As we begin to settle in here at Lester Family Cellars, we are looking to the winery tasks at hand. One of these being topping the barrels.
In July we will be having our first barrel tasting event. The timing of the barrel tasting will coincide with the important function of topping our barrels. It will be an exciting and unique opportunity to share our process with our Speakeasy Members.
There are several vessels that can be used to store and age wine. Red wine is predominately aged in oak barrels. These barrels allow slight amounts of oxygen in to speed up the beginning of maturity. The wood itself is a two-way street. It allows tiny amounts of air in, as well as allowing tiny amounts of evaporated liquid out. Too much of either is a wine killer. And this is why we "top up the barrels".
As the liquid slowly evaporates, the level in the barrels begins to drop. It creates a "dead space", as well as a vacuum inside. The empty space does not contain any oxygen, however, over time as the wood at the top of the barrels dries, it will shrink. At some point as the wood shrinks, the vacuum inside the barrel will start to suck oxygen in. This usually takes a couple of months, so we top our barrels every six weeks to two months to prevent too much exposure to the oxygen.
So while we are having fun doing the barrel tasting, we will also be doing a very necessary service to keep the wine maturing and developing into the great Lester Family Cellars wines we are so proud of.