (here and here) about racking, the traditional method by which we separate clear wine from the sludgy lees that settle at the bottom of each barrel. We bottle without filtration, so it is essential that all of these lees remain in the barrel when we decant the clear wine in preparation for bottling. A typical barrel contains only about 1 litre of lees, but these lees are so light and easily disturbed that they spoil about 10 times their volume when the barrel is emptied and tipped (see here). We separate and settle the last 10 litres from each barrel and eventually add them to our Passetoutgrain, but it is obviously a shame to be converting Vosne-Romanée into Passetoutgrain, for example!

Hence our 2011s are ageing in barrels equipped with a new system which will hopefully reduce wastage. A threaded hole has been drilled in the bottom of every barrel, into which this stainless steel assembly is inserted.

When the adjustment nut is turned the racking tube is pulled downwards towards the lees. This way we will hopefully be able to draw clear wine right down to the level of the lees, and without moving the barrel. As the nut is turned further the racking tube drops flush with the inside of the barrel so the barrel can be completely drained and washed in situ, a huge advantage in my cramped cellar.

But the real excitement is how this system interacts with our bottle filler. However, that is a post for another day...