Frequently Asked Questions

Two BarrelWise barrel management systems side by side.

01. General

I am interested to learn more about your system. How can I get more information?

Thank you! Please contact us - we would love to connect, learn about your barrel program, and how BarrelWise can help you manage it more efficiently

Why did you decide to build this? Why now?

After discovering the challenges faced by wineries when caring for ageing wine barrels, the founding team thought that there must be an easy fix and started BarrelWise. We quickly discovered that there are no easy fixes, but it was too late – by then, the winemakers problems became our problems, and we could not let it go.

Modern technology has changed wine production in many ways - optical sorters, smart fermentation tanks, artificial intelligence recommending the next bottle of wine to purchase, etc. Unfortunately, the winery cellars have not benefited from this innovation, and routine processes remain as time consuming and costly as they were decades ago. BarrelWise is working to change this for the better.

02. Installation & Operation

What is the installation process for the BarrelWise system? Do I need to alter the barrels?

The BarrelWise system is designed to fit seamlessly into the wineries’ existing cellar processes. The bungs are installed the same way as regular silicone bungs. They can be pulled out by hand at any time, if needed. The cart uses inert gas, either from a central system or gas cylinder, to move wine and control oxygen exposure. Rechargeable batteries power onboard electronics.

Is BarrelWise equipment food safe?

Yes. All parts that come into contact with wine are made with food safe, FDA-listed materials such as food grade HDPE, silicone, and 316 stainless steel. Numerous in-winery trials have confirmed the suitability of these materials for use in wine production.

How sanitary is BarrelWise equipment? Is it easy to clean?

Bungs can be cleaned and sanitized the same way as regular silicone bungs – by submerging them in caustic cleaner, then a sanitizing solution, and finally rinsing.

The cart has guided set up and shut down procedures which circulate cleaner, sanitizer and water through all internal hosing with a press of a button.

How much time will the BarrelWise system save me?

Each winery cellar is different, and exact savings will vary. Typically, wineries that top in place see efficiency gains of over 50%. Please contact us to discuss the specifics of your barrel work processes.

How does the BarrelWise system add sulfites?

The cart measures out a precise volume of the aqueous potassium/sodium metabisulfite solution, based on the desired PPM addition, and correcting for barrel size. The sulfites are added concurrently with the topping wine.

What SO2 solution concentration does the system use?

By default, the system is set up for 80g KMS per 1 liter of water; however, this can easily be adjusted to accommodate winery's approach (e.g. to use stock 6% solution.

How well does the SO2 solution mix? Will I need to stir the barrel after making the addition?

The BarrelWise system is designed to execute routine barrel work, including SO2 additions, without opening the barrels. Sulfites are delivered below the level of the wine in the barrel and followed through by the topping wine until the barrel is filled. This achieves significant turbulence inside the barrel, which generates a strong mixing effect. In-house testing suggests a comparable mixing effect after 24 hours as when manually stirring the barrels with a stirring rod or a baton.

03. Bungs

Can I easily remove the bung to access the wine for inspection or analysis?

Yes. Bungs are placed and removed by hand, just like regular silicone bungs.

Can I hammer the bungs in with a mallet?

Not currently. Existing bung design does not support hammering, as this may compromise the bung's air-tight connection to the cart. As such, the BarrelWise system does not currently facilitate arrangements where full barrels are rotated, and bungs rest at an angle.

How well do the bungs seal?

Bungs seals as well as, or better than, traditional solid silicone bungs. In-winery testing showed no adverse impact on acetic acid/volatile acidity or sulfites due to inadequate bung sealing. Additionally, each individual bung is pressure tested for a positive and negative pressure seal before leaving the production facility.

Do you offer venting bungs, which can release gas from the barrel without breaking the seal?

Not currently. There is a clear tradeoff in bung design between a perfect seal and venting functionality.

BarrelWise is currently evaluating the demand for this feature. Please contact us if this is of significant interest to your winery.

04. Cart

What are the dimensions of the cart? Will it fit between barrel rows in my cellar?

The cart’s dimensions are 21” W x 36” L x 36” H . We understand that each winery cellar is set up differently, and space between barrel rows varies. If the cart cannot fit into the row, the length of the hose of the cart still enables access to all barrels.

How long is the hose on the cart? Will it reach the back of my barrel rows?

Standard length is 10 meters / 33ft, however this can be customized to the winery’s specifications.

Can my staff climb the barrels while carrying the head-unit of the cart to reach the top racks?

BarrelWise experience in winery cellars indicates that climbing the barrels is inherently unsafe for the operator, regardless of the topping method. This risk can be mitigated with the use of a platform rolling ladder or scissor lift. In all cases, the head unit is designed to be operated with one hand, and includes anchors to hook the hose to the barrel racks or ladder when not in use, or to lighten the load of a long hose.

Can I take a sample for lab analysis or sensory tasting?

Yes. The BarrelWise cart allows for a sample to be drawn from the barrel using the on-board inert gas, to be used for external analysis.

It is important to keep the bungs, and the area around them clean of dust and wine residue. How does your system address this?

The cart’s standard operating mode includes a sanitation cycle which washes out all common wetted surfaces in the tubing and head unit, as well as the top of the bung, with a small amount of ethanol. This prevents transfer of wine from barrel to barrel, and helps to reduce the risk of cross-contamination.

05. Chemical Analysis & Other Data

What data collection functionality does the BarrelWise system currently offer?

As of April 2021:
The BarrelWise cart records volumes of wine added to each barrel to track ullage. A stand-alone prototype sensor can be available for testing in wineries to execute rapid free SO2 analyses on the cellar floor. Operational data and free SO2 data are recorded and tracking by the BarrelWise team for presentation to the wineries' decision-makers.

In 2022:
BarrelWise expects to integrate the free SO2 sensor into the system, automate data tracking and analysis, and begin working on adding further wine data parameters.

What is Operational Data collection, and what benefits does it offer?

BarrelWise system is building capabilities to recognize and track every barrel in the cellar, recording all barrel work actions. Work orders for topping, sampling and SO2 additions will be delivered electronically, with the system guiding the operator in which barrels to work, ensuring efficiency and precision. BarrelWise will track the volume of wine and the amount of SO2 added to each barrel for the winery’s internal reporting, planning and quality assurance. It will also measure the time taken to execute the tasks, informing cellar crews’ training and management. Collected data will be presented in a base BarrelWise database, or to popular winery management software systems, through API integration.

How does the free SO2 Data collection work?

The BarrelWise system includes a proprietary free SO2 sensor. Before each barrel is topped, the system measure free SO2 in that individual barrel. This enables precise, customized addition of sulfites and eliminates the over-sulfiting resulting from average composite sample readings.

The free SO2 data is collected for every barrel in every topping cycle and analysed for inconsistencies. Problem barrels (where free sulfite levels are significantly lower than average for the group) are highlighted to the winemaking team.

This enables early treatment and preserves the quality of barrel-ageing wine. Free SO2 data will be delivered alongside Operational Data in the BarrelWise database or within popular winery management software systems.

How long does it take to generate a free SO2 reading? How accurate is it?

Current prototype of the sensor delivers a reading in 60-90 seconds, to the same accuracy as the Aeration-Oxidation procedure. The BarrelWise team is working reduce this time to 30 seconds per sample.

Are you planning to add further chemical analysis functionality?

Yes. BarrelWise is planning to add pH and Dissolved Oxygen to the sensor pack shortly after delivering the free SO2 functionality.