Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Grape Pressing

The next stage after crushing and fermentation is pressing.  This is the process where several friends get together to separate the grape must into two parts:  the juice and the pomace (the skins, seeds, and in our case the stems).  The juice of course is the real reason we go through all this trouble because in a few months of aging in air tight carboys and demi-johns, we will have something that actually passes for wine.

Since crushing, the grape must has been left to ferment for approx. 2 weeks in our fermentation buckets.  It's an aerobic process, meaning that it is not done in a air tight vacuum.  Open air as they say.  Just take some care to minimize the fruit flies that are attracted to laying eggs in it.  Bug larvae, bad.  Kudos to Jason who devised a slick little screen on the lids of our containers to stymie those little pests.  He drilled a bunch of holes through the plastic lids and taped a cotton patch over the holes!  Very nice.

The pressing begins, of course, with a drink.  Are you seeing pattern here?  Back from his trip, Dave graced us with this presence and proved once again to be vital and belligerent contributor.   Special thanks to Joyce for also coming along and helping us out!  You may take a cut out of Dave's share.

Work begins with assembling the press.  The stand and staves are cleaned.  The pins are fastened to the staves and viola.  We are ready to start pouring in the grape must.

The grape must is gathered up in big scoops from the fermentation bucket and pitched into the press.  This can be sticky work for the person assigned the job, but someone has to do it.  The juice filters down the stand and drains into a small bucket that collects what we call the free run juice.  The juice is then transferred to a demi-john or carboy.  We use a small colander to keep big bits of seed or skin from entering the vessels.  Though this can be accomplished by one person, having friends around makes it easy and fun.

When the press gets full of grape must, we place an oak buffer onto the skins, seads and stems.   We also stack wood above the buffer to extend our reach into the press.  Above the wood we will screw on the press head, a 40 lb. cast steel rachet type thing that can drive a considerable amount of force onto the wood and press the living juice out of the grape must.  

After we get the head as tight as our hands will let us, we install the lever and really start to apply downward pressure to the grape must.  The press head makes a wonderful clicking sound as you ratchet the lever -  the pins on the left and right rising and falling with each stroke.  Tick, tick, tick, tick.  

This part of the pressing should not be rushed as there is a considerable amount of juice in the skins.  It can try your patience as you ratchet up the press to get what seems to be a miniscule amount of juice.  But my dear wine maker, patience.  Let it sit for while, have a drink or something to eat.  Ratchet it again.  Have another drink.  Ratchet it again.  You will be surprised how much juice you will eventually extract from the must.  

After all that, place a air-locks on your car-boys and demi-johns.  Store them in a place that doesn't have wild temperature fluctuations.  Basements are a time honored place, but in our case this year a garage in East Sooke will do just fine.  

Let the age for a month or two until you get to the next step:  racking.

See you then . . . 


About This Blog

Adelio Trinidad is a Victoria B.C. based photographer. He typically works on his blog after his children have gone to bed.

Please visit his site: www.adeliotrinidad.com

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