Ask Wine Wizard

Moldy Grape Press


Peter Nero — Brattleboro, Vermont asks,

For the first time in many years of winemaking, I noticed a white and green powdery mold on the wooden basket of my wine press and inside of my wooden fermenting barrel. These items were stored out in a shed and, I think due to rain and humidity this summer, both were infected to the point where they couldn’t be used this year. I have scrubbed the basket of the press with a stiff brush soaked in a meta solution and so far no mold has returned, but someone told me that the mold spores can get way down into the wood. Is the basket no longer any good? Is the cast iron base of the press useable if I clean it with a meta solution? And what about the barrel?

I certainly wouldn’t throw the baby out with the bathwater or the crush equipment out with the sanitizing solution in this case. A little accumulated mold on a wooden basket press or fermentation barrel doesn’t faze this Wine Wizard. It shouldn’t phase you, either, because it sounds like you are taking all the appropriate steps to clean (scrubbing to remove the surface film and mold) and then sanitize (do a deeper dig with a potassium metabisulfite solution) your equipment. Absolutely, mold spores can get into wood and are sometimes never totally removed. However, you have to look at how you use your equipment. Though I can’t make any guarantees against some heretofore unidentified voracious wine-ruining super-bug, I would wager that the short time the wine is in contact with your wooden basket press while pressing is not long enough to cause major contamination. The wine will be “living” in your fermentation vessel a little bit longer, of course, but during its time there presumably you have inoculated the must with a strong, reliable yeast strain (like I always suggest to
Response by Alison Crowe.