As I write this post, my new wine is safe and sound, tucked away at the end of my hallway undergoing malolactic fermentation or ML.
For the next several weeks, I will be monitoring this important phase of the winemaking process, however alot of the more visually compelling winemaking events will have to take a back seat for now. Things like stomping, punching down, and pressing (all within about 2 weeks time) give way to paper chromatography tests, periodic stirring, and waiting..
Pressing the newly formed wine is definitely a photographic and winemaking highlight for me. Look at all of that gorgeous wine! This is a #35 stainless steel basket press that I rented for the day from Oak Barrel/Winecraft. What you see above is pure free run juice..in other words, I have just started loading the fermented grapes into the press and this is what is running out the sides an into my bowl before I have exerted any pressure.
Equipped with a funnel and a sieve, I begin to fill my 5 and 3 gallon carboys. This first batch of free run juice is considered to be of the most delicate and high quality. Why? Because at this point, fewer of the harsh and more astringent tannins have been extracted of pressed out of the skins. However incorportating a bit of press wine will often give the finished product more structure and complextity. The key is to monitor the pressing, and to stop when the extracted juice becomes too bitter or astringent.
Once the free run juice has stopped flowing, it’s time to get to press the skins! Here, I have inserted a series of blocks, upon which the press ratchet will be placed. Notice the wine still seeping out the sides of the press..
With the press is properly assembled (blocks placed between grapes and ratchet, keys facing proper direction) its time to start ratcheting and applying pressure to the mass of grapes inside the press. This process takes about 15-20 minutes. Over the course of time, the effort becomes increasingly more difficult, as the mass of skins becomes more compacted.
As you can see from the photo above, now the wood blocks, having started at the top of the metal basket, are now more than half way down the cylinder. Very soon we’ll have reached the end of the line, and it will be time to flip those two metal keys over in order to reverse direction and remove the ratchet and press blocks.
After removing the press blocks, this grape marc, or pommace is just about all that remains. Along with making great compost, grape marc can and is often distilled to make spirits such as grappa. Time to scoop it out and clean the press.
Voila the freshly pressed wine! From approximately 200 lbs of grenache grapes I was able to press 13 gallons of fermented juice. This volume is a bit low on average for grenache (a varietal that tends to produce big grapes with a healthy dose of juice). Most likely the cooler growing year has something to do with this.
NEXT: Malolactic fermentation or ML.