A 60-gallon oak barrel will evaporate between 2 and 10 liters of wine per year. Additional losses are from sampling, leakage, and racking off lees. When wine is removed, headspace forms, necessitating transfer to carboys. These are inconvenient – they take up space and are prone to contamination.
"I hate breakdown cooperage," says veteran winemaker Clark Smith. "The SmartBarrel is a Godsend I've been waiting for these past 40 years. Every cellar needs them."
SmartBarrel stores wine in flexible liners. Evaporation is eliminated, and when wine is removed the liner shrinks without any headspace. The secret is a patented reusable diptube that permits sampling, removal of headspace gases, filling and emptying, all without risk of air entry. An aspirator is available to remove headspace gases and for contact-less sampling. The perforated design assures that lees are not drawn up when the wine is pumped out. An inexpensive wine transfer pump can be used to fill and empty the liner.
A retired wood barrel can be converted to SmartBarrel using a $ 129 diptube kit. Barrel quality is unimportant since the wine does not contact the barrel surface. Oaking can be done in the liner using wood products. Barrels can be stored in conventional barrel racks with the added advantage that liners can be changed out without removing the barrels. Barrels never need to be cleaned, leak checked or replaced.
Vertical drum (55gal) and IBC/macrobin (330gallon) formats are also available. Single-use low oxygen-permeable liners are $ 25 to $45 each depending on permeability and volume.
The innovation can be used to eliminate the practice of cross-topping from a single lot to top a large number of wines, creating the need for complex tracking of varietal, vintage and appellation percentages as well as requiring constant vigilance by cellar workers kept current in their knowledge of TTB regulations to prevent the inadvertent loss of single vineyard and Estate Bottling designations. Cross-topping also entails the risk of cross-contamination by spreading any spoilage micro-organisms present in the source barrel throughout the cellar. "With ten SmartBarrels, I can keep every wine lot 100% pure," says Smith.
The GOfermentor manufactures advanced winemaking equipment.