>A Lesson in Viniculture


What a lucky day!  Over the weekend, at my in-laws double 80th birthday party, one of my husband’s cousins brought his homemade grenache wine share.  It was a sensational hit; everyone loved it!  He told me he would be pressing this year’s grenache grapes sometime this week, and I asked if I could watch. 

He called this morning to tell me that this evening he would be pressing.  I arrived to find the crushed grapes fermenting in a real oak barrel.  They’d been fermenting for 8 days. I learned from our cousin Paul that the first fermentation (the crushed grapes in the barrel) takes between six and ten days.  After the bubbling and rising (somewhat like bread) begins to subside, it’s time to ladle out the crushed grapes and their juices into the press, where the juices are drained off into glass carboys, where the fermentation continues without the solids of the grapes.  Paul was doing a half batch (about 15-16 gallons) of wine which took six crates of grapes which he ordered from California.  Wine making DiDario 10.09 001

The grapes in the barrel.You can see how the level of grapes has subsided.



Wine making DiDario 10.09 003

The barrel with press and glass carboys in the background.




The barrel and the press are impressive equipment, and understandably expensive!  Just like weaving, spinning and knitting, wine making is an expensive endeavor.  He spends about $10 a bottle just on materials.  The equipment was a considerable expense above and beyond materials,  so I doubt there is ever any point at which this is an economical endeavor!  (Reminds me of when people ask if I knit my own sweaters to save money!…not!)

Wine making DiDario 10.09 004

Putting the grapes through the press.  In the beginning the juices run through easily, as here.  Later it is necessary to use the threaded rod with crank to press out the last of the juices.




Wine making DiDario 10.09 005 The juice drains from the press into stainless steel pots which Paul pours into the glass carboys as the pots get full.  Tonight he got a total of 16 gallons of juice from this pressing, which was a 1/2 barrel of grapes.




Wine making DiDario 10.09 008 Father and daughter beginning to press.  This was actually quite labor intensive.  The press is wrapped in plastic film to prevent the juices from coming out the sides.  In the background you can see a full carboy with air lock stopper.  This allows fermenting gases to escape without letting any impurities get in.


Wine making DiDario 10.09 009 Hard cranking at this point.  Paul is adding some wooden blocks in order to add more pressure.





It was a beautiful evening, crisp and clear, with a 3/4 waxing gibbous moon and bright stars against the cloudless sky.   Paul always presses in the evening because at this time of year the bees would be swarming if he pressed during daylight.  The garage which serves as his barrel fermentation and pressing room smelled deliciously like wine. It seemed like we could get drunk on the scent alone.  It was hard to imagine that this wine needed any further aging since it smelled so good, yet it will not be ready until at least spring.  Again, there is a range of time needed to complete the wine, some years taking longer than others.

Paul sent me home with a bottle of his 2007 Grenache, which he said was a very good year for him.  Decisions, decisions!  Do I save it or drink it now?

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