At this point, we rack our new wines for the first time. Racking is a very essential part of the winemaking development and it is performed two to four times throughout the barrel aging step. This helps with the clarification of the wine, but also inhibits the production of unwanted flavors and bacteria. It is simply the transferring of the wine from one barrel to another to minimize contact with the remaining skin and yeast particles that have settled to the bottom of the barrel over the last few weeks. The days following a racking will require the cellar master to constantly top the barrels as the wine soaks into the wood and evaporates, trying to minimize contact with oxygen. Topping will happen every few weeks from the day the wine is barreled until the day it is bottled.
The primary fermentation process is complete. Now is the time to press the wine into barrels. This is where the heavy lifting begins. We press all of our juice, skins and seeds in our bladder press. A bladder press is a softer process than a standard grape press and yields a juice with fewer tannins, due to it not crushing the seeds. The juice is then pumped into either French, Hungarian or American oak barrels, depending on their varietal. At this point, wine samples are sent to the the lab and we inoculate for malolactic fermentation. This will soften the acids and give a better mouth feel to the final product.
Our fruit juice is well on it's way to becoming a nice heavy, smooth wine. The yeast and nutrients have been added after a few days of cold soaking in the cellar, and we are now on track. At this point the must, which is the juice, skins and seeds, needs constant attention. As the fermenting process occurs, the exothermic reaction of the yeast and sugar cells produce heat, carbon dioxide and ethanol. The heat and carbon dioxide cause the solids in the must (primarily the skins) to float and create a solid cap, which acts as an insulator. This has to be watched and punched down into the juices to prevent both contamination and excessive heat, which can harm the yeast cells.