What Co-inoculation Brings to the Barrel

Kerrville Hills Winery is no stranger to trying different processes at its Central Texas production facility and incubator.

Among the latest practices that Director of Vineyards and Winemaking John Rivenburgh has introduced include co-inoculation, which is the practice of adding selected wine bacteria at the beginning of the winemaking process shortly after yeast inoculation. 

The technique is gaining in popularity because it secures the malolactic fermentation, which traditionally occurs naturally after the completion of primary fermentation.

The secondary fermentation step removes the malic acid in wine that can be a carbon source for yeast and bacterial growth, leading to spoilage, spritz and unwanted flavors. 

Rivenburgh said doing both fermentation steps simultaneously eliminates a lot of margin for error.

“For us, it streamlines operationally the ability to get our wines into the barrel more seamlessly and quickly,” Rivenburgh said. “We’re going through malic fermentation while going through primary fermentation, and it’s better managed for bacteria.

“The tried and true approach is to finish fermentation, innoculate for malic acid at the completion of primary fermentation, press and then wait for that malic to finish in the barrel or tank. Then you manage the malic through the barrel, which can be a little dicey, honestly. This gives us the ability to streamline the whole process.”

Rivenburgh said wine drinkers may notice a difference between red wines that are co-inoculated.

“There’s much more pronounced fruit expression at the end of the wine, and at the end of fermentation,” Rivenburgh said. “There’s a higher fruitiness.”

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