The Barrel Has Come..

Finally, the barrel has come. A 10 gallon American oak barrel from Presque Ilse Winery in Erie, PA. The barrel was fresh from the mill and seemed to be well made. Upon receiving the barrel it is wise to inspect the barrel inside and out to check for defects, this barrel had none. After inspection I needed to ensure the barrel had a good seal prior to filling it. I had two choices here:
1. Fill it with 1/10th of hot water and soak it on each end for 15-30 minutes.
2. Do a cold water soak by filling it all the way up and allowing it to stay that way over night.

      I decide to go with the cold water soak so the next day I could run a pH and sulfite test on the wine and make the necessary adjustments before racking into the barrel. The wine of choice here is a California Cabernet Sauvignon juice pail. The next wine to go in will be a Zinfandel from juice. I decided to go with juice at first so the barrel is broken in to some degree before I transfer my wines from the vineyard into it.

      After the cold water soak was finished, I transferred the water out of the barrel and allowed it to drip-dry. While it dried I tested the sulfite level of the cab and came up with 12 ppm, with a pH of 3.2. If i was aging in a carboy, I would have adjusted to 0.5 molecular sulfite but instead just added sulfite to achieve 45 ppm free SO2. I am not too sure what to expect as far as a drop in Sulfite levels goes, so I wanted to be ready for anything.

      Once the sulfite level was determined, I mixed in the necessary amount of Sulfite needed into a portion of the wine and added that to the barrel. I then racked the wine into the barrel.. It is supposed to be a 10 gallon barrel, but it happily took 11 gallons! I was hoping to use that eleventh gallon for topping wine, but i guess I will be visiting the wine store in search of a proper topping wine very soon.

      Before I sealed up the barrel with a silicone bung, I sprayed the bung hole (tee hee) area with vodka and closed it up. The vodka will prevent any bacteria or mold growth around the hole.

      I expect this wine to be in the barrel for about 4 weeks, at that point I will transfer another wine in.

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