If you have ever hung out at a winery you might have noticed all sorts of equipment needed to turn grapes to wine. Some of the obvious are destemmers, presses, tanks and barrels, but there are other less obvious pieces needed to ensure the wine is clean and without microbial problems. If you think about food production, any surface the food touches must be clean to ensure the safety of the consumer and to maintain high quality. Winemaking is very similar and constant daily cleaning must be done to ensure a high quality final product. We take sanitation very serious at Talley because the last thing we want to do is slack off with cleaning and ruin a wine before you even get to drink it.
With this is mind, we continue to invest in equipment that supports our sanitation endeavors. Right now, I am super stoked about our brand new steam generator. This might sound strange but trust me, steam is everywhere in the wine industry. The steam generator may be the most popular piece of equipment right now. Steam allows us to do many things in the winery that we were not able to accomplish before. Water turns to steam at 212 Fahrenheit and, because of this heat, steam can be used as a sanitation source. I like to think that it melts all the bad stuff off of whatever it touches. Another benefit to using steam is the water conservation. We are constantly trying to shrink our resource foot print at Talley and the steam generator adds to the effort. So what do we use the steam for? First of all, we can use it on our bottling line as a very fast way to sanitize without using a massive amount of water. Another use for steam is barrel cleaning. Once or twice a year we will steam the inside of our barrels to clean out anything stuck within the wood that a surface cleaner cannot access. Wood is porous but water alone cannot penetrate it. Steam, on the other hand, can penetrate the wood staves. The steam has the ability to extract any possible microbial growth, such as acetobacter that contribute to higher levels of volatile acidity, without doing harm to the barrel itself.
The second new toy we have recently purchased is an ozone generator. We have always had one, but we recently upgraded to a more current model. To me, ozone is a miracle. It is such an amazing sanitation agent and is used in all sorts of industries all over the world. To those of you not familiar, ozone is O3 and is formed from dioxygen by the action of ultraviolet light and atmospheric electrical discharges. Ozone is a powerful oxidant and has many industrial and consumer applications related to oxidation. Ozone is often used to make sure drinking water is clean. Sounds crazy, right? Well, it's not! Ozone is a strong oxidant but has a relatively quick half-life, meaning it degrades rapidly after its production and turns back to normal drinking water. In the winery, ozone is very useful for rapidly sanitizing equipment. We will occasionally use it on our bottling line to ensure there isn't anything growing in some cracks or crevices. The ozone generator may be my favorite piece of equipment and I am so grateful that we have a new model to play with.
I realize these might not seem like traditional toys, but I promise you that winemakers around the world are giddy when they can bring in some new equipment. The problem is that, just like with actual toys, there is always one more that we want.