The Angel’s Share

Here at Foxen we are moving into a time of transition. We’re pressing off the last of the fermentation tanks, and next week marks the last days of our harvest interns time at Foxen. The 2013 Harvest is near its end.

This is not to say the work is finished, far from it actually. With all of the wine going into barrel, some important wine making techniques come into play. The one we’re going to focus on today is “topping.”

Topping is when you take your highest quality or choice wine and use it to top off the rest of your barrels. There are a few reasons why you want to do this. Oak barrels are porous, and over time the water content in the wine will evaporate. This is part of what leads to a more concentrated flavor in the wine, but at the same time it leaves a head space which can allow too much of the wine exposed to air. By topping off the wine you eliminate the air space and create a nice seal in the barrel.

The rate of evaporation is generally about 2% a year, but that number varies depending on humidity. In bourbon or spirit production they call this evaporation the “Angel’s Share.” There is no topping done in bourbon production, which leads to the concentrated alcohol and flavor content of the spirit. In wine production, topping is essential because if there is too much air or head space in the barrel it can lead to over oxidization or spoilage. At Foxen we top our wines every two weeks, and as time goes on we will get that lovely complexity and concentration from some of the evaporation.

It never fails to amaze just how much care and attention goes into wine making. We hope you learned something new today, and now you can impress your friends and family with your knowledge of the Angel’s Share. Cheers!

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