Richard Sportsman of Presque Isle Wine Cellars, an exhibitor at the Eastern Winery Exposition, demonstrates lab supplies.
—Winery owners and winemakers from far-flung sections of the eastern United States dodged a much-hyped snowstorm to convene here today for the second annual Eastern Winery Exposition
. They chose from 11 different conference sessions on topics ranging from “Avoiding Oxidation in Small Wineries” to a social media workshop covering how to set up Facebook pages and use Pinterest.
Another 11 sessions were set for Thursday, and Friday will bring a daylong event billed the “New Grape Grower Workshop,” plus a half-day “Hard Cider Workshop.” A bustling trade show with 175 exhibitors runs concurrently.
Event director Bob Mignarri said registrations reached 993 by late afternoon, beating last year’s final number by at least 60. More registrants were expected to arrive Thursday and Friday. Exhibiting companies totaled 40 more than last year, and most brought several people, who were not counted in the registrations.
The Marriott Lancaster, hosting the exposition in this historic city in southeastern Pennsylvania, reported that its rooms were fully booked. The event is sponsored by Wines & Vines
Primer on oxidation
Wine journalist Richard Leahy organized the conference sessions into separate tracks for newcomers, enology, viticulture and money/management/marketing. Virginia-based winemaking consultant Thomas Payette presented a primer for newcomers about how to avoid oxidation in their wineries.
Keeping tanks full, avoiding variable-capacity tanks and taking extra care during wine transfers and bottling were some of his key points. “So much of our jobs is just oxygen management,” Payette said. “We’re taking a perishable grape and making it into a perishable product: wine.”
Payette discouraged winemakers from using variable-capacity tanks except for very short periods. He also discouraged storing wine in partially full tanks of any type except for short periods leading to bottling, even when they are topped up with inert gases. The surface area of the wine is the entry point for oxygen and microbes, so the less surface area there is in comparison to the size of the tank, the better.
Fermentation is the safest time for oxidation, Payette said. It is very rare for any other microbe to take over from the yeast while it is working and giving off carbon dioxide. But after fermentation it is time to beware.
When making transfers from barrels and tanks, Payette advised to make sure all the fittings and O-rings on pumps and hoses are very tight. If you see something leaking at the pump or a hose connection (or a lighter colored wine (bubbling) on the downstream side of a connection) there is a good chance it is pulling in air, Payette cautioned.
Sur lie aging and bottling
During sur lie
barrel storage, keep in mind that yeast at the bottom will continue to give off CO2
gas. Payette said he has smelled CO2
still gassing off after two years in Chardonnay barrels. If you keep adding SO2
, it will just keep getting absorbed, he said, so instead keep it cool and do lots of stirring. The lees just sitting at the bottom can create hydrogen sulfide if you don’t.
Payette said that if a winemaker does not properly manage oxygen at bottling then it will magnify any defects after bottling. He said it is important to measure the SO2
four months after bottling, since that indicates how much oxygen protection is in the wine. “If you’re down to 10ppm, you’ve got a problem. If it’s 30ppm, then you are probably good.”
It is important to sparge the bottles with an inert gas—Payette prefers nitrogen—before filling and to use a vacuum also to avoid driving that gas into the wine as the cork is inserted. With a big red wine it might not be necessary, however.
Wines & Vines
will post further updates from the Eastern Winery Exposition later this week. For more information on attending the event, go to EasternWineryExposition.com