This week in the cellar we’ve been cleaning barrels. Wine barrels are made of oak which is porous. While that porous quality of the oak is what allows wines to micro-oxydize and thus age in barrel, those pores make great hiding places for what thirty-one year Santa Barbara Winery winemaking veteran Bruce McGuire so eloquently refers to as “cooties”.
To safeguard our barrels from cooties between uses and promote general barrel hygiene while they rest empty in the interim we have in our arsenal the TomBeard Industries 2000 Barrel Washing System. Custom built just for us, the TomBeard Industries 2000 is the Lamborghini of barrel washers. She boasts two gear-driven, high-pressure injectors that blast 180-degree water and ozone at an impressive 700 PSI.
The Bearded Lady (as we fondly refer to her) is also a convertible capable of handling both 60 gallon barrels and 130 gallon puncheons, a modification made just for us. And she’s extremely efficient using only three gallons per minute compared to a traditional spray-ball assembly which uses fifteen gallons per minute and if left unattended, could run indefinitely.
Washing barrels is an important part of winemaking. Not only does it kill the cooties that can be detrimental to the wine, but it also keeps the wood hydrated and healthy promoting the longevity of the barrels themselves. Even when barrels are sitting empty for extended periods of time between uses, we wash them regularly to keep them in optimal condition.
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Carlos Mascherin, Santa Barbara Winery