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Journey to Harvest … And Beyond!

How do you make white wine? (part 2 of 2)
Journey to Harvest … And Beyond!
Photo by Squire Fridell

by Squire Fridell

What happens after fermentation is over?

When harvest is over, the grapes have been processed, and primary fermentation is complete, it’s time to put the wine into the bottle and enjoy, right? Not quite … Once fermentation is finished and our white wines have tested “dry” (the residual sugars have been converted to alcohol), we carefully rack that wine from the primary fermentation tank to a second tank. Why? To remove any sediment (spent yeast and tiny pieces of skins) that have settled to the bottom of the tank. To do this effectively, we built a curved “tank racking arm” that we pre-inserted in the tank. The arm has a glass sight section and as we turn the arm to physically lower the tube inlet in the tank, we can spot when the wine goes from clear to cloudy (sediment).

Tank racking arm, sight valve, and tank.

Twenty-four hours later, we rack that wine to another covered and argoned tank with an additional pre-inserted tank racking arm, which will, once again, leave any additional sediment behind. After those two rackings, we should have fairly “clean” and “clear” wine.

Next, we add an “ML inhibitor” to the tank so that our viognier, chardonnay, and rosé will not go through MLF (malolactic fermentation; see the Journey to Harvest from the Kenwood Press’s Feb. 1 issue). If we did not make that inhibitor addition to stop MLF, that secondary “fermentation” most likely would start whether we wanted it to or not. Why don’t we want these wines to go through MLF? We can only make wine the way we like it! At GlenLyon, we prefer the crisp M (malic acid) to the softer L (lactic acid) on our white wines and rosé. It’s simply preference. When the acid in the wine (particularly chardonnay) is transformed from malic to lactic, a byproduct called “diacetyl” is created, which sometimes results in a bigger, bolder, thicker, and “buttery” taste in the wine. Some wineries love that “butteriness,” but Suzy and I do not and we prefer “no MLF.” (“Happy Wife = Happy Life.”) During any “downtime” we might have between rackings, we’ll have a pretty good idea of the number of gallons we have, so we prep our mixture of new and used barrels. (Look for a future KP column on barrels.) When the barrels are “tight” (water will make the wood swell) and perfectly sterile, we rack the wine to barrels.

Do you only use barrels to hold wine?

Great question, and one we are asked a

Photo by Squire Fridell

265- and 500-liter barrels, 300- and 80-gallon Flextanks and kegs.

lot. We use two French white oak barrel sizes: 265 liter (70 gallon) and 500 liter (132 gallon). Your usual barrel sizes are 225 liters or 228 liters. One of our biggest issues is space, so ten more gallons per barrel saves us a lot of room! We also use Flextanks (300, 240 ,and 80 gallon). Flextanks are made of a food-grade plastic and impart no “flavor” (as barrels might), but are advertised to “micro- oxygenate” the wine at the same rate as a twoyear- old barrel. We have been using them for years and love them in conjunction with barrels!

Do you do anything else before bottling?

Lots of things, including “topping off ” each barrel every two weeks with the same wine. Where do we get that “same wine?” Since barrels and Flextanks hold very specific amounts of wine, we calculate the vessels we use to make sure we have spare “topping-off” wine, put into stainless steel kegs. These are

Photo by Squire Fridell

Tri-clover 1.5” tank valve.

ingenious conversions of 15.5-gallon beer kegs that have a 1.5-inch tri-clover fitting welded to the top of the keg. Tri-clover fittings come in a multitude of sizes and are universally used all over the world due to the ease of connecting and disconnecting hoses and valves by one person.

To safely remove the keg wine and not allow any air to reach the wine, we use our “topping kit.” This kit consists of a stainless rod that’s inserted into the keg, sealed with a tri-clover flange that connects to a long, half-inch, flexible hose. At the other end of that hose is a “topping gun” (exactly what the name

topping gun.

implies). When we pump a few pounds of argon into the keg, the wine travels up the rod, through the hose and out through the gun, so we can “top off” each barrel with exactly the amount of wine needed. Any racked wine removed from the keg is replaced by argon, our heavy and inert gas! Voila!

Anything else?

Periodically, we will send samples for testing to a local lab (the labs have daily pickups at no charge!) and receive, via email, any results we ask for within a day or two. Larger wineries can afford to have inhouse testing equipment, but we cannot.

Squire reclining during bottling.

The testing can include typical things such as levels of sulfur dioxide, alcohol, glucose/ fructose, presence of malic acid, heat stability, and cold stability. We can test for a few simple things such as pH, but we trust the experts for other things we need to know. After the results come in we can make our adjustments and any additions accordingly. (More about things to test for in a future article.)

Even though we have constantly tasted the juice as it has been transformed to wine, we will conduct “formal tasting trials” in late January to see if any adjustments or improvements should be made to the developing wine. “Trials” are smell, mouthfeel, and taste comparisons of the same wine, comparing the new wine to wines we’ve made in the past. We also have a slew of different products we might want to add (or not) for enhancing aroma, flavor, mouthfeel, wine quality, and/or stability.

Once any corrections and/or any additives have been made and we are satisfied with what we think the wine will be, we’re ready

Photo by Squire Fridell

for filtration and bottling. Here at GlenLyon, we feel it is important to have a cross-flow filtration unit come in the day before bottling to make sure the wine is crystal clear, stable, and free of any possible in-bottle problems.

When do you bottle your white wine?

At GlenLyon, we have a bottling truck (and filtration truck) come to GlenLyon twice a year for our two bottlings. Bottling, and the exacting preparation for bottling, are exhausting and exhilarating, but so very rewarding.

The white wines and rosé are bottled in the March following harvest, and the red wines are bottled in August, just before the harvest-to-be. We sometimes hand-bottle an odd lot of wine with helpful friends if it is a small bottling. “Small” means less than 100 cases …if we try to bottle more than 100 cases of wine by hand, we’ll quickly run out of those friends … That’s it! We’re having “The Kids” (Lexy, Graham, and Hattie) up tonight and it’s time to prep for dinner! Ahi tonight, with gardenfresh kale chips and a bottle of our Suzy’s Toast viognier! (Shhhh! Don’t tell Suzy! We’re sold out of our 2021 viognier until our March bottling, but I stashed a bottle away where Suzy couldn’t find it!)


“What is better than to sit at the end of the day and drink wine with friends. Or substitutes for friends.” —James Joyce Squire Fridell is the winemaker, vineyard manager, CEO, CFO, COO, EIEIO, WINO, and janitor at GlenLyon Vineyards & Winery and Two Amigos Wines. Contact him at [email protected]