Wine Filtration 101– Another Day of Winemaker Education

We recently spent another day lunching and learning how wine gets from the vine to the bottle. This time we worked with winery owners to learn about the filtration process. On this rainy Saturday at Bluebird Hill Cellars, Winery Wanderings learned about the triple filtration process for white wines. The plan called for working on the Trio wine barrel that consisted of a blended Riesling, Chardonnay and Viognier, thus the name.

Filters

Filtration system

Setting up the tanks and filters is a laborious process. It involves a serious cleaning of the tanks, the tubing, the catch basins and, of course, the filters. We were using three progressively finer filter elements. Starting with the regular filters, the tanks were primed to go from the main tank to the secondary tank, pumping the wine though the filters. Each of the three filtering cycles took about an hour. The pressure of the wine pushing through the filters was monitored closely to be sure there was enough pressure to push the wine through, but not so much that it would “blow” the filter.

Neal and the tanks

Once the wine transferred from one tank to the other, the empty tank had to be cleaned and emptied of any sediment. Then a new filter had to be installed and the cleaned tubing had to be reversed to allow the wine to be returned to the empty tank for the secondary filtration. Then the process starts again.

We took a break for lunch and then chatted about the process. The amount of labor that goes into each bottle of wine is intense, it’s a wonder how small wineries can make a profit with all the labor involved. But they do and we are so happy.

After the filtration process was completed, we learned how to use something called an ebulliometer. The one used by the Shays at BBH is an antique, rescued from a pile of rubble to be once again tasked with the responsibility of measuring the alcohol content of the wine that is going to be bottled.

Ebulliometer

The first step is to determine the actual boiling point of water to get a baseline measurement. We then did the same measurement with the boiling point of the Trio which was 89.7 degrees. This told us the alcohol content was 13.8 %. We also filtered the Rose and the alcohol content of that was 13.4 %.

We cannot thank Neil and Sue Shay enough for teaching us about the “art” of winemaking.

We’re hoping to get promoted from “cellar rats” to “interns” very soon.

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