Oxygen Management for Home Winemakers

Oxidation and oxidatively-driven degradation have been a constant plague on winemakers since time immemorial. Even today, with advancements in science and production, it continues to haunt producers of all sizes and styles.  Oxygen exposure is the driving force behind volatile acid production, mycoderma formation (film yeasts), acetaldehyde production, depletion of free sulfur dioxide (SO2), browning, pinking, loss of aroma or “freshness,” bottle shock, barrel spoilage (barrel shock), and reduction in shelf life. Improper oxygen management, in my opinion, is the number one cause of wine quality degradation worldwide. There is a current feeling among consumers and some producers that SO2 usage should be reduced or eliminated from the production process. Aside from the fact that it is a natural byproduct of fermentative yeast metabolism, it is the most common anti-microbial and anti-oxidant available to winemakers. Its dualistic activity is very useful in the winemaking process. However, if a winemaker chooses to reduce or eliminate SO2, they must be hyper aware of their dissolved oxygen (DO) levels. Most winemakers have some way to measure sugar, pH, titratable acidity (TA), and perhaps