Science has enabled us to enhance the traditional process for greater quality control.View Slideshow
Tank geometry is the key to micro-oxygenation. Our tanks feature a 25-foot height so that oxygen has ample distance to interact with the wine. A precise measure of oxygen is released at the bottom of the tank, and as it dissolves into the wine, it reacts with the its phenolic material, much like the oxidation inside an oak barrel. To accelerate the aging process, oxygen can be increased. To slow down the maturation, the oxygen can be turned down or off. This gives producers control over the bottling schedule so that a wine’s release more effectively matches the supply and demand aspect of the sales cycle.
Our instruments use a high precision flow regulator combined with mechanical flow controllers to set the flow of oxygen into the tank.
Our Micro-Oxygenation controllers are manufactured by Westec Tanks. Typically clients manage their own oxygenation regimes supported by monthly tastings. As you would expect, wines of higher phenolic content may require more oxygen than wines of lower phenolic content. Regardless, the Winemaker can make instant changes to their wines.
Oxygen solubility is also a function of the temperature of the wine in which it dissolves. At Safe Harbor, all wines are stored between 55 and 60 degrees Fahrenheit, and generally remain between 55 and 58 degrees year round. This allows for consistent oxygenation twelve months a year.
Among the many benefits, micro-oxygenation can help resolve green or reductive characteristics when used before malolactic fermentation, and helps with color stability and mid-palate structure when used after fermentation.
Clients may have years of experience using micro-oxygenation and others may have no experience at all. Safe Harbor’s Winemaker, Joel Green, can walk you through the process, and provide expert assistance so that this powerful tool can become another implement available to you.
Typically, young red wines receive the most micro-oxygenation and the amount of oxygen is reduced or stopped completely before the end of year one. But some white wines are also fine-tuned with micro-oxygenation, but at lower amounts than reds. Sensory always wins.
Tanks larger than 3,000 gallons are well-suited to constant oxygenation while smaller tanks benefit from periodic oxygenation dosing, a technique where the oxygen is turned on at specific intervals.
The sparging stone (pictured) is lowered to the bottom of the tank where it is held in place by stainless steel weights. This will insure that the micronized oxygen bubbles will travel the entire distance of the tank height resulting in precise and complete micro-oxygenation.
Oxygen quality is obviously very important to the process. Safe Harbor only uses certified ‘Hospital Grade’ compressed oxygen from a medical gas supplier in American Canyon.
In this photograph, Cellarmaster José Flores and Winemaker Joel Green are installing StaVin oak staves known as ‘Fan Packs.’ These are full sized staves and are hand-toasted to medium, medium plus or heavy levels and available in French, American and Hungarian oak that have been naturally seasoned for over three years.
Clients are welcome to use any stave producer they choose for their wine style. For longer aging, most clients prefer traditional full length staves but all oak products are used at Safe Harbor.
Only have three months before bottling and your wine needs additional oak sensory attributes? Safe Harbor can help guide you on oak selection to meet your bottling date.
On-premise monitoring, charting temperature and SO2 levels, and tasting evaluations help assess whether the rate of oxygenation is optimal or whether it should be increased or decreased to achieve the desired tannin structure and flavor maturation.
Vin Sci Laboratory, owned and operated by Julie Murrell, performs all routine analysis for Safe Harbor clients as well as outside wine professionals. Vin Sci Laboratory is located inside Safe Harbor. For convenience, Vin Sci has a secure after hours ‘drop box’ where clients can leave samples at any hour.