Making winemaking more environmentally friendly

Everything used in the winemaking process–testing equipment, barrels, the crusher/destemmer, the press, buckets, and so on–needs to be cleaned and sanitized before and after every use. This requires a lot of water and chemicals.

When we were making wine 6 gallons at a time, it wasn’t such a big deal. But now that we’re making 100+ gallons, the amount of water we use is astounding. The cost of so much water isn’t an issue — water is still unmetered in this part of Sacramento (this will be changing, however). The problem with using so much water is all the waste and the environmental impact.

One change I recently made in our winery is my bucket of rocks ™.

Sometimes, a 44 gallon fermenter needs to be filled with water and cleaning solution and let to stand overnight in order to really get it bacteria and odor-free. The purpose of my bucket of rocks(tm) is to displace a whole bunch of water and allow me to soak the whole inside of the 44 gallon fermenter with significantly less water. Here’s a picture:

Another thing that just occured to me is that if we switch to using 1-step (no-rinse) sanitizers, we’ll use at least half as much water in cleaning equipment. Is there any reason or application where the use of 1-step would be a bad idea? How does it work, exactly, and why doesn’t it need to be rinsed off?

Here’s an article from the NY Times that talks, in part, about the environmental impact of a bottle of wine.

I’ve only just started to look into how to make winemaking more environmentally friendly, but there seems to be a lot of information available on the subject. Do you have any ideas or tips from your winery? Post them in the comments.

Inside the Bad Astronauts’ Winery

Here’s the inside of our winery. Yes, that’s how the paint is. I used all the extra paint from inside our house, but we didn’t quite have enough of some colors. I think it looks great. Notice our brilliant way of storing carboys. The white fermenters in there are what we used for fermenting our Cab. The barrels in this picture contain Sam’s Zin and his Zin port. The barrel rack holding up the barrels on the right was given to us by the folks at Revolution Wines, who will be amazed at how well it cleaned up. I’ll get a picture of that now.

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The 2007 Cab in pictures

It turns out that we didn’t really take a lot of pictures of the winemaking process, unfortunately. However, we have some, and I’m going to post them here for your enjoyment. Enjoy.

This first photo is of me sulphiting the grapes and answering a question from Zach, while Kevin watches.

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2007 Cab is in barrels. Here’s how it all went down.

Wednesday night we were at 1 brix. I don’t have any idea why the fermentation went so fast…the must never got above 80 degrees, and the air temp was not too bad (plus, I was running the A/C the whole damn time!). I’m sure more insulation, and the new PVC strips that just came in will make a big difference for next year, especially in our electric bill. But still, it just doesn’t make sense to me why we were dropping 6+ brix per day.

Anyway, yesterday morning, I drove out and rented a #40 basket press and brought it back to the winery. Sam, Margaret, Zach, Jeff, and I pressed it. Only one of the 5 fermenters was REALLY stinky. We kept that wine separate.

Once the pressing was done, we added ML bacteria, then proceeded to splash rack everything to start getting rid of the H2S. The wine was still fermenting a little, so we’re not worried that we introduced too much oxygen.

The racking was very effective and afterwards the H2S was only noticeable in the 1 fermenter that started out *really* stinky.

After the racking, I returned the press. On my way back, I got the idea of picking up some copper pipe and running the wine through that to further reduce the stink. I don’t exactly know how this works, but I’ve heard people suggest treating H2S with copper, so I figured what the heck. Now that I’ve had more time to research this, it looks like the most common thing to do is to add copper sulphate.

I got a 2 ft section of copper pipe from Home Depot and clamped it to the end of our racking tube. We splash racked the stinky wine through the copper, which seems to have eliminated the smell. We did a blind tasting and Margaret (the official “nose”) couldn’t figure out which was the “stinky” and which was “not stinky”. Then, we racked it again into kegs.

By the way, here’s a great article about preventing and treating H2S.

After that, while Sam prepared the steaks and put them on the grill, we racked the rest of the wine through the copper into a 60 gal. barrel and had enough left over to fill a 15 gallon keg.

So, there it is. We have about 100 gallons of Cab now, which will probably go down to 85 or so once we rack off the gross lees in a few weeks!

Dry Ice and Cooling Wine

So, my wine is at 6 brix now and the ice all melted so I took it out because I was afraid that some of the bags might start leaking. I was looking into dry ice and found this:
They say that 7.3 lbs of food-grade dry ice pellets lowers the temperature 1 ton of grapes by 1 degree.
So, if I wanted to lower the temp of 1000 lbs of grapes by 10 degrees, I would need 36.5 lbs of dry ice pellets…or, 7.3 lbs for each of my fermenters.
The question is: is it worth it, and would that slow fermentation significantly more than just the fact that there’s less sugar is already doing? I’m guessing not. Still, this is good to know for the future.

Day 4: September 18, 2007

Today is the part of our drama where something goes wrong and everyone gets scared, but they know that our hero will find some sort of way out of the jam and we’ll live happily ever after with wine.

Yesterday, I started detecting a sulfur smell in the winery (and, for once, it wasn’t because I had been eating Thai food again…jk). I did some research, and it turns out that the yeast wasn’t happy and was/is giving off Hydrogen Sulfide. It’s a common problem, and one that’s curable if you identify it and treat it. Treatment just involves giving the yeast more food (nitrogen in particular) and then aerating the wine before fermentation stops, but after you press.

I added more yeast food this afternoon, and I’ll add more late tonight. The smell has started to go away. With some aerating, everything should be back to normal.

The other problem is that the wine is going to be ready to press tomorrow, but I want to give it a little more time on the skins (to get more color). So, to deal with this, I need to slow down the fermentation by cooling down the must. So, today, I went out and bought 5 30lb bags of ice and lowered them into the fermenters (inside of other bags so that we don’t accidentally water down the wine). This has already lowered the temperature by 4 or so degrees.

I’ve rented a press for Thursday. Are any of you available to help during the day? It’s possible that we could do it after work Thursday, but not ideal…because it would be dark.