Barrels: Cleaning and Sanitation
Barrel cleaning and sanitation is one of the largest water-using activities in a winery. It also presents a significant opportunity for water savings through both procedure improvements and the use of water-efficient equipment.
Case Study: Barrel Cleaning & Sanitation at Southbrook Vineyards
As much as possible, Southbrook refills barrels within a few days of being emptied; it eliminates the need to wash barrels before and after storage. Barrels refilled with the same varietal go unwashed, leaving the lees residue within the barrel to inoculate the next batch.
For barrels that need to be stored:
- Empty the barrel and drain as much wine and lees as possible.
- Store with wine residue in the barrel and burn sulfur wicks every 6 weeks to control bacterial growth.
- After storage, check barrels to determine the amount of rinse needed and if ozone is necessary.
Using this approach, Southbrook uses between 30-50 litres of water to clean each barrel coming out of storage, and zero water for barrels refilled right away.
Case Study: Barrel Cleaning & Sanitation at Flat Rock Cellars
Flat Rock wanted to reduce water consumption and develop more consistent sanitation procedures in their cellar. As part of this initiative, they developed standard operating procedures for the cleaning and sanitation of barrels.
For just-emptied barrels:
- 5 minute hot water wash with Gamajet nozzle, barrel is then inspected for cleanliness
- 1 minute ozone rinse
- Use sulphur if barrel is to be stored.
Flat Rock continues to trial different approaches to minimize the amount of water used while maintaining sanitation standards. This has included monitoring wash water temperature as it exits the barrel and adjusting rinse time depending on temperature, monitoring how much ozone is actually reaching the barrel, and only rinsing new barrels with ozone instead of a full wash.
Implement standard operating procedures
Developing standard procedures for washing barrels is a low-cost approach that can produce large improvements. Standard procedures may include:
- what temperature of water to use
- how long wash and rinse cycles should last
- how water is captured and reused
- what type of equipment to use
Wineries should train their employees on these standard procedures to minimize water use while still ensuring adequate cleaning. After completing the standard procedures, employees can inspect the barrel to determine if additional cleaning is required.
Timers can be installed on hoses to limit the length of wash cycles.
Reuse rinse water
Final rinse water from barrels can be captured in totes and reused as initial wash water. Barrel washing systems can also capture and recirculate wash water.
Use water-efficient equipment
Spray balls or impingement cleaners
- Cleaning nozzles designed specifically for barrels can remove tartrates and residues much faster and with much less water compared to generic pressure nozzles.
- Steam systems can clean and sanitize barrels in one step, saving time and using much less water.
- Ozone can sanitize barrels using very little water and does not require a final rinse. Barrels must still be cleaned prior to sanitation and proper steps must be taken to ensure safe working conditions.
- Automated barrel washing systems are available and can consistently reduce the water and time required to clean barrels.