Racking off is transferring the wine from one vessel to another, leaving the sediment behind. Sediment is made up of lees (dead yeast cells) and any remaining seeds or skins that snuck through the pressing process, known at the Republic as ‘sludge’. It is a lovely bright purple colour, with a sloppy consistency, and ends up splashed everywhere!
New Wines, Lots of Racking
We have a lot of wine for the 2017 vintage! Rosé, chardonnay, 2 large vats and a smaller vat of shiraz all needed to be racked off before the weather gets warmer.
In July, we started with our experimental chardonnay, using a pump to transfer from one stainless steel VC to another. We had a bit extra in a demijohn, so we added that in and topped up the demijohn, adding oak to determine how much we need to add and for how long. We have since tasted the chardy, and it’s pretty darn good, if we do say so ourselves!
We then racked the experimental rosé, which is a medium pink, and tastes fruity and light. We will be bottling this in the next few months.
Then came the Tetris-like act of racking our Shiraz vats. We have two 1500L former milk vats and two 5000L vats. The full 1500L goes into the empty 1500L; one of the 5000L goes into the now empty (and cleaned) 1500L, plus three 1000L IBCs and a 300L VC; the second 5000L goes into the now empty (and cleaned) 5000L; then we fill the second 5000L vat with the remaining wine. We did this over two very long days in August, with a 4-5 day rain interruption.
Any winemaker will tell you, a high proportion of making wine is cleaning. To rack our wine, we had to do a lot of prep work. First, we cleaned out the vats we were transferring into, then sanitised them with sodium metabisulphite (SMS). For the larger vats, this meant Spencer had to climb into the vat and clean. Cleaning wasn’t so bad back in warmer weather, but in the middle of winter, getting into a cold stainless-steel structure and using copious amounts of water made it an unpleasant experience. We also sanitise the pump, and all the fittings for the vats.
One of the tasks involved with cleaning and the reason we rack off, is to move our wine off the lees. Consequently, when we’ve finished transferring we need to move our lees from our tanks. Many home winemakers and our Rent-A-Row winemakers will be familiar with this process and the nature of the lees, but there is something about seeing a huge amount of purple sludge (lees) being scraped out of a 5000L vat.
Next, we will be adding toasted French oak staves to the vats in the next soften the astringency from natural tannins and add more complex smells and flavours. Our Chardonnay, Rosé and Sparkling are set to be bottled in the coming months – with the Shiraz to be bottled early in 2018.