Danger’s my middle name….

SO2: Not a new band.

As it turns out, I’ve discovered several ways to kill yourself in a winery and I haven’t even gotten to actual harvest yet.

The first and definitely the nastiest is sulfur dioxide, which we use in its compressed liquid/gas form (it comes in a propane-ish tank) to sanitize various different parts of the winery, usually barrels before storage. I had been warned about how nasty it was, to make sure that I always treated barrels in a well-ventilated area, but nothing could really prepare me for the accidental mouthful (well, whiff, at least) of the stuff that I got when treating some corks.

My bronchea immediately slammed shut, like a bad asthma attack. My mouth was full of this taste of stale branflakes and dried blood. Coughing, I had to step away from the area I was treating for a minute or two. Yow, you do not want to screw with that stuff. To be clear, we don’t use it for our wine making, just to sanitize stuff that, you know, has to be to be sanitized.

The infernal steamer in action. No world on whether or not it’s from Cleveland.

Other than that, I was doing a lot of steam cleaning of barrels earlier this week and I had one of them implode on me in fairly spectacular fashion. The process is thus: you insert the wand from an industrial grade steam machine into the barrel, steam, then bung the barrel. Besides the fact that many unwanted (well, depending on what sort of winemaker you are) microfauna are killed via heat alone, as the steam cools it creates a negative pressure in the barrel, since the pressure is generally decreasing due to the steam cooling. This is great, because it sucks junk out of the wood grain. The pressure is pretty fierce. I just didn’t know how fierce.

Morgan Harris, Barrel Slayer

I left a bung in one of the barrels a little too long and it simply ripped the whole head of the barrel inward. Now, to be fair, the barrel was 4 years old and had been drying somewhat in the cellar, but it was still pretty impressive. The sound of it was incredible, and it reduced the head to a pile of kindling. Luckily for me, the laws of physics dictate implosion instead of explosion in this case or else I’d be digging pieces of barrel head out of my legs.

I’m also absolutely sure there are some pretty easy ways to kill yourself with the crusher-destemmer, the press, and definitely with the forklift. I’m not trying to find out.

Oh, and Gramercy started making rose on Friday! Any day now I’ll be a real assistant to an assistant winemaker!



About Morgan

Liquid enthusiast. Sommelier and wine communicator living and working in New York City.
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