Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Racking Our Wine!

Last weekend, our friends Kevin and Maryella, with whom we're making wine, came over to show us how to "rack" our West Side Lucky 7: Rebel Red.

What is racking? It's the process of removing wine from the barrel (or keg, in our case) into another container while leaving the junk to be dumped out. Then the keg is washed and the wine pumped back into it. 
Here's what happened in our garage last Saturday!

First, we had to "thief" a bit of wine for each of us to test! We all determined: it's fantastic. Now on with the process.

A food grade plastic hose is attached with zip ties to a stainless steel rod, leaving about an inch of the steel longer than the hose. 

This is a work-around to purchasing an expensive pumping apparatus. 

The rod/hose is inserted into the barrel.

Next, the other end of that portion of the hose is hooked up to a small pump. 

Another section of the same type 
of hose is attached to the output of the pump. 

The end of this hose is placed into a food grade plastic container (or another barrel).

This will be the temporary receptacle for the "racked" wine.

Starting in pill form, Campden is crushed with a mortar and pestle. 

Campden is a sulfur-based product used in making wine, beer and cider. It kills certain bacteria and inhibits the growth of most wild yeast.

The Campden is then mixed in a beaker with just enough purified water to dilute it.

Then the mixture is added to the wine prior to pumping it back into its barrel.

Another method of racking the wine utilizes a gravity pump.

This approach is slower and requires that a very, very heavy barrel or keg filled with wine be hoisted onto a high ledge, shelf or other surface.

But the upside of gravity pumping is not purchasing an electric pump, saving winemakers a few precious dollars! 

Fortunately for us, our friends have a pump, as this is their third year as winemakers.

We're contributing other things to the process, such as wine labels, laughter, and of course, the chronicling of our adventure via this blog!

Meanwhile, the sediment at the bottom of the barrel needs to be dumped, otherwise it will ruin the fantastic nature of our wine, turning it into something like red wine vinegar. Yuck!

So the keg is overturned and the "gross lees" is returned to the ground!

It looks like flat wall paint.

The barrel gets washed with hot water, making it a clean receptacle for our "racked" wine!

The wine is pumped back in to the keg, then a piece of oak wood is tied to a nylon string and lowered into the receptacle.

Here's a photo of our wine being pumped back in its keg where it will continue to do its chemical magic. 

We will randomly do barrel tastings to make sure everything is on track.

During these tastings, we will determine whether or not to keep the wine "oaked," and also if it's time to test for residual sugars.

Shannon at Maloy O'Neill asked us to have a lab do this analysis so that we don't bottle our precious creation too soon!

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