Cleaning A Wine Barrel With Sodium Bisulfite

Wine BarrelI put a sterilization solution in the barrel of citric acid and sodium bisulfite. I am now ready to put the wine in, but am worried the rinsing won’t be enough to get the chemicals out of the wood. The directions say to rinse, fill with water, wait 24 hrs then empty and fill with your wine.
Name: Craig R.
State: Wisconsin
Hello Craig,
I understand your concern, but you really have little to be worried about. Having a remnant amount of sodium bisulfite left in the wine barrel is of little consequence. If some did get left behind and into the wine, it would have an unnoticeable effect on it. Even if a lot actually got into the wine, it would not ruin it. Any negative effects from such an accident could be remedied as well.
Sodium bisulfite is something you should be using directly into the wine, anyway: before the fermentation, after the fermentation, and again before bottling. It is also interesting to note that sulfites are a natural by-product of a yeast fermentation, so it’s something that is very much a part of wine regardless if you add it or not.
Another factor is that sodium bisulfite wants to turn into a gas when dissolved in a liquid. It wants to leave through dissipation. Citric acid is also added to the solution to help this release of sulfites. By lowering the pH of the solution your are increasing the ability of the sulfites to release as SO2 gas. By the time you drain the barrel and rinse it, most of the sulfites have already left.
With this in mind, all that can really be left behind after preparing the wine barrel is pretty innocuous: trace amounts of citric acid, sodium and sulfur. None of them harmful in any way to the wine or to us humans in such insignficant amounts.
Happy Winemaking,
Ed Kraus
Ed Kraus is a 3rd generation home brewer/winemaker and has been an owner of E. C. Kraus since 1999. He has been helping individuals make better wine and beer for over 25 years.