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Wine Making & Grape Growing Forum > Wine Making > Barrels & Oaking > How do barrel ferments affect the barrel aging schedule?

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Old 04-28-2012, 05:29 PM   #1
Comet in TX
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Hi everyone,

I've been away being swamped by life for the last 6 months - no wine-making at all. I FINALLY have my 23 l. Vadai hydrating as I type. I'm planning to barrel ferment a WE Small Lots White Meritage, followed by a barrel ferment of a KenRidge Limited Release Oregon Pinot Noir. Several reds ready to go after that, including a CC LR Rosso Fortissimo, a CC Red Mountain Cab., and last year's RJS LE "Trek."

So, the grand question, how much do these barrel ferments affect the so-called 2-4-8-16, etc aging schedule for the small barrels (I know that Mike has been experimenting with a slower schedule, more like 4-8-16, etc)? Do you think each barrel ferment takes off one part of the schedule, ie., one barrel ferment causes you to skip the first aging, would the second ferment cause you to skip the second? So after 2 barrel ferments, you'd start by aging a wine you'd expect to be in the barrel for 8 weeks? (or longer according to Mike)

I'm trying to figure this out b/c I want the Rosso Fortissimo or the Red Mountain to get the best of this barrel, maybe 4 months in, and I'm not really sure how to figure out which I should put in which order after the 2 barrel ferments.

Thoughts appreciated. I'm going to try hard to get back into it - I have too many kits stacking up, including several of last year's LEs, which really need to be made sometime here soon.

Thanks,
Lara

 
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Old 04-28-2012, 05:33 PM   #2
Runningwolf
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Lara I am sorry I can't be of much help to you as I never knew of anyone fermenting in a barrel. I've always seen fermentations completed first and then mlf's and aging done in the barrels. I will also be interested in hearing what other folks do and hope to learn something.

 
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Old 04-28-2012, 06:04 PM   #3
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Seems like you'd have to rely on taste more. I dont know how much barrels differ from one to the next, but i know kits do - and the amount of oak they (& you) can handle in them.

Seeing as how you're looking at short-stays in the barrel at first.. I would just make sure the SO2 levels are up, and probably taste it every other week until the kit got where you want.. Then follow it with the next one.

After both of your barrel-ferments, i think it'd be safe to say that the "2" of your 2-4-8-16 schedule could be marked off, but i'd be hesitant about automatically waiting 4 weeks at first.. I'd probably still check it at week 2.

Granted im no oak-barrel-specialist, so take my opinion with a grain of salt
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Old 04-28-2012, 06:37 PM   #4
ibglowin
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Time in the barrel is time in the barrel!

IMHO I would stick to the conservative 2-4-8-16 schedule if you plan on doing two whites up front. You don't want to over oak a white for sure. Just remember the oak seems to fade back on these so don't panic if it seems real oakey when you pull it out. My 3rd Vadai I am am going with 4-8-12-16 schedule but this is for big bold reds. The first kit through was the WE LR Meritage. It spent 4 weeks in the barrel (first rotation) and I did a taste test this week and it seems perfect oak wise. The next wine in is spending 8 weeks and it is a Cab Sauv......

I would not let the first wine go past 2 weeks, pull it out and transfer to glass then add your next white and do the same. Then put your reds in and go for 8 weeks for the first, 12 weeks 2nd, 16 weeks 3rd......

The SO2 levels drop like a rock in a small barrel. I have only aged for 16 weeks max then rotated out an the SO2 is down to 10ppm!
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Old 04-28-2012, 10:31 PM   #5
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I appreciate the comments thus far, but they leave me feeling like I need to clarify. I totally get oak aging is subjective per the wine being aged and the drinker. I am not aging any white in this barrel at all. I am conducting 2 barrel fermentations (fermentation only, not aging) up front, one of a white, the second of a red. Then I am going to kick in with normal post-fermentation aging of mostly big reds.

All the reading I have done on this subject - mostly from Wine Maker magazine, indicates one of the primary reasons (aside from taste) to do a barrel fermentation 1st in a small barrel is to help break in the barrel to help avoid the furious oaking that happens early on with the small barrels. I'm no chemist, but it's got something to do with the active yeast cells during the fermentation bonding with tannins and phenols and then dropping out with the lees after fermentation is complete. Apparently barrel age doesn't affect wine so much during the active fermentation.

So the purpose of a fermentation in barrel is to partly "break-in" the barrel. I am trying to quantify how much that barrel fermentation does that, so I can decide my schedule for the wines that are to receive more traditional aging post-fermentation.

 
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Old 04-29-2012, 02:27 AM   #6
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I've done exactly as you are planning a few times . and the 2-4-8-16 schedule sounds like its based on the method I posted for small barrels on winepress 5 years ago, and have seen quoated many times on the web. I moved to doing barrel ferments a bit later.

What doing a couple of barrel ferments up frount does is soften the barrel so that following wines can stay in a bit longer.

With an active ferment in a new oak barrel the yeast metabolises some of the compounds in the new oak , buffering the oak profile in the wine and softening the barrel.

If you do two barrel ferments up frount , the next red wine to be aged in the barrel can usually go for 9-10 weeks , then the one ofter that 2-3 months. then 3-5 months
of cource this depends on how much oak you like and what type of oak it is and what kind of wine you are making.
I'd reccomend when you switch to oak ageing that you use the bolder reds first like cab sauv , as the bolder the red the more oak it can handle , then progress to softer reds.

with any oak ageing in a barrel those schedules even the 2-4-8-16-32 one are not ridgid timelines , tase is an individule thing , taste and top up often with a new barrel , when it tastes a bit too oaky for your taste , pull it out , the oak flavour will mellow a bit in the bottle , but you don't want chateau de plywood.


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Old 04-29-2012, 07:34 AM   #7
ibglowin
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Excellent post Zac.

Everything I learned about the "care and feeding" of Vadai barrels before I actually bought one 2 years ago I learned from this guy!
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Old 04-29-2012, 09:03 PM   #8
Comet in TX
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Many thanks for your post Bzac. I was hoping to hear from someone who had done it. I appreciate your input - it gives me a sense of where I might be going from here.

And to all else who participated......the barrel has stopped leaking, so it's looking like my white meritage is going in the barrel tomorrow, or maybe the day after. Very exciting,

Lara

 
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Old 04-30-2012, 07:01 AM   #9
bzac
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if you've not done a barrel ferment before , there are some tips on it in the kit tweaks thread

 
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