As spring approaches, winemakers around Australia are preparing for the upcoming vintage ahead. A key part of preparing for vintage is looking at your barrel maintenance program and wine barrel cleaning process.
Traditionally, barrels have been cleaned with pressure washers. Nowadays, wineries are moving away from pressure washers, not only because of its significant use of water and subsequent water waste, but also because pressure washers merely “warm wash” a barrel rather than disinfect it.
To ensure a top level barrel maintenance program, it’s important to understand the difference between “washing” a barrel and “deep cleaning” a barrel. Washing a barrel rinses out any old wine and makes the barrel appear clean to the eye. Deep cleaning a barrel should allow for the cleaning process to reach deep within the pores of the oak. Getting below the superficial surface of the oak is where disinfecting, rehydrating and deep cleaning occurs.
Use steam vapour cleaning technology
Many winemakers may have heard of “steam cleaning”. However, this terminology can sometimes have ulterior meanings. Depending on the technology and machines you use to clean your barrels, steam cleaning can sometimes refer to a hot water spray. Again, just like pressure washing, this type of cleaning method is just washing a barrel.
Steam vapour on the other hand, due to its vapour properties, gets into all the nooks and crannies of the oak. This not only deep cleans a barrel but also can prolong the life of barrels by up to 25%. Rehydrating a barrel using steam vapour lets you get the most out of your barrels and saves you money on barrel expenses.
Ensure a rotating diffuser head
When choosing a steam vapour machine for your barrel maintenance program, look for a machine that comes with a “rotating diffuser” head tool. As the diffuser head rotates, it will disperse steam vapour throughout the entire barrel, not just the top. Treating an entire barrel with steam vapour will mean you don’t miss any barrel surface that may jeopardise your barrel cleaning program.
To find out more about how to clean oak barrels, take a look Wine Barrel Cleaning’s steam vapour technology and its process.