Topping off a Barrel with What?

The home winemaker tries to keep the wine in a carboy at the neck to minimize oxygen contact. At times it may be necessary to top off the wine in the container, perhaps due to evaporation but more likely due to tasting it. If the container is small, one option to increase the level of the liquid is to add sanitized marbles. Add enough marbles and the liquid will rise. Of course wine can also be added. Many home winemakers will simply go to their local wine store and purchase an inexpensive bottle of wine to top off their wine.

A winery is dealing with larger volume so using marbles is not likely. Usually the winery has extra wine that can be used to top off barrels. However at custom crush wineries, clients should not assume that the wine used to top off their barrel is the exact same wine that is in their barrel. If a custom crush winery has 100 clients with wine in 100 barrels it would be unheard of to also have the identical wine in 100 carboys to be used for topping off. Wineries have wine to top off with, and it may or may not be the same variety that is in the barrel.

Will topping off a barrel with a different wine make a big difference? Probably not. There is little wine added to the barrel compared to the quantity of wine already in the barrel. That which is added is likely to take on the characteristics of the wine already in the barrel.

Another option used by some winemakers instead of adding wine to the barrels is to add a gas that is heavier than oxygen. It will replace the oxygen in the barrel.

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